This post is part of The One Hour Project, in which you can spend just one hour to put your finances in a better place without a big lifestyle change, through frugality or other financial choices.
For a long time, I kept my primary checking at the local branch of a large international bank. Over the years, though, they slowly bled me with lots of little fees here and there: a monthly maintenance fee, a $2 charge on pretty much every ATM use, and overdraft fees that were sometimes triggered by the other fees (yes, at least twice, I was hit by an overdraft fee when maintenance and ATM fees emptied my account).
After estimating that the fees were costing me almost $10 a month – and also considering that I was not earning any interest on the balance – I made the move to switch my primary checking account to ING Electric Orange, which is basically fee-free and offers a 3.5% APY. It’s worth the constant money savings to switch your primary checking account to a bank that’s happy to have your business and treats you well – a $20 swing per month for me was quite nice.
So how can you tell if it’s worth your time to switch to another checking account? Here’s what I would do.
Evaluate your current checking. Do you end up losing money every month because of your checking account? Are you really annoyed by fees or customer service? Those are usually the signs that you need to be looking for a different checking account. I’m often amazed at how atrocious the checking account for most people really is.
Make a list of required and desired checking account features. Do you need to be able to write immediate paper checks? What about ATM use? Do you need a check card? Do you desire a return on your deposits? Do you need a local branch to conduct business in? Everyone’s needs are different. I found that I rarely used my local branch and was writing almost no paper checks at all, for instance, which meant that I could focus on no fees and a return on my balance.
Go checking account shopping. The checking account navigator at Bankrate is very useful for this. Find an account that has all of your required features, plus is strong in the optional areas.
Switch! I wrote a detailed guide on how to switch from one checking account to another, based on my experience switching to ING Electric Orange.
Making a switch to a checking account that treats you better will not only reduce your frustration level, but can put some coinage in your pocket each month.