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A Closer Look at Premium Checking

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Everyone needs a basic checking account. But if you have the assets to qualify for the Cadillac version, why not ask for a little bit more than basic services?

It usually takes combined balances of at least $10,000 to qualify for a premier checking account, and if you do qualify, you can expect a range of perks that can include earning interest, free financial advice, waived fees and discounts on other financial products.

Based on an evaluation of the premier checking accounts offered at the nation’s five largest banks, here’s what you can expect if you qualify for one of these accounts.

Bank Checking account Monthly fee Requirements to waive fee
Chase Premier Plus Checking $25 $15,000 in linked Chase accounts
Chase Premier Platinum Checking $25 ($35 in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York) $75,000 in linked Chase accounts
Bank of America Interest Checking $25 $10,000 in linked Bank of America or Merrill Lynch accounts
Bank of America Preferred Rewards $0, but account holders must have at least $20,000 in Bank of America or Merrill Lynch accounts to qualify N/A
Citibank Citigold $30 $50,000 in combined bank deposits and retirement funds or $100,000 in combined bank deposits, retirement funds and other investment products
Wells Fargo PMA Premier Checking, part of Wells Fargo’s PMA Package $30 $25,000 in combined bank deposits or $50,000 in banking, brokerage, and loan accounts (up to 10% of mortgage balance can be counted)
U.S. Bank Platinum Checking Package $17.95 $25,000 in deposits, investments, and credit balances

Highlights

  • Least restrictive: Bank of America Interest Checking, which requires a balance of only $10,000 to avoid a monthly fee.
  • Most waived fees: Citibank’s Citigold Account, which offers unlimited use of non-Citi ATMs with no Citibank fees, plus a range of other freebies.
  • Most generous interest rate: Wells Fargo PMA Premier Checking, which has a reasonable $5,000 minimum to qualify for an annual percentage yield, or APY, of 0.05%. Although you can beat that rate with a high yield online savings account, it’s a good return for a big bank checking account.

Overview of premium checking

Premier checking accounts reward what’s called relationship banking, in which a single financial services provider meets a range of customer needs — checking and savings; credit cards; investments; and home, auto and personal loans. These relationships benefit providers because they can hold a greater portion of their customers’ wealth — that’s why they waive fees and offer other incentives if your combined balances reach a certain level. If one of these five biggest banks can meet all of your needs, you might be rewarded with lower fees, higher interest rates on savings and the convenience of being able to manage most of your financial needs on one website or with one mobile banking app.

Here are some perks to look for when shopping for one of these accounts:

  • Waived fees for using out-of-network ATMs
  • Discounted mortgage rates and reduced closing costs — but make sure to find out what the rate will be. You might be able to find a lower rate from another lender
  • Special customer services
  • Low fees for international travelers, including free or low-cost wire transfers, no currency exchange charges and free international ATM use
  • A solid interest rate. Check out our checking account comparison tool to see what might be considered a good interest rate on a checking account
Bank Checking account Out-of-network ATM charges Waived fees Other perks
Chase Premier Plus Checking Fees waived for four transactions per statement period
$2.50 per transaction after the fourth one for domestic ATMs and $5 for international ATMs
  • Check orders
  • Annual fee for small safe deposit box
  • Monthly fees on up to 2 Chase checking accounts
  • Monthly fee on Chase Plus Savings accounts and Chase Liquid prepaid debit cards
  • APY of 0.01%
  • Free incoming domestic wire transfers if sent from another Chase account
  • Free cashier’s checks and money orders
Chase Premier Platinum Checking Waived
  • Check orders
  • Overdraft protection fee on the first four occurrences in a 12-month period
  • Stop-payment fee
  • Monthly service fees on most linked Chase accounts, including Chase Total Business Checking
  • APY of 0.01%
  • 24/7 priority telephone customer service
Bank of America Interest Checking $2.50 in the U.S., $5 internationally
  • Stop payment
  • Cashier’s checks
  • Incoming domestic wire transfer
  • Waived monthly fees on up to three linked Bank of America Interest Checking accounts and up to four linked savings accounts
Interest rates are tiered based on balance.

  • APY of 0.01% on balances of less than $10,000
  • APY of 0.02% on balances from $10,000 to $99,000
  • APY of 0.03% on balances of $100,000 and up
Bank of America Preferred Rewards One free withdrawal per statement cycle.
All out-of-network ATM use is free of Bank of America fees with a balance above $100,000, although the ATM owner may charge its own fee.
  • Check orders
  • Monthly fees on up to four checking and four savings accounts from Bank of America
  • Incoming domestic wire transfers
  • Incoming international wire transfers for Platinum and Platinum Honors customers with balances above $50,000
  • Preferred Rewards customers receive rate bonuses on Bank of America money market accounts and credit card rewards
  • Discounts on mortgage origination fees and auto loan rates
  • Benefits increase with higher balances
Citibank Citigold Waived
  • Check orders
  • Incoming domestic and international wire transfers
  • Safe deposit boxes
  • Stop-payment fees and overdraft protection transfers
  • Foreign exchange fees
  • Citi Personal Wealth Management account fees
  • APY of 0.03% on balances up to $50,000, 0.05% on balances above $50,000
  • Premier customer service acces
  • Discounts on mortgages, loans and lines of credit
  • High amount of Citi ThankYou Points
Wells Fargo PMA Premier Checking Waived for first two domestic or international withdrawals per month; after that, fees are $2.50 for domestic withdrawals and $5 for international
Unlimited free international non-Wells Fargo ATM withdrawals for customers with $250,000 in deposits, plus reimbursement of some charges from ATM owners
  • Check orders
  • Monthly fees on linked Wells Fargo checking and savings accounts
  • Overdraft protection from a Wells Fargo line of credit
  • Annual fee on one linked line of credit
  • Incoming wires and ExpressSend remittances
  • APY of 0.01% on balances up to $5,000; APY of 0.05% on balances above $5,000
  • Around-the-clock access to customer service from Premier Banking representatives
  • Bonus interest rate on linked FDIC-insured accounts, including CDs, savings accounts and some IRAs
  • Discounts on Wells Fargo loan products
U.S. Bank Platinum Checking Package Waived
  • Check orders
  • Monthly fees on linked U.S. Bank Easy Checking accounts
  • Overdraft protection transfers
  • Annual fees on a U.S. Bank home equity lines of credit
  • First 25 trades with a U.S. Bancorp Investments account
  • APY of 0.01% on balances up to $9,999; APY of 0.02% on balances above $10,000
  • Special rates on loans
  • $1,000 discount on mortgage closing costs

Are premier checking accounts worth it?

Normally, we don’t recommend keeping a lot of money in a checking account when it could be earning higher interest elsewhere. But the nice thing about these accounts is that they don’t require you to keep a high balance in your checking account at all — it can be growing for the future in a retirement account, providing security in a savings account or even providing a roof over your head in the form of a mortgage.

If you like banking with a large, well-resourced financial institution, then it can make sense to consolidate your accounts in one place. Even if you don’t have enough wealth to qualify for a premier account now, with careful management you may get there in the near future. And if you do have a significant nest egg, why not use it to reduce your overall bank fees, improve your banking experience and generally make your life a little easier?

For many people, premier checking accounts can be a smart choice.

Virginia C. McGuire is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: virginia@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @vcmcguire.

  • Sunny O’brien

    I opened up a student checking/savings for my son with a minimum balance of $500 18 months ago with Wells Fargo and the “new hire” personal banker (right out of college) also signed me up for a PMA account, assuming that because I have a mortgage I wanted this. Fast forward 18 months Wells Fargo has gouged me $30 each month, will not close this account but to placate me, has reversed only 2 of the $30 monthly charges. I have lost all faith in Wells Fargo because of this practice, will never bank with them ever again, and will be taking them to small claims court to get these fees back!

    • Sunny O’brien

      $560 in fees so far and I opened the account with $500 to begin with.