Boston-based Sovereign Bank, one of the largest banks in the Northeastern United States, is following in the path of HSBC by raising fees on their standard checking accounts to try to recoup revenue losses. Starting this month, Sovereign will be increasing the monthly charge for their “Classic Checking” account from $5 to $10. Along with the fee hike, the minimum balance required to avoid paying the fee is also rising, from $500 to $750. Other fee increases include a $2 fee for using another bank’s ATM and a flat $35 for overdraft charges (up from $5 per day up to $45). Sovereign’s premium checking account minimum balance requirement will now be $20,000 (up from $15,000), if you want to avoid a $25 monthly fee. Sovereign will also be revising the maximum age for their free student accounts from 25 to 22, so older undergrads and graduate students will be out of luck.
Why Not Make a Change?
If these fee hikes put a bad taste in your mouth, why not try a free checking account? Credit unions are a great alternative because they offer you the chance to become a shareholder with your membership, and most credit unions offer totally free checking accounts. On top of that, many credit unions provide access to more free ATMs nationwide than Sovereign Bank. We’ve put together a list of credit unions that offer free checking accounts and have offices near Sovereign Bank branches. Don’t worry about finding an alternative to Sovereign Bank, because there is a credit union with free checking in your city.
Members 1st Federal Credit Union – Mechanicsburg, PA
Members 1st Federal Credit Union Rewards Checking is not just free, it’s also rewarding! There is no initial deposit requirement and the account earns interest when your balance reaches $2,500. You get access to free ATMs in the nationwide CO-OP network and CU$ network, found in Pennsylvania and 17 neighboring states. In case that’s not enough, your VISA debit card will give you 5 cents back on every non-ATM transaction, and those rebates will be added back to your account monthly. Members 1st Federal Credit Union has offices in York, Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Carlisle, Mechanicsburg and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Membership details can be found here.
EECU – Fort Worth, TX
EECU has 13 branches in Fort Worth, Texas, and surrounding areas, and membership is open to anyone who lives or works in Tarrant, Johnson, Parker Palo Pinto or Hood counties, Texas. Their Real Worth Checking account is only $25 to open, and has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. The account offers access to 50,000+ free ATMs through the Allpoint network. You get Purchase Rewards with your free VISA debit card, free online and mobile banking, and access to their FinanceWorks financial management program. As an extra perk, you get a 0.25% discount on certain loans.
Point Breeze Credit Union – Bel Air, MD
Point Breeze Credit Union, located in Bel Air, Maryland, offers you a free checking account that will wipe the idea of fees from your mind. Their Standard Checking account is fee-free, earns interest and has no initial deposit requirement. You get access to over 30,000 surcharge-free M&T Bank and CO-OP network ATMs nationwide, plus 4 free foreign ATM transactions per month. Checks and ATM transactions are unlimited, and online and mobile banking are free. Their EZ Checking account offers all of the above, plus free online bill payment and unlimited foreign ATM transactions. Point Breeze Credit Union has branches in Baltimore, Bel Air and Hunt Valley, Maryland. People who work, worship, are members of and/or volunteer for an organization located within a 20-mile radius of a branch location can join. Additional membership eligibility details can be found here.
IC Federal Credit Union – Fitchburg, MA
Free checking at IC Federal Credit Union means free: no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. The account offers free mobile and online banking, and a free first order of checks. You’ll never have a problem finding an ATM, because IC Federal Credit Union is a member of the CO-OP, SUM and NYCE ATM networks. IC Federal Credit Union has branches in Fitchburg, Leominster, Westminster and Ayer, Massachusetts. Membership is open to residents of Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk and Worcester counties, Massachusetts.
Louviers Federal Credit Union – Newark, DE
With a Louviers Federal Credit Union Checking Account, you get an account that has no monthly service charges or minimum balance requirements, and that earns interest. Not to mention, you get access to 37,000+ free Allpoint ATMs, and free ATM use at any Wawa or 7/11 location, and all of the credit unions on this list. Louviers Federal Credit Union has branches in Newark and Wilmington, Delaware. Membership is available to anyone who lives or works in either of those cities. Additional membership information can be found here.
American Eagle Federal Credit Union – East Hartford, CT
Free Checking at American Eagle Federal Credit Union gives you plenty of free options to enhance your checking experience. Free of balance requirements or monthly fees, the account offers unlimited checking, free mobile and online banking, and access to over 50,000 ATMs in the Allpoint and SUM networks. For something extra, the account offers a 0.25% rate discount on certain loans if you sign up for automatic payment from your checking account. American Eagle Federal Credit Union has branches in Bloomfield, Cromwell, East Hartford, Enfield, Farmington, Glastonbury, Hartford, Manchester, Middletown, Plainville, Southington, South Windsor, Vernon and West Hartford, Connecticut. Membership is open to people who live or work in Hartford, Middlesex and Tolland counties, Connecticut.
First Atlantic Federal Credit Union – Eatontown, NJ
First Atlantic Federal Credit Union makes checking easy with their Free Checking account. The account has no balance requirements or monthly fees, no per-check charges, and your first 50 checks are free. Once you’re a member, they offer online banking, mobile banking and bill pay for free, too! First Atlantic Federal Credit Union has branches in Eatontown, Neptune, Oceanport and Toms River, New Jersey. Membership is open to residents of Monmouth and Ocean counties, New Jersey.
Members First Credit Union – Manchester, NH
Members First Credit Union offers Rewards Checking for consumers who’d like extra benefits with their checking account. When qualifications are met, including one direct deposit each month, receiving paperless statements and making 12 debit purchases a month, you get 1.00% APY and $25 in ATM fee refunds a month. If you don’t meet the qualifications, you still get a free account that earns 0.10% APY, so there’s no penalty for not qualifying. You get access to free ATMs in the CO-OP network and to the CO-OP Shared Branching Network. Members First Credit Union has offices in Manchester and Franklin, New Hampshire, and membership is open to anyone who lives or works within 25 miles of a branch location.
New York Times Employees’ Federal Credit Union – New York, NY
Your checking account at New York Times Employees’ Federal Credit Union (NYTEFCU) is completely free. Yup, no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees. There are no per-check charges, and check writing is unlimited. NYTEFCU is offering you the hassle-free alternative to the high fees at other banks. NYTEFCU has branches in New York and Flushing, New York, and Edison, New Jersey. Membership is open to all New York Times employees, their family members and associated businesses.
Dexter Credit Union – Central Falls, RI
Dexter Credit Union has the checking account to help ease your mind. Their Free Checking account is a great value, with no monthly fees or balance requirements. You get unlimited checking, free online and mobile banking, and access to ATMs that are part of the Credit Union Connection and SUM networks. Dexter Credit Union has offices in Central Falls and Scituate, Rhode Island. Membership is open to Rhode Island and Massachusetts residents. Visit the branch nearest you for full details.
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