A basic checking account can be an essential part of your financial life. But if you have the assets to qualify for the premium version of checking — and its associated benefits — it might make sense to upgrade. Here’s an overview of these accounts and how they can work for you.
What is premium checking?
Premium checking accounts — also referred to as 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 balance reaches a certain level.
What are the benefits of premium checking?
If you qualify for a premium account, you might be rewarded with lower fees and the convenience of managing most of your financial needs in one spot.
Perks to look for when shopping for one of these accounts can also include 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. Perks may also include special customer services such as free financial advice, waived account fees, discounts on other financial products and low fees for international travelers, including free or low-cost wire transfers and no currency exchange charges.
How do I qualify for a premium checking account?
It usually takes a combined balance of at least $10,000 in any of your linked accounts at the bank to be eligible for a premier checking account.
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 (Click on bank name to read NerdWallet review)
Requirements to waive fee or be eligible for account
Chase Premier Plus Checking℠
Chase Sapphire Banking℠
$75,000 in linked Chase accounts
$10,000 in linked Bank of America or Merrill Lynch accounts
No fee listed
No fee listed
$200,000 in linked Citi deposit, retirement and investment accounts
» The trending hybrid: See our top picks for cash management accounts
Some additional features of premium checking accounts
High minimum balance. The minimum balance requirements for these accounts tend to be quite high, usually over $10,000. Bank of America Advantage Relationship requires a balance of $10,000 to avoid a monthly fee, the lowest among the banks we compared.
ATM reimbursements. You may be able to get your ATM fees reimbursed with your premium checking account. Citibank’s Citigold Account, for example, offers unlimited reimbursements on non-Citibank ATM fees, plus other freebies.
Interest rate. Some premium checking accounts pay interest. With Wells Fargo's Portfolio account, for example, you can get an annual percentage yield of 0.01%. If you’re eager to earn interest, however, you may want to consider opening a rewards checking account or a high-yield online savings account instead.
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 on the plus side, these accounts don’t require you to keep a high balance in your checking account at all — it can be kept in a retirement account, a savings account or a mortgage.
For some people, premier checking accounts can be a smart choice.