As you near retirement age, you'll see plenty of discounts and perks aimed at seniors. Among them: senior checking accounts. Should you get one?
The quick answer: not necessarily.
What are the perks of senior checking?
A senior checking account is essentially a regular checking account that offers features designed to appeal to customers age 55 and older. Requirements and perks vary by bank, but fee waivers and free checks tend to be the top selling points.
Here's a comparison of checking accounts at two major banks:
Name of account
BB&T Senior Checking
Free personal checks. If you also open a CD, you can make one penalty-free early withdrawal for a medical emergency.
$10, waived with a minimum of $500 in monthly direct deposits, or monthly average balance of at least $1,000.
TD Bank 60 Plus Checking
Free money orders, personal checks and cashier’s checks. Lower minimum balance requirement to waive monthly fee.
$10, waived with a minimum daily balance of $250.
Banks and credit unions may offer different combinations of these features or have other perks. Even so, some institutions have free checking accounts that offer similar perks to any customer, regardless of age. It pays to shop around.
» COMPARE: Our picks for best free checking accounts
What are the downsides?
Some of these accounts can save you money, but others can end up costing you more than a regular checking account would. Common downsides include:
Higher monthly maintenance fees. Some banks may offer a senior account with a monthly fee that’s higher than its standard checking account, such as $10 for the senior account and $3 or $0 for the standard option. You might be able to avoid that fee if you have a minimum or average balance of a certain amount, such as $1,000, but you might end up paying double if your balance regularly dips below the threshold.
Not all banks with the best senior checking accounts are widely accessible. Some institutions are available only in limited regions or states.
A minimum balance to qualify for interest rates. Some banks and credit unions offer interest for balances as low as $500; others will wait until you have at least $1,500. Depending on how much you plan to keep, you might be better off keeping your money in a savings account with a high interest rate or a certificate of deposit. (Check out top savings accounts with competitive interest rates and low or no minimum balance requirements.)
If you’ve worked a long time and have saved a solid amount, a higher minimum balance may be no problem. For those who have retired, a checking account might run lower than it did when they were earning a paycheck. If you can’t maintain the required balance on a senior account, you could lose more than $100 a year in fees.
Deciding whether to get an account
So how should you determine whether a senior checking account is worth moving your money into?
Research and compare nearby credit unions and banks, and assess whether their perks will ultimately save you money. Keep your eyes peeled for minimum balance requirements and monthly fees.
Compare regular checking accounts with senior checking accounts. (Here are our picks for the best checking accounts right now.) You may find that a regular checking account is still the better deal. Many banks offer free checking accounts with no monthly service fees, along with perks such as free checks, higher interest rates or ATM fee reimbursements.