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Wells Fargo Puts Free Checking on the Chopping Block…Again

May 15, 2012
Banking, Checking Accounts
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Wells Fargo has officially yanked the rug out from under free checking customers in Washington, D.C., and 5 more unsuspecting states: Florida, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. The new $7 monthly fee goes into effect August 7th. As of July 2nd, we just got word that Texas customers must pay $7 as well, if they sign up for a new Value Checking account. Déjà vu, anyone? Wells Fargo made a similar announcement in March for 6 states on the East Coast, and that was after converting 23 other states to the new fee structure. You can only avoid the fee with a regular $500 direct deposit or a $1,500+ minimum balance. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to work that hard to get free checking! At credit unions, free checking and quality customer service are the norm. To our friends in the South, we say now’s the time to move your money. Check out NerdWallet’s recommendations for local credit unions in the states affected by the fee hike. We’ve got a great credit union for you folks in D.C. too! Unlike Wells Fargo’s not-so-free checking account, these accounts have no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements.


First Florida Credit Union (Jacksonville, FL) – No Monthly Fee Checking

First Florida Credit Union has 10 locations conveniently located in Florida’s major cities, including Tallahassee, Miami and Orlando. Their No Monthly Fee Checking account comes with online and mobile banking, eStatements, and optional free BillPayer service. You can open an account online, over-the-phone or in person. If you’re able to keep at least $600 in your account, check out the Interest Checking account, which offers up to 8 free withdrawals per month at non-First-Florida ATMs and 0.50% APY. Credit union membership is open to State of Florida employees, affiliates of select employee groups, and anyone who lives or works in one of 16 eligible counties. Please see the Membership Eligibility page for complete details.

Tropical Financial Credit Union (Fort Lauderdale, FL) – Free Checking

Tropical Financial Credit Union has 10 locations in South Florida between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Their Free Checking account comes with online banking and bill pay, and a free debit card. If you can afford to keep a minimum of $10,000 in your account, check out the High Yield Checking account, which rewards you with interest. Membership is open to people who live or work in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, or eligible zip codes. Members of select employee groups may also join. Please see their About Us page for complete details. 


Tower Federal Credit Union (Laurel, MD) – Regular Checking

Tower Federal Credit Union has a total of 16 branches in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Fort Meade and Prince George’s counties. Their Regular Checking account keeps it simple. It only requires an initial opening deposit of $10, and it offers free ATM transactions at over 40,000 ATMs nationwide, which you can search for directly on their website by zip code. You’ll even get free checks when you set up direct deposit. Membership is available to a wide range of select employee groups and associations. Please see their Field of Membership page for complete details.

Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union (Germantown, MD) – Free Checking

Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union has 4 locations in Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Silver Spring Branch. Their Free Checking account comes with online banking and bill pay, and free access to more than 100,000 ATMs nationwide. If you have multiple accounts, or a housemate with an account, Mid-Atlantic’s “householding” feature allows you to link multiple accounts to combine and maximize your rewards points. Membership is open to everyone who lives, works, worships, attends school or volunteers in Montgomery County, as well as their immediate family members. Members of select employee groups may also join. Visit the Join MAFCU page for complete details.

North Carolina

Truliant Federal Credit Union (Charlotte, NC) – Basic Checking

Truliant’s Basic Checking account offers worldwide ATM access and monthly dividends. If you’re 55 or better, the Senior Advantage account offers all the same perks, plus free checks. The regular Advantage account comes with free checks as well, plus higher dividends, but you’ll have to maintain a minimum balance of $2,500 to avoid the monthly fee. Truliant has 5 locations in Charlotte, plus ATMs as far as Winston-Salem and Candor. Membership is open to current employees or retirees of eligible business partners, plus anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in a chartered community, and family of eligible members. See their Member-Ownership page for complete details.

Coastal Federal Credit Union (Raleigh, NC) – Basic Checking

Coastal Federal Credit Union has 15 branches in Apex, Cary, Durham, Garner, Raleigh and beyond. Their Basic Checking account comes with online banking and bill pay, e-documents and unlimited check writing. For active users, the Go Green Checking account offers 2.52% APY and 1 cent overdrafts, provided you correct the overdraft by 11 p.m. that day, or have a small overdraft that doesn’t take your end-of-the-day balance into the negative by more than $10. Coastal Federal’s branches are especially unique for their “Personal Teller Machines”, which work like ATMs, but also allow you to speak with a customer service representative via a video screen and a private audio network. Membership is open to select employee groups in the Triangle and NC areas. Call them for complete details.

South Carolina

SCU State Credit Union (Columbia, SC) – First Checking

With 18 branches and 170 ATMs, SCU State Credit Union is super convenient for almost all South Carolina residents. If you’re between the ages of 16 and 30, SCU State’s First Checking Account is completely free. Free checking is also available for people who have been SCU State members for 25 years or more. In either case, you’ll get a free debit card that earns rewards points you can redeem for cash, and you’ll earn interest on any balance over $2,500. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, or attends school in Aiken, Anderson, Florence, Greenwood, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens or Spartanburg counties. Many other people qualify: please see their Membership page for complete details.

Founders Federal Credit Union (Lancaster, SC) – Regular Checking

Founders Federal Credit Union has branch and ATM locations in 8 counties. Unlike many banks and credit unions, they offer just one great checking account, instead of making you pick between 5. The Regular Checking account is simple and straightforward, plus it lets you earn debit rewards through the CURewards program. You’ll get 1 reward point for every $3 dollars in purchases, which you can redeem for travel, merchandise or gift cards. Membership is open to select employee groups, organizations and associations. See their How to Join page for complete details.


PrimeWay Federal Credit Union (Houston, TX) – Free Checking

PrimeWay Federal Credit Union has locations throughout Houston, as well as branches in Tomball, Missouri City, Kay and Cypress. As you might expect, their free checking account has no withdrawal fees or per-check charges. Better yet, it also comes with a same-day supply of personalized checks, plus optional automatic payroll deduction, which lets you transfer funds to a savings account automatically. With a low $25 minimum opening deposit, this is an ideal starter account. Youth and Seniors can also take advantage of free accounts that earn interest! PrimeWay membership is open to people who live, work, worship or attend school in Washington, Fort Bend or Harris counties, and the city of Houston. Members of select employee groups may also join.

Security Service Federal Credit Union (San Antonio, TX) – Classic Checking

Security Service Federal Credit Union has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Originally 8 members and $25 in deposits, they now have 37 branch locations in Texas, 19 in Colorado and 14 in Utah. In addition to free online banking and bill pay, their Classic Checking account comes with ’round-the-clock customer service and lets you choose between a basic debit card or a rewards debit card. If you’re able to maintain a $500 minimum balance every month, you’ll qualify for the Gold Checking account, which comes with all the same features and earns interest. Residents of Texas, Colorado and Utah have thousands of ways to qualify. Please see the Ways to Join page for complete details.


Virginia Credit Union (Richmond, VA) – Free Regular Checking

As their banner ad proudly proclaims, friends don’t let friends pay for checking! We couldn’t agree more. Virginia Credit Union’s Free Regular Checking account offers free online and mobile banking, free bill pay, and access to thousands of surcharge-free ATMs. You can apply for credit union membership and your account with one application, too. If you can maintain a $1,000 daily balance, the Checking Plus account offers the same benefits, but also earns interest. Many Virginia residents qualify for membership. Please see their Who Can Join page for complete details.

ABNB Federal Credit Union (Chesapeake, VA) – eChecking

ABNB has 13 branches in South Hampton Roads in Virginia and some parts of North Carolina. Whether you’re an old school or new school banker, ABNB has a free checking account to meet your needs. The eChecking is set up for you to do most of your banking electronically, with eServices and eStatements. The Rewards Checking account is also free, and it even earns interest when you maintain a high balance. This is also an excellent account for international travelers: all your foreign ATM fees are waived. Membership is open to anyone in the Hampton Roads community.

Washington, D.C.

Signal Financial Federal Credit Union – NONSTOP PLUS Checking

Signal Financial Federal Credit Union has 3 offices in Washington, D.C., plus additional offices in Maryland and Virginia. Their NONSTOP PLUS checking account not only keeps it simple, but also rewards you for saving. There’s no minimum balance requirement or monthly fees regardless, but if you can maintain $3,000 or more in your account, you’ll earn interest. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Washington D.C., or anyone inside the Beltway in Prince George’s county. Other people, including members of select employee groups, may also be eligible. See their Membership page for complete details.