In the past year alone, banks have taken many actions to make up for lost profits, including eliminating free checking, raising fees, and pushing consumers to buy more financial products from them.
The shifting landscape of banking has yielded checking accounts that have become increasingly complicated and difficult to sift through and compare:
- A big bank offers an average of 5 different checking accounts; some offer as many as 8;
- At any given big bank, there are 5 to 20 different ways to waive monthly fees; such conditions vary widely in difficulty to achieve (e.g., direct depositing vs. maintaining $100,000 in combined deposit and investment balances); and
- Usage fees like ATM, overdraft, and even ancillary fees are expensive, but are often buried in footnotes or not disclosed at all.
To help consumers make the best out of the situation, NerdWallet is launching a new tool to find free checking that enables users to compare over 120 different checking accounts across all types of financial institutions, including alternatives to big banks like credit unions with open membership and direct banks. With a few simple questions, the NerdWallet tool determines the best checking account based on an individual’s ability to maintain a minimum balance, direct deposit, and meet all other requirements. In addition, the tool allows those seeking higher rates to find interest checking.
“It has become incredibly difficult and time consuming to find low-fee checking accounts, both because so few exist and because many fees are poorly disclosed and are literally hard-to-find,” says Stephanie Wei, VP of Deposit Products at NerdWallet. However, she reassures, “even though free checking is extinct and cheap checking is in retreat, if you do the homework, you can actually still find a checking account that is optimized based on your needs.”
While there are other websites that list checking accounts, NerdWallet’s tool is the first to produce curated search results, where users can see how their habits actually influence what checking account may be best (or cheapest) for them.
NerdWallet’s checking account comparison tool not only gives users a more realistic sense of how their checking fees add up, but it is also an educational experience that quantifies the effects of individual behavior. Furthermore, the tool factors in added benefits included in specific accounts, such as waived ATM and overdraft fees, allowing users to consider such benefits in picking an account that is best tailored for their needs.