An article by Associated Press today is entitled: Say goodbye to traditional free checking. It describes how almost all of the largest U.S. banks are either already making free checking much more difficult to get or they are expected to do so soon, with fees on even basic banking services.
Rather than accepting the imposition of additional fees, customers at these large banks would do well to research other sources for checking accounts such as those that can be found at small community banks and at credit unions across the country.
Since bank customers receive either zero interest or a mere pittance of interest on checking accounts, are usually charged for check orders, get dinged with ATM charges, and sometimes even pay for a paper bank statement, being charged an extra fee of $8.95 or $9.95 per month for having a checking account is beyond what is reasonable or even doable for most bank customers.
Hello, community banks and credit unions
If you have an account at a community bank, make an inquiry into what is likely to transpire regarding fees for service at that institution. You may find that fees for service will not include one for basic banking services, and will want to just stay put where you are.
However, should you learn that new fees are expected to occur, it may prove advantageous to research credit union membership in your locality to learn if you qualify to become a member. Sometimes you qualify based on your own relationship to that institution, such as employment, education, social interest, location, or religion. You might also be granted membership because you are related to an individual who is an existing member.
What is a credit union?
The Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union of which I am a member lists key differences between credit unions and banks. According to Affinity Plus:
A credit union is a cooperative, not-for-profit, financial institution, owned and operated by its members to meet their financial needs. A credit union serves members who share a common bond such as employment, education, social interest, location, or religion. A credit union does three things:
1) Encourages and helps members save regularly through payroll deduction and direct deposit
2) Lets members borrow funds at fair rates
3) Helps members use their money wisely by providing financial services and education at low or no cost.
A credit union is operated by its members. Everyone in a specific field of membership is eligible to join a credit union. The members elect a volunteer Board of Directors from their membership to oversee operations and work with the management staff to meet the goals of the organization. A Supervisory Committee is also made up of members to audit financial operations and ensure safety of members’ funds.
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) regulates all federal credit unions. Under the authority of the Federal Credit Union Act, the NCUA prescribes rules and regulations for the organization and operation of all federally charted credit unions. The NCUA also provides insurance for all federal credit union accounts. Deposits are insured up to at least $250,000 for each member with an additional $250,000, for Individual Retirement Accounts.
My experience with membership at Affinity Plus
Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union has been my financial institution of choice for most of my adult years. It has done an excellent job of serving my needs in a friendly and efficient manner. I do not now nor have I ever paid any fees for anything, and recently got free checks (again) because of member loyalty points accrued by me each month which can be used in a number of ways, including free checks.
I wrote about this credit union in an article I published on 4/17/10: New Monthly Bank Fees Impose Burdens on Many.
The article description read as follows: “The large national bank where I have a checking account went from $0.00/mo maintenance fee to $9.95/mo. I said, “No thanks,” and closed my account. My fall-back plan: My great credit union charges no fees. Where are you banking?”
If you are having additional charges imposed upon you by your financial institution, you may want to take time to research alternative community banks or credit unions. Stretching your dollars is always important, but in this economy it becomes essential when we find ourselves at the end of the month with “more month” than we have money.