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Remember to review your checking account fees

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Do you balance your checking account every month? Have you noticed the fees being paid to your bank lately? Free checking accounts are becoming a thing of the past. I used to be a Bank of America customer when they offered a free checking account with minimal hassle. Now, there are many conditions to fulfill just to have an account and I’m no longer a customer.

Avoid fees

The holidays are here and times are still tough for many families in theUS. The recession is lingering on and the economic outlook is tepid at best. We all need to watch our spending and minimize any fees paid to the banks. Free checking can still be found, but you will need to do some of the following to qualify.

  • Arrange for direct deposit
  • Maintain a minimum balance
  • Receive electronic statements only – no paper statements
  • Make deposits and withdrawals only though an ATM or online, so no in-person customer service
  • Use only the bank’s ATM

If you don’t meet some or all of these conditions, then you could see $8.95, $12, or even $25 charged to your account at the end of the month. I’m self employed now and can’t take advantage of direct deposit. This made many free checking accounts inaccessible to me. I don’t like paying fees, but if I have to, I’d rather pay for the services that I actually use.

banking by design account configurator

Click through to see full options

An Alternative

Union Bank, a full-service commercial bank, has a new banking product for consideration.  Banking By Design is a checking account with your basic features plus a range of a la cart services.  You can select the a la cart services that you will actually use and then just pay for those. If you know which specific services you plan to use, this can be a more flexible alternative than a traditional checking account which often charge a flat fee for a variety of services, even though you might not use them. Let’s take a look at the choices that Union Bank’s new product offers.

Direct Deposit Waiver: If you make one direct deposit of at least $250/month, then the $3 monthly service charge is waived.

Your checking account starts with the following free features:

  • Debit Card or ATM card
  • Online Banking
  • Online Statements
  • Mobile Banking
  • Email Alerts
  • Text Alerts

Make your account personal by selecting from the following a la cart features:

  • Non-Union Bank ATM Transactions: $3/month
  • Online Bill Pay: $0 until 12/31/13 ($1.50 afterward)
  • Paper Statements: $1/month
  • Unlimited Check Supply: $1/month
  • Saving or Money Market Account: $1.50/month
  • Safe Deposit Box: $2 to $6.50/month depending on the size
  • Incoming Wire Transfers: $1/month
  • Money Orders, Traveler’s Cheques, Cashier’s Checks: $1/month
  • Expedited Card Delivery: $1/month
  • Express Phone Customer Service: $1/month

It’s quite nice to see what you are paying for instead of sending a flat $12 to Bank of America every month. If your small business needs to write a lot of checks to function, then you can choose to have an unlimited check supply for $1/month. If paper statements are important to you, then it’s only $1/month. On the other hand, if you don’t use any a la cart features, then you’ll only pay the minimum $3 fee which can be waived by setting up a direct deposit.

For my business checking account, I won’t need any of the paid services because I can do everything online and through the ATM. Paying $3/month for just the features I would use is much better than paying $12/month to a bank for services I don’t use.  An account can be opened with a minimum deposit of $100, and the account will be maintained as long as you have a balance greater than zero.  I like the idea of unbundling my checking account so I can pay for exactly what I use.  Now, if only my cable company would do the same thing.

Banking By Design is only available in California at this point. They will roll out to other states in the future.

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