Woman looking over checking account paperwork

Choosing a checking account should be a pretty easy task, in theory. If you’re wondering where should I open a checking account, you’re in the right place. There’s more to think about than you might first realize. To learn more about what questions about checking accounts you should be asking, keep reading. 

We’re breaking down everything you need to know about what to look for in a checking account so that you get the best account at the best financial institution for your goals and financial future. 

Look for a checking account has which of the following benefits:

  • Low or no monthly fees & reasonable minimum balance requirements
  • Overdraft fee protection
  • Convenient access to ATMs nationwide
  • Features & technology that make managing your account easy
  • Dividend payments so your money can work for you
  • Debit card rewards

1. Monthly Fees & Minimum Balances 

One of the most important checking account requirements to understand is what maintenance and minimum balance fees you should expect. 

Fees are one of the top ways for-profit banks make money off their customers. When choosing a financial institution to use for your primary checking account, make sure you check and fully understand any of the fees that may be associated with the account. Since credit unions are not-for-profit, they typically charge far fewer (if any!) fees on checking accounts.

2. Overdraft Fees

It happens to most of us at one time or another. Your cousin finally cashed that check you wrote her 2 months ago and surprise, you’re overdrawn. Or, you forgot that a card you rarely use is on autopay and you charged something on it last month…whoops, the payment went through, and you weren’t expecting it. 

Traditional banks love when their customers overdraft. It means they can ding them with a hefty fee.  When looking around for a financial partner, you should always check to see if they offer any type of overdraft protection or relief product. This can not only avoid the embarrassment of a check bouncing or your card being declined, it also prevents you from being charged additional fees that can put your account further in the red.

3. Branch Locations & Access to ATMs 

You work hard for your money! Shouldn’t you be able to get it whenever you need it? Another of the more important checking account features to look for before opening a new account is how many ATMs you’ll have access to. If you travel often, it’s also essential that you know what your non-local options are for withdrawing cash. 

Try to choose a checking account with low or no fees associated with using ATMs. This can be especially important if you’re forced to use an ATM that’s not specifically affiliated with the banking institution you decide to go with. 

Keep in mind, individual banks can charge their own fee for using an ATM if you’re not their customer, and this can be in addition to what your bank charges – so using an ATM from another bank might end up resulting in double fees! Island Federal members have access to over 100,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide.  

In addition to ATMs, you should also check how many branches your financial institution has in your area and state as well as across the country. Did you know Island Federal Credit Union is part of a shared services network that allows you to perform many of your day-to-day needs at over 5,600 locations across the country?   

4. Features & Technology 

Is your bank still operating like it’s the 1900s? In today’s digital world, your financial partner should be utilizing technology to make your banking as convenient as possible.  

Mobile apps, online banking, and the ability to electronically safely send money to friends and family is a must. Make sure your financial partner offers everything you need, and find out if they offer services that are protected. Did you know that many of the most common money-sending apps aren’t federally insured? Experts recommend only sending cash to friends and family using a reputable app (like Island Federal’s mobile app) so you know your transactions are risk-free, safe, and secure.

5. Dividends 

What’s the opposite of being charged fees by your bank? How about being paid for keeping your money there. When considering what to look for in a checking account, dividends can be the defining factor. 

Since credit unions are not-for-profit, everyone who belongs is considered a member and can be eligible to receive dividends (payments back to you). Talk to your local credit union to find out how their dividends are distributed so you can get the most bang for your buck! 

*Bonus* – Debit Card Rewards 

Almost every credit card out there talks about rewards, benefits, and cash back, but did you know some debit cards also offer rewards? True, it’s far less common than credit cards, but some credit unions offer cash back and other incentives each time you use your debit card.  

Island Federal is home to the Cash Back Checking Account. Our members enjoy no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirement, and cash-back every time they use their debit card. Period. 

Island Federal Cash Back Checking

Island Federal Credit Union understands you might have questions about checking accounts, which is why we’re here to help you learn about all the perks we offer. It’s important that you find the right account for your needs, and we want you to be happy with the financial institution you ultimately decide to partner with. 

Learn more about our unique Cash Back checking accounts so you can open an account and get started making your money work for you today.