This well-known bank is just one of many banks that have been moving away from free checking accounts. Today, it's common to have to jump through a few hoops to avoid monthly fees, such as maintaining a high minimum balance or establishing a monthly direct deposit of at least a certain amount. Many banks will also waive their fee if you hold other accounts and loans with them, such as a mortgage. But that's just not realistic for everyone, especially students, young adults, those on a fixed income, and other budget-conscious folks.
In other words, it may appear to be a "free" checking account — but not everyone can get it.
Why do checking accounts cost money?
Banks are businesses, so they have to make money to keep their doors open. Bank fees help pay for the cost of operating — everything from running the air conditioner to paying employees. And there's another, often overlooked variable at play: After the financial crash, the federal government implemented new financial regulations (such as the Dodd-Frank Act) to protect consumers — and the financial system — from excessive risks. Because these regulations limit the ways that banks can make money, bank fees are one way banks are making up for the loss of revenue.2
Choosing the right checking account
That's not to say free checking is dead. According to Bankrate, 38% of banks offer non-interest-bearing checking accounts without fees or minimum balances.3 The best way to find them? Avoid mega-banks and look for local and regional banks instead.
The country's biggest banks do so much business that they don't have to worry about losing a customer here and there due to fees. As long as the fees they charge are reasonable for the current market, there will be plenty of people willing to pay them. Smaller, local banks and regional banks tend to be more concerned about their relationships with customers and are more likely to offer low-fee and no-fee accounts.
Just about everyone needs a checking account. And while some banks see that as an opportunity to make money, other banks — often local and regional banks — are still offering truly free checking accounts. Stop by your local Synovus branch to learn more about opening a Free Checking account.4