New Checking Accounts: Questions to Ask When Opening One

A checking account can make paying bills and accessing cash more convenient. In order to choose an account that best suits your needs, you’ll want to understand the benefits, requirements, and options available.

Ask yourself these four questions when opening a checking account to help make the best decision.

1. What Options Do Different Checking Accounts Offer?

Not all checking accounts are the same. Some may offer benefits you need, while others may have requirements you’re unable to meet. Research and understand all your options, then compare checking accounts based on your financial situation and spending habits.

For example, if you plan to maintain a high balance, you might consider an account that offers the potential to earn interest. Or, if automating payments or banking online is convenient for you, consider an account that offers free online banking.

When you open a checking account, you should also consider your need and usage of checks and checking services that you'll need. While person-to-person payment and online bill pay are great resources, some businesses or individuals prefer checks. If you intend to write a lot of checks rather than use your debit card, you might consider a personal checking account that includes unlimited check writing and/or easy online check ordering.

“Knowing what benefits you want, and how you plan to use your account, can help you make the right choice,” says Yamile Herrera of the Regions Gratigny Branch in Miami.

2. Is a Minimum Balance or Anything Else Required to Avoid a Monthly Fee?

One of the most important questions to ask when choosing a new checking account is whether you’ll need to maintain a minimum balance or take any other actions to avoid a monthly fee. If you open a checking account with a minimum balance requirement, make sure you know not only the minimum requirement but also the fee amount and how it’s incurred. Check your account balance often to ensure you’re meeting the minimum requirement.

Ask if there are any other potential monthly fees and how to avoid them, such as setting up direct deposit, using your CheckCard for purchases, or signing up for a student account.

3. Do I Want Overdraft Protection?

Always try to avoid overdrafting your checking account, which is when you spend more money than you have available in your account. Overdrafts can incur fees and result in bounced checks. However, if you want extra protection in case of an overdraft, ask if your account includes overdraft protection.

Most overdraft protection services mean that if you write a check or make a payment, and your checking account has insufficient funds, your bank will transfer money from a linked savings account, credit card, or line of credit into your checking account to cover the transaction. While overdraft protection might also come with a fee when it’s used, it’s usually less than a normal overdraft fee.

4. Have I Read the Checking Account’s Fine Print?

The fine print in your account contract (sometimes called a deposit agreement) can give you important information about benefits, fees, and obligations associated with your account. Even if a bank representative has explained the account details to you, Herrera says it’s important to read through all of them. That way, you can ask additional questions before signing the contract and opening the account.

With multiple checking account options available to you, making the right selection will depend on your financial situation and the benefits you need from your new account.

Overdraft services cost $36 per item. Our overdraft transfer fee is priced at $10 or $15 per daily transfer; the fee amount is based on product type.

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This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.