Benefits to consider when choosing a checking account

GENESEE COUNTY — You’re tired of constantly driving to the local branch, waiting in long lines, receiving cash in a combination of bills you don’t want, or finally pulling up in a drive-thru line to find out the teller or ATM is out of order. The solution: a checking account with check and debit card access from your local financial institution.

A checking account grants access to your money without having to hold on to cash all the time. Unlike a savings account, which is meant for you to save money, a checking account is meant to be used for spending. Traditionally a checking account is linked through paper checks, but it is more common now to be linked to a debit card or wire transfer. Most checking accounts include a debit card, which allows you to pay for purchases electronically from your account. Although similar to a credit card, a debit card is linked to the money you already have, versus borrowed money.

While a variety of financial institutions offer checking accounts with many different features, what should you look for in a checking account?

We’ve made your search easier and have narrowed it down to four benefits you should consider when shopping for a checking account.

Access to Account Through ATMs – With access to your account through ATMs you can visit any of your financial institution’s ATMs, or network of ATMs, to view your account balance, withdraw money, transfer money between accounts, and many other transactions. Look at the list of the networks’ ATM locations allowing free access to your money, so you can eliminate paying a withdrawal fee. You should never be away from your money when you need it, and that’s why this benefit should be number one on your list.

No Minimum Balance Required – A checking account with no minimum balance means you do not have to keep a set amount of money in the account and worry about being charged a fee. A checking account with a minimum balance required typically forces you to keep a set amount in the account at all times, and will charge you an extra fee for not meeting that criteria. Who wants to pay fees when you’re spending your own money?

No Monthly Service Fee – Some financial institutions charge an extra monthly fee just for holding your money in an account.

Access to Online Banking & Bill Pay – You’ll be able to skip the long lines and will likely never be required to visit a branch again by signing up for an account that has access to online banking. Online and mobile banking offer many features that eliminate the need to visit or call a branch, including account transfers, ATM locators, mobile deposit, access to statements, the ability to apply for loans, and bill pay.

With access to a bill pay system you can set up all of your recurring bills through your financial institution’s online banking. This way you will never forget to pay your bills, they will be paid on time, and you can manage them all through one platform. Never write another check to pay a bill which eliminates postage and lengthy delivery times.

Bonus: An Account That Earns Dividends – If you’re going to set money aside in your account, you might as well have an opportunity to be earning something from that money. These types of high-yield, or dividend-earning checking accounts, allow you to earn a percentage of money based off the amount in your account by meeting certain balance criteria and other qualifiers.

Overall, a checking account can be a reasonable, secure, and convenient way to spend money, pay bills, and hopefully earn interest while keeping your money safely stored.