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Five Tips for Keeping Your Checking Account Cheap

By sbup Staff
Consumers want to get the most out of their money these days. One way to get more bang for your bucks is to pay less for deposit accounts that offer little or no interest.

More than 100 million households have at least one checking account. But checking accounts can be expensive: In 2008, banks and credit unions collected more than $37 billion in fees related to overdraft protection and non-sufficient funds alone, according to a report by Bretton Woods, a Georgia-based management advisory firm for banks.

Here are five tips for keeping costs down on your checking account:

1. Shop around for the best account: There are plenty of institutions that want your deposit dollars, and competition means lower fees and higher interest rates. Make it work for you. Head to's interest-checking section and enter your ZIP code to find rate offers in your area. In Arizona, for instance, First Community Bank (Quote: FCFL) offers an interest rate of 1.0% with a $600 minimum balance while Arizona Bank & Trust (Quote: HTLF) offers 0.4% with a $1 minimum.

2. Buy cheap checks: Most consumers know to choose an account that allows them to write as many checks as they need in a given month. To keep costs down, consider avoiding more expensive checks that feature themes or brands, such as Walt Disney (Quote: DIS), Harley Davidson (Quote: HOG) or NASCAR. Instead, order generic checks in bulk. Ditching the funky themes and buying four boxes at a time instead of one or two can save you as much as $30. 

3. Maintain a back-up account: A bounced check can cause you plenty of problems, including getting hit with fees from both your bank and the company you were trying to pay. Apply for overdraft protection that draws money from a secondary savings account to cover any shortfall. (Beware of "courtesy" overdraft protection that extends a high-interest line of credit to cover cash shortfalls.)

4. Double-dip transactions: If your checking account limits the number of transactions you can make, double-up by getting cash back when making a purchase with your debit card. This move also can help you avoid out-of-network ATM fees.

5.  Set up direct deposit: Many banks will waive fees associated with minimum balances if you have your paycheck deposited directly into your checking account. The same might be true if you set up an automated transfer from your checking account to a savings account.

For more sbup tips on getting the most from your checking, check out these articles:

"How to Keep Overdraft Fees in Check"
"The Best High-Interest Checking Accounts"
"How To Find the Right Checking Account"

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