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As far as we know, all of the financial institutions listed herein continue to offer the products featured on this site. However, due to the current turmoil with financial institutions, these offerings might change quite frequently.

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What are the benefits of getting a checking account with a large bank?

No Monthly Fees: Free checking accounts are one of the most appealing services banks provide. Free checking accounts should give you access to a checking service that has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. Every bank we reviewed had a free checking service, but in some cases a bank's free checking account was only fee free if you met certain conditions. The majority of banks we reviewed that did require the customer to meet certain conditions to avoid a monthly fee were the smaller and more regional banks. Larger nationwide banks almost universally give you a free checking account without making you jump through any hoops to get it.

Locations: The number of locations a bank has in your area is something you should think about when signing up for a checking account. Local banks may have a smaller number of locations and it may be impossible to go to a bank if you are out of town or in another state. Banks like WaMu and Bank of America have a huge number of locations throughout the United State making it easy to do your banking regardless of where you are. The sheer number of locations large banks have adds a level of convenience that is smaller banks have trouble matching. If you need to go to a bank to make a deposit WaMu, Bank of America, Wachovia, and many other large banks have over 3,000 locations nationwide. In addition, if you want to make a quick withdrawal these banks each have 1,000 of ATM locations.

Avoid ATM Fees: It is probably more common now to use an ATM than to actually go inside a bank. That is understandably so when there are 1,000s of easily accessible ATMs across the United States. With ATMs you can carry out just about any banking transaction without having to deal with anyone, but you do have to deal with paying an ATM fee. That is unless you have a checking account with large bank like WaMu, Bank of America, or any other of the top banks in America. Most large banks will allow you to use their ATMs free of charge, saving you money you might otherwise loose paying needless ATM fees. Some banks like Compass Bank and Citibank will even refund ATM charges you incur while using other banks ATMs.

Easy access: Large banks not only have tons of locations and 1000 ATMs for you to go to they also give you access to your checking account online and by phone. With online access to your checking account you can pay bills, transfer funds, monitor your account, and generally do anything you could at actual banking location. Another service that large banks provide is telephone banking, which allows you to call at any time and access your account by phone. By signing up for a checking account service with a large bank you are not only getting a quality checking account but one that you will be able to access no matter where you are across the U.S.

Reliability: When it comes time to choose a place to safely store your money there is no place more reliable than in one of America's top banks. Large banks not only provide you with piece of mind, they give you a dependable service and customer service that is available 24/7. If you need to make a withdrawal at any time of the day you can easily find a WaMu ATM with the help of their online ATM locator. If you want to transfer money from your checking to your savings then you can log onto Bank of America's online account management service and request the money be transferred for whatever date you want. If you need help for a customer service representative in the middle of the night on Sunday you can get it from Wachovia. These are just some examples of how large banks provide you with a service that is not only reasonable but is also reliable. If you open an account with any large bank, like WaMu or Bank of America, your checking account service will always be available to you 24/7/365.

What are some other potential advantages?

Security: Security may not seem like a huge issue these days but with concerns about identity theft and account fraud increasing, security is again becoming a relevant issue. The great thing about signing up for a checking account with a large bank is you get fraud protection included for free with your account. Many large banks like WaMu or Bank of America give you a solid guarantee that you will be reimbursed for any and all fraudulent charges. Many smaller banks will only provide you with a limited amount of fraud insurance, and while that is nice it is certainly not as reassuring as full fraud protection. A few banks do not even include fraud protection with their checking account service. These banks usually make fraud protection an additional service that cost a monthly or yearly fee.

Overdraft Protection: If you have ever written a check that has bounced you will understand the importance of overdraft protection. Overdraft protection is a service provided by most banks that prevents you from having to pay a penalty fee for attempting to spend more than is in your account. With overdraft protection typically you are given a line of credit that will accept any charges your checking account can not accept due to a lack of funds. Some banks will allow you to associate your savings account with your checking account so that if you have insufficient funds in your checking, money will be automatically transferred from your saving to your checking to make sure you have the right amount of money in your account. Overdraft protection is a great feature that is included with most checking accounts.

Special Programs: Some of the larger banks in the U.S., such as WaMu and Bank of America, have specific programs and features unique to them. One example is Bank of America's Keep the Change® service that rounds up the cost of your purchases to the nearest dollar and transfers the difference into your savings account. For the first three months of the service, Bank of America matches 100% of the amount of money transferred to your savings, and after three months they match 5% of the money transferred to your savings. WaMu has a rewards program that goes along with its checking account service. You can earn up to $250 in rewards using your WaMu debit card for everyday purchases.

What to look for in a checking account:

Market Standard: After reviewing various checking accounts provided by the various banks in our survey, CheckingOptions.com came up with what we consider to be "market standard". The following is a list of typical feature set that you should expect.

  • No minimum balance
  • No monthly fees
  • Free ATMS (the account provider's ATMS)
  • Check Card
  • Free online banking
  • Ability to set-up direct deposit
  • 24/7 customer service

What features to look for in an exceptional checking account:

There are some features that are not always included, but are features you should try to get. Having one or all of the following features is a sign of a great checking account, especially if the features are provided at no extra cost.

  • ATM rebates
  • Overdraft Protection
  • Fraud Insurance

One thing that is important to note when looking at these great additional features is that they do still tend to vary between banks. ATM rebates for some banks are done by transaction, others simply rebate you only a few dollars every month, and a small number of banks simply rebate all other banks fees. Fraud insurance, as another example, may vary from a $2,500 reimbursement of false charges at one bank to a complete reimbursement of all false charges at another. It is important to look at the degree to which each of these features is provided before a choice is made.

Why is FDIC Membership important?

If you are going to put any amount of money into a checking or savings account at any bank you should first make sure that the bank is an FDIC member. If a bank is a FDIC member then the money in your account is insured up to $100,000. This insurance protects your deposit and ensures that regardless of what happens the money in your account will be safe. To be an FDIC member the participating bank has to follow certain liquidity and reserve requirements. If the bank ever becomes critically undercapitalized the FDIC can declare the bank insolvent and can take over management of the bank. This means that a FDIC member bank is a secure place to keep you money, as you are assured that your bank account will always remain accessible.

Why use CheckingOptions.com?

CheckingOptions.com was created in order to make it easier for you to pick a checking account service. There are plenty of different banks to choose from when signing up for a checking account service. This can make it hard to figure out which bank is giving you a good deal. Here at CheckingOptions.com we have taken the time to figure out what features are and are not included with each bank's checking account service. We have also spent time reading the fine print and have done our best to make clear to you exactly what you are getting with each checking account service. With our grid and reviews you can educate yourself about each service and pick the one that best suits your needs. Here at CheckingOptions.com we have brought together all the information you will need to make a well informed choice. At CheckingOptions.com the choice is up to you as we are determined to serve as an unbiased source of easy to understand information on checking account services.