Free Checking Still Typical at Credit Unions, Unlike Banks

Mar 03, 2014, 09:00 ET from Bankrate, Inc.

NEW YORK, March 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Seventy-two percent of America's 50 largest credit unions offer standalone free checking accounts, according to a new (NYSE: RATE) report. This is almost double the rate at the nation's largest banks and thrifts (38%). By "standalone free checking," refers to accounts with zero monthly service fees or point-of-sale transaction fees regardless of balance.

In addition to the 72% of credit union checking accounts that are always free, another 24% (for a grand total of 96%) can become free if certain requirements are met (e-statements and/or direct deposit are the most common fee waivers). Since 2010, the availability of standalone free checking at credit unions has declined modestly from 78% to 72%. At banks, the percentage has plummeted from 65% to 38%.

"Free checking remains well within reach of most Americans, and often means looking no further than their credit union," said Greg McBride, CFA,'s chief financial analyst. "Very attainable minimum opening deposits are another hallmark of credit union checking accounts."

More than half of the credit union checking accounts that surveyed do not have a minimum opening deposit requirement (54%), and no account requires more than $100.

Click here to view more information about's 2014 Credit Union Checking Survey:

Additional Findings

  • The average non-sufficient funds fee at credit unions is $26.96 (versus $32.20 at banks). The most common is $25 (versus $35 at banks).
  • 30% of credit unions either do not charge their members for using out-of-network ATMs or provide at least one free withdrawal per week. Among the credit unions that assess fees, $1 and $1.50 are the most common amounts (compared with $2 at banks).
  • Almost all credit unions (96%) charge non-members for using the credit union's ATMs. The most common fees are $2 and $3 (versus $3 at banks).
  • Only 36% of the credit union checking accounts that surveyed pay interest at the minimum opening deposit, with the average a measly 0.1%.

Click here to tweet about this: surveyed the 50 largest credit unions in the United States in January 2014. The survey included one checking (share draft) account at each credit union, along with all associated debit card and ATM fees and waivers.

The bank fee data came from's 2013 survey of bank checking accounts (released in Sept. 2013)

About Bankrate, Inc.

Bankrate is a leading publisher, aggregator, and distributor of personal finance content on the Internet. Bankrate provides consumers with proprietary, fully researched, comprehensive, independent and objective personal finance editorial content across multiple vertical categories including mortgages, deposits, insurance, credit cards, and other categories, such as retirement, automobile loans, and taxes. The Bankrate network includes, our flagship website, and other owned and operated personal finance websites, including,,,,, Nationwide Card Services,,, InsureMe,,,, and Bankrate aggregates rate information from over 4,800 institutions on more than 300 financial products. With coverage of nearly 600 local markets in all 50 U.S. states, Bankrate generates over 172,000 distinct rate tables capturing on average over three million pieces of information daily. Bankrate develops and provides web services to over 80 co-branded websites with online partners, including some of the most trusted and frequently visited personal finance sites on the Internet such as Yahoo!, AOL, CNBC, and Bloomberg. In addition, Bankrate licenses editorial content to over 500 newspapers on a daily basis including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.

For more information:

Caroline Farhat Publicist, Bankrate, Inc. 917-368-8638

Logo -

SOURCE Bankrate, Inc.