March 2019 – Checking Account Options: A Competitive Analysis of Checking Product Benefits, Features and Fees

​Checking accounts serve as the cornerstone of consumer banking; not only are they the product that most commonly initiates customers’ relationships with their banks, they are usually the main account people use to move money. In this report, we investigate the various checking options—both standalone accounts and packages—offered by the 18 firms in the Bank Monitor coverage group. We evaluate the differentiating fees and benefits of each mainstream account, as well as briefly covering specialty options for students, seniors and others.

Fee structures and benefits vary for the 73 accounts offered across the coverage group. Five checking accounts from five firms stand out by offering no monthly maintenance fees and high earning potential through interest or debit card rewards. Other accounts with premium benefits tend to carry high monthly fees and require large minimum balances to waive these monthly fees, but also tend to waive fees for many checking services. Balance requirements are the most common criteria by which firms waive monthly maintenance fees, though direct deposit requirements are also common. Other fee waivers for banking services are common, particularly for incoming wire transfers, which ten firms (56%) offer for at least one account.

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