My favorite checking account
June 14th, 2011 - 61 Comments
Most of us hate our banks for gouging us for fee after fee, requiring minimums, and offering teaser rates that turn into nothing more than the same old BS accounts.
I’ve studied most of the checking accounts on the market and today, I’ll show you the best one I’ve found. In fact, it’s the one I use as my primary checking account.
Why is choosing the right checking account important?
I talk a lot on this blog about building an automated personal finance infrastructure — a system that funnels your money to where it needs to go on a schedule, with minimal involvement from you. This way, the money left over after bills is yours to spend guilt-free. Chapter 5 of my book is all about how this system works and how to build your own.
Of all the components in that system, none are more crucial than your checking account. As I wrote in the book:
“I think of my checking account like an e-mail inbox: all my money goes in my checking account, and then I regularly filter it out to appropriate accounts, like savings and investing, using automatic transfers.”
Your checking account is the center of it all, the nexus of your bulletproof personal finance system. Unfortunately, as I also point out in the book, checking accounts are the number one place where unnecessary fees are levied. That’s why I wrote this post today: to share my favorite checking account, the one I personally use.
BEST CHECKING ACCOUNT: Schwab Investor Checking
Most people think of Charles Schwab as an investment bank. But they also offer what I believe to be the best checking account available. Why?
- Interest on your deposits
- No fees
- No minimums
- No-fee overdraft protection
- Free checks
- Deposit checks via pre-paid envelopes or via iPhone app (snap photos of your check — no need to go into branch)
- An ATM card
- BEST BENEFIT: Unlimited reimbursement of any ATM usage
This last point is critical. How often do you go out with friends and have to withdraw money from out-of-network ATMs? How often do you find yourself at a liquor store at 3:30am, needing to withdraw $280, but you hesitate because of onerous ATM fees?
Those fees can add up, and Schwab reimburses you for all of them. If you rack up $200 worth of ATM fees in a month, you’ll see a $200 deposit from Schwab before the month ends. This means you can use ANY ATM — corner stores, other banks, whatever — without having to look for some specific bank’s ATM.
When I saw this account, I wanted to marry it.
“But I don’t want to use an online bank.” Some people will balk at using Schwab because it’s an online bank. That’s fine, but I urge you to reconsider: It’s rare to find a checking account that (1) avoids screwing you at every turn, and (2) actually rewards you for using them.
Remember: the whole point of having an automated personal finance system is that your money gets taken care of automatically. Who wants to visit a bank branch for routine financial matters? Once this system is up and running, you wont have to.
You know by now that I’m all about big wins. The ATM-fee reimbursement for the rest of your life is enough of a benefit, but stack on the trust Schwab has built with me, and I’m a long-term customer.
Open a new checking account
To get started with the Schwab Checking Account, click here. I have no relationship with Schwab except being a happy customer.
To learn how to fully automate your finances — including ultra-specific recommendations on accounts, investing, debt, negotiation, money & relationships, and buying a car/house — pick up a copy of my book, on sale for less than $10.
Tomorrow, I’ll write about the best credit card.
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