For people who keep a few thousand dollars in their accounts at all time, it’s fairly easy to avoid pesky bank fees like monthly maintenance charges or out-of-network ATM costs.
But customers without a lot of money can end up forking over quite a bit for even basic checking accounts. And consumers are going to have to continue to be vigilant about new fees popping up, says Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, Greg McBride.
Not only are monthly fees creeping higher, but McBride says he’s seeing more “stealth” increases, like raising the balance required to avoid getting charged. That’s effectively a fee increase, because if you fall below the minimum—which may be defined monthly, daily, or as an average, depending on the institution—you’re likely on the hook for a $20 to $30 fee, depending on the bank and specific account.
Thankfully there are a number of institutions—even big banks, which MONEY defined as those with over 1,000 branches in more than 10 states, as well as online banks and credit unions—that offer fee-free checking accounts for any balance level. (In fact, one of the following was also a winner this year for Best Stand-Alone Checking Accounts.) Here are the best checking accounts we found for ultra-low balances—one for each type of institution. —Megan Leonhardt