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Checking accounts have long been a staple of Americans’ finances, but growing fees are making them more expensive to maintain. The average monthly maintenance fee on a checking account is $13.29, up 20 cents in the last 6 months, according to an analysis from MoneyRates.

Banks often waive maintenance fees if customers keep a minimum balance in their checking accounts, but that’s no easy task. The average minimum balance to get a fee waiver is $6,847.49, an increase of about $800 from six months ago, MoneyRates reported. Not only do many people not have the luxury of having a huge spending cushion in their checking accounts, letting nearly $7,000 sit in a checking account to avoid a $13.29 monthly fee (or $159.48 annually) may not be the best use of that money. Pretty much any other financial instrument will give you a greater return on your money than a checking account, where interest rates are at 0.04% as of March 14, according to the FDIC.

Read More: Review: Citi Simplicity

MoneyRates determined its figures by analyzing fees and minimum balance requirements at 100 banks of various size. MoneyRates found that large banks (those with more than $10 billion in deposits) tend to have higher fees than medium and small institutions and almost twice the minimum balance — $11,674.09 — for a maintenance fee waiver.

It’s important to note that many financial institutions do offer alternate ways to have a checking account maintenance fee waived. Some banks, for instance, won’t charge you if you use direct deposit, have a certain amount of money in a savings or investment account with them or use a linked debit card to make a certain amount of purchases.

Read More: Review: Citi Double Cash Card

“There are a variety of conditions banks set under which they will waive fees,” MoneyRates said in an email. “Rather than trying to guess which conditions a given customer could or could not meet, for the purposes of our survey we considered free checking to be only those accounts which were unconditionally free of maintenance charges.”

Overall, only about a quarter of the banks studied offered free checking accounts, and they’re mostly online banks: 53% of online banks don’t have account maintenance fees, while only 22% of branch-based banks can say the same.

Read More: What is a Bad Credit Score?

Account cost is among many things consumers need to consider whenever choosing a financial product. As far as checking goes, maintenance fees are just one part of that. There are also potential costs like out-of-network ATM fees and overdraft fees. Oftentimes, you can avoid paying such fees by planning ahead and reviewing your account terms and conditions for potential fee waivers.

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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