Author Topic: Free checking AND free checks  (Read 11820 times)

joer1212

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Free checking AND free checks
« on: April 30, 2012, 08:28:49 PM »
Does anyone here actually pay for their checks?
I am looking to switch my bank (HSBC), because they recently stopped offering me free checks with my free checking account. I absolutely refuse to pay for checks, as this is yet another expense that must  be budgeted into my life-- a life I am trying to simplify by reducing expenses  so that I can retire early.
However, when I did the rounds of most of my neighborhood banks, I was shocked to learn that no one offers free unlimited checks with their free checking account anymore. They either give you only your first order free, or give you a discount, at best. A few years ago many banks offered free checking AND free checks--as many as you needed. Now, the best I could find was Capital One Bank. They offer free checks and free checking, and pay 1% interest on your account for 1 year (they couldn't tell me what they pay after one year, except to say that "it's low"). The catch, however, is that you must maintain a $5,000 balance in order to get these perks.
I don't know about you, but I have a hard time freezing 5k in some dead account just to get free checks. This means that I would need about $10,000 in this low-interest account, 5k liquid, and 5k frozen. I have better places to invest my money.
I am kind of desperate at this point because I have even looked at virtual banks (online-only banks), but these don't suit my needs.
Questions: What local bank do you use for your checking and savings accounts? Do you get free checking and free checks when they run out? Anything you can recommend that I do? I'm really curious how a Mustachian might solve this dilemma.


kudy

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2012, 09:51:11 PM »
I might tackle this problem from the opposite side... what do you need so many checks for that it even makes a difference?

It seems that I buy checks about once every 5-10 years, and they cost about $15 for a box - a minimal expense for such a long period of time.  If you can eliminate your reasons for using checks (use automatic payments, online payments, online billpay, etc. instead), then maybe this won't actually be a concern?

I use my own situation as an example (none of my regular expenses require checks), and I am sure there are others out there who can vouch that it's possible.

arebelspy

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2012, 07:36:16 AM »
I'm not a customer, but I've heard so many good things, the next time I take the time to switch, it'll be to Schwab.

Free checks, debit card that waves ATM fees at nearly every ATM worldwide (even foreign) (they refund you the fees charged). 

Competitive interest rates.  $0 account minimum.  $0 monthly fee. 

http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/banking_lending/checking_account

Also, I agree with kudy in that I almost never use checks, however because I put lots of earnest money deposits on houses, those force me to (so I basically never do outside of that).  But I also agree with joer that I don't want to pay for them when I do use them.
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grantmeaname

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2012, 08:29:13 AM »
Check your local credit unions. Mine, among others here in my city, offer free checks and free checking.

joer1212

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2012, 09:30:55 AM »
Unfortunately, there are no credit unions in my area. The closest one is over a mile away, and it would be an inconvenience for me to have to go there, as I don't own a car.
I will check out Schwab.
Also, someone suggested Ally bank to me. They operate similarly to Schwab, but they have gotten very mixed reviews online. Many people love Ally, and many hate it. This makes me uncomfortable, as the bank I finally settle on will be the only bank I use, so I need it to be reliable, just like my local brick-and-mortar bank.
 

grantmeaname

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2012, 09:40:46 AM »
So you require free checks, a free checking account with no (or a very low) daily minimum balance requirement, and it can't be somewhere more than a mile from your house, and it can't be an online bank?

I think you're going to have to compromise on one of your principles to find any solutions.

arebelspy

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2012, 11:10:47 AM »
I think I sufficiently answered the question.

I don't know why it can't be online.

He did say:
Quote
I am kind of desperate at this point because I have even looked at virtual banks (online-only banks), but these don't suit my needs.

But what exactly about them don't suit your needs?  If you can go to any ATM, what do you need a local bank for?
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

joer1212

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2012, 10:12:43 AM »
So you require free checks, a free checking account with no (or a very low) daily minimum balance requirement, and it can't be somewhere more than a mile from your house, and it can't be an online bank?

I think you're going to have to compromise on one of your principles to find any solutions.

These were common a few years ago.

joer1212

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2012, 10:14:59 AM »

Quote
But what exactly about them don't suit your needs?  If you can go to any ATM, what do you need a local bank for?
Quote


I will check out Schwab, like you recommended.
The reason other online banks didn't suit my needs is because I had to mail checks to deposit them, and they also didn't offer a checkbook. Thanks.

grantmeaname

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2012, 10:56:00 AM »
These were common a few years ago.

Times change. Clearly, they aren't common now, because the only solution we've all come up with is an online bank. It's not that what you want is unreasonable, it's just that it's become necessary to get a little more creative when looking for options.

zinnie

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2012, 02:26:53 PM »
The checking account Fidelity offers is what I'm using now and they don't have any fees, have no minimum, don't charge for checks (at least they didn't when I signed up long ago) and they refund ATM fees. It used to be called MySmart cash and I believe now it's just called Fidelity Cash Management account. 

You do have to mail deposits if they aren't direct-deposited, which you said you didn't like. But they send you free return envelopes with half the stuff they mail out so I've amassed enough that I've never had to put a stamp on anything.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2012, 02:28:25 PM by zinnie »

elysianfields

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2012, 12:14:34 AM »
Some credit unions and online banks (e.g. USAA) offer the option of depositing your checks remotely via scan over the Internet.  If you're about simplicity, then you need a scanner so you can shred all your paperwork; this way you can deposit your checks without even getting up!

I thank President Gore every day for inventing the Internet, it's the bomb!

kolorado

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2012, 07:24:17 AM »
When we were living in NJ we had about 8 banking choices and none offered free checks. Free checking with a minimum balance or direct deposit but never free checks. Some things still require paper checks unfortunately so I did buy some for $.25 a check and wrote about 30 of those a year. Everything I can pay online I do pay online since it saves the $.25 of the paper check and the $.44 of the stamp. Or has postage gone up again?
Now here in CO we have about 50 banking choices. We went to the one that offered us a $150 sign up bonus(Chase), free checking with direct deposit and free checks if you show a military ID. I've never lived anywhere that DH's service had any perks so that was nice. A $125 sign up bonus is available to anyone. There a multiple codes posted online. I was also able to access the offer through the USPS when we submitted our change of address request so it's there too if you can't find a code. Our bonus was more since we're also cardholders. $125 will buy all the checks you will ever need.
Sometimes banks partner with the company you work at or will give perks to those who have several accounts with them(credit card + loan + checking), or if you work or have worked in education, the military or are disabled. Perks depend on the area and the competition for your money.

joer1212

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2012, 11:13:32 AM »
Quote
We went to the one that offered us a $150 sign up bonus(Chase), free checking with direct deposit and free checks if you show a military ID. I've never lived anywhere that DH's service had any perks so that was nice. A $125 sign up bonus is available to anyone.
Quote


You took the thoughts right out of my head.
I came here today to write that there's a local Chase bank that will give me a $200 sign-on bonus if I open a checking account with direct deposit.
Even if they charge for checks, it will take me a long time to spend $200. I can keep track of this. When I spend close to that money, say, 5 years from now, I can, again, look for another bank. Maybe things will be different then, and banks will once again offer free checks.
Sorry, I checked out Schwab, but the mailing in checks to deposit them seems risky. I'd rather go to a physical branch, and deposit the check straight into the ATM with a nice receipt in hand immediately. Saves time, worry, and hassle.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2012, 11:17:30 AM by joer1212 »

arebelspy

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2012, 11:23:37 AM »
Yeah, I got a 125 bonus from chase and a 250 bonus for opening a checking and savings account with them, respectively. Just closed each since 6 months had passed.

It worked out to something like a 3% APR (1.5% cash bonus on 6 months), but since my cash was doing nothing but waiting for opportunities it seemed better than nothing.  I was prepared to forfeit the bonus if an opportunity came up and I didn't keep my money long enough.

The account was significantly worse in requirements than my (current) B of A, so I closed them after collecting the bonus and waiting enough time.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with three kids.
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arebelspy

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2012, 11:25:54 AM »
Sorry, I checked out Schwab, but the mailing in checks to deposit them seems risky. I'd rather go to a physical branch, and deposit the check straight into the ATM with a nice receipt in hand immediately. Saves time, worry, and hassle.

Yeah, mailing in checks sucks.  But going in to the bank does as well.

I prefer taking a picture of a check via an app and sending that in.  Instant, can do from home, can keep the original check.  Win-win.

Many places offer this now, including Schwab.

http://content.schwab.com/mobile/MKT62345.pdf

I sound like I'm touting for them, but I have no affiliation, I don't even use them.  I plan to next time I switch though.  I haven't yet heard a thing they don't do amazingly well.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

$_gone_amok

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2012, 05:32:57 PM »
Unfortunately, there are no credit unions in my area. The closest one is over a mile away, and it would be an inconvenience for me to have to go there, as I don't own a car.
I will check out Schwab.
Also, someone suggested Ally bank to me. They operate similarly to Schwab, but they have gotten very mixed reviews online. Many people love Ally, and many hate it. This makes me uncomfortable, as the bank I finally settle on will be the only bank I use, so I need it to be reliable, just like my local brick-and-mortar bank.
 

I think Ally recently failed the Fed bank stress test so beware.

I use Chase but I am on the process of switching to my local CU, both offers free checking. I don't use Schwab but have heard many good things about them.

TLV

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2012, 05:48:49 PM »
FYI, as of a couple days ago ING Direct no longer requires checks to be mailed in.
http://helpcenter.ingdirect.com/ingd/Topic.aspx?category=IMAGEBAS

bobthetree

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2012, 04:06:46 PM »
I have been using Schwab for 3+ years and it is AWESOME.  When I head out to an event that requires cash, I swing by any old gas station and don't think twice about it, and it feels great, like I am cheating the system or something.  Online bill pay is awesome.  The only checks I usually write are for rent, and you can set up bill pay to reminds you and you log in to approve and the check is sent out from their offices fast.  I still make sure to keep some totally free checks on hand too.  Also when I move (frequently) I get new checks with my new address.  Checks getting cashed is easy with the mobile app, or by mailing in the PREPAID envelopes that they will give you.  Also when you call, you get an intelligent human in America, no matter what time.  It makes me happy to hear "Hello this is so-and-so in Denver, how may I help you?" after dealing with outsourced flow chart robots for so long.  They even know a bit about their company and have intelligent answers when you hit them with random questions.  In 2008 I asked them about a mobile app for check cashing I was told they were working on it and it came out some time later (I wasn't paying close attention).  Overall I love it, and haven't heard of anything that compares besides USAA maybe, but you have to be military, or relative of military for that.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 04:15:39 PM by bobthetree »

arebelspy

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2012, 05:14:50 PM »
Thanks for the confirmation bob.  I've heard similar stuff like that over and over, which is why I'm planning (for now) for them to be my next bank.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

arebelspy

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Re: Free checking AND free checks
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2012, 05:55:01 PM »
I use Wellsfargo and as long as you have $25k between your cash accounts, brokerage acounts, and IRA accounts you get free checking, checks and 100 free trades per trading account.  A portion of your mortgage balance also counts towards the $25k min.

Yeah, then they get you on fees with those accounts. I don't want to tie up 25k in inferior investments for free checks... At that point I'd go with the better accounts and pay for checks.  YMMV.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.