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Meeting Certain Criteria Can Earn You A Free Checking Account

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It may be more of a challenge finding a free checking account, but many banks will allow you to earn a free checking account if you meet certain criteria. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

Finding a free checking account can be a bit of a challenge these days. In fact, Greg McBride of bankrate.com says that the availability of these coveted accounts has been cut in half since 2009.

"Because banks have had to contend with new regulations that have really crimped revenue in other areas, and the casualty, unfortunately for a lot of consumers, has been that that stand-alone free checking account has been eliminated," McBride says.

In many cases, but not all. While McBride says that only about one-third of banks offer these stand-alone, no-fee checking accounts, almost all, 95 percent of them, will allow you to earn free checking through your banking behavior, provided you meet certain criteria.

Many banks will waive the fee if you sign up for direct deposit. Others require you to maintain a certain minimum balance. Some will reward you for having multiple accounts.

"Such as loan, car loan, mortgage, or you're a small business owner and your business does its banking there," McBride says. "All of those can be grounds to get that fee waived and get you that free checking that you're craving."

The bottom line is, banks want your business, and the more of it you bring under their roof, the more likely they are to reward you with free services.

With checking account fees ranging from $10 to $25 a month, it's no wonder that consumers are looking for a way around them, even if it means taking their business elsewhere. In fact, a recent TD Bank survey found that 36 percent of those asked said that they're likely to switch banks to avoid fees in the future.

Chris Giamo, regional president of TD Bank, says that when it comes to choosing a bank, consumers need to realize that there's no one size fits all product. Eliminating certain fees like checking account fees and ATM charges can be done. It just requires a little homework.

"How often do you use an ATM? How many checks do you write? Do you use online banking? Do you have a mortgage? Do you have a credit card?" Giamo says. "I think it's best for consumers to really look at how they do banking and really do a lot of research and find an account that has the best overall value for every banking service they want to consume."

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