You can’t remember the last time you had actual cash in your wallet, let alone a paper checkbook. And digital wallet apps make sending and receiving money as easy as a swipe on your phone. So, do you still need a checking account these days?
The answer is: yes. Checking accounts remain a personal banking essential, and the best ones have kept up with the times by offering convenient features and online access. Here’s a roundup of the benefits of checking accounts and why they still make sense for you.
Checking accounts give you easy access to your money.
Checking accounts offer the most flexible access of any bank account. For one thing, they have no federal electronic transfer limits like savings accounts. Plus, you can access the funds in your checking account in lots of different ways — via debit card, paper checks, electronic transfers, bill pay, wire transfers, and more, depending on your bank. And for those times you do need cash? You can always go to an ATM.
It’s easy to put money into your checking account, too, with direct deposit and mobile deposit options. That’s why it’s smart to use your checking account as a kind of central hub, receiving deposits and paying out your everyday expenses in a simple, efficient way you can track.
Pay anyone, your way.
Bill pay is a significant benefit of having a checking account. If you’re old enough to remember what it was like to manually write out checks to pay your bills, you likely have a lot of love for online bill pay already. For those of you who’ve never known any different, take some time to appreciate how easy it is to hop online, set up your payees, set dates and amounts, and go about your business. Most digital wallet apps just aren’t designed to work the same way.
It’s also simple to pay people from your checking account. Check to see if your bank offers access to person-to-person payment options such as Zelle®, which allows you to send money to people in just a few minutes. And you may be able to set up your favorite money app to work in tandem with your checking account — although, be sure to check if there’s a fee.
A word of caution, here. Whenever money is moving around, there’s potential for fraud, so stay alert when it comes to personal security habits, and only send money to people you trust and know.
Take the work out of budgeting.
With a checking account, you can see your debit card transactions in real time, so tracking your spending is easier than ever. You can also view your deposits and expenses for a wide variety of date ranges.
These features alone can make your checking account an important tool for making and sticking to your budget, since knowing your income and expenses is step one for creating a financial plan. You may be able to link your account to budgeting software and receive additional insights about your spending and savings habits.
Your checking account statements also gives you a “paper trail,” so you can have proof of payment should you need it or just want to research a transaction.
Checking accounts play well with others.
Another great way to get the most from your checking account is to link it to your savings account. This can be a great way to protect your checking account from overdrafts, if both your accounts are at the same bank (although some banks have a separate overdraft protection option besides linking to a savings account).
You can also set up recurring transfers from your checking account to your savings account. It’s typically easy to do if both your accounts are at the same bank, but most allow you to set up transfers between your accounts at different financial institutions, too.
You can even set up multiple transfers to different accounts to help you accomplish your various savings goals. That way, you can create a customized automatic transfer strategy that ensures the money you’ve earmarked for your goals doesn’t get spent in all the wrong places.
Interest-bearing checking accounts pay you back.
There’s really no such thing as a high yield checking account, for the simple reason that checking accounts are designed for access, not yield. But you can get a little something back on your checking account balance in the right account.
Find the most competitive rates by comparing APYs (annual percentage yields) on sites like Bankrate.com. And make sure you understand the terms of any account you consider, especially when it comes to minimum balance requirements, maintenance fees, and overdraft fees. You definitely don’t want to find yourself nickel-and-dimed right out of your earnings.
FDIC-insured banks keep your money safe.
The money in your checking account at an FDIC-insured bank, like Ally Bank, is protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation up to the maximum amount allowed by law. That means if the bank fails, you’re covered. That’s peace of mind you really can’t get any other way.
For good measure, check out your bank’s security policy to see what you could be liable for in the event of fraudulent activity on your account.
While the days of using checks to pay for groceries at the supermarket may be over, the checking account itself is far from being retired. In fact, this old-school way to bank is actually getting better and better with age.