NEW YORK (2/27/15)--Credit unions continue to offer free checking accounts to their members at a high rate, while more and more banks continue to charge for them.
's 2015 Credit Union Checking Survey found the nation's 50 largest credit unions bested the banks for pricing on checking accounts. (Bankrate Graphic)
Nearly three-quarters of credit unions (72%) offer free checking, compared with only 38% of the largest banks in the United States, according to
a recent report
Five years ago, 65% of banks offered free checking, compared with 78% of credit unions.
"As not-for-profit, member-owned, community-based financial institutions, credit unions are focused on providing the best service for their members," said CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. "The fact that credit unions by and large offer better deals to their members than other financial institutions is no surprise. With lower fees and better rates, more and more Americans are discovering that credit unions are their best financial partner."
In addition to those that offer always-free checking accounts, 26% more--for a total of 98%--offer accounts that become free when certain requirements are met, such as when e-statements, direct deposit or a combination of both are used, the report found.
Further, 62% of credit unions have no minimum deposit, and those that do require an average of $9.84, compared with $65.83 at banks.
Credit unions also charge members less than banks when it comes to overdraft fees, with the average fee at credit unions at $26.78 compared with $32.74 at banks.
"When evaluating checking accounts, consumers should definitely include credit unions in their search," said Greg McBride,
chief financial analyst. "They have competitive offerings and many participate in large ATM networks that extend the credit union's reach."
To use out-of-network ATMs, credit unions most commonly charge a fee of $1.50, while banks charge $2.50. However, many credit unions belong to ATM networks that provide access to more than 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide.