Dealing with Banks can be Difficult
Dealing with banks can be a necessary evil for the forcibly frugal. Especially since the financial crisis of 2008 and the consolidations that happened in the finacial sector, more and more banks are charging for services that used to be free. Finding truly free checking is getting harder and harder. But it can still be done if you are willing to do a little work.
There has been one improvement, such as the opt-out on an debit card overage fees. This means that they can’t set a very small “grace” credit and charge you a large fee for using something you don’t want. Now, the default is to turn down the card if you go over what you have actually available. Just ask about the opt out at your financial institution.
What Can You Do
The best option is a local credit union. According to Wikipedia “A credit union is a cooperative financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at reasonable rates, and providing other financial services to its members. Many credit unions exist to further community development or sustainable international development on a local level.” This means that the money in your credit union account will stay in your community. And many credit unions have free checking with your savings “shares”. Many also offer other services such as car loans and even “share to share” loans where one member can put up collateral for another member (who would not qualify on their own,) to get a loan. For more information on the credit union difference check out http://www.cuna.org/gov_affairs/legislative/cu_difference.html If you want to find a credit union go to http://www.findacreditunion.com/Home_Page_2.html
But No Matter What Bank You Choose
You absolutley must keep track of every penny in your account to avoid overdraft fees. The fact that many banks engage in predatory behavior makes it even more important to keep close watch on your balance. It might be a good idea to not use checks at all, but rather to use the opt-out noted above on your debit card, and use just the card and cash. Cash doesn’t bouce, and your debit card can’t overdraw if your opt-out. The only thing to be careful of is using the card as a credit card when the creditor doesn’t input the charge right away. That is why you must always balance your checking account as you go. If you have access to a computer and a Quickbooks program you can set up your personal finances like a business and track your checking that way.