QoD: Can "free" checking accounts have fees?

Mar 13, 2019
Question of the Day, Checking Accounts

Answer: Yes, as long as they are not maintenance or activity fees. 

Five fees that are not considered maintenance or activity fees:

  • check-printing fees,
  • balance-inquiry fees,
  • dormant account fees,
  • stop-payment fees, and
  • ATM or electronic transfer fees not required to obtain an account


  • Do you think it is misleading to have checking accounts advertised as "free" when they do have fees? 
  • Do you think you might incur any of the fees mentioned above? 
  • How can you find out more checking account fees before you sign up for an account?

Here's the ready-to-go slides for this Question of the Day that you can use in your classroom.

Behind the numbers (from Understanding Reg DD's compliance requirements in Consumer Compliance Outlook]:

To ensure that consumers are not misled by the use of these terms [editor's note: free checking or no-cost accounts], §230.8(a) (2) prohibits depository institutions from describing an account as “free” or “no cost” (or similar terminology) if any maintenance or activity fee can be imposed. 


You students play financial detectives in this NGPF Activity: Overdraft Fee Analysis


About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.