Question of the Day: Which Checking Account Is Better?

Nov 03, 2014
Question of the Day, Lesson Idea, Checking Accounts, New Products, Current Events

Have your students compare the details on these two accounts (from Money’s Best Banks in America):

  1. Premier Checking
  • Maintenance fee: $25
  • Minimum balance to waive fee: $2,500
  • ATM fee: $0, plus reimburses unlimited surcharges with $2,500 balance
  • Interest on $2,500: 0.05%

2.  Interest Checking

  • Maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: $0, plus reimburses unlimited surcharges
  • Interest on $2,500: 0.10%

First a big caveat, I am only providing limited information, so hopefully students might ask to see a more detailed set of fees to see if there are other gotchas.  Tell them they need to make a decision based on this limited information (and can compile a list of questions later that they would like more information on).

I suppose that most students would choose #2 since it has no maintenance fee and no ATM fee while the other bank requires a $2,500 balance to waive maintenance and ATM fees.  In terms of interest rates, #2 has higher interest rate, at 0.10% vs. 0.05%.  Ask students to calculate what interest you would collect if you had $2,500 in each account ($2.50 vs. $1.25 per YEAR), so fees are what matter! 

Now ask students if their answer would change knowing that #2 is an online bank (Ally Bank).  Just as many consumer categories are moving online (retail, restaurants, transportation), so too is banking.  In 2013, online banks had about a 4.2% share of overall deposits in the banking industry but were growing in double digits on an annual basis.

Why are they growing?  Here is what Money’s Best Banks report noted:

For this category, MONEY looked at the 12 biggest online banks that offer both checking and savings accounts. On average, these online banks offered better deals than brick-and-­mortar ones of all sizes.

In short, they offer the best deals.  As for why they aren’t growing faster, ask your students what they think?  Bet you hear about family (my family banks at bricks and mortar banks), convenience (I want to be able to talk to a banker) and brand (I know this bank).

You might even ask them to make a list of questions they would want answers to before making a decision.  This list might include:

  • Are banks FDIC insured?
  • Where is bank located?
  • What other fees do they charge?
  • Minimum balance to open account?


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.