Non-Credit Union Alternatives To Banks With Monthly Debit Card Fees

While often the default response online to people looking for something other than a big retail bank to stash their cash is to shout, “Credit union! Credit union!”, they’re not the only game in town.

Lifehacker points out two options that aren’t talked about as much but still can be great alternatives: brokerage firms and high yield checking accounts.

Brokerage firms will give you all sorts of perks for setting up checking accounts with them. Things like checkwriting, ATM refunds, and a little bit of interest. Charles Schwab and Fidelity are two places that are well-known for offering checking services. Of course, they do it because it makes it easier to transfer your money in to go and make more investments they can profit off of.

High yield checking accounts don’t have fees and will pay you interest. However, they usually have a number of requirements you have to meet. They may want you to have a certain minimum number of credit card transactions and bill payments, for example. Like brokerage firms, the goal is to get you to stick around and leverage your business into other kinds of accounts and transactions with the company.

Great, Unusual Alternatives to Banks Charging High Debit Card and Monthly Fees [Lifehacker]

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  1. Cat says:

    USAA.
    That is all.

    • bblawson says:

      Totally agree.

      • longfeltwant says:

        I also agree. USAA has yet to make me angry, after a couple years as a customer. I don’t use ATMs very often, but they refund those fees. Their online banking meets my standards.

        You have to qualify to be a USAA customer, but the qualifications are pretty weak, like a Credit Union’s qualifications. I qualify because my wife’s father was briefly in the Army back in the Vietnam days, but nowhere near Vietnam.

    • dolemite says:

      My wife’s father was military and he told her she could join USAA. So…what makes them so great?

      • Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

        In a word? Everything.

      • azmountaintroll says:

        The fact that most of their customers have access to automatic weapons and explosives might have something to do with the quality of service.

    • LanMan04 says:

      I’m not a vet, so I can’t join. :(

    • bhr says:

      Just switched over my insurance after having checking for a while. $500 a year cheaper for better coverage!

    • ThaKoolAidKid says:

      Non military are treated as second class customers at USAA, not saying they’re not great but that is the truth. I looked into it before choosing a CU local to me. Non-military cannot use the Mobile Banking app on their phones to deposit checks. There is also a lack of ability to deposit cash. And a few other things that bothered me.

      It is good to get $15/mo in ATM fees back. But I honestly never use an ATM, just debit.

      • sponica says:

        well to be fair when Deposit@Home was first launched even some regular members were unable to use it….my sister’s credit SUCKED so she couldn’t use deposit@home

        as a banking/insurance entity they are fairly risk averse…

    • nodaybuttoday says:

      The problem is that not only do you need to be related to someone in the military but they need to use USAA for at the very least, insurance. Luckily my dad is willing to change insurance, especially if it’ll save him money.

  2. chiieddy says:

    USAA is not open to all.
    I just signed up with Charles Schwab.

    • bblawson says:

      Many of USAA’s services are available to non-military. Please see “Other Individuals” at this link: https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/why_choose_usaa_eligibility_main

      • richcreamerybutter says:

        Great to know! I’d encouraged some friends to open accounts after I joined last year, and the military affiliation requirement had been applied to all services as of a few months ago. I’ll have to give them a heads-up.

    • Cat says:

      USAA banking is open to all. Its insurance and some other products aren’t.

    • Darkneuro says:

      USAA limits its insurance and investment products. And even if you can’t qualify to be a ‘member’, they’ll still refer you to affiliates with price breaks.
      The bank, however…The no fee checking account with atm fees refunded for you up to $15 per month USAAFSB? Deposit products like checking, savings and cd accounts are open to the general public.

  3. mauispiderweb says:

    I like my bank … I just wish they had a branch where I live. That part really sucks.

  4. km9v says:

    You could go w/ a credit union.

    • Cat says:

      From the title of the post:
      Non-Credit Union Alternatives To Banks With Monthly Debit Card Fees.

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      In NYC, the CUs are very stringent and particular with requirements. After completing Part 1 of my college alumni CU application online, they sent me a foreboding missive detailing what they do to “ensure the protection” of their members. This was followed up by a map to the dragon I’d have to slay to fulfill Part 2 of the process.

      • dolemite says:

        I’m a member of a credit union simply through a car loan we had with them (so the car dealer petitioned them for a loan, and we chose theirs and became members). When we opened the loan, they overpaid by $25 and put it into a savings account, so even after the loan was paid off, they said we were still members.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    I have free checking with Scottrade. So tell me again People’s Bank
    WTF I should pay you $20 a month again to loan you my money?

  6. mister_roboto says:

    I use the Navy Federal Credit Union, from when I was Navy brat- I set up my account as a teenager and never let it go.

    The branch I used from Kitsap County Washington opened up to allow people not in the Navy to use them, as long as they lived within the county.

    I don’t live in the county any longer, but I still use them. They’re set up to be used by military families and personnel who are often not able to go to branch for obvious reasons (deployment etc). I haven’t been inside a physical branch in about 12 years, and have used the ATM possibly 8 times in 14 years.

  7. mister_roboto says:

    I use the Navy Federal Credit Union, from when I was Navy brat- I set up my account as a teenager and never let it go.

    The branch I used from Kitsap County Washington opened up to allow people not in the Navy to use them, as long as they lived within the county.

    I don’t live in the county any longer, but I still use them. They’re set up to be used by military families and personnel who are often not able to go to branch for obvious reasons (deployment etc). I haven’t been inside a physical branch in about 12 years, and have used the ATM possibly 8 times in 14 years.

  8. nuggetboy says:

    I just left the Schwab office 20 minutes ago with a shiny new account that doesn’t cost a dime.

    • CrankyOwl says:

      I like Schwab – I’ve had an account with them for many years. Their customer service is great and they treat you nice even if you have just a piddling amount of $$ (like me)

  9. bkeyport says:

    Guess what, I’ve got bigger benifits at a better rate than anything mentioned in this article – all through my credit union. The broke-ages can kiss it – as their “high yield” .000004% apy accounts

    • longfeltwant says:

      Somehow the point of the article has eluded you.

    • jamar0303 says:

      How much do they want for int’l wires? Foreign ATM withdrawals? Schwab is $25 and 0 respectively. The credit unions in my area seem to have agreed on $55 for wires and anywhere from $3 to a percentage of the withdrawal. So I make up for the lost interest with the daily withdrawals I make here.

  10. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    I just opened checking with Schwab. I’m in the process of “using” the account enough for them to approve me for deposit via mobile phone. As soon as that happens (a tiny bit miffed that they won’t outline the exact requirements for approval.) I can leave Chase forever.

    I’m paranoid about closing my Chase accounts though. I want them positively nailed shut.

  11. nocturnaljames says:

    If you have a soul, choose a non-profit credit union, rather than just jumping to another for-profit bank that is going to screw you over eventually.

  12. MFfan310 says:

    All this and no talk about smaller community banks?

    I know, they’re not an option for everyone. But where I live, there are several very good ones.

  13. hkp says:

    Most USAA banking services ARE open to all according to the USAA website (see “Other Individuals”):
    https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/why_choose_usaa_eligibility_main?adid=icgsch39892712

    and a 2009 Consumerist article:
    http://consumerist.com/2009/09/usaa-online-checking-savings-open-for-non-military.html

    Free checking, no fees, and great customer service for all! It will be a completely surreal banking experience for many people. Yay USAA!!!

    However, I think you do need to be connected to the military to be eligible for the cool deposit@mobile feature where you can deposit checks via your smart phone….

    • Darkneuro says:

      Yeah, you do, but even then, you can still mail in deposits or hit your local UPS Store – they have been contracted to assist and allow you to deposit checks directly to your account.

  14. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I am happy with my Insurer (Amica) and generally my banks (2 megas I use for convenience, a small (Really small) bank for a high yield account as described above, and a large credit union with great service and loan rates MUCH lower than USAA).

    I pushed my mom really hard to get USAA when I found out my grandfather had it. He passed but my mom was told she could still apply. She didn’t and she passed unexpectedly. It would appear she took my hopes of ever getting USAA insurance to the grave.

    Amica seems really solid. I have unfortunately had to make claims, and they haven’t dumped me or anything. Their life insurance is a bit higher than the 30 year term I bought through a small broker several years before, but they have my Auto, Home, and Marine policies.

  15. AD8BC says:

    Regional banks? Local banks?

    I bank with Bank of Texas… no problems with free checking at all. No minimum balance or direct deposit requirements.
    https://www.bankoftexas.com/en/Personal/Manage-Your-Money/checking/index.page

    When I lived in Michigan it was Macatawa Bank-Free checking, $300 minimum balance. Interest checking free with only a $500 minimum balance
    http://www.macatawabank.com/personal/Checking/PersonalChecking.aspx

    Before that I was with NBD but left when they were bought by Chase.

    That’s not to say that I don’t like credit unions. I do… but Bank of Texas is more convenient for me.

  16. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    In a word? Everything.

  17. TasteyCat says:

    Wait a year and let me know what alternatives remain.

  18. trencherman says:

    Credit union! Credit union!

    To join UFCU, I had to pay a one time $30 fee to join the UT booster club. I also could have joined a local food coop, but I decided against it, since I’m afraid of the feral dread-locked toddlers that hide in the organic quinoa bins there. My mother uses USAA, but I think UFCU is better.

  19. make7acs says:

    Just opened an account with Schwab. Have been very impressed with their services, features, and customer support. Have never waited more than 60 seconds to speak to a representative and have had each issue solved in an extraordinarily prompt manner.

    They really put other banks to shame.

  20. Watcher95 says:

    USAA, why is this discussion still open?

  21. Kodai says:

    or you could look for a smaller bank. I’d bet you could find one on that new fangled worlde wide webe thing.

  22. SenorAnderson says:

    Ally bank ain’t bad.

  23. baristabrawl says:

    The people that complain about these fees probably don’t have money to invest or keep a balance in their checking accounts. We’ve created our own entitlement issues. Because when I started out with checking in the late 1980s I found one that free and I’ve always had free checking. I wouldn’t pay $5/month for it and then I discovered credit unions. I LOVE YOU, credit union!

  24. FrugalFreak says:

    But the money is still going to for profit greedy corps.

    CREDIT UNION!