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Print Friendly and PDF 72 Percent of Credit Unions Offer Standalone Free Checking Vs. 39 Percent of Banks


March 18 - Seventy-two percent of America's 50 largest credit unions offer free checking accounts with no strings attached, according to's (NYSE: RATE) 2013 Credit Union Checking Survey. This sharply contrasts with the 39 percent of banks that offer standalone free checking, as Bankrate reported in its latest survey of banks' checking accounts (released in September 2012).

Ninety-six percent of the credit union checking accounts that Bankrate surveyed are free or can become free with direct deposit, e-statements, transaction activity, other accounts/balances or some combination thereof. Since 2010, the availability of standalone free checking at credit unions has declined modestly from 78 percent to 72 percent. At banks, the percentage has plummeted from 65 percent to 39 percent.

"While banks have significantly scaled back free checking accounts, free checking remains the rule, rather than the exception, among credit unions," said Greg McBride, CFA,'s senior financial analyst.

Credit unions' average ATM surcharge jumped 10 percent over the past year, from $2.08 to $2.29. Credit unions increasing the fee outnumbered those decreasing the fee by a margin of nearly 3-to-1. Surcharging is nearly universal at both banks and credit unions, with $2 and $3 the most common fees assessed by credit unions and $3 the most common by banks.

An ATM surcharge is the fee that an ATM operator charges a non-customer. It is separate from the fee that a financial institution charges its own customers for making out-of-network withdrawals (most commonly $1 and $1.50 at credit unions, $2 at banks).

Additional Findings

Average Credit Union Fees

Average Fees (Credit Unions vs. Banks*)

*Bank fee data from's 2012 survey of bank checking accounts (released in September 2012)

Click here to view more information about's 2013 Credit Union Checking Survey:

Methodology: surveyed the 50 largest credit unions in the United States from Jan. 15-28, 2013. Size was based on total shares (deposits). Bankrate surveyed one checking (share draft) account at each credit union, along with the accompanying debit card and ATM transaction fees.

About Bankrate Inc.
Bankrate is a leading publisher, aggregator and distributor of personal finance content on the Internet. Bankrate provides consumers with proprietary, fully researched, comprehensive, independent and objective personal finance editorial content across multiple vertical categories including mortgages, deposits, insurance, credit cards and other categories, such as retirement, automobile loans and taxes. The Bankrate network includes, our flagship website, and other owned and operated personal finance websites, including,,,,, Nationwide Card Services,,, InsureMe,,,, and Bankrate aggregates rate information from over 4,800 institutions on more than 300 financial products. With coverage of nearly 600 local markets in all 50 U.S. states, Bankrate generates over 172,000 distinct rate tables capturing on average over three million pieces of information daily. Bankrate develops and provides web services to over 80 co-branded websites with online partners, including some of the most trusted and frequently visited personal finance sites on the Internet such as Yahoo!, AOL, CNBC, and Bloomberg. In addition, Bankrate licenses editorial content to over 500 newspapers on a daily basis including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.