NEW YORK (2/25/11)--Free checking accounts are "alive and well at many of the nation's top credit unions," according to Bankrate's
Second Annual Credit Union Checking Study. The study was released Thursday. The study examines fees, account balance minimums and the cost of ATM use at the 50 largest credit unions in the nation. "Bankrate.com
found that 96% of the nation's largest credit unions offer a checking account that is free, or can become free with minimal effort," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com
. "Even with the continued declines in the prevalence of free checking, it remains within the grasp of most Americans and credit unions are a viable option," he added. Among the findings:
* Of the 50 largest credit unions, free checking accounts were available at 38 of them. * An additional 20% of credit unions will waive fees, typically with direct deposit and/or e-statements. * Similar to trends among regional banks the past year, credit unions saw a slight decline--to 76% from 78%--in free checking accounts. They saw an increase--to $26.05 from $24.88--in average fees for bounced checks, as well an increase to $2.10 from $2 in ATM surcharges. * Nearly half (23) of the credit unions surveyed do not require a minimum opening balance on their free checking accounts.