Financial regulations have made it possible for consumers to trust banks when they label a bank account as free, as reported by The Simple Dollar. However, while banks may not refer to a bank account as "free" if it has associated maintenance or user fees, banks are still legally able to charge fees for certain types of user activity, such as an overdraft. From that perspective, the onus of keeping the free checking account holder from paying additional fees may be on the account holder rather than the bank.
Many banks offer free checking accounts that come with caveats, notes U.S. News & World Report. For example, a free checking account may only be free if the account holder meets certain requirements, such as a minimum or average monthly balance. If the account holder allows their bank balance to dip below the minimum, their account may no longer be free.
One way to avoid paying overdraft fees is to opt out of overdraft protection payments. This may cause a debit card transaction to decline, but it will allow the account holder to avoid paying an overdraft fee.
Finding a bank that offers a suitable free checking account may be a matter of shopping around. Credit unions and smaller local banks may be more likely to offer favorable checking account terms.