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When choosing a banking account, the best places to bank are the ones with less fees. Many branches offer free checking accounts, which can save a person a lot of money over the years. Here is a look at how much a person can save with a free checking account.

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What to Expect With Free Checking Accounts

A free checking account should always be free. There are some banks that claim their checking accounts are free, but they are not. Find a bank that has no charges and no hidden expectations to get the free checking. An example would be Frost Bank in the DFW area. This bank is Consumer Reports’ number one rated smaller traditional, or local, bank for 2015. They offer free checking and have no hidden strings that can hit a consumer if their account doesn’t maintain a specific balance.

Avoid Banks with Strings Attached

Other banks, such as the nationwide bank Wells Fargo, have free checking, but only if a person maintains a specific balance, uses a debit card a specific amount of times each statement period, or has an automatic deposit into the account. This could result in some unexpected fees. There have been cases at other banks where they require an automatic bill pay setup, which is bad because that puts a person in the grasp of that bank. However, when a bill’s due date falls out of the bank’s statement date, they could charge the monthly fee, despite advertising themselves as a free checking account bank. Those charges could be as much as $10 a month, so a person could save over $100 a year by avoiding these banks.

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Watch Out for Hidden Fees

A free checking account should always be free, with only minor exceptions. There are banks out there that will even offer to reimburse people for ATM fees when getting money. If a person has a free checking account but has to pay ATM fees, those fees can add up to hundreds of dollars over a year and the only way to avoid them is to stop using ATM machines. Finding a bank that reimburses those fees can save a person hundreds of dollars, and even more importantly, give a person a more enjoyable banking experience. Don’t choose a free checking account that charges to transfer money. There are plenty of better options out there.

Avoid Overdrafts

While a checking account may offer free checking, there are no accounts that will allow a person to overdraft without punishment. Those fees can go all the way up to $35 for some banks. There is a way to protect yourself from those charges. If a person opens a savings account through the same bank, they will often offer to transfer money from the savings account to the checking account to save a person from an overdraft fee. The best bet is to always keep a good ledger and not overdraft an account to avoid those charges.

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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.