How Does a Checking Account Work?

What Is a Checking Account and How Does It Work?

When you open a checking account with a financial institution, you have the ability to make withdrawals and deposits. Checking accounts, also known as demand accounts or transactional accounts, are extremely liquid and can be accessed through a variety of methods, including checks, automated teller machines, and electronic debits, among others. When compared to other bank accounts, a checking account is distinguished by the fact that it frequently permits numerous withdrawals as well as unlimited deposits, whereas savings accounts may restrict both.

The Most Important Takeaways

  • In banking, it is a deposit account held with a bank or other financial institution that allows the account holder to make deposits and withdrawals at their discretion.
  • Checking accounts, as opposed to less-liquid savings or investment accounts, are extremely liquid, allowing for a large number of deposits and withdrawals to be made.
  • The trade-off for increased liquidity is that checking accounts do not pay out much, if any, interest to their holders, as opposed to savings accounts.
  • Money can be deposited at banks and ATMs, through direct deposit or other electronic transfer; account holders can withdraw funds from banks and ATMs, by writing checks, or by using electronic debit or credit cards that have been linked to their accounts; and money can be transferred between accounts.
  • It’s critical to keep track of checking account fees, which can be assessed for a variety of reasons, including overdrafts, writing too many checks, and—in some cases—allowing the account balance to fall below a minimum required by the bank.

Understanding the Functions of Checking Accounts

A variety of other types of accounts that offer similar features can be classified as checking accounts, including commercial or business accounts, student accounts, and joint accounts, among others.

A commercial checking account is one that is used by businesses and is the property of the business that has opened it. The signing authority on the account has been delegated to the business’ officers and managers in accordance with the company’s governing documents.

For college students, some banks offer a free checking account with no minimum balance that will remain free until they graduate. A joint checking account is one in which two or more people, usually married partners, are both able to write checks on the account and share the responsibility for it.

The interest rates on checking accounts are typically low in exchange for the liquidity they provide (if they offer interest at all). The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will insure funds held at a chartered banking institution up to a maximum of $250,000 per individual depositor and per insured bank if they are held at a chartered banking institution.

For accounts with large balances, banks frequently offer a service known as “sweep” that allows the checking account to be emptied. This entails withdrawing the majority of the excess cash in the account and putting it into overnight interest-bearing funds to earn interest on a daily basis. After being deposited back into the checking account at the start of the next business day, the funds are combined with the interest earned over the course of the night.

Banks and checking accounts are two types of financial institutions.

Most large commercial banks use checking accounts as loss leaders because they charge minimal fees for them and because they offer them at a low cost.

Unprofitable marketing is the practice of offering a product at a price that is lower than its cost or market value in order to attract customers.

With free or low-cost checking accounts, most banks hope to entice customers to use more profitable products and services such as personal loans, mortgages, and certificates of deposit in order to increase profits.

However, as alternative lenders, such as fintech companies, provide consumers with an increasing number of loans, banks may be forced to rethink their lending policies. In the event that banks are unable to sell enough profitable products to cover their losses, they may decide to increase the fees charged on checking accounts.

Measurements of the money supply

To account for the liquidity of money held in checking accounts, the aggregate balances of checking accounts across the country are used in the calculation of the M1 money supply. When it comes to the money supply, one measure to look at is M1, which includes the total of all transaction deposits held at depository institutions as well as currency held by the general public. In addition to the funds accounted for in M1, M2 includes funds held in savings accounts, small-denomination time deposits, and retail money market mutual fund shares, all of which are accounted for in M1.

Making Use of Checking Accounts

Bank branches and the websites of financial institutions are both options for consumers who want to open a checking account. Account holders can make deposits into their accounts using automated teller machines (ATMs), direct deposit, and over-the-counter transactions. They can access their funds in a variety of ways, including writing checks, using ATMs, or using electronic debit or credit cards linked to their accounts.

Checking accounts have become more convenient to use as a result of advancements in electronic banking. Customers can now pay their bills through electronic transfers, which eliminates the need to write and mail paper checks to the company. They can also set up automatic payments for routine monthly expenses, and they can use smartphone apps to make deposits and transfers, saving time and money.

Don’t forget about checking account fees; there are some things that banks won’t advertise widely to people who aren’t paying attention to the fine print, such as contingent fees such as overdrafts.

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Overdraft Protection and Checking Accounts

It’s possible that your bank will cover the difference if you write a check or make a purchase for more than you have in your checking account.

Customers are often unaware that many banks will charge them a fee for each transaction that causes your account to go into overdraft. Example: If you have a $50 account balance, but use your debit card to make purchases of $25, $25, and $53, you will be charged an overdraft fee—usually a substantial one—for the purchase that overdrew your account, as well as for each subsequent purchase after you’ve gone into the red.

There’s more to it than that. For example, if you made three purchases of $25 each, you would not only be charged a fee for the last purchase, but you would also be charged a fee for the first two purchases as well. Many banks have provisions in their account-holder agreements that state that, in the event of an overdraft, transactions will be grouped together in the order of their size, regardless of the order in which they occurred. In this case, the bank would group those transactions together in the following order: $53, $25, $25, charging you a fee for each of the three transactions made on the day you overdrew your account balance. Aside from that, if your account remains overdrawn, your bank may charge you daily interest on the loan you have taken out.

There is a logical reason for clearing larger payments first and smaller payments second. Many important bills and debt payments, such as car and mortgage payments, are usually made in large denominations to ensure timely payment. The reasoning behind this is that it is preferable to have those payments processed first. Such fees, on the other hand, are a highly profitable source of revenue for financial institutions.

Keeping Overdraft Fees to a Minimum

Overdraft protection is a service that many banks provide to customers who have a checking account. In essence, this feature acts as a line of credit for the account, allowing it to cover any debits that are presented to it that it cannot cover on its own. Overdraft protection provides the funds, preventing the payment from being denied and a non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee from being charged. Banks, on the other hand, typically charge a “courtesy fee” for each instance in which overdraft protection is used.

Overdraft fees can be avoided by choosing a checking account that does not charge overdraft fees or by keeping money in a linked account, in addition to using overdraft protection when necessary.

Although you may have to call your bank to find out if they will waive one to four overdraft fees in a year, some will waive one to four fees in a year. If you have a Chase Bank Sapphire Checking or Private Client Checking account, for example, the bank will waive any fees associated with insufficient funds that occur on up to four business days in any 12-month period.

Expenses for the use of a checking account

While banks are traditionally thought of as earning money from the interest they charge customers to borrow money, service charges were developed as a means of generating revenue from accounts that were not generating enough interest revenue to cover the bank’s expenses at the time of their creation. The cost of maintaining an account with a $10 balance and an account with a $2,000 balance is nearly the same in today’s computer-driven world. The difference is that, while the larger account earns enough interest to generate some income for the bank, the smaller account costs the bank more money than it generates.

Customers who fail to maintain a minimum balance, write too many checks, or, as previously discussed, overdraw their accounts will be charged fees by the bank to make up for the shortfall in revenue.

On rare occasions, there may be a way to get out of paying at least some of those fees. For customers of large banks (as opposed to small-town savings and loan branches), the most effective way to avoid paying non-recurring fees is simply to inquire politely. Many large banks have policies in place that allow customer service representatives to overturn hundreds of dollars in charges if you simply explain the situation and ask them to cancel the charge. Just keep in mind that these “courtesy cancellations” are typically one-time offers.

Direct Deposit is a feature of the checking account.

Direct deposit allows your employer to electronically deposit your paycheck into your bank account, allowing you to access the funds immediately after they have been deposited. Banks also benefit from this feature because it provides them with a consistent stream of income from which to lend to customers. In order to compensate for this, many financial institutions will offer free checking (with no minimum balance or monthly maintenance fees) if you enroll in direct deposit for your account.

EFT stands for Electronic Funds Transfer.

It is possible to have money directly transferred into your account using an electronic funds transfer (EFT), also known as a wire transfer, rather than having to wait for a check to arrive in the mail. The majority of banks no longer charge a fee to send an EFT.


However, while using an ATM after hours can be a convenient way to access cash from your checking or savings account, it’s important to be aware of the fees that may be associated with their use. While using an ATM owned by your own bank is usually risk-free, using an ATM owned by a different bank may result in surcharges from both the bank that owns the ATM and the bank that owns the ATM. Surcharge-free ATMs, on the other hand, are becoming more and more prevalent.

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Definition of an Automated Teller Machine

Banking without the use of cash

Anyone who maintains a checking account has come to rely on the debit card as a necessity. While it offers the convenience and portability of a major credit card, it does so without the financial burden of high-interest credit card debt. Many banks now provide zero-liability fraud protection for debit cards, which can assist in preventing identity theft in the event that a card is lost or stolen.

Interest on Savings and Checking Accounts

Make sure you understand the fees associated with an interest-bearing checking account before you open one. This is particularly true if you fail to maintain a minimum balance. According to a Bankrate study conducted in 2021, the average minimum balance required to avoid a monthly fee on an interest checking account was $9,896.81, representing a 31 percent increase over the previous year.

This bare minimum amount is typically equal to the sum of all of your bank accounts, including checking accounts, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit, plus any fees or charges. If your balance falls below the required minimum, you will be required to pay a monthly service fee to keep your account active. The average monthly service fee on interest-bearing accounts has increased by nearly 5.5 percent since the previous year’s survey, according to the American Bankers Association. The average monthly maintenance fee for a checking account that earns interest was $16.35 per month, according to the data.

Currently, only a small number of financial institutions offer free interest-bearing checking accounts with no strings attached. It is possible, however, that your bank will waive the monthly service fee on your interest-bearing checking account if you have a long-standing positive relationship with them.

Accounts de vérification et scores de crédit

Under certain circumstances, a checking account can have an impact on your credit score and credit report; however, the majority of basic checking account activities, such as making deposits and withdrawals and writing checks, have no effect. Unlike closing dormant credit card accounts in good standing, closing dormant checking accounts in good standing has no impact on your credit score or report. Additionally, if you make a mistake that results in your checking account being overdrawn, it will not appear on your credit report as long as you take care of it promptly.

Some banks conduct a soft inquiry, also known as a pull, of your credit report to determine whether or not you have a good track record with money management before offering you a checking account. No effect on your credit score is caused by soft pulls. The bank is likely to conduct a hard inquiry into your credit report and credit score if you’re opening a checking account and applying for other financial products, such as home loans and credit cards. It is possible that a hard pull will remain on your credit report for up to 12 months, lowering your credit score by as much as five points.

A credit check will most likely be performed by the bank when you apply for checking account overdraft protection because overdraft protection is considered a line of credit. If you fail to restore your account to a positive balance within a reasonable period of time following an overdraft, you can expect the incident to be reported to the credit reporting agencies.

The bank may refer your account to a collection agency if you do not have overdraft protection and you overdraw your checking account and do not restore it to a positive balance within a reasonable amount of time after the overdraft occurs. In that case, the information will be reported to the credit reporting agencies as well.

Learn how to set up a checking account.

Banks and other financial institutions have agencies that keep track of and report your banking history. The term “consumer banking report” refers to this report card on your bank accounts that is provided by the government. Before granting you permission to open a new account, banks and credit unions will review your credit report.

Early Warning System (EWS) and ChexSystems (ChexSystems) are the two consumer reporting agencies that keep track of the vast majority of bank accounts in the United States.

In the course of processing your application for a new account, these agencies will check to see if you have ever bounced checks, refused to pay late fees, or had accounts closed due to poor management.

Bounced checks on a regular basis, failure to pay overdraft fees, fraud, or having an account “closed for cause” are all reasons that a bank or credit union may refuse you the opportunity to open a new account. For example, if your checking account was closed as a result of mismanagement, that information can remain on your consumer banking report for up to seven years, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Although most banks will report you if you overdraw your account, according to the American Bankers Association, most banks will not do so if you resolve the situation within a reasonable period of time.

Nothing to report is a good thing in this situation. In fact, it’s the best-case scenario that could happen. It indicates that you have been an excellent account holder.

Being refused the opening of a checking account

In the event that you have not been a model account holder, you may find yourself effectively barred from opening a checking account. The best course of action is to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Make sure to keep an eye on your checking account and to check the balance on a regular basis in order to avoid incurring overdraft charges and fees. In the event that they occur, make certain that you have sufficient funds to pay them as soon as possible.

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If you are denied, you should request a re-consideration from the bank or credit union. Sometimes simply having the opportunity to speak with a bank officer is enough to persuade the institution to reconsider its position.

You could also consider opening a savings account with the financial institution in order to establish a working relationship with them. It is possible to link your checking account to this savings account in order to provide DIY overdraft protection once you have obtained a checking account.

You should be aware of how your data is tracked and what you can do to correct a mistake or repair a bad history, even if you have legitimate marks against your name.

Keeping track of and making corrections to your data

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to inquire about which of the two verification systems is being used by the bank or credit union. If a problem is discovered, you will receive a disclosure notice, which will most likely inform you that you will not be able to open an account and the reasons for this decision. You will have the opportunity to request a free copy of the report that served as the basis for your denial at that time.

A free banking history report is available once a year from each agency, and you can use this opportunity to dispute inaccurate information and request that the record be corrected, according to federal law. In addition, the reporting services must provide instructions on how to challenge inaccurate information.

You have the right to challenge inaccurate information in your consumer banking report, and you should. It seems obvious, but you should obtain your report and carefully review it to ensure that the information contained within it is correct. Otherwise, follow the appropriate procedures to have it corrected and notify your bank or credit union. A sample letter from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for disputing inaccurate information in your credit history is available online.

When you contact one of the reporting agencies, you should be aware that the company may attempt to sell you additional services. You are under no obligation to purchase them, and declining to do so should have no impact on the outcome of your dispute.

The temptation to pay a company to “repair” your credit or checking account history may be strong in you. However, the vast majority of credit repair companies are frauds. Furthermore, if the negative information is accurate, the reporting services are not required to remove it for a period of up to seven years after it was posted. Unless the bank or credit union that provided the information specifically requests it, it is impossible to have it legitimately removed from the system. As a result, it may be in your best interests to attempt to repair your relationship with the institution on your own.

Some financial institutions provide cash-only pre-paid card accounts for people who are unable to open traditional bank accounts. Following a period of responsible stewardship, you may be eligible for a regular account.

There are many different types of second-chance programs available from banks and credit unions, each with its own set of restrictions on account access and fees, as well as the lack of a debit card in many cases. If you think you might be a candidate for a second chance program, make sure the bank is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). A credit union should be insured by the National Credit Union Administration if it is to be considered such (NCUA).

Is a checking account the same thing as a debit card?

A checking account is not the same thing as a debit card. A checking account is a type of deposit account at a financial institution that allows for the withdrawal and deposit of cash in the account. Checking accounts serve as a person’s primary source of funds for day-to-day activities, from which cash can be withdrawn or deposited, as well as various payments, to be made. Nowadays, the majority of checking accounts are accompanied by a debit card that is linked to the account. After that, the debit card can be used to make electronic payments or cash withdrawals from an automated teller machine.

What Is the Difference Between the Different Types of Checking Accounts?

Regular (basic) checking accounts, premium checking accounts, student checking accounts, senior checking accounts, interest-bearing accounts, business checking accounts, and rewards checking accounts are some of the different types of checking accounts available. Each of these comes with a unique set of features, or a different set of limitations on certain features, such as different minimum deposit amounts, different number of transaction fees, different ATM fees, and different overdraft protection options, among other things.

So, what’s the difference between a checking account and a savings account, you might wonder.

A checking account is intended to be used for the purpose of meeting daily cash requirements. For an individual, it is the most important source of funds, from which cash can be withdrawn for spending or making payments. In contrast to a checking account, a savings account is one that is intended to be used for saving rather than spending. The ability to earn interest on money deposited into a savings account is another benefit of having a savings account, whereas a checking account does not. Most savings accounts also have a monthly withdrawal limit, whereas a checking account allows for unlimited withdrawals per month.

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