Bank Deals 

$100 PNC Checking Account Promotion (February 2011)

My very first bank account was at a local credit union on Long Island, where I was a joint account holder with my Mom. My second bank account was at a PNC Bank in Pittsburgh, where a branch was only a few blocks away from where I was living. Back then, I opened an account for free because free student checking accounts were all the rage (maybe I got a t-shirt or a frisbee or something silly). Nowadays, if you have the cash and a direct deposit (read: job), you can get more than a t-shirt or a frisbee. You can get a hundred bucks.

From now until the end of February 2011, open a PNC Personal Checking Account, setup a direct deposit of at least $400 each month, and make 10 check card purchases within 60 days of account opening. $100 is deposited within 60 days of completing the requirements.

Their Free Checking Account has no minimum balance requirement, no monthly service charge, and they reimburse you for ATM fees at non-PNC ATMs if you have an average $2,000 monthly balance. You can find out more on their promotion page.

You can apply online but you must be a resident of DC, DE, FL, IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, MO, NJ, OH, PA, VA and WI. Expires February 28th, 2011 but could be extended.


Least Evil Banks

I think it’s always dangerous when you start assigning “feelings” to financial institutions. While I realize that CNN Money just wanted to throw “evil” out there to sensationalize a bit, I think it’s a little irresponsible to say that a bank is evil. A bank is a create of our financial environment and, ultimately, it’s a business. It’s trying to make as much profit as it can and whether that comes from fees it charges you or the interest it doesn’t pay you, the market needs to demand better in order for them to change.

That’s also why I think this list by CNN Money is great, they’ve scoured the banking ecosystem to find eight banks with zero ATM fees, free checking, and higher yield accounts.

Ally Bank

AllyI wasn’t surprised to see Ally Bank at the head of the class, I personally love their 60 day penalty on closing CDs early (most banks have you pay far more). They were lauded for their ATM reimbursement, higher interest rates, and lack of maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements.

ING Direct

ING DirectAgain, not surprised that we have another online bank as one of the least evil. ING Direct’s free checking and no ATMs were the first two reasons CNN Money mentioned, though you’ll have to use an Allpoint network ATM to avoid fees. If you don’t have an account, take advantage of ING Direct’s referral system to get a deposit bonus ($25 if you deposit $250).

The six other banks were, in order they were listed, USAA, Capital One, Alliant Credit Union, PNC, The Incredible Bank (internet only, I’d never heard of them), and Charles Schwab Bank. I don’t think it’s any indication of their evilness, so don’t see Charles Schwab as a little “eviler” than PNC. :)

 Your Take 

Your Take: Name Your Favorite Bank or Credit Union

ATMThe recent economy woes have not been kind to banks. It seems like every weekend a bank is failing (over 60 so far this year) and mainstream media is piling on. Four of the thirty two companies in Consumerist Worst Company in America 2010 bracket are financial services companies. Chase, Citi, Capital One, and Bank of America, an eventual Final Four participant (though none of them stood a chance against Ticketmaster for sheer “worstness”). Slamming a bank is just too easy… but it’s also a little unfair.

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 Bank Deals 

PNC Checking Account $100 Bonus Promotion

PNC Bank LogoIf you’re looking for a new checking account and live in DC, DE, FL, IN, KY, MD, NJ, OH, PA or VA, they are running a $100 promotion for new PNC personal checking accounts. The requirements are slightly higher than your average checking account bonus promotion but not onerus. You need to open a qualifying checking account, setup a direct deposit, and make ten check card purchases with your new PNC Bank Visa check card. Your account will be credited with the $100 within 60 days of the direct deposit and ten purchases. The promotion ends April 30th, 2010 and you need to satisfy the conditions by June 30th, 2010.

PNC offers a free checking account with no minimum balance requirement, though your initial deposit must be $25 or more, and no monthly service charge plus they reimburse non-PNC Bank ATM fees if you have an average monthly balance over $2,000. You can see the schedule of fees here. Also, if you’re curious about deposit rates, they’re not great. At the moment, PNC’s deposit rates on certificates of deposit are below the nationally available best CD rates available.

Most promotions of this type are time based, not check card use based, which makes this promotion somewhat “easier.” More details are available on this promotion page.


Best Free Checking Accounts

Blank CheckbookIf you were to build your personal finances from the ground up, the checking account would be the first “product” you’d pick. If you’ve ever drawn your financial network map, you’ll remember that the checking account is the spoke in your primarily hub-and-spoke layout. Your paycheck is deposited into your checking account, your savings accounts are linked to your checking account, and when it’s time to pay credit cards or the mortgage, chances are the money comes from your checking account.

So if you were to rebuild your personal finances or build it from scratch, the first step is finding a checking account that fits your needs. For me, I need a checking account to be free, have plenty of ATMs, and no minimum balance. If your bank doesn’t offer that as a minimum, I’d find one that does.

So how do you find the best free checking account?

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