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Banking 101: All About Checking Accounts

A checking account is the more sophisticated option to an old-fashioned piggy bank. It's also the first step to the wider world of banking.

If your piggy bank has ceased to fill your financial needs, maybe it’s time to bring down the hammer and take your money somewhere else. Your hard-earned cash can find a new home in a checking account, which is much more secure and convenient than even the toughest of porcelain pigs.
Once you know the basics, you can rest assured that the process of opening a new bank account is quicker and easier than you might expect, especially with a little bit of guidance from a good banker. Here's a starting guide to some common features and variables of checking accounts, along with some tips to help you pick one that best fits your individual needs.


The Basics of Checking Accounts

There are a few things that all checking accounts have in common. For one thing, as the name suggests, all checking accounts come with the option of a personal checkbook that can be used to make payments from your available funds.
If writing paper checks sounds archaic to you, don't worry; ATM/debit cards also come standard with your checking account, allowing you to withdraw cash from an ATM and pay for your purchases with ease.
A good checking account will also offer overdraft protection, which means that the institution you bank with will cover you if you write a check for more than you have in your account (usually with limits and fees).


Picking a Checking Account

Beyond the common traits listed above, account offerings and limitations vary pretty dramatically by the specific type of checking account you choose. Some popular categories of checking accounts include:


Online Checking Accounts

Today, a majority of banks and credit unions allow you to manage your checking account online, so that you can easily track your spending habits and account balance as well as variables like fees incurred and interest gained. Bypassing paper and opting to pay bills online can even come with great perks, such as better interest rates and refunds for ATM fees.


Rewards Checking Accounts

Speaking of perks, if you want a checking account that gives a little something to you in return, choose an account that gives you benefits for frequent use. As with online checking accounts, these benefits can include refunds for ATM fees and interest rates above market average, access to a safety deposit box, or rewards points that can be traded for airline miles, product discounts, and even cash back to your account.


Choosing the Right Checking Account for You

When you are ready to open a new checking account, consider your personal needs and lifestyle; if you expect to access your cash fairly infrequently, be sure to choose an account that won't charge unreasonable fees for under-use.
On the flip side, if you expect to use your debit card, write checks, and deposit funds many times throughout most billing cycles, you could get a lot back from a rewards checking account just for using it regularly.
One last tip: If you use a particular money management software, such as Quicken or Mint, you’ll want to make sure your bank supports that software so that you can upload and download your account details accurately.
Whatever your priorities, make sure you are taking full advantage of the opportunities available to you by choosing a checking account that fits your life.
Ready to open a new bank account? Contact a Cadence banker today to help you start the savings or checking account that's right for you.

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