10 Questions To Ask Your Bank Before You Open An Account

Read the fine print!
Fine prints, who reads them right? At least until you are hit with fees for violating some rule buried in fine prints!

If you read them, more power to you! If not, shooting an email to your bank with these 10 most commonly asked questions might be the next best thing to do!

Do this whether you are an existing customer or considering joining a new bank. Will save you from potential fees and penalties.


1. Is there an account minimum?

Some banks require an account minimum to be maintained. The penalty for going under this limit varies from losing that month’s interest to a fee imposed each month the account is under balance. Know if and what the account minimum is.

2. Is there a monthly maintenance fee?

I recently signed up with PenFed which requires just $5 to sign up. I got my first statement and the balance had fallen to $4.50! I had not even received my check book yet!

Here’s why. Apparently, I need to opt-in for electronic delivery of statements and by default it isn’t! I’m sure this was buried somewhere in the fine print!

Inquire about this before you open an account! Some banks require signing up for e-statements and some have additional requirements like a minimum balance or use of the bank’s ATM card a certain number of times.

3. Is there a fee to send or receive money?

To transfer money you can use ACH, which takes about 2 days (actual time varies from bank to bank) to complete or do a wire transfer which is immediate.

ACH is normally used to transfer money between accounts you own and you wire money to anyone with a bank account.

Most banks don’t charge for receiving money whether it is via ACH or wire. Almost all banks impose a fee for sending money via wire and some banks charge for sending money even via ACH.

But these are generalizations. Find out exactly what your bank’s policies are.

For ACH, you can either push the money from your account or pull money from another bank account. This matters. Clarify this with your bank.

4. What is the policy on Account Dormancy?

If you open an account because it was a requirement for say, getting a mortgage, but don’t intend to use it, know that the account will be closed if unused for a certain period of time and the money handed over to your State.

Happened to me with BofA. I stopped using BofA, but still had an account with them. One day I decided to close it. Found out the hard way that BofA had quietly closed my account and handed over the balance to my State that was issuing IOUs!

Here’s what you need to find out:

  • After how many months of inactivity does an account become dormant?
  • What is treated as an account activity? Some banks don’t even treat ATM use as account activity! Most banks don’t recognize dividends received as a valid activity. Check with your bank.
  • Is there a fee to reactivate an account?

5. Is there a fee for ATM use?

ATMs fees are a huge source of revenue for banks! An ATM fee is assessed by the bank owning the ATM and by your bank if you are using an out-of-network ATM.

Some banks only charge you if you use an out-of-network ATM and some reimburse you upto a certain amount. There might be additional requirements like maintaining a minimum balance to waive fees.

6. What is the fee policy on online billpay?

Online Billpay is extremely convenient! No more payments lost in mail or worrying about running out of stamps! A number of banks provide this service free of charge. A few of them charge either a monthly fee or a fee for each transaction. If you intend to use this service, make sure you understand what the fees and requirements are.

7. What is the liability, in case of fraudulent account use?

Banks are not federally mandated to offer zero liability in case of a fraudulent money transfer from your account. But some good banks do. Find out if yours is one of them!

8. Are there fees for Teller services?

The last time I stepped into a bank was about 10 years ago! Everything I do online. But you may have a situation that requires the services of a teller like withdrawing more money than what an ATM can dispense in a day. Some banks are charging a fee to talk to them!

Don’t learn about this the hard way!

9. Is Check ordering free?

Typically banks provide the first box of checks for free. Some banks provide checks free for the life of your account. What is your bank’s policy on checks?

10. What is the policy on overdrafts?

If you’ve opted in for overdrafts, know what fees are assessed. Some banks don’t charge you any fees if you bring the balance back up within a certain period of time. Know what the fees are and how to avoid them. Don’t forget to set up account alerts!


Here’s a handy checklist you can use to email your bank.

1Is there an account minimum?
2Is there a monthly maintenance fee?
3Is there a fee to send or receive money?
4What is the policy on Account Dormancy?
5Is there a fee for ATM use?
6What is the fee policy on online billpay?
7What is the liability, in case of fraudulent account use?
8Are there fees for Teller services?
9Is Check ordering free?
10What is the policy on overdrafts?

Ignorance cannot be used as an excuse to avoid fees – you needn’t ask your bank, I can tell you that!

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22 thoughts on “10 Questions To Ask Your Bank Before You Open An Account

  1. Great questions and checklist. I learned a lot and am passing it on.

  2. I would add taking the time to develop a relationship with your banker. They have the latitude to break rules in most cases, if you handle your accounts responsibly.

  3. I love my credit union and have never been happy with any big banks.

    I got a call last week from my credit union. They were telling me that one of my kid’s accounts had been dormant for long enough that by law, the account would have to be closed and funds would go to the state. I love great laws like that.

  4. Are you a banker? Great tips and checklist. Will pass along!

  5. Great list MC. I would also add that if you are part of a professional order, try to find out if there’s a special program provided by your bank because you could end up with a lot of savings down the line. (My bank provides special rates for the Order of Engineers members for example)

  6. Good post! I completely agree. There have been plenty of times when I’ve been blindsided by some outlandish fee I never knew existed. Banks count on us disregarding the fine print – it’s a great way for them to make money. Krantcents, I totally agree with you. There have been numerous times I’ve had an issue resolved just by walking into my local branch and having a face to face conversation. So much is done over the phone and online these days, we’re losing the personal exchanges of banking. Every Day Tips, I keep a Credit Union account for that very reason – they’ve never let me down!

    • Definitely MissMoneyManager! I hate getting surprised with fees and the fine prints these days come as a booklet! Not humanely possible to read and remember every line in it.

      A checklist with the fees that most affect me helps me be aware of what to avoid.

      I’m totally in agreement with Credit Unions.

  7. Great things to look for. So many banks offer those services free now, that there is no reason to compromise!

  8. MC, good checklist….I used to be a Bank of America customer and am still mad about their checking account minimums. I’m an entreprenuer so I get my checks on a 1099 basis, not W2. And even though it’s still money being regularly put in my bank account they would charge me minimums. But I wanted to shift my money to interest bearing MM’s, not leave in a checking account just to avoid their stupid fees!

    Another thing I like to ask about is does the bank have free coin counting machines.

  9. So many great points and that checklist is brilliant! Banks try to sneak in fees where ever they can so we really need to do our homework. Great post Moneycone :)

  10. I really hate those fine prints. I think companies do it on purpose since most consumers won’t really read them.

  11. Very good post. Interesting that you included dormant accounts, as it’s an overlooked topic. I had an account reach that sta tus once, as I had no activity involved with it for a long time. It was a relatively modest amount of money, but still! I ended up getting the money out, but could have been out a decent amount if I hadn’t paid attention!

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