How to Choose the Best Bank Accounts for Seniors
Whether you’re looking for a new checking account for yourself or a loved one, it's worth the time to research checking accounts designed specifically for seniors. These specialized checking accounts sometimes offer features that you won't find in other accounts.
However, just because it’s labeled as a “senior” account doesn’t mean that it’s the better option. Sometimes a bank’s regular offering is a better deal, but you won't know for sure until you dive into the details for yourself.
The Perks of Using a Bank's Special Account
Whether you're a senior, a college student, or a small business owner, finding a specialized account that's designed for your situation can offer perks that you won't find anywhere else. Often, switching to these accounts costs little more than the time you invest in the search. Banks want the business of seniors, and they'll offer competitive perks to entice them to join. Look at some of the perks offered by well-known banks:
- U.S. Bank: While there isn't a special account for seniors, U.S. Bank will waive monthly maintenance fees for anyone 65 or older with an "Easy Checking" account, regardless of the account's balance or deposit activity.
- TD Bank: The "60 Plus Checking" account perks include free money orders and checks. There is a $10 monthly fee, but this fee is waived if the account holder maintains a minimum daily balance of $250. Account holders also get discounts on home equity and personal loans.
- BB&T: If you’re 55 or older, BB&T's "Senior Checking" account gives you free personal checks, and in the case of a medical emergency, the checking account will allow for one early CD withdrawal, penalty-free. There is a $10 monthly fee, but the fee is waived if you maintain an average balance of $1,000 or make direct deposits of at least $500 every month.
Other banks and credit unions offer perks, too. Wherever you decide to shop for a new account, don’t forget to ask about any senior discounts.
What to Look For
Assessing your needs isn’t much different than when you were younger, but you might have different answers for some of the questions. As you consider your options, ask yourself:
- Are you looking for a bank with physical branches and does this bank have locations close to your home?
- Are you a snowbird or frequent traveler who needs a national bank instead of a regional one?
- Do you write a lot of checks?
- Is a high interest rate on deposit accounts important to you?
- Does the fee structure seem fair?
- Do you use ATMs a lot, and what ATM perks does this bank offer?
- Are the bank's app and desktop site easy to navigate and understand?
- How does the bank compare to a local credit union?
Don't Let Senior Checking Marketing Fool You
Just because a bank account is marketed as ideal for seniors doesn’t mean that it’s a better deal. For example, you might find a senior checking account offered with a $10 maintenance fee, even though another account carries only a $5 fee.
In other instances, you might find that a checking account of any sort doesn’t make sense. If you have to keep $1,500 in the account to qualify for a dividend, you might be better off keeping the money in a savings account or in a Certificate of Deposit where interest is paid regardless of the balance.
In addition to taking a close look at the fees, you should also consider the perks in detail, and how they'll improve your life. If you don’t regularly send cashier’s checks or money orders, the perk of getting those for free isn’t much of a perk at all.
Other Checking Accounts to Consider
Even if an account isn't labeled as a "senior" account, that doesn’t mean seniors won't benefit from opening the account. Keep in mind, this is a list of checking accounts, which usually come with far lower interest rates than savings accounts. If your primary goal is to earn high interest on your deposits, you might consider shopping around for savings accounts, instead.
Here are a few of the best checking accounts for seniors, as of December 2019:
Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking: If you already do your investing with Charles Schwab, you can take advantage of the waived fees for the bank's checking account. The account also offers a generous ATM policy, as well as a 0.15% interest rate.
M&T Bank Classic Checking with Interest: This type of account is only offered to customers who are older than 50. There are several ways customers can waive the monthly fee, making it more likely that the account will effectively be free for you. The 0.01% interest isn't anything to write home about, but again, interest rates shouldn't be your primary concern when shopping for checking accounts.
Ally Interest Checking: If you don't remember the last time you visited a physical bank branch, it may be best to opt for an online bank like Ally. Being a digital bank, Ally can cut down on fees while still offering a 0.1% interest rate on accounts with less than $15,000. If you keep more than $15,000 in your account, you'll earn 0.5% interest. Regardless of how much you keep in your account, you won't incur a monthly maintenance fee. Ally also offers access to a wide network of fee-free ATMs, as well as limited reimbursements for out-of-network ATMs.
Watch Out for Bonuses
Sometimes, shopping for the best checking accounts has more to do with the welcome offer than the account itself. You should never let a welcome bonus overshadow an otherwise subpar bank, but getting an extra couple hundred dollars just for opening an account is a great perk. These bonuses are constantly in flux, so check for bonuses whenever you find yourself on a bank's website.