Eight years ago I opened two checking accounts with the now defunct SouthTrust Bank. Both accounts were “Bankers Dozen” checking accounts which charged, if I remember correctly, $9.95 per month, and included free checks, debit cards, online banking, and various “privileges”. When I opened the account, I was brand-new to the world of online banking and very few banks in our area were offering “free online bill pay”. So, month after month, year after year, I paid $19.90 a month for our checking accounts. Then, about two years ago, SouthTrust was purchased by Wachovia, and our accounts were converted to Wachovia accounts. Just a month before the conversion, I received four boxes of checks (two for each account) under the terms of our old “Bankers Dozen” plan. Right after starting this blog, I called Wachovia about their totally-free checking (which did not require a minimum balance or direct deposit) and I asked if I could convert from “Bankers Dozen” to “Totally Free”. The sales representative said, “Sure,” and my $9.95 accounts became free accounts. (No more fees AND a better account!Â Yes!)Â So, now I had two free checking accounts and four boxes of checks. The checks are stamped “SouthTrust Bank” but are still accepted by Wachovia. So, for me, over the past two years, my checking accounts have truly been “FREE”. I haven’t had to purchase checks, or worry about direct deposits, or maintain a minimum balance. But, alas, this good thing has almost come to its end. I now have less than one box of checks left and when those checks run out, I’ll have to purchase new checks. (I ran out of deposit slips a LONG time ago… I simply use the deposit slips at the bank. I’m old school. I rarely use the drive-thru. I’m a walk-into-the-building-kinda-guy.) Right now, I’m trying to conserve checks by moving ALL of my monthly payments, even local ones, to online bill pay. Hopefully, I can make this box last another six months (or longer). In fact, I’m pretty sure that I used most of the checks in 2006, because I have written very few checks in 2007. I might even invest in those checks that you print using your computer, and forgo purchasing “real” checks altogether.
One side note: I checked my mailbox three days ago and Wachovia is offering a $25 sign-up bonus for anyone who opens a free checking account. Click my “contact” button at the top of this page and I’ll email you a referral form. We’ll both get $25 (with which we could then buy checks!).