Minimum Balance At All Times

Interest Paying Checking; you earn a wee interest rate on your idle balances at this writing, around 1 to 1.5 percent. That might be a fixed rate or a variable rate set by the bank. But there are usually no check processing charges or monthly fees. Average minimum balances run in the area of $1,000 to $5,000. If you fall below the minimum or, in some cases, write more than a specified number of checks, fees start to mount.

Some banks “tier” these accounts. The interest you earn, and the fees you pay, vary from month to month, depending on how much money you keep in the bank or how much business you do there.

Bundle Accounts; Your checking account may be “bundled” with other banking services, like free travelers checks, a line of credit at no annual fee, a credit card with a one-year waiver on the fee, discounts on loans, and a quarter-point interest bonus on various savings deposits. You get the whole package for a single low fee or no fee at all.

Asset Management Accounts; these are for the active investor who wants an easy way to keep track of their cash. They generally combine a money market account (which doubles as an interest paying checking account) with a brokerage account and a credit or debit card. With asset management:

Your cash earns a higher interest rate than you’d get from regular interest paying checking. Usually it’s a money market rate, although some institutions pay less.

You can draw on your money with a special checkbook or a debit card (checks may have to be written for a minimum of $250 or more).

You may get a credit card, which can trigger a loan against any stocks you own.

A single monthly statement shows all your investment and banking transactions.

All dividends and interest are automatically reinvested.

You may get access to your funds through and ATM network.

Some accounts offer and automatic bill paying service and let you arrange to have your paycheck deposited electronically.

The minimum deposit for asset management accounts (including the value of your stocks and bonds): $1,000 to as much as $25,000. Annual fees run from zero to $125. Asset management accounts are offered by a few big banks, brokerage houses, some mutual funds, and a few insurance companies. When you’re not with a bank, you may have to wait up to 15 days for the checks to clear.