By Lou Carlozo
(Reuters) - The unbanked make up 7.7 percent of U.S. households, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and they are sitting ducks for celebrity-pitched prepaid cards, costly check-cashing services and other costly options.
Households without checking accounts - typically made up of young people, those living paycheck-to-paycheck or consumers with poor credit histories - not only pay more of those fees, they lack many of the consumer protections that bank accounts carry. The newly-activated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it is going to take on some of those services, but it still would be better for most of those people to have actual bank accounts for safety and convenience.
The good news is they don't have to wait. Despite the much ballyhooed ``death of free checking,'' plenty of gratis choices exist: In fact, 34.3 percent of all checking accounts carry no maintenance fees nor minimum balances, according to figures compiled by http://MoneyRates.com.
The best accounts are not offered by the biggest banks, says Richard Barrington, who analyzes bank account offerings for MoneyRates.com, and tells consumers to ``start with community banks, online banks and smaller regional institutions.'' Even after industry shrinkage there are some 6,500 banks and 11,000 credit unions, all with federal insurance, in the United States.
Here is a list of 10 free accounts, and a general description of how they work. These are just samples, and other great deals exist. Make sure to read terms carefully when setting up any account and remember that many banks charge one-time fees if you write overdrafts, for example.
BEFORE YOU GO
Check Out These Free Checking Accounts For People Who Don't Bank