I’ll admit, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a personal check. Yes, those paper things your parents carried with them everywhere. CHECKS! They have almost become obsolete in 2019. But every once in awhile, there is a need for a good old fashioned paper check. The good news is there are many banks where you can get those checks for FREE!
I clearly remember my mother writing check for almost everything. When the end of the month bills were due, my mother would write out a half-dozen checks, load them in envelopes, and drop them at the post office. This was repeated month after month. Every so often, boxes of checks would arrive in the mail to replenish the supply.
I was so excited as a young adult to get my first checking account. It felt like a right of passage into the world of adulthood. Quickly though, plastic debit and credit cards replaced paper checks as money began to follow in the footsteps of the digital world. Soon my checkbook was ditched in the junk drawer of my kitchen for digital transactions and online bill pay. Here’s a fun trick. Ask anyone under 30 if they know how to balance a checkbook.
What many people don’t know is that the Visa or Mastercard logo on your debit card means the retailer is paying swipe charges (interchange fees to those companies to process your payment every time you pay with a plastic card.
Some smaller retail establishments fight back by either passing along that charge or by refusing debit/credit cards altogether. That exact scenario occurred just this week.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, it seems every family in America has one thing on their mind. Well, maybe two. Get those Black Friday Weekend shopping deals and get a Christmas tree.
So it came as no surprise to find me, last Saturday, standing in line to cough over $80 to the Christmas tree cartel. But while looking at the reader board of prices I saw in fine print, “use cash save $3.”
I politely asked, will my personal check count as cash” the answer was simply yes. I quickly ran back to my truck and found my checkbook buried in the glovebox under several months of junk.
With Checkbook in hand, I wrote out the check for $77 and proudly reveled in the fact I had just saved 3 dollars. Proof that there is still a place for an old fashioned paper check.
Although personal checks have fallen in use with the advent of everything digital, there is still on occasion a place for paper checks. However, I don’t plan to ever pay for checks again.
Here are three sources I use for free checks.
I recently opened a SoFi High Yield Savings Account as a dedicated sinking fund account. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a debit card in the mail several days later. Don’t fear though. SoFi will allow you to lock the debit card until you would like to use it. To unfreeze the debit card, open the SoFi app on your phone and hit the unfreeze button. A minute later your debit card is ready to use. In addition to the debit card, there was an option to order 25 checks. You can order up to 25 checks per week completely free of charge.
Having a debit card and paper checks linked to your sinking funds makes it super easy to use your saved money for its intended purpose. For example, if you are saving up for a dishwasher and you reach your desired amount of money, you can march into Home Depot and whip out your SoFi debit card and purchase that dishwasher you have been saving for. No need to transfer the money back to checking and wait 3 days for your funds to magically appear.
SoFi savings account currently pays 1.6% interest on all deposits. If you are interested in this account you can get a $25 bonus by opening an account with my link and making a $100 deposit. Open your SoFi account here.
Charles Schwab recently made big news when they eliminated trading commissions for all stock and ETF purchases. You can now buy any US stock for $0. So not only is it a great place to open a Roth IRA or a taxable brokerage account, but it is also a great bank that offers free checks and debit cards.
One of my favorite features of Charles Schwab Checking and one of the main reasons I have this account is that they refund all ATM fees. I have the peace of mind knowing if I ever need access to cash I can hit up an ATM without worrying about fees.
Free checks and debit cards are issued when opening the Charles Schwab High Yield Checking Account. The account does earn interest but it is a paltry 0.15%. Nothing to get too excited about.
Fidelity is another one of my favorite brokerages and fortunately, they also offer a full line of banking services. They have a feature-rich cash management account. You can order free checks and free deposit slips online, at any time. Unlike Charle Schwab, Fidelity pays a more respectable 1.75% interest yield.
While I don’t currently have the check-writing function attached to my Fidelity brokerage account, I would not hesitate to add this feature if I were to need it. In addition to free checking, there is a free bill pay feature as well.
Who cares about free checks?
While free checks alone may not be enough to draw you away from your bank, it may be beneficial to open an account with SoFi, Schwab or Fidelity to have a secondary checking as well as unlocking all the features of a full-service brokerage account. *Sofi is not a full-service brokerage.
If I can stress one thing in this article it is, do not invest at your local neighborhood bank. Brokerages are for investing.
If you have any questions about these accounts, leave your questions in the comments section and I will try to help.