Commercial banks exist to make money for their owners. One way they do that is by charging fees. ATM fees. Monthly maintenance fees. Account closure fees. Minimum balance fees. Paper statement fees. Teller fees. It seems like there’s no end. I’ve long thought that the only reason banks don’t charge a fee every time you merely think about your money is that they haven’t figured out a way to do it. Look for mandatory thought-monitoring implants as a requirement for having a checking account at some point in the future.
Credit unions offer the same basic services as banks offer, but credit unions are set up and operated in a different way. Wikipedia defines them like this: “A credit union is a member-owned financial cooperative, democratically controlled by its members, and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and providing other financial services to its members.”
Generally, credit unions charge lower fees than banks. They also usually have lower minimum balance requirements and are more likely to offer free checking accounts. They might not offer as many fancy services as commercial banks, but saving money may be worth giving up some of the bells and whistles.
If you’re eligible to join a credit union (eligibility typically depends on working for a certain employer or being a member of a group such as a labor union or attending a particular school), you should look into the benefits.
Two links to get you started: