I saw a post on Lifehacker this morning about banks getting rid of free checking. Apparently they have their customers back over a barrel and can do what they want once again.
I've only used the services of one "bank" in my life. That was Commerce Bank. But I got tired of their stupid games and closed my account. Commerce bank had some silly policy that if you deposit a paycheck on Thursday, somehow the funds would not be available until Tuesday even though they were reflected in your balance. That is, unless you get out of the car and go in the bank and cash out part of the paycheck at the counter. Then the entire thing was available. It never made sense to me at all.
I have almost always conducted my banking at credit unions. I started with Security Service Federal Credit Union in San Antonio, Texas, when I was 13. I started with a savings account, and opened a checking account when I was 16.
Security Service FCU had some geographic limitations (I think at the time they were in San Antonio and somewhere in Colorado) so after I joined the Navy I needed other services. I opened an account with North Island Federal Credit Union in 93 when I first got to San Diego. For those in the Naval Service, Navy Federal Credit Union was the gold standard. But, at that time, enlisted personnel could only join Navy Fed from an overseas location. Except for Guam. My first duty station out of my technical schools was Guam, but it's a U.S. territory so it didn't count as overseas for Navy Fed's policy at that time.
I had to wait until my first trip to Yokosuka, Japan, until I could join Navy Fed. And I haven't looked back.
The only reason I opened that Commerce Bank account (they've been absorbed several times and I've lost track of what name is on their signs at this point) is because Navy Fed didn't have a presence in south Jersey when I moved here in 1999. Once the Cherry Hill office opened up in 2000, I dropped Commerce like a bad ISP (Internet Service Provider) and haven't looked back.
So after years of enjoying the convenience and high levels of service of Navy Federal Credit Union, I have to ask you bank people: why would you pay a fee to have a checking account? That's like buying a coin operated microwave.
It's possible that I haven't studied the issue closely enough, but when I have looked into it, I've never seen a benefit to me of using a bank over a credit union. I've always found the credit unions to be much more beneficial and service oriented.