Everything is seemingly more expensive in California, including maintaining a checking account. However, opportunities for free checking do exist, and the process of applying for one can almost always be done online. There are several options, however, so read up on the options below and choose which type of bank will be most suited to your financial needs.

Gather Material and Go Online

When opening up a checking account in California, you’ll need your social security number on hand, as well as the account application, a deposit for the account, and a photo ID. In the state of California, it is often the case that a California license is required; especially if a local address cannot be supplied otherwise.  In several cases, the entire application process can be handled online. Bank of America, for example, is a national institution that now offers an online checking account (without a minimum balance requirement) that can be applied for online.

Consider Credit Unions

California credit unions are great options for those looking to open free checking accounts. Credit unions often offer free checking (online included) as a courtesy to members, although membership usually requires some sort of affiliation with the union, such as through a university or family member. If membership can be attained, credit unions are well-known for their reliability and ease of use, and would be a great option for those in search of free checking. Various California credit unions include the University of Southern California Credit Union, California Coast Credit Union, and the California Credit Union. 

Try State-Chartered Banking

Another option for free checking in California is state-chartered banks. Bank of the West is one of the most well-known state-chartered banks in California that offers free checking, and an application for opening an account can be completed online. Visit a few, if at all possible. There are sites online that will list the entirety of state-chartered banks in California—search some of those websites and apply for accounts that look the most reasonable and helpful. Submit a deposit, and be well on your way to free and easy checking.

Look Into National Banks

National banks also offer some free checking options, as well. As mentioned previously, Bank of America is a national bank with free (or conditional) checking options, as is Wells Fargo. There are several locations for these banks throughout the state of California, so access to ATMs should not be problematic. A good way to discover the best national banks in your area, however, is by simply asking around. Friends and neighbors will likely have the most experience with national banks, as opposed to state-chartered banks or credit unions, so their word will be valuable in the search for the most well-regarded free checking account programs.

When choosing a bank, remember other options that may or may not be relevant, such as free online banking, free ATM withdrawals, free debit cards, or free bill pay. Settling for anything less than ideal does not have to be true in banking. California has plenty of options for account holders, so talk to as many institutions as necessary before making the commitment. Free checking should never mean lesser service!