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Fifth Third Bank Essential Checking Account Review

Learn about the Fifth Third Essential Checking Account, including its fees and features, and compare it to other checking options from online banks.
(2 out of 5) MyBankTracker Editor's Rating

Fifth Third Bank

With such a strong presence in the Midwest and Southwest, you're likely to come across a Fifth Third Bank in search of a new checking account.

It operates a network of 1,154 branches and 2,469 ATMs that its customers can take advantage of.

And, its Essential Checking Account is one option that you'd be offered -- given it is the most basic checking account from the bank.

Find out about all the different fees and features of the account before you decide to open it.

In this Fifth Third Bank Checking Account Review review, we'll compare rates, fees, and services to other national and online banks.

Pay Down Student Loans Faster

Fifth Third Bank Essential Checking Account Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
  • Helpful financial and account tools
  • Partnerships with large ATM networks
  • Mobile banking apps available
  • Monthly fee (can be waived)
  • Service fees on the higher end
  • Doesn't earn interest

The fact is, Americans are more indebted than ever before, with the average American household carrying $139,500 in debt, including credit card debt, mortgage debt, and car debt.

Of course, student loans also play a huge role in how indebted the average American is, with the average student graduating with nearly $30,000 in student debt.

Paying off student debt is an important part of establishing yourself financially.

It can be difficult to save for the future or for retirement while paying down student debt. If you make just the minimum payments it can take a decade or more to pay off your loans.

Fifth Third Momentum App

Fifth Third offers the Fifth Third Momentum App to help you pay down your student loans.

You get free access to the app with your Fifth Third Essential Checking Account.

To get started, all you have to do is connect your Fifth Third debit card to the Momentum app and provide your student loan information to the bank. Then, use your debit card as normal.

Here's how it works:

Every time you use your debit card to make a purchase, Fifth Third will round the purchase up to the next dollar.

So, if you bought a coffee for $3.47, your checking account will be debited for $4. The extra $.53 will be sent towards your student loan balance.

If you make 40 debit card transactions a month, and each transaction results in an average of a $.50 round up, you’ll pay an extra $20 towards your student loans each month.

That can help you pay your debt down more quickly.

As a bonus, the extra payments will reduce the amount of interest that accrues on your student debt.

By using the Fifth Third Momentum app, you’ll wind up paying less overall.

Get Instant Account Alerts to Help Track Your Money

Your checking account is the center of your financial life.

All of your income comes into the account and all of your expenses are paid out of the account.

Because there’s so much activity happening in the account, it can be difficult to track your account balance.

The Fifth Third Essential Checking Account offers instant account alerts that make it easy for you to control your checking account.

You can be notified when large deposits arrive in your account or after every large purchase. You can also set thresholds that will result in alerts if your balance drops below a certain point.

These alerts mean you don’t have to worry about tracking every single transaction.

They can also help you avoid costly overdraft fees by letting you know when your balance is low.

Discounts on Identity Theft Protection Services

If identity theft happens to you, it can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Unfortunately, people’s increasingly digital lives only make identity theft easier to perpetrate.

Cybercriminal and hackers have more access to more personal information.

Many companies have also been subject to attacks designed to steal customer information.

If a hacker does get access to your personal information, they might be able to use your identity fraudulently.

They could get a cell phone, apply for a credit card, or open utility accounts using your name. Of course, they won’t pay the bills, and companies will come after you for payment.

Your credit score will drop and you’ll have trouble setting up new utility accounts or opening a new bank account.

Available plans

Fifth Third gives Fifth Third Essential Checking Account customers discounts on Identity Theft Protection Services.

For $6 a month, you can sign up for Fifth Third Identity Alert. This service monitors your credit report with one bureau for you and offers up to $25,000 in identity theft insurance. You also get access to monthly reports from all three bureaus.

For $9 a month, you can sign up for Fifth Third Identity Alert Premium. This service will monitor all three credit bureaus for you daily. You’ll also get up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.

If you have reason to believe your identity may be stolen, these services can offer a lot of peace of mind.

Choose from More Than 50,000 Fee-Free ATMs

Fifth Third may have fewer than 2,500 ATMs of its own.

However, agreements with other banks mean you can choose from more than 50,000 Fee-Free ATMs.

You can make withdrawals from any Allpoint, 7-Eleven, and Presto! ATMs, worldwide, without paying a fee.

If you find yourself unable to use a partnered ATM, you’ll have to use another bank’s ATM.

If you end up using another bank's ATM that isn't partnered with Fifth Third, they'll charge you $2.75 for domestic ATM withdrawals and $5 for international ATM withdrawals.

These fees are in addition to the fees charged by the ATMs owner.

That means you could pay as much as $10 to make a withdrawal.

Do your best to find a partnered ATM to avoid paying these potentially hefty fees.

How to Avoid the Monthly Fee

The Fifth Third Essential Checking Account charges an $11 monthly fee to keep the account open.

However, there is a huge variety of way to avoid the fee.

Meeting any of the following requirements will result in the fee being waived for the statement period:

  • Maintain a $1,500 combined balance across all Fifth Third accounts
  • Spend $500 on a Fifth Third credit card
  • Have a Fifth Third mortgage, auto loan, or line of credit
  • Be a current or former U.S. military member AND receive $500 in direct deposits
  • Participate in your employer’s Fifth Third banking benefits program AND receive $500 in direct deposits
  • Show a valid student ID
  • Have a Business Premium or Elite Checking account and complete a relationship consent form

If you don’t meet any of the requirements, you can get the fee reduced to $8 per month by receiving $500 in direct deposits.

Other Fees

Monthly maintenance fees are the most common type of fees you’ll pay on a checking account. Still, there are some other fees you should be aware of.

Some of the fees that may be charged to your Fifth Third Essential Checking Account are listed below.

Fifth Third Essential Checking Account Fees

Type Fee
Monthly Maintenance Fee $11
Non-5/3 ATM $2.75
Overdraft Fee $37
Overdraft Protection Transfer Fee $12.50
Returned Item $37
Stop Payment $33
Deposited Item Returned $15
Domestic Wire Transfer (incoming) $15
International Wire Transfer (incoming) $15
Cashiers Check $8


Other Fifth Third Checking Options 

If you're interested in becoming a Fifth Third banking customer, but aren't sold on this checking account, check out other additional checking account options also offered by this bank:

Fifth Third Enhanced Checking

Fifth Third's Enhanced Checking account is an interest-bearing account that offers premium banking perks and additional bonuses on other Fifth Third products.

With easy deposits and simplified mobile banking, this account proves to be a solid option for people looking to earn interest while they bank and get exclusive insight into Fifth Third investment options. Some of most prominent perks of this account are:

  • Relationship Interest on Relationship Money Market and Relationship Savings Accounts
  • Additional 0.25% during the initial term of any standard rate CD of 6 months or longer
  • Receive a 0.50% lower interest rate on Direct Auto Loans, Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit, and Personal Loans and Lines of Credit
  • Exclusive discounts on Fifth Third Brokerage Accounts, such as self-directed online trades discounted to $34.95, up to $75 in transfer fees waived, annual custody fee waived for accounts with $25,000 or more

However, these features do not come for free. This account carries a $20 monthly maintenance fee if you are unable to meet one or more of these requirements:

  1. Deposit and investment accounts must reach a combined total balance of $20,000 at any time during the month, or
  2. Have monthly direct deposits totaling $5,000 or more

Here's some of the main fees of the account:

Fifth Third Enhanced Checking Account

Type Fee
Monthly Maintenance Fee $20
Minimum Opening Deposit $0
Stop Payment Fee $33
Overdraft Fee $37
Non-Fifth Third ATM Fee $2.75
Cashier's Check $4
Paper Statement Fee $5
Overdraft Protection Transfer Fee $12
Return Deposited Item Fee $15
Dormant Account Fee $5/month


Fifth Third Preferred Checking

As Fifth Third's most premier checking account, the Preferred Checking account offers majorly discounted pricing on exclusive products, high interest-earning potential, and valuable investment benefits and services.

Some of the main account features include:

  • Complimentary checks, notary services, money orders and cashiers checks
  • Complimentary 3 x 5 safe deposit box or discount on larger size
  • Relationship benefits including better rates on savings accounts, CDs, and Fifth Third loans
  • No fee for the Mastercard World Debit Card
  • No ATM fees for the first 10 transactions per month

If those perks sound like they're right up your alley and this is the account for you, be prepared to pay a hefty $25 monthly fee to hold the account. You can get this fee waived by:

  • Having deposit and investment accounts reach a combined total balance of $100,000 at any time during the month

We've highlighted the accounts main fees:

Fifth Third Preferred Checking Account

Type Fee
Monthly Maintenance Fee $25
Minimum Opening Deposit $0
Stop Payment Fee $33
Overdraft Fee $37
Non-Fifth Third ATM Fee $2.75 (waived first 10 transactions)
Cashier's Check $0
Expedited Debit Card Replacement Fee $0 ($30 for other accounts)
Overdraft Protection Transfer Fee $12
Return Deposited Item Fee $15
Dormant Account Fee $5/month


Convenience

The Fifth Third Essential Checking Account offers a number of convenience features.

This is important because one of the most important aspects of a checking account is how easy it is to use. Your checking account is central to your day-to-day financial activities.

Having one that is a headache to use can make even simple transactions difficult.

Fifth Third offers both a powerful website and smartphone app.

You can use this online access to your account to check your balance, transaction history, and any schedule transactions.

You can also use this access to schedule new one-time and recurring transactions.

The Fifth Third Essential Checking Account also offers free bill pay service. You won’t have to mail out checks multiple times a month to pay your bills.

Just tell Fifth Third who you need to pay and how much to send. The bank will handle mailing checks for you.

How It Compares

The checking account is the most popular type of bank account in the United States.

Nearly every bank offers one or more types of checking accounts.

You have plenty of options to choose from, but it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the number of options. Even if it is difficult, you need to take the time to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

The first thing to look at when comparing checking accounts is their fees.

You want to make absolutely sure that you won’t pay monthly maintenance fees.

If the account charges one, make sure you can meet the fee waiver requirements each month.

Also, consider:

  • Interest rates (if any)
  • ATM access
  • Convenience
  • Other features

The Final Verdict

The Fifth Third Essential Checking Account offers a variety of ways to avoid the monthly fee and some unique features.

How valuable those features, such as identity theft protection, depends on your personal situation.

If you decide not to open a Fifth Third Essential Checking Account, consider an online bank.

Their checking accounts rarely carry monthly fees, often pay interest, and tend to come with a number of useful features.