First Citizens Bank Checking Account Review
You might be thinking about First Citizens Bank as you look for your next checking account, especially if you live in the southeastern United States.
Additionally, it has a footprint in a large number of states across the country.
The best part:
Among its checking account options, the bank offers a free checking account.
The Free Checking Account is a solid choice for a basic checking option.
But, before you open one, learn in this review all about its fees and features and compare it to alternatives from First Citizens Bank and other banks.
First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account Pros & Cons
No Monthly Fees
The First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account lives up to its name.
There are no monthly fees to keep the account open, so you can get access to all of the checking account features that you need, free of charge.
You must meet to keep your account open.
You must sign up for electronic statements in the first 60 days you have the account.
If you fail to do so, your account will automatically be converted to a fee-based checking account.
Overdraft Fee Policies
Though it’s not something that you want to do, you might find yourself overdrawing your checking account from time to time.
Whether you lost track of your account’s balance or have too many bills to pay, overdrawing your account is painful.
Your account’s balance will go into the negatives and your bank will charge you a hefty fee.
A $5 cup of coffee can quickly become a $40 cup of coffee if you have to pay an overdraft fee to buy it.
First Citizens Bank charges a $36 fee for every overdraft that occurs on your account. There is a limit of 4 overdraft fees per day.
First Citizens Bank gives you a few ways to save money on overdraft fees.
The $5 threshold
To start, the bank will not charge a fee for transactions of $5 or less that cause an overdraft.
That means that small purchases won’t incur an unexpected huge fee.
Overdraft protection transfers
If you have a First Citizens Bank savings account, you can sign up for overdraft protection transfers.
If you do, money will automatically be moved from your savings account to your checking account to cover overdrafts. That means your checking account balance won’t fall into the negatives.
If you do take advantage of this service, there is a $12 fee for overdraft transfers.
This fee will only be charged once per day.
Although a $12 fee isn’t cheap, it’s much lower than the $36 fee you would have paid, meaning you could save a lot of money with the service.
Teaching Smarter Money Management
One of the most difficult things to teach a child or teenager is the value of money, but it’s an incredibly important thing to do.
First Citizens Bank tries to make that task easier by offering the Together Card.
You can sign up for this service for $3 per month.
The Together Card is a like a separate account that you can share with your teenager. It gives them the independence to make purchases on their own while letting you keep watch over their spending.
Like a reloadable debit card
Your teenager will get a Together Card when you sign up.
You can load the account with money from other First Citizens Bank accounts.
The funds on the account can then be used to make purchases anywhere that Visa cards are accepted. You can even use the card to shop online.
To track the spending, you can set up real-time alerts to be sent to you via text or e-mail.
That makes it easy to see how your teenager is spending their money, allowing you to have better conversations about budgeting and how to handle money.
Pay Friends with "Pay People"
People’s daily lives are getting more digital by the day, so it’s understandable that people want to digitize their financial lives as well.
Still, cash remains a popular way to pay friends and colleagues.
Whether you’re settling up a bar tab or paying your share of the utility bill, there’s a good chance you’re using cash for the transaction.
Making electronic payments is much easier and First Citizens Bank makes it free with its Pay People Service.
When you log in to your First Citizens Bank account, you’ll see the Pay People option listed alongside all of your account features.
When you open up the Pay People menu, you’ll be prompted to enter the recipient’s e-mail address or phone number.
You don’t need to know anything about their financial accounts to send money.
After you provide their contact information, enter the amount you’d like to send.
The recipient will receive a notification that you’re trying to send them money. They will also receive instructions on how to claim the funds.
Once they follow the instructions, payment will arrive in their account within two business days.
First Citizens Bank’s footprint covers 18 states, with most of the bank’s ATMs and branches concentrated in the Southeast.
If you use a First Citizens Bank ATM, there will be no fees for any transactions you make. If you have to use another banks’ ATM, you’ll have to pay a fee.
For the First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account, this fee will be $2.50 per transaction.
The $2.50 is charged on top of the fees that the ATM’s owner will charge.
You could easily wind up paying $5 or more just to make a cash withdrawal from an ATM. If you’re traveling, try to bring enough cash that you won’t have to visit an ATM.
Monthly maintenance fees are the most common type of checking account fee, but they aren’t the only one to be aware of.
These are some of the other fees that may be charged on your First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account.
First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account Fees
|Monthly Maintenance Fee||$0|
|Non-First Citizens ATM||$2.50|
|Deposited Item Returned||$7|
|Domestic Wire Transfer (incoming)||$16|
|International Wire Transfer (incoming)||$16|
The First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account offers many of the convenience features that you would expect from a checking account.
This is important because your checking account should be easy to use. If you have a difficult to manage checking account, even the simplest financial tasks can be a headache.
Online & mobile banking
You can easily manage your First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account through the bank’s website or app.
Once you log in, you’ll see your account dashboard which lists your accounts and balances. You can view your transactions history and any future transactions that you’ve scheduled.
You can also make instant transfers or schedule transfers to occur in the future.
Another important feature is the ability to control your debit card on the go.
You can freeze and unfreeze your debit card temporarily if you think you lost your card or suspect fraud.
Additionally, you can notify First Citizens Bank of upcoming travel so that your cards don't get denied during the trip.
How It Compares
The checking account is the hub of your finances.
Not surprisingly, it is the most popular deposit account offered by banks.
You've got plenty of options.
It’s important that you put in the effort to find the right account. If you choose the wrong one, you could wind up paying fees or dealing with unnecessary stress when managing your money.
When you’re comparing checking accounts, fees are the first thing to look at. You want to make sure that you won’t pay any maintenance fees.
If the account does charge a monthly fee, make sure that you can meet the fee-waiver requirements each month.
Other things to consider when comparing accounts are:
- Minimum deposit requirements
- Fee waiver requirements
- Interest rates
- ATM access
- Convenience features
Other First Citizens checking options
First Citizens Bank offers several other checking accounts that deliver more premium features.
But, as you might expect, they can come with high monthly fees.
This account is only slightly different from the Free Checking account -- you get the option to receive paper statements.
It has a $12 monthly fee that is waived with any of the following:
- $1,500 average daily balance
- Post direct deposits totaling $250 or more per month
Rising up the tiers is the Premier Checking account that offers a limited number of free out-of-network ATM transactions, interest earnings, free cashier's check, money orders, and traveler's checks, and special rates on CDs and home equity credit lines.
The monthly fee is $18 unless you meet one of the following:
- $5,000 combined daily balance in linked deposit or investments accounts
- Post direct deposits totaling $4,000 or more per month
- Have an EquityLine of at least $25,000
- A consumer loan with an original loan amount of at least $10,000
Prestige Checking offers everything as the Premier Checking account, but with unlimited out-of-network ATM usage, free overdraft protection transfers, free 3'' x 5'' safe deposit box, and more.
The account's $25 monthly fee is waived with any of the following:
- $25,000 combined daily balance in linked deposit or investments accounts
- Post direct deposits totaling $6,500 or more per month
- Have an EquityLine of at least $100,000
- A consumer loan with an original loan amount of at least $25,000
Premier Executive Checking
This is the top tier First Citizens Bank checking account. Perks include higher debit card limits, free stop payments, ATM fee refunds, and much more.
The $50 monthly fee can only be waived by:
- Maintained combined balances of $100,000 in linked deposit and investment accounts
The Final Verdict
The First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account is a decent choice for people who live within the bank’s footprint.
If you want paper statements, this account is not for you.
Oddly, if you can go without paper statements, you might also consider a checking account from an online bank.
They rarely charge fees and often offer features like ATM fee reimbursement that make them easy to use anywhere.