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SunTrust Essential Checking Account Review

Find out whether the SunTrust Essential Checking Account is worthy of consideration given its fees and features, then compare it to other checking options.
(3 out of 5) MyBankTracker Editor's Rating

SunTrust Bank

SunTrust Bank, one of the largest in the country, is likely to be an option for your next checking account.

It's not surprising that the bank operates a network of more than 1,400 branches and 2,160 ATMs in the region, making it a popular choice for people who live in the Southeast.

The SunTrust Essential Checking Account is the basic option that is made available to everyday customers.

In this review, learn about the account's different features and fees before you decide if it is the right one for you.

Good ATM Access in the Southeast

SunTrust Bank primarily focuses on the Southeastern United States and Washington D.C.

So long as you stay in that region, you’ll have easy access to ATMs thanks to the bank’s network of more than 2,160 ATMs.

If you leave the southeastern United States, you’ll have more trouble finding ATMs that you can use for free.

You might wind up having to use an ATM on another bank’s network, which can get costly.

SunTrust Bank Essential Checking Account Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
  • Widespread branch and ATM access
  • Easy personal payments
  • Mobile banking apps available
  • Monthly fee (can be waived)
  • Service fees on the higher end
  • Doesn't earn interest

Out-of-network ATM costs

If you have to use another bank’s ATM to check your balance or make a withdrawal, SunTrust Bank will charge you a fee.

Unfortunately:

You’ll pay $3 for each transaction at another bank’s ATM if you’re in the US. If you’re outside the US, you’ll pay a $5 fee per transaction.

These fees are on top of any fees charged by the ATM’s owner. You could wind up paying as much as $10 or more just to make a withdrawal.

You should try not to rely on being able to visit an ATM if you’re in an area without much SunTrust ATM coverage.

Zero Liability for Unauthorized Use of Your Debit Card

Like nearly every checking account, the SunTrust Essential Checking Accounts gives account holders the option to get a debit card when they open the account.

You can use your debit card to make withdrawals and deposits from ATMs. You can also use your debit card to make purchases at stores that accept cards.

SunTrust Bank wants its customers to feel comfortable when they use their debit card.

That’s why:

The bank offers a zero-liability guarantee for debit cardholders.

So long as you take “reasonable care in protecting your card” and promptly report the loss or theft, you will not be held liable for the charges.

Free Person-to-Person Transfers with Zelle

SunTrust Bank gives account holders access to Zelle, a free person-to-person transfer system that lets you send money electronically.

The best part is:

You can send money to someone even if they haven’t set up Zelle yet. All they need is an account at a bank that uses Zelle.

When you open Zelle on your computer or smartphone, you’ll be asked to enter the recipient’s e-mail address or phone number.

You don’t need to know anything about where they bank or what accounts they have. A phone number or e-mail is all you need.

Once you’ve chosen who you want to pay, you’ll be asked to enter the amount you want to send.

Hit send, and the recipient will be notified that they have a transfer waiting.

If they’ve already set up Zelle, the money will be removed from your account and arrive in theirs within three (3) business days.

Often, the process is even faster. If they haven’t used Zelle before, they’ll be asked to set it up.

Once they have, the transfer will go through and the money will arrive a few days later.

25 Starter Checks and 50% Off Your First Order

Even though people’s finances have become more digital, sometimes you need to use a check.

The SunTrust Essential Checking Account offers a free package of 25 starter checks.

You can use these checks to pay bills, give money to friends, or provide to your payroll office to set up direct deposit.

If you go through your full set of starter checks, you can get 50% off your first full order of checks.

The discount also applies to customized and personalized checks.

Ways to Avoid Monthly Fee

The SunTrust Essential Checking Account charges two different monthly fees: a $7 maintenance fee and a $3 paper statement fee, for a total of $10 per month.

Avoiding the paper statement fee is simple enough.

Sign up for electronic statements and you won’t have to pay the fee.

There are multiple ways to avoid the $7 monthly maintenance fee.

The fee will be waived if you meet any of the following requirements:

  • Make 10 banking transactions in a statement cycle
  • Receive $500 in direct deposits in a statement cycle
  • Maintain a $500 minimum daily balance for a statement cycle

You can also have the fee waived for five years if you open the account as a student.

Other Fees

Monthly maintenance fees are the most common type of fee you’ll have to pay on a checking account.

However, there are other fees that the bank might charge.

Some of the fees that may apply to the SunTrust Essential Checking Account are detailed below.

SunTrust Essential Checking Account Fees

Type Fee
Monthly Maintenance Fee $7
Monthly Paper Statement Fee $3
Non-SunTrust ATM $3
Overdraft Fee $36
Overdraft Protection Transfer Fee $12.50
Returned Item $36
Stop Payment $36
Deposited Item Returned $12.50
Domestic Wire Transfer (incoming) $15
International Wire Transfer (incoming) $25
Cashiers Check $8

Other SunTrust Checking Options

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

SunTrust Balanced Checking

SunTrust's Balanced Checking account is SunTrust's most basic checking account option.

Even though this account is on the lower tier, it still offers just about everything any typical banking consumer would need: free online banking with Bill Pay, free mobile deposits, and a free 25-pack of starter checks.

With a fairly high monthly fee of $12, it's important to make sure this account is the right one for you. In order to get this fee waived, you must meet this requirement:

  • Maintain a $3,000 minimum daily total deposit balance in account and linked checking, savings, money markets, CDs and IRAs

Here's the important fees to know from this account:

SunTrust Balanced Banking Checking Account

Type Fee
Monthly Maintenance Fee $12
Minimum Opening Deposit $100
Stop Payment Fee $36
Non-SunTrust ATM Fee $3
Cashier's Check $8
Overdraft Protection Transfer Fee $12.50
Returned Item Fee $20
Deposited Item Returned Fee $12.50 for domestic, $40 for international
Paper Statement Fee $5
Account Closure Fee $25 within 6 months of opening


SunTrust Select Checking

SunTrust's Select Checking account is an interest-bearing checking account that offers out-of-network ATM waivers and other beneficial perks.

This account includes all of the great features that SunTrust offers their banking customers, as well as:

  • Up to three Essential Checking accounts with the monthly maintenance fees waived
  • Starter pack of 100 checks or 50% off 1st check order (any style checks)
  • $25 Annual discount on any size Safe Deposit Box
  • No fee Zelle person-to-person electronic payments

In order to get these perks, however, you must pay a $15 monthly maintenance fee. To get out of paying that fee, you must meet one of these requirements:

  • Make $2,000 or more in total qualifying monthly Direct Deposits, or

  • Keep a $2,000 minimum daily Select Checking balance, or

  • Maintain $10,000 total combined relationship balances linked across deposits, investments, mortgages and loans, or
  • Hold a SunTrust Mortgage with SurePay

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

SunTrust Select Checking Account

Type Fee
Monthly Maintenance Fee $15
Minimum Opening Deposit $100
Stop Payment Fee $36
Non-SunTrust ATM Fee $3 (first 2 transactions waived per cycle)
Cashier's Check $8
Overdraft Protection Transfer Fee $12.50
Returned Item Fee $20
Deposited Item Returned Fee $12.50 for domestic, $40 for international
Paper Statement Fee $5
Account Closure Fee $25 within 6 months of opening


Convenience

The SunTrust Essential Checking Account offers many of the convenience features you’d expect from a checking account.

Online and mobile banking

You get free access to online and mobile banking when you open the account.

You can manage every aspect of your checking account through the bank’s website or app.

You can view your account balance, transaction history, and any future scheduled transactions.

You can also make transfers or deposits through your phone. It’s entirely possible to never have to visit a branch, managing everything from your computer or phone.

The online portal also gives you access to bill pay services.

You can use this service to pay your bills rather than writing and mailing checks multiple times a month.

Whether you’re paying a utility company, loan, or internet bill, SunTrust can handle it for you.

All you have to do is tell the bank who you are paying and how much you owe. The bank will take care of writing the check for you.

Minimum deposit requirement

Perhaps the least convenient aspect of the account is its minimum deposit requirement.

You have to make a $100 minimum deposit to open the account.

Getting that amount of money together might be difficult, so you might have some trouble getting the account open.

The Competition

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

That fact works in your favor because it means that you have a lot of options to choose from when you’re looking to open a new checking account.

It is a bit of a double-edged sword, however, as it’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many accounts to choose from.

Still, it’s important to take the time to find the right account so you know you’re getting a good deal.

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

The Final Verdict

The SunTrust Essential Checking Account isn’t a particularly compelling checking account.

The monthly fee is easy enough to avoid, but the account doesn’t offer anything special.

If you don’t mind using an online bank, you’d be better off with an online checking account.

You’ll earn interest, there won’t be any monthly fees to worry about, and many offer more ATM availability than SunTrust does.