Check out our boring checking account

Checkbook balancing nostalgia
From the first page of Google Image search results and INSOUTH Bank

Why we have it

We have a checking account because it's safer to keep our money in a bank than our house, and it's more convenient to direct deposit our paychecks and pay bills from checking than putting cash in envelopes. You also can't stuff money in our mattress, because of the memory foam.

(This won't be as self-evident for future topics, but I am trying to pick an outline and stick to it.)

What we're looking for

A checking account doesn't have to do much in the way of features, so we are just looking for one that is free and offers convenience.


I think this is fairly easy to find, meeting some minimal criteria. For example, we have to have either a minimum balance during the month of at least $1500 OR direct deposits totaling at least $500 to avoid a monthly $7 fee. If you direct deposit your paycheck, that should be sufficient.


I don't go to the bank or an ATM if I can avoid it. If I must, I like having branches and ATMs conveniently located everywhere, which would lead us to large banks.

Additionally, large banks are likely to have full-featured mobile apps. For instance, we can deposit checks with our smartphone cameras, saving us trips to the ATM.

What we use

Wells Fargo Essential Checking. This is the checking account my parents opened for me when I was a child, but now you're on it, too. Because it meets all our criteria, there is no reason to change it anytime soon.

How we use it

Money goes in

We direct deposit both of our paychecks here. Also, when there is a large, one-off expense, like work on the house, we transfer from savings back into the checking account to pay for it.

Money goes out

We write checks, pay bills (only those that can't be paid on a credit card with rewards), including the mortgage, and occasionally get cash from ATMs. Once a month, we have a scheduled transfer of the same fixed amount of money from this account to our savings account.


We keep at least as much in our checking account as is currently outstanding on our credit cards (check current balances on Mint). We add more only when we have large, one-off expenses, like paying contractors. Other than credit cards, the only other regular expense worth noting we pay out of here is the mortgage.

Measuring the checking balance against our outstanding credit card balances is safe enough because those totals will not be paid for at least a month (all are set to pay the statement balances automatically). We just want to make sure there is enough padding to avoid an unusual sequence of autopayments/transfers/checks cashed in quick succession that would result in an overdraft. You don't want to have too much because checking is the least productive place to store money. There is no interest or return -- just a gradual degradation of value due to inflation. Barf.

Next, I will talk about what we do when we have more than enough in our checking account. (Hint: dune buggies.)

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