Checking accounts provide you with quick, convenient access to your funds. You are able to make deposits as often as you wish, and most banks provide you with an ATM card to access your funds, or to charge debits at stores. Of course, you can also use the conventional method of writing checks.
Some checking accounts pay interest. These are called negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) accounts. The more commonly used type, a demand deposit account, does not pay interest.
There are several fees that are associated with checking accounts, other than the check printing fees. These will vary depending on the bank you choose. Some will charge a monthly maintenance fee regardless of your balance, others will charge a monthly fee if your balance drops below a certain point. Further, some institutions charge you based on the transactions you make, such as each ATM withdrawal, or each check you write.
Money Market Deposit Accounts (MMDA)
An MMDA is basically an account that accumulates interest. You can also write checks from it. The rate of interest is usually higher than that of checking or savings accounts. However, they require a higher minimum balance in order to earn that interest. The higher your balance becomes, the higher your interest rate may rise.
However, it is less convenient to withdraw money from an MMDA than it is from a checking account. You are limited to six transfers from the account a month, and only three of these can be through writing a check. Also, there are usually transaction fees associated with these accounts.
You may make withdrawals from savings accounts, but there is less flexibility than with a checking account. Like an MMDA, the number of withdrawals or transfers may be limited.
There are a few different types of savings accounts. The two most common are passbook and statement. Passbook accounts involve a record book that tracks all deposits and withdrawals and must be presented upon making these transactions. With a statement savings account, you are mailed a statement showing all withdrawals and deposits.
Minimum balance fees may also be charged on savings accounts.
Credit Union Accounts
These accounts are similar to those of banks, but with a different title. In a credit union, you would have a share draft account (a checking account), a share account (savings account), or a share certificate account (certificate of deposit account).
The great thing about credit unions is that they usually charge less for banking services than banks do. If you have access to one, use it!
Certificates of Deposit (CD)
CDs are time deposits. They offer a guaranteed rate of interest for a specified term which can be as short as a few days or as long as several years.
When you pick the term you generally can't withdraw your money until the term expires. In some cases the bank will let you withdraw the interest you have earned on the CD. Because CDs are for a set amount of time, the rate of return is usually higher - and the longer the term, the higher the annual percentage yield.
A penalty can be issued if you withdraw your funds before the maturity of your term. Sometimes the penalty can be quite high, eating into your interest earned as well as your principal investment.
Your bank will notify you before your CD matures, but often CDs renew automatically. You should keep track of your maturity date if you would like to take out your funds before the CD rolls over into a new term.