Not all bank accounts require a large minimum deposit. Depending on the bank and the type of account, you can start with as little as $1. If you aren't careful, however, you may be in for a rude awakening. Even though they allow a small opening balance, some banks charge a fee if you don't keep a minimum amount on deposit. So, even though you can let your account fall below the minimum balance amount, you will likely be charged a hefty fee for doing so.
Checking and Money Market Accounts
Non-interest-paying checking accounts usually require no minimum balance or require only a low balance. Interest-paying accounts usually have a minimum opening requirement, and often require a higher balance to earn interest or avoid fees. Banks use the average daily balance method to determine if you meet their requirements. Checking accounts often need an average balance of $2,500 or more each month to earn interest, according to Jane Bryant Quinn in her 2009 book "Making the Most of Your Money Now."
Savings and Money Market Accounts
Savings accounts usually pay a low interest rate and allow withdrawals by ATM or at the teller. The minimum balance to open savings accounts can start as low as $1, according to Bankrate.com. However, unless you keep at least $100 on deposit, you may face a maintenance fee. These fees quickly offset the interest and eat into your savings if your balance falls too low. Similarly, bank money market accounts allow withdrawals and usually pay a floating interest rate. Figure on a minimum balance of $500 to $2,500 to avoid fees on these accounts.
Certificates of Deposit
Certificates of deposit, or CD accounts, require you to lock in a sum of money for a set time, usually three months to five years. Some banks require opening balances as low as $500, but the higher-yielding certificates often require at least $1,000. Normally, you must keep your opening balance in the account until the CD matures. You'll also have to pay a penalty if you take the money out early unless you're in a special liquid CD that allows withdrawals.
Shop around for the best deals on low or no-minimum opening requirements, plus better interest rates and lower fees. Quinn suggests investigating small community banks, credit unions and online banks. "Kiplinger" recommends keeping several accounts at one institution. In this case, some banks figure your minimum balance on your combined balance in all accounts.
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