How your checking account stacks up

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by Blake Ellis

(CNNMoney.com)—When it comes to checking accounts, not all banks are created equal.

Ally Bank, Charles Schwab Bank, First Republic Bank, Citibank and Bank of America top the list, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts review of checking account disclosures, overdraft fees and dispute resolution policies at 36 of the nation’s 50 biggest banks.

These banks did the best job of informing consumers about checking account fees and terms clearly and concisely. They also minimize the overdraft fees consumers are hit with if they overdraw their account, and let customers take disputes to court rather than requiring them to waive their right to a jury trial, Pew found.

But even out of the highest-rated banks, none had perfect scores in every single category.

Ally Bank, an online bank, was a top pick because it doesn’t charge overdraft fees when customers overdraw accounts at an ATM or during point-of-sale purchases. Ally also doesn’t engage in the practice of reordering transactions from highest to lowest dollar amount when processing them, in order to maximize the number of overdraft fees it charges. But it didn’t do so well in other areas. Pew found that Ally doesn’t provide a grace period before charging overdraft fees, and doesn’t provide a clear summary of checking account disclosures, for example.

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