A teller helps customers at Credit Union One March 5, 2004. A higher percentage of Credit Unions offer free checking accounts than banks.

The chances of finding a free checking account are significantly greater at a credit union than a bank, according to a recent study by Bankrate.

Of the 50 major credit unions that Bankrate studied, 72 percent offer free checking accounts with no strings attached. Only 39 percent of banks offered them.

“While banks have significantly scaled back free checking accounts, free checking remains the rule, rather than the exception, among credit unions,” Greg McBride, CFA,’s senior financial analyst said in the study.

Both banks and credit unions have cut the amount of free checking available. In 2010, 78 percent of credit unions and 65 percent of banks offered free checking.

Half of the credit unions required no minimum opening deposit, and none of those that did required more than $100.

ATM charges, which have increased 10 percent last year, are generally cheaper for credit unions as well. The average surcharge for a credit union is $2.29. For a bank, the average is $2.50.

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