If you see a bank offering free checking, you should jump in and sign up, right? Not necessarily. Banks are often coming up with ways to tease customers through the front door. They may offer extra-low introductory interest rates, or free checking, or a number of other things. In many cases, some other fees or higher interest rates make up for the free checking. When comparing banks, you need to closely examine all of the services you'll be using.

For example, if you don't write too many checks, then a per-check charge may not be as costly as having to forgo higher interest rates or being charged higher fees for some other service. Look at the big picture, taking into consideration your situation and needs.

Learn more about banking in our All About Banking area. And in these articles:

Also of interest may be our Savings Center, which is helpful if you're thinking about how to best deploy your short-term moola (it offers Fools some special deals on interest rates).

And you can learn all about brokerages and find one that's right for you in our Broker Center. (Did you know that some well-regarded brokerages are offering commissions as low as $5?)