Published: Jan 26, 2011 5:01 AM EST
Updated: Jan 26, 2011 1:12 AM EST

As banks battle new and old economic struggles, no-strings-attached free checking may become a thing of the past. But, there are a few ways you can keep your checking fee-free.

You've heard the saying, "nothing in life is free." Checking is now included.

Following the passage of new Federal regulations, many of the big-name banks are adding more, and higher fees.

For example, starting February 8th, JPMorgan Chase will charge new customers $12 a month if they don't keep a minimum $1,500 balance or have monthly direct deposits. You could pay up to $144 extra a year.

The same types of rules apply with Bank of America. If you don't want to worry about balances or deposits, there's basic checking, but you'll still pay $6-9 a month.

And formerly free checking with Wells Fargo will now cost new customers $5 a month. 

A report by Action Market Intelligence show 57% of American checking customers are highly likely to find a new bank if they are charged for services that were previously free.
While there are ways to get around checking fees at the larger commercial banks, some are looking toward smaller community banks for a whole different experience

Over the past 12 months, Florida Community Bank has grown its deposits by about $100 million. "Many are looking for the free services," FCB Retail Bank Executive Angela Garcia said. "Many have taken pay cuts or relocated family down here, so they really want to be able to see what are the benefits we can offer them."

As a result, they're expanding services, "So you get the technology of the big banks and the community bank flair. We look at that as a win-win," FCB Marketing Director Kathi Zanella said.

So how do you avoid the fees? You can maintain a certain balance directed by your bank, keep a steady stream of direct deposits, use your debit card often, or switch to a different type of account. If you're not sure what types of stipulations you need to follow, the best thing you can do it stop by your bank and talk to someone there before you spot avoidable fees on your statement.