This ad appeared in the March 25, 2012 edition of the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska. Unfortunately for the bank, they named their free checking account Smart Checking and merely describe it as free in the ad. You’ll note the bank pays interest on this free checking account. To earn interest each month, customers must meet certain criteria including using e-statements, doing online banking, using his or her Visa Check Card at least 12 times per month. The account remains free of a monthly service fee and minimum balance requirement even if the customer fails to meet these criteria. This type of interest-earning checking account is known in the industry as a Rewards Checking account which is a product available to banks from BancVue in Texas. At least this small community bank is spending marketing dollars promoting the fact that it offers a free checking account. Paying interest is one way to differentiate your bank’s free checking account from free accounts offered by competitors – even in a low rate environment.