Want free checking? Set up direct deposit

NEW YORK (AP) ? Free checking accounts with no strings attached are getting even harder to find.

A new study by Bankrate.com finds that only 45 percent of checking accounts are free this year. That’s down sharply from 65 percent last year and 76 percent just two years ago. But the study also found that most banks are willing to waive monthly fees when customers meet certain conditions. For example, customers may have to set up direct deposit or maintain a certain balance.

The study also found that the average cost for using an out-of-network ATM rose slightly to $3.81. That’s including the fees charged by the customer’s own bank and the ATM operator.

The findings were based on a study of banks in the county’s biggest markets in August.