When it comes to your checking account or debit card, you shouldn’t settle for anything but the best. But with thousands of options to choose from, the decision can be overwhelming. To help simplify things, we’ve selected a few of our favorites. These meet our Nerdy standards with few (if any) fees, tons of ways to access your account, and sometimes even interest or rewards as a bonus! Still want to do your own research? Try our checking accounts comparison tool.
Best checking account bonus: Chase Total Checking ($150 bonus)
A little extra spending money can go a long way, especially when it’s this easy to earn. Chase is now offering a $150 bonus to new customers who open a Chase Total Checking account and set up direct deposit. Use it for movie tickets, a romantic dinner date, a gift for a friend, or (Nerd’s recommendation) to start an emergency fund! Since it’s Chase, the Total Checking account also comes with tons of easy ways to access your money, from thousands of branches and ATMs, to online and mobile services like Chase QuickDeposit and QuickPay. Avoid the monthly fee by simply keeping a $1,500 minimum balance or having $500+ direct deposited each month.
Best High Interest Checking Account: MyCBB Free Checking
MyCBB packs a ton of great features into its free account, from an interest rate you won't find with most savings accounts (0.79% APY), to nationwide free ATM access (24,000+!). The account requires just $100 to open. Throw in online and mobile tools to get your banking done quickly - where and how you want - and you've got a superior option for your new checking account.
Best Online Checking Account: Capital One 360 - 360 Checking
Capital One 360 is an Internet-only bank, which allows them to offer some of the most competitive rates in the nation. In addition to earning interest, this account has no minimum balance requirement and no monthly maintenance fees. It doesn’t even require a minimum opening deposit, making it perfect for all income levels. The tiered interest rate starts at 0.20% APY, which is more than double that national average APY for savings accounts! Not bad. And, although we don't recommend using it, Capital One 360 has one of the most progressive overdraft programs in the nation. Instead of charging you a flat $35+ fee, they'll open an overdraft line of credit for you with an APR lower than most credit cards.
Best Debit Card & Checking Alternative: American Express Bluebird
Although NerdWallet doesn't make a habit of encouraging prepaid debit card use, we are willing to budge a bit with Bluebird by American Express
, which bills itself as an alternative to a traditional checking account. Bluebird brings a whole lot of features to the table that make it very similar in function to a regular bank or credit union checking account. For example, customers will get FDIC insurance, check-writing, access to mobile banking and fee-free use of MoneyPass network ATMs (over 22,000 nationwide).
There are also very few fees to worry about, since American Express charges no monthly service fees, activation fees or even overdraft fees! Pretty much the only exception is a $2 reload fee if you choose to top up online with another debit card. All other forms of adding money to your account, such as direct deposit, transfer from a bank account or in person at a Walmart location are all free. So, if you have already decided that a prepaid card
is the better option for you, then look no further than this one.
Best Credit Union Checking Account: Lake Michigan Credit Union
Why join a credit union? Do it for yourself and your community. Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions owned by their members (you!), so you and your neighbors get a share of the profits in the form of reduced rates on loans and higher dividends. How much higher? How about 30 times higher than the national bank average
for interest checking? Lake Michigan Credit Union blows away the competition with their Max Checking account. It pays out an incredible 3.00% yield on the first $15,000 of your balance and refunds up to $15 in out-of-network ATM surcharge fees. Like most credit unions, Lake Michigan does not charge monthly maintenance or debit fees.
Is there a catch? Sort of. To earn the high interest rate, you’ll need to use your account pretty frequently. Here’s what you’ll need to do each month:
- Use direct deposit
- Log into online banking at least 4 times
- Make at least 10 debit card purchases
- Sign up for e-statements and e-notices
Can’t meet all the requirements in any given month? Don’t worry. Your account's still free; you just won't earn interest for that particular month. You’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain by signing up. Lake Michigan Credit Union is open to anyone in the United States willing to donate to their partner charity, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association of Michigan. Visit their website for more details.
We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines
, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.