Your checking account is the backbone of your financial life. Your income flows into the account, and you use it for everything from paying bills to going to the movies. It’s no wonder you’d want an account with low fees, good customer service and easy access to ATMs.
Below, we’ve rounded up our best-in-show checking accounts in several categories.
Best checking account bonus: Chase Total Checking
Chase Total Checking is a good all-around checking account. New customers who set up direct deposit receive a welcome bonus of $150 and all the benefits of joining the Chase family. Customers have access to more than 15,500 ATMs and 5,300 branches. You can avoid the $12 monthly maintenance fee by signing up for direct deposit or keeping a minimum balance of $1,500.
Add in a highly rated mobile banking app, customer service via the website and Twitter, and a full suite of loan products, and Chase’s good reputation is easy to understand. Bonus aside, this account is a winner for people who prefer a big-bank experience and the option of having multiple types of accounts at one place.
Best online checking accounts
The line between brick-and-mortar banks and online-only financial institutions is not as sharp as it once was. The best banks combine elements of both worlds. But if you’re unlikely to visit a bank branch, you may be happiest with a bank that focuses completely on the online experience.
Best ATM options: Ally Interest Checking
Ally also offers a great digital experience, with all the basics of online banking covered in an easy-to-use package. Customers can even conduct their business on an Amazon Kindle, a rarity among online-only banks.
Ally caters to people who want strong tech tools and fee-free ATMs.
Best for heavy overdrafters: Capital One 360 Checking
Capital One 360’s checking offering gives you two ways to handle overdrafts:
- You can apply for an overdraft line of credit, a short-term borrowing option with a reasonable interest rate and no transfer fees.
- Without a line of credit, the bank will decline to pay charges that you don’t have enough cash to cover.
In other words, you keep yourself out of trouble by having either no overdraft services or an exceptionally affordable option that costs you a fraction of typical overdraft fees.
Capital One 360 also offers fee-free access to Allpoint ATMs, billed as one out of every 12 ATMs in the U.S. And as with most debit cards, you can also get cash back with no fee at many stores.
If you want to avoid overdraft fees and, Capital One 360 offers a stellar checking account.
Best interest rate: MYCBB Free Checking
Best digital tools: Simple Checking
One of Simple’s most noteworthy digital innovations: Instead of focusing on your available balance, an often-misunderstood figure, Simple offers you a “safe to spend” number, an estimate of how much you can afford right now based on your balance, upcoming bills and savings goals.
Withdrawals within the massive Star ATM network are all fee-free, though total withdrawals in any 24-hour period are limited to $500, lower than some other online banks.
Simple is a good choice for people who want to combine some elements of a budgeting tool with their banking experience.
Best debit card and checking alternative: Bluebird by American Express and Chase Liquid
Traditional checking accounts aren’t for everyone. For one thing, some responsible people may not have enough of a financial track record to get approved for a bank account. It can be risky signing up for a prepaid debit card because of the high fees and punitive terms, but there are some worth considering.
In addition to direct deposit, you can add money to the card in person at Walmart stores. Bluebird is great for people without bank accounts who are looking to minimize their fees.
Chase Liquid is good for people who don’t get paid electronically and don’t have a traditional bank account.
Have a favorite checking account we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments.
Updated June 15, 2015.
Image via iStock.