NerdWallet’s Best Checking Accounts and Debit Cards, Winter 2014
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 Online Checking Account: Mobile Banking from Simple
Best Debit Card & Checking Alternative: American Express BluebirdBluebird 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 Community Bank Checking Account: Legacy Bank & Trust
- Have a $100 minimum opening balance
- Have one automatic payment or direct deposit each month
- Make a minimum of 10 debit card transactions each month
- Use online banking and receive e-statements
Best Credit Union Checking Account: Lake Michigan Credit Unionaverage 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