Online checking has come a long way since the days of its earliest adopters. Now, even many traditional banks have embraced the hallmarks of online-only institutions, including free ATM access, robust websites and mobile-friendly features such as remote check deposit.
The best online banks usually offer higher interest rates and friendlier fee structures than brick-and-mortar banks, because of the costs they save from not owning branches or ATMs. Some of our favorite online checking accounts appear below.
Best ATM options: Ally Interest Checking
- Fee-free use of Allpoint’s tens of thousands of U.S. ATMs.
- No Ally fees for any ATMs in the U.S.
- Refunds of up to $10 per statement cycle for fees incurred at non-Allpoint, domestic cash machines.
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 banking business on 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, Capital One 360 offers a stellar checking account.
Best customer service options: Ally Interest Checking
- A call center staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Real-time chat support.
- Secure messaging in online banking.
- Nonsecure messaging via a form on the main Ally website.
- The option to reach out to Ally on Twitter.
Notably, Ally was the only institution to get perfect scores on the Pew Charitable Trusts’ latest annual roundup of consumer-friendly banks.
If you like being able to reach a customer service agent at any time, you’ll probably love Ally.
Best digital tools: Mobile banking from Simple
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 interest rate: MyCBB Free Checking
Concerns about security? Not to worry: Online banks are insured through the FDIC, meaning online checking deposits at an insured bank are backed by the U.S. government.
Updated Nov. 3, 2015.
Image via iStock.