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NerdWallet's Best Checking Accounts of 2017

Competitive interest rates and low (or zero) fees make these checking accounts stand out from the rest.

By Tony Armstrong
Showing 1 - 16 of 16 accounts
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Fee-Free Checking Account
Our overall rating
Learn moreat Simple
Monthly fee
None
Why we like it
No monthly fee
10,000+ ATMs
Mobile-friendly
Like most checking accounts, Simple lets you sign up for direct deposit, pay bills online and more. But this online-only account's handy budgeting tool, called Safe-to-Spend, really makes it stand out. It uses your monthly bills and savings goals to calculate how much you can actually afford to spend on nonessential expenses. Simple also gives you access to over 50,000 free ATMs.

The account doesn't charge monthly service or overdraft fees, and, as its name suggests, it's easy to use.

This checking account was named one of the best in NerdWallet's 2017 Bank Awards.
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Chase Total Checking®
Our overall rating
Learn moreat Chase
Monthly fee
$12
Waived with direct deposit or $1500 minimum balance
Sign-up bonus
$200
Requirements to qualify
Why we like it
10,000+ ATMs
2,000+ branches
Live help 24/7
Mobile-friendly
Sign-up bonus
Chase offers new customers who set up direct deposit a welcome bonus of $200 (expires 7/17/2017). You can avoid a $12 monthly maintenance fee by receiving at least $500 in direct deposits each month, keeping a minimum daily balance of $1,500 in your new checking account, or maintaining an average daily balance of at least $5,000 across eligible Chase accounts and investments.

Bonus aside, this account is a winner if you prefer a big-bank experience - Chase has about 5,200 branches and more than 16,000 ATMs - and want to have multiple types of accounts at one place. We don't recommend choosing your primary checking account based solely on a sign-up bonus. But if you like the account and its features, anyway, why not get a little something extra?

This checking account was named one of the best in NerdWallet's 2017 Bank Awards.
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Summit Account
Our overall rating
Learn moreat Aspiration
Monthly fee
None
APY
1.00%
With $2,500 minimum balance
Why we like it
No monthly fee
ATM reimbursements
10,000+ ATMs
Competitive APY
The Summit Account offers great rates: Balances of less than $2,500 earn 0.25% APY, and larger balances earn 1%, a rate typically reserved for top-of-the-line savings accounts. The online-only account also comes with unlimited ATM reimbursements worldwide and keeps fees low. There is no monthly maintenance fee or minimum balance requirement.

It's not a traditional checking account - Aspiration is an investment firm, not a bank - but deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

This checking account was named one of the best in NerdWallet's 2017 Bank Awards.
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Interest Checking Account
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
None
APY
0.10%
With $1 minimum balance
Why we like it
No monthly fee
10,000+ ATMs
Live help 24/7
Competitive APY
Ally's Interest Checking account holders enjoy excellent customer service. The online-only bank staffs its call center 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and wait times for its live chat service rarely exceed a couple of minutes. You can reach out on Facebook and Twitter for additional support. Plus, the account bears interest, comes with access to more than 43,000 free ATMs, and doesn't charge monthly fees.

If you want to bank online, but you'd like to have your questions answered by an actual person every so often, Ally might be for you.

This checking account was named one of the best in NerdWallet's 2017 Bank Awards.
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High Yield Investor Checking
Our overall rating
Learn moreat Schwab Bank
Monthly fee
None
Why we like it
No monthly fee
ATM reimbursements
Schwab High Yield Investor Checking provides unlimited fee rebates on ATM withdrawals worldwide. The account is free and there's no minimum deposit requirement. It also offers online bill pay and a mobile check deposit service, and it comes with a free brokerage account.
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360 Checking
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
None
APY
0.20%
With $1 minimum balance
Why we like it
No monthly fee
10,000+ ATMs
Mobile-friendly
Low overdraft fee
Competitive APY
This Capital One checking account comes with all the extras one would expect from an online bank, and its network of more than 40,000 free ATMs is nothing to sneer at. But this account really separates itself from the pack with its overdraft policy. Instead of hitting you with a flat fee, you can ask Capital One to charge you interest on the overdrawn amount at an 11.75% annual rate.

Other solid options include simply having the bank decline transactions when you don't have the cash or using a 360 Savings account to cover overdrafts for free. If overdrawing your account has gotten you into trouble in the past, consider Capital One.

This checking account was named one of the best in NerdWallet's 2017 Bank Awards.
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Free High-Rate Checking
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
None
APY
0.65%
With $1 minimum balance
Why we like it
ATM reimbursements
10,000+ ATMs
Mobile friendly
It's easy to become an Alliant member: Just make a one-time donation of $10 to an Alliant-affiliated nonprofit. Once you've joined, you can take advantage of all of Alliant's services, including more than 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs, and you'll pay minimal fees.

You'll qualify for an APY of 0.65% if you opt out of paper statements and have at least one electronic deposit made to your account each month, such as a direct, ATM or mobile deposit, or a transfer from another financial institution. And Alliant's digital tools are a step ahead of those offered by other credit unions. Its mobile check-deposit feature, for instance, lets members make daily deposits of up to $50,000.

But the credit union doesn't take part in shared branching and doesn't have many branches of its own, so if you live outside of the Chicago area, you'll have to do most of your banking online.

This checking account was named one of the best in NerdWallet's 2017 Bank Awards.
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Innovative Checking
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
None
Why we like it
No monthly fee
10,000+ ATMs
Innovative Checking comes with access to 54,000 free ATMs, and it doesn't charge a monthly fee or require a minimum deposit. This particular account doesn't bear interest, but Connexus offers a few other premium checking options that come with APYs as high as 1.75% for balances of up to $25,000.

Branches, however, are limited, so if you live outside of parts of the upper Midwest, you'll have to do most of your banking online.
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Free USAA Classic Checking
Our overall rating
Learn moreat USAA Federal Savings Bank
Monthly fee
None
Why we like it
No monthly fee
10,000+ ATMs
ATM reimbursements
Mobile-friendly
USAA Bank is available to active and former military personnel as well as their eligible family members. The Free USAA Classic Checking account doesn't charge monthly fees and has a solid ATM policy: 10 free withdrawals from 60,000 "USAA-preferred" cash machines, and the bank reimburses up to $15 in other banks' domestic ATM fees per month. However, there are a limited number of branches, so you'll probably need to bank on your phone or computer. Customer service representatives are available via phone, Twitter, email and standard mail.
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Cashback Checking
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
None
Why we like it
No monthly fee
10,000+ ATMs
Low overdraft fee
Live help 24/7
Discover Bank's checking account lets customers earn up to $120 per year in cash back on debit card purchases, online bill payments and cleared checks. You'll also have access to 60,000 surcharge-free ATMs.

You'll only be able to deposit cash at Discover's one branch location in Delaware. And to qualify for the Cashback Checking account, you must already have a Discover product, such as a credit card or savings account.

This checking account was named one of the best in NerdWallet's 2017 Bank Awards.
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Access America Checking
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
$10
Waived with direct deposit or $500 minimum balance
APY
0.20%
With $1 minimum balance
Why we like it
10,000+ ATMs
Mobile-friendly
PenFed's sole checking option, Access America Checking, has solid interest rates and a network of more than 57,000 ATMs. Members can avoid the $10 monthly fee by maintaining a minimum balance of $500 or receiving monthly direct deposits totaling at least $500. The latter also qualifies members for interest. Balances of less than $20,000 earn 0.20% APY, and balances between $20,000 and $50,000 earn 0.50%.

PenFed doesn't participate in shared branching, and its own branches are either just outside of Washington, D.C., or scattered across the country.
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Virtual Wallet
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
$7
Waived with direct deposit or $500 minimum balance
Why we like it
2,000+ branches
Mobile-friendly
PNC's Virtual Wallet lets you divide your funds into three subcategories: Spend, Reserve and Growth. The former acts much like a standard checking account, and the last two can help you get a better handle on your savings.

Virtual Wallet's $7 fee is fairly easy to avoid. Either have a direct deposit of at least $500 each statement period or maintain a combined average monthly balance of the same amount in your Spend and Reserve accounts. You can also avoid the fee by making self-service transactions at ATMs, on your phone or online.

PNC has strong online and mobile tools as well as 9,000 fee-free ATMs and 2,600 branches.
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Essential Checking
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
None
Why we like it
No monthly fee
Low overdraft fee
ATM reimbursements
Essential Checking keeps fees to a minimum and comes with unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements, making it ideal for frequent travelers. This particular online-only account doesn't bear interest, but Bank of Internet offers a few premium accounts with APYs as high as 1.25%.

And Essential Checking doesn't charge monthly or overdraft fees; it declines transactions if you don't have enough cash in your account.

This checking account was named one of the best in NerdWallet's 2017 Bank Awards.
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High Interest Checking
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
None
APY
0.76%
With $100 minimum balance
Why we like it
No monthly fee
ATM reimbursements
Competitive APY
Bank5 Connect offers an excellent APY of 0.76% for balances of at least $100. The online-only account also provides access to nearly 7,500 free ATMs and reimburses customers up to $15 per month for fees racked up at other banks' cash machines. There is no monthly fee, and its $15 overdraft fee is unusually low.

This checking account was named one of the best in NerdWallet's 2017 Bank Awards.
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Radius Checking
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
None
Why we like it
No monthly fee
ATM reimbursements
It's great that you can open a Radius Checking account with just $10, and that you won't owe monthly fees. But the bank's ATM policy is the real selling point. Radius belongs to a network of only about 7,500 SUM-branded cash machines, but it doesn't charge out-of-network ATM fees, and it refunds unlimited fees charged by the ATM owner.

Radius has only one full-service branch, so you'll have to be comfortable banking online.
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Simply Right® Checking
Our overall rating
Monthly fee
$10
Sign-up bonus
$225
Why we like it
Sign-up bonus
Simply Right Checking at Santander is a no-frills account; it doesn't earn interest. But you can avoid the account's $10 monthly fee by making at least one transaction per month, including a deposit, transfer, withdrawal or payment. Most of the bank's 675 U.S.-based branches and 2,000 ATMs are located in the Northeast. New customers may qualify for a $225 sign-up bonus.
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