BEST OF

9 Best Checking Accounts of March 2021

Chanelle BessetteMarch 1, 2021
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To get the most from your checking account, you need low fees, good customer support and free ATMs nearby. If you earn interest on your cash, even better. NerdWallet staff analyzed, compared and rated dozens of institutions, including banks, nonbanks and credit unions, before selecting the checking accounts that offer the best combination of consumer-friendly features. (Nonbanks provide many of the same services that traditional institutions offer, but are not technically banks.) Some of these providers are NerdWallet partners, which was not a factor in our evaluations.

Keep in mind that any institution you may be considering for a new checking account may have temporarily closed their branches or curtailed hours to help protect customers and employees from COVID-19. But many institutions allow you to open new accounts and perform most necessary services online.

Summary of Best Checking Accounts of March 2021

Chime Spending Account

at Chime, Deposits are FDIC Insured

Chime Spending Account

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Chime Spending Account

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

N/A

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at Chime, Deposits are FDIC Insured


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

Chime is a mobile checking account that has no monthly fees, minimum balance requirements or overdraft fees, and you have access to more than 38,000 fee-free MoneyPass and Visa Alliance ATMs. Through Chime’s early direct deposit service, customers can get their paychecks up to two days earlier than through direct deposit at most banks.

This account works best for people who don’t write many checks or make cash deposits. If you need to write a check, Chime has an online feature that creates and mails one on your behalf. For cash deposits, you’ll need to use a third-party service.

Read Full Review
Radius Rewards Checking

at Radius, Member FDIC

Radius Rewards Checking

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Radius Rewards Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.10%

With $2,500 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at Radius, Member FDIC


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

The Radius Rewards Checking account gives customers two cash-earning benefits: an interest rate and cash back on spending. For the interest rate, if your balance hits $2,500, a 0.10% annual percentage yield kicks in. If you have $100,000 or more, the rate becomes 0.15% APY. For the cash-back benefit, customers can earn 1.5% on three spending categories: dining out such as from meal delivery services, health-related costs from athletic or healthcare purchases, and subscriptions for streaming services. For the cash-back benefit, customers can earn 1% on online and signature-based “credit” purchases with their debit card and an additional 0.50% on purchases made with certain merchant categories.

Radius is also part of a network of thousands of SUM and MoneyPass ATMs which customers can use for free. In addition, customers receive unlimited ATM surcharge reimbursements if they use an out-of-network ATM worldwide. Users can also get their paychecks up to two days early via direct deposit, depending on their employer.

Read Full Review
Axos Bank® Rewards Checking

at Axos Bank®, Member FDIC

Axos Bank® Rewards Checking

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Axos Bank® Rewards Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

1.25%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at Axos Bank®, Member FDIC


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

Rewards Checking has no minimum balance aside from a $50 balance required to open an account, and no monthly maintenance, overdraft or nonsufficient-funds fees. The account also has an annual percentage yield as high as 1.25%, depending on your account activity. To earn maximum interest, you’d need to have monthly direct deposits of $1,000 or more and use your debit card at least 15 times a month, with a minimum $3 purchase.

In addition, Axos Bank (formerly Bank of Internet) offers unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements on several of its checking accounts, including this one.

Read Full Review
Varo Bank Account

at Varo, Deposits are FDIC Insured

Varo Bank Account

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Varo Bank Account

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

N/A

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at Varo, Deposits are FDIC Insured


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

Varo’s checking account has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, plus it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees or fees to use its worldwide network of more than 55,000 Allpoint ATMs. Varo checking customers can receive their paychecks up to two days early with direct deposit, which is faster than most banks.

Varo also has a great “No Fee Overdraft” program: It may cover you up to $50 without charging a fee if your account drops into the negative because of a debit card purchase or a cash withdrawal. To qualify for this program, you must do both of these things per month: receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits and make at least five debit card purchases. Transactions that are not covered by Varo that would result in a negative balance are automatically declined.

Read Full Review
Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking

at Consumers Credit Union, Federally insured by the NCUA

Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

2.09%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at Consumers Credit Union, Federally insured by the NCUA


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

The Free Rewards Checking account offers an exceptionally high annual percentage yield of 2.09% for balances of up to $10,000, as long as you’re able to meet a few spending and online banking requirements. Jumping through some additional hoops will land you as much as 4.09% APY on balances of up to $10,000. If you can’t qualify for these rates, your APY will be 0.01%, and you won’t get unlimited ATM fee refunds.

Consumers Credit Union is easy to join: Just pay $5 to become a member of the Consumers Cooperative Association. The credit union participates in shared branching, so you’ll have access to thousands of branches and ATMs.

Read Full Review

Service Credit Union Everyday Checking

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Service Credit Union Everyday Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

N/A

Bonus

$100

Requirements to qualify


Bonus

$100

Requirements to qualify

Why we like it

Service Credit Union’s Everyday Checking account has no monthly fees, and customers have access to more than 88,000 ATMs through Allpoint, Service Credit Union and the CO-OP network. The account doesn’t offer interest, but members can receive APR discounts on auto and personal loans and early direct deposit.

Membership to Service Credit Union is open to active military, veterans and their families; current or former Department of Defense employees and their families; members of certain select employer groups; and members of the American Consumer Council, which you can join for free through the credit union.

Read Full Review

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.25%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

It’s easy to apply for Alliant membership. Just agree to support an Alliant-affiliated nonprofit if you don’t meet the other criteria, and Alliant will make a $5 donation on your behalf. Once you open an account, you’ll have access to Alliant’s services, including more than 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs.

You’ll qualify for an annual percentage yield of 0.25% 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. 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. The account also doesn’t charge a monthly fee.

However, the credit union has very limited branch locations and doesn’t participate in shared branching.

Read Full Review

Connexus Credit Union Xtraordinary Checking

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Connexus Credit Union Xtraordinary Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

1.75%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

The Xtraordinary Checking account earns an APY as high as 1.75% for balances of up to $25,000. The credit union also gives up to $25 in rebates for out-of-network domestic ATM fees. In order to get these benefits, customers must meet certain criteria, including opting in for paperless statements and meeting some spending and deposit requirements. If the requirements aren’t met, you won’t earn interest that month.

Keep in mind that Connexus charges a $29.95 overdraft fee. Customers can, however, link a savings account to their checking to cover any overdrafts for free.

Read Full Review
nbkc bank Everything Account

at nbkc bank, Member FDIC

nbkc bank Everything Account

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
nbkc bank Everything Account

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.25%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at nbkc bank, Member FDIC


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

The Everything Account from NBKC offers the features of both a checking and savings account, along with a solid 0.25% APY and no monthly fees or minimum balance. NBKC belongs to the MoneyPass network — which provides 34,000 free ATMs to customers — and also provides up to $12 in fee reimbursements per month for customers who use an out-of-network ATM.

Read Full Review

What's the best checking account for me?

When choosing a new checking account, take a close look at fees, branch and ATM accessibility, and interest rate. People who do online banking should select an institution that offers a good website along with a mobile app that lets them deposit checks remotely.

As a rule, it’s a good idea to avoid checking accounts that charge — and don’t allow you to waive — fees.

» Looking for somewhere to stash your savings? Check out NerdWallet's picks for best savings accounts

Should I have more than one checking account?

Usually there won’t be many downsides to keeping multiple checking accounts open as long as you are able to meet the requirements of those accounts to avoid fees.

The number of checking accounts you should have is based on your personal situation. If you’re single, for example, you may be fine with just one checking account. If you’re married, you may want to have a personal account and a joint account that you share with your spouse. There are also a number of accounts that offer bonuses and promotions for opening an account, so if you’re able to juggle the requirements, you could make some extra cash by opening multiple accounts. You also may want to consider opening multiple checking accounts at different institutions for different uses, such as keeping an account at a provider that works well for international travel if you go out of the country a lot, or keeping a checking account open with the bank that handles your mortgage for faster payment transfers.

Other top accounts

These providers also offer attractive checking choices and could be a great fit for you. Check them out if you want more options.

  • Discover Bank Cashback Debit: Offers cash back on up to $3,000 in qualifying debit card purchases each month; access to over 60,000 free ATMs (read full Discover Bank review).

  • Ally Bank Interest Checking: Offers excellent customer service, access to 43,000 ATMs and an APY of 0.10% (read full Ally review).

  • One Finance: Offers a free account that pays interest on balances held in “Save Pockets” and access to over 55,000 ATMs.

  • FNBO Direct Online Checking: Offers a free, interest-earning checking account with access to more than 2 million ATMs (read full FNBO Direct review).

Last updated on March 1, 2021

Methodology

We took a close look at over 70 financial institutions, including the largest U.S. banks based on assets, internet search traffic and other factors; the nation’s largest credit unions, based on assets and membership; and other notable and/or emerging players in the industry. We rated them on criteria including annual percentage yields, minimum balances, fees, digital experience and more.

Financial institutions surveyed are: Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, America First Credit Union, American Express National Bank, Associated Bank, Axos Bank, Bank5 Connect, Bank7, Bank of America, Bank of the West, Barclays, BB&T, BBVA, BMO Harris, Boeing Employees Credit Union, Capital One 360, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, Chime, CIBC U.S., CIT Bank, Citibank, Citizens Access, Citizens Bank, Comenity Bank, Comerica Bank, Commerce Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Discover Bank, E*TRADE Bank, Fifth Third Bank, First Foundation Bank, First National Bank, First Tech Federal Credit Union, Flagstar Bank, FNBO Direct, GoBank, Golden 1 Credit Union, Goldman Sachs Bank USA, HSBC Bank, Huntington Bank, KeyBank, Live Oak Bank, M&T Bank, Nationwide Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, NBKC Bank, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, Popular Direct, PurePoint Financial, Radius, Redneck Bank, Regions Bank, Salem Five Direct, Sallie Mae Bank, Santander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Service Credit Union, State Employees' Credit Union of North Carolina, Suncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony Bank, TAB Bank, TCF Bank, TD Bank, TIAA Bank, U.S. Bank, UFB Direct, Union Bank, USAA, Varo, Vio Bank, Wells Fargo, Woodforest National Bank and Zions Bank.

Frequently asked questions