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11 Best Free Checking Accounts

Chanelle BessetteJanuary 15, 2020

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The best free checking accounts do more than keep money in people’s wallets by having no monthly fees. They also typically offer other free services or pay interest.

Here’s a list of our favorites based on research into dozens of banks. We scoped out accounts based on interest rate, ATM network, rewards and other factors.

» Looking for a place to stash your savings? Take a look at NerdWallet's picks for best savings accounts

Summary of Best Free Checking Accounts

Chime Chime Spending Account

at Chime,

Deposits are FDIC Insured

Chime Spending Account

Chime 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 banking service with no overdraft fees, plus a nifty feature called SpotMe that lets qualifying customers overdraw as low as negative $100, without being charged a fee.

Interest rate: None.

Minimum deposit to open: $0.

Other pros: Chime customers can use 38,000 ATMs without fees, and also don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees. Direct deposits can be up to two days early.

What you should know: To qualify for the SpotMe feature, you must have received at least $500 in direct deposits over the previous month. ATM withdrawals outside of the MoneyPass network cost $2.50, plus any ATM operator fee. Adding cash to a Chime account involves going to one of various nationwide retailers and paying a fee.

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Alliant Credit Union Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

at Alliant Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

Alliant Credit Union Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.25%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at Alliant Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

With a strong online presence and easy membership requirements, Alliant has a wider reach than most credit unions. Support for an Alliant-affiliated nonprofit is all it takes to apply for membership if you don’t fulfill other requirements.

Interest rate: 0.25%.

Minimum deposit to open: $0.

Other pros: Alliant members can access more than 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs and have up to $20 reimbursed in out-of-network ATM fees a month.

What you should know: To qualify for the High-Rate Checking Account, members have to opt out of paper statements and have at least one electronic deposit each month, which can be a mobile, ATM or direct deposit, or a transfer from another financial institution.

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Axos Bank® Axos Bank® Rewards Checking

at Axos Bank®,

Member FDIC

Axos Bank® Rewards Checking

Axos Bank® 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

Axos Bank’s Rewards Checking has an exceptional rate and unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements.

Interest rate: Up to 1.25%.

Minimum deposit to open: $50.

Other pros: The account has no overdraft fees.

What you should know: The maximum balance that earns interest is $150,000. To earn Rewards Checking's highest rate (1.25%), you'll have to do two things monthly: receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits and make 15 debit card transactions of at least $3 each. You can earn a lower rate by fulfilling one of those requirements, or by making only 10 transactions.

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Simple Account

Simple Simple Account

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

N/A

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

Simple’s free checking account is built with budgeting in mind. Its “Safe-to-Spend” balance is the amount you have in checking minus upcoming bills and savings goals. Its savings subaccounts, called Protected Goals, have a high rate.

Interest rate: no interest on basic checking balance; 0.60% APY in a Protected Goals subaccount.

Minimum deposit to open: $0.

Other pros: Simple offers customers free access to 40,000 ATMs as well as a high-yield savings account. It also has no overdraft fees.

What you should know: Simple charges $5 for a checkbook and passes two costs on to customers, out-of-network ATM operator fees and a 1% international transaction fee from Visa, but doesn’t charge any other fee.

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Varo Bank Account

Varo Varo Bank Account

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

N/A

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

Varo’s mobile checking account has a solid consumer-friendly feature for overdrafts: a purchase cushion called No Fee Overdraft. If you overdraw as much as negative $50 on a debit card transaction, Varo covers qualified customers.

Interest rate: None.

Minimum deposit to open: $0.

Other pros: Varo offers two-day early direct deposit and fee-free access to over 55,000 Allpoint ATMs worldwide. The account charges no foreign transaction fees. Varo also has a high rate on its savings account.

What you should know: To qualify for the No Fee Overdraft feature, you must make at least five Varo debit card purchases monthly and have direct deposits of $1,000 or more each month. Adding cash to the account requires going to one of various nationwide retail locations and paying a fee of up to $4.95.

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Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

Ally Bank Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.10%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

Ally offers interest on its free checking account as well as nationwide ATM fee reimbursements of up to $10 a month.

Interest rate: 0.10% or 0.50%, depending on balance.

Minimum deposit to open: $0.

Other pros: Ally customers have free access to thousands of Allpoint ATMs nationally.

What you should know: The minimum daily balance to earn the higher rate is $15,000. Ally doesn’t let you add cash to your account, so you’d have to buy a money order and use mobile check deposit, transfer money from another account or use direct deposit.

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Bank5 Connect High Interest Checking

Bank5 Connect Bank5 Connect High Interest Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.20%

With $100 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

Along with its excellent APY, Bank5 Connect provides customers with access to thousands of free ATMs and reimburses up to $15 per month for fees racked up at other banks' cash machines.

Interest rate: 0.20%.

Minimum deposit to open: $10.

Other pros: The online bank's $15 insufficient funds charge is significantly lower than many banks charge. The bank also has a high-yield savings account.

What you should know: You'll need a balance of at least $100 to earn interest.

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FNBO Direct Online Checking

FNBO Direct FNBO Direct Online Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.65%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

FNBO Direct, online banking division of the First National Bank of Omaha, offers a free checking account with a solid rate and extensive ATM access.

Interest rate: 0.65%.

Minimum deposit to open: $1.

Other pros: Customers have free access to 55,000 Allpoint ATMs worldwide, and the bank has a high-yield savings account.

What you should know: FNBO Direct doesn’t offer paper checks, but it does have online bill pay. It also has a $33 overdraft fee, which is higher than other online banks and a more common amount at brick-and-mortar banks.

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Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking®

Schwab Bank Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking®

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.03%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

When opening a Charles Schwab checking account, customers also get a Schwab One brokerage account. Though the checking account’s APY isn’t the highest, customers aren’t charged any monthly fees and there’s no minimum monthly balance requirement.

Interest rate: 0.03%

Minimum deposit to open: $0.

Other pros: Schwab has free unlimited ATM fee reimbursements both domestically and abroad, and debit cardholders aren’t charged foreign transaction fees. Deposits up to $250,000 are insured by the FDIC, and there are no overdraft fees.

What you should know: Charles Schwab does a hard credit check on people who apply for an account, which may slightly ding your credit score.

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Capital One 360 Checking®

Capital One Capital One 360 Checking®

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.10%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

The Capital One account earns interest and has a wide range of overdraft programs, including a cheap overdraft line of credit with an annual percentage rate below 15%. There are also free overdraft transfers from savings accounts and a next-day grace period, giving customers a day before being charged an overdraft fee. Or, you can stick with the default option of the bank declining any charges made without sufficient cash, without a fee.

Interest rate: 0.10%.

Minimum deposit to open: $0.

Other pros: Capital One gives customers free access to nearly 40,000 ATMs, mostly from the Allpoint network. You can also visit Capital One 360 Cafés in several cities around the country to speak with customer-service representatives.

What you should know: This is primarily an online account, so it may be challenging to receive face-to-face customer service.

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Discover Bank Cashback Debit

Discover Bank Discover Bank Cashback Debit

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

N/A

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

With Discover Cashback Debit, you can get 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases monthly.

Interest rate: None.

Minimum deposit to open: $0.

Other pros: Customers have access to 60,000 fee-free ATMs.

What you should know: The only place to deposit cash is at Discover's one branch in Delaware.

Cashback Debit details from Discover: “ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, peer-to-peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal™, which also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries."

See Discover's website for more details.

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Last updated on January 15, 2020

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, Comerica Bank, Commerce Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Discover Bank, E-Trade Bank, Fifth Third Bank, First National Bank, First Tech Federal Credit Union, FNBO Direct, GoBank, Golden 1 Credit Union, Goldman Sachs Bank USA, HSBC Bank, Huntington Bank, KeyBank, M&T Bank, Moven, Nationwide Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, Popular Direct, PurePoint Financial, Radius Bank, Redneck Bank, Regions Bank, Salem Five Direct, Sallie Mae Bank, Santander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Service Credit Union, Simple, State Employees' Credit Union of North Carolina, State Farm Bank, Suncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony 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.

How we rate banks and credit unions