BEST OF

10 Best Free Checking Accounts

Chanelle BessetteJan 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.

Why trust NerdWallet: Our writers and editors follow strict editorial guidelines to ensure fairness and accuracy in our coverage to help you choose the financial accounts that work best for you. See our criteria for evaluating banks and credit unions.

Here’s a list of our favorites based on research into dozens of institutions. 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

Capital One 360 Checking
Learn more

at Capital One, Member FDIC

Capital One 360 Checking

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Capital One 360 Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.10%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

$150

Requirements to qualify

Learn more

at Capital One, Member FDIC


Bonus

$150

Requirements to qualify

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.

Read Full Review
Chime Spending Account
Learn more

at Chime, Deposits are FDIC Insured

Chime Spending Account

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Chime Spending Account

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

N/A

Bonus

N/A
Learn more

at Chime, Deposits are FDIC Insured


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

Chime is a mobile financial service with no overdraft fees, plus a nifty feature called SpotMe® that lets qualifying customers overdraw as low as negative $200, without being charged a fee.

Interest rate: None.

Minimum deposit to open: $0.

Other pros: Chime customers can use over 60,000 ATMs in the Allpoint, Moneypass® and Visa® Plus Alliance networks without fees, and also don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees. Direct deposits can be up to two days early (early access to direct deposit funds depends on payer).

What you should know: To qualify for the SpotMe® feature, you must have received at least $500 in direct deposits over the previous month (eligibility requirements and overdraft limits apply). ATM withdrawals outside of the MoneyPass network cost $2.50, plus any ATM operator fee (cash withdrawal and third-party fees may apply). Adding cash to a Chime account involves going to one of various nationwide retailers and paying a fee.

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Axos Bank® Rewards Checking
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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
Learn more

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.

Read Full Review
Discover Bank Cashback Debit
Learn more

at Discover Bank, Member FDIC

Discover Bank Cashback Debit

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Discover Bank Cashback Debit

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

N/A

Bonus

N/A
Learn more

at Discover Bank, Member FDIC


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.

Read Full Review
Varo Bank Account
Learn more

at Varo, Deposits are FDIC Insured

Varo Bank Account

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Varo Bank Account

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

N/A

Bonus

N/A
Learn more

at Varo, Deposits are FDIC Insured


Bonus

N/A

Why we like it

Varo’s mobile checking account has no overdraft fees, unlike many banks. Transactions that would go negative get declined instead.

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: Adding cash to the account requires going to one of various nationwide retail locations and paying a fee of up to $5.95.

Read Full Review

Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
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 0.25%, 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.

Read Full Review

Bank5 Connect High Interest Checking

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
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.

Read Full Review

FNBO Direct Online Checking

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
FNBO Direct Online Checking

Monthly Fee

$0

APY

0.15%

With $0.01 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: 0.15%.

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®

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
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.

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

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.

Read Full Review

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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, 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, LendingClub, Live Oak Bank, M&T Bank, Nationwide Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, NBKC Bank, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, Popular Direct, PurePoint Financial, 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.