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10 Best Free Checking Accounts of 2019

Jan. 25, 2019
Banking, Banks & Credit Unions, Checking Accounts
At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Free checking accounts help customers keep more of their own money in their pockets. The best ones don’t charge monthly fees and even offer other free services or pay interest. We picked our favorites.

Following are our choices for top free checking accounts, based on research into dozens of banks. We scoped out accounts based on interest rate, ATM network, rewards and other factors. See how they compare:

Best interest rate
Aspiration

at Aspiration,

Deposits are FDIC Insured

Aspiration Spend & Save Account

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Best rewards program
Discover

at Discover,

Member, FDIC

Discover Cashback Debit

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Best credit union

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Best credit union
Consumers Credit Union

at Consumers Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Best interest rate

Axos Bank’s Rewards Checking

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Best overdraft policy

360 Checking® by Capital One

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Best digital experience

Ally Interest Checking

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Best interest rate

Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Best for ATM reimbursement

Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Good for ATM reimbursement

Fidelity Cash Management

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Best interest rate

Aspiration Spend & Save account, 2.00% APY

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Aspiration

at Aspiration,

Deposits are FDIC Insured

The interest rate on this account is excellent: 2.00% APY for all balances in the Save account. What’s more, there are no monthly fees, no minimum monthly balance requirements and no overdraft fees. The account requires a $10 minimum opening deposit.

Other pros: Account holders will be reimbursed for any ATM fees they incur, including ones at foreign ATMs.

What you should know: This account is online-only, so keep in mind that you won’t be able to go into a branch to handle your banking in person with Aspiration.

For more on Aspiration, read our review.

Best rewards program

Discover

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Discover

at Discover,

Member, FDIC

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

The company says: “Limited Time Offer: Apply for your first Cashback Debit account with Offer Code CNW519 by 5/30/19 and Discover will match all the Cashback you’ve earned through 11/29/19, automatically.”

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.

See other high-rated products on our Discover review.


 

Best credit union

ALLIANT CREDIT UNION HIGH-RATE CHECKING

4.5 NerdWallet rating

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.

Other pros: High-Rate Checking customers qualify for a return of 0.65% APY on balances of any amount. And 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 includes direct, ATM and mobile deposits, plus transfers from other financial institutions.

Read our Alliant review.

Best credit union

CONSUMERS FREE REWARDS CHECKING

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Consumers Credit Union

at Consumers Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

You can apply to join this credit union even if you don’t live near its Illinois headquarters.

Other pros: The checking account has no monthly fees or minimum balances. You can take advantage of thousands of branches and free ATMs nationwide thanks to the credit union’s participation in the Co-op network — and you can earn up to 5.09% APY on up to $20,000.

What you should know: To apply to join, you’ll need to make a $5 payment to a sponsoring association and deposit a minimum of $5 in a savings account.

Consumers only has branches in Illinois, and it’s not easy to earn the highest interest rate: You have to make at least 12 signature-based debit card purchases, have one monthly electronic transaction such as direct deposit or online bill payment, receive e-statements, access online banking once monthly and meet a monthly spending minimum on a Consumers credit card. Opting out of the credit card requirements leaves you at 
3.09% APY and you don’t receive ATM refunds. If you don’t meet any of the requirements, you’d earn 0.01% APY.

Read our Consumers review

Best interest rate

AXOS BANK REWARDS CHECKING, UP TO 1.25% APY

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Axos Bank, formerly Bank of Internet, has an exceptional rate on its Rewards Checking.

Other pros: Rewards Checking has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, including opening deposits, and the bank offers unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements.

What you should know: 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 for fulfilling one of those requirements, or by making only 10 transactions.

For more about Axos Bank, check out our review.

Best overdraft policy

360 Checking® by Capital One

4.5 NerdWallet rating

The Capital One account’s overdraft policy deserves some props. The bank offers an overdraft line of credit with an annual percentage rate below 15%. You also could use a Capital One 360 savings account to cover overdrafts for free. Or, if you decide not to opt into either the line of credit or transfers, you can simply have the bank decline to pay charges that you don’t have enough cash to cover.

Other pros: The 360 Checking account is fee-free and earns some interest. Plus, Capital One is part of the Allpoint ATM network, giving its customers access to nearly 40,000 free cash machines. You can also visit Capital One 360 Cafés in several cities around the country to speak with customer-service representatives.

See a map showing states with branches and cafés, plus more details on our Capital One review.

Best digital experience

Ally Interest Checking

4.5 NerdWallet rating

In addition to offering at least 0.10% APY on its checking account, Ally customers can use more 43,000 U.S. ATMs for free.

Other pros: Ally makes its digital experience a top priority. The online-only bank has a mobile app available on Apple, Android and Windows devices with solid ratings. For any issues, Ally has a real-time chat service and actively responds to customer inquiries on Twitter and Facebook. If you prefer the traditional method of calling your bank, Ally’s call center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Read our Ally review.

» View our top picks for best online checking accounts

Good for interest rate

BANK5 CONNECT HIGH-INTEREST CHECKING, 0.76% APY on balances Over $100

4.0 NerdWallet rating

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.

Other pros: The online bank’s $15 overdraft penalty is significantly lower than the median of $34 for national banks.

What you should know: You’ll have to put down an initial deposit of $10 when opening the account, and you’ll need a balance of at least $100 to qualify for the 0.76% APY.

Read our Bank5 Connect review for more on checking and other accounts.

» Looking for highly rated savings accounts? See our top high-yield online savings accounts

Best for ATM reimbursement

Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

4.0 NerdWallet rating

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.

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 our Charles Schwab Bank review to check out its other accounts.

Good for ATM reimbursement

Fidelity Cash Management

4.0 NerdWallet rating

While not technically a checking account, Fidelity’s Cash Management Account acts similarly to one, in that it offers a debit card, check writing and up to $1.25 million in FDIC protection on your deposits.

Other pros: Fidelity reimburses domestic ATM fees charged by out-of-network machines (but a 1% foreign transaction fee applies at international ATMs). The account also provides free check writing and bill pay to customers.

What you should know: The account earns a relatively low APY for balances under $100,000 compared with some other free, interest-bearing checking accounts.

For more details about Fidelity, see our review.

10 best free checking accounts of 2019

AccountInterestMinimum deposit to open
Aspiration Spend & Save Account2.00%$10
Axos Bank Rewards CheckingUp to 1.25%$0
Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking0.65%$0
Discover Cashback Debit1% cash back$0
Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards CheckingUp to 5.09%$0
Capital One 360 Checking0.20% on balances of less than $50K$0
Ally Bank Interest Checking0.10% on balances of less than $15K$0
Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking0.76% on balances of more than $100$10
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking0.40%$0
Fidelity Cash Management0.37%$0

 


METHODOLOGY

To determine the best accounts, we took a close look at 70 financial institutions, including the largest U.S. banks based on assets, debit card volume, internet search traffic and other factors; the nation’s largest credit unions, based on deposits as well as broad-based membership requirements; and other notable and/or emerging players in the industry. We rated them on criteria including annual percentage rates, minimum balances, fees, digital experience and more.

Financial institutions surveyed are: Alaska USA Federal Credit UnionAlliant Credit UnionAlly BankAmerica First Credit Union, American Express, AspirationAssociated BankBank5 Connect, BankDirect, Bank of AmericaAxos BankBank of the WestBarclays, BB&T, BBVA CompassBoeing Employees Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One 360Charles Schwab BankChaseChimeCITCitibankCitizens Bank, Comerica Bank, Commerce BankConnexus Credit UnionConsumers Credit UnionDiscover BankTIAA BankFidelityFifth Third Bank, First Citizens Bank, First National Bank, First Tech Federal Credit UnionGoBankGolden 1 Credit Union, HSBC Bank USA, Huntington BankKeyBankM&T BankMarcus by Goldman Sachs, MetaBank, Navy Federal Credit UnionPentagon Federal Credit UnionPNC, PurePoint Financial, Qapital, Radius BankRegions BankSantander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Simple, Star One Credit Union, State Employees’ Credit Union of North CarolinaState Farm BankSuncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony BankTCF BankTD BankUnion Bank, UFB Direct, USAAU.S. Bank, Varo, Wells Fargo, Woodforest National Bank and Zions Bank.

How we rate banks and credit unions