A basic checking account can be an essential part of your financial life. But if you have the assets to qualify for the Cadillac version of checking, it might make sense to upgrade.
The market for premier checking accounts — accounts with more stringent qualification requirements and added perks — is heating up. Chase, for example, just announced a major perk starting in October 2018 for eligible customers: 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for customers who open a Sapphire Banking℠ account with at least $75,000 of qualifying deposits or investments.
The new Sapphire Banking℠ service also includes no ATM fees worldwide, no fees for the first four overdrafts within 12 months, no wire transfer fees and no foreign exchange fees for international ATM withdrawals or debit-card purchases.
As Chase’s new promotion shows, financial institutions are competing fiercely for customers drawn by rising interest rates for deposit accounts. Premier checking accounts are a prime battleground for that business, but they’re not available to everyone — it usually takes a combined balance of at least $10,000. If you do qualify, you can expect a range of perks that can include free financial advice, waived fees and discounts on other financial products.
(These accounts may also offer a little bit of interest, but if you’re looking to max out your APY — sometimes with no minimum balance — a smarter choice may be an online bank. See our best online checking roundup.)
Based on an evaluation of the premier checking accounts offered at the nation’s five largest banks, here’s what you can expect if you qualify for one of these accounts.
(Click on bank name to read NerdWallet review)
|Checking account||Monthly fee||Requirements to waive fee or be eligible for account|
|Chase||Chase Premier Plus Checking℠||$25||
|Chase||Chase Sapphire Banking℠||$25|
|Bank of America||Interest Checking||$25|
|Bank of America||Preferred Rewards||No fee listed|
|Citibank||Citigold||No fee listed|
|U.S. Bank||Platinum Checking||$24.95|
Minimum balance: Bank of America Interest Checking requires a balance of $10,000 to avoid a monthly fee, the lowest among the banks we compared.
ATM reimbursements: Citibank’s Citigold Account offers unlimited reimbursements on non-Citibank ATM fees, plus other freebies.
Interest rate: With Wells Fargo’s Portfolio account, you can get an annual percentage yield of 0.05% with a balance of $5,000. It’s a decent return for a big bank checking account.
Note, however, that you can beat the minimum balance requirements and APYs handily with an online account (compare rates). Or stash some of your cash in a high-yield savings account with a much more competitive interest rate (see our best high yield online savings accounts).
Overview of premium checking
Premier checking accounts reward what’s called relationship banking, in which a single financial services provider meets a range of customer needs — checking and savings; credit cards; investments; and home, auto and personal loans.
You might be rewarded with lower fees and the convenience of managing most of your financial needs in one spot.
These relationships benefit providers because they can hold a greater portion of their customers’ wealth — that’s why they waive fees and offer other incentives if your combined balance reaches a certain level. If one of these five biggest banks can meet all of your needs, you might be rewarded with lower fees and the convenience of managing most of your financial needs in one spot.
Perks to look for when shopping for one of these accounts include discounted mortgage rates and reduced closing costs — but make sure to find out what the rate will be. You might be able to find a lower rate from another lender. Perks also include special customer services and low fees for international travelers, including free or low-cost wire transfers and no currency exchange charges.
Are premier checking accounts worth it?
Normally, we don’t recommend keeping a lot of money in a checking account when it could be earning higher interest elsewhere. But on the plus side, these accounts don’t require you to keep a high balance in your checking account at all — it can be kept in a retirement account, a savings account or a mortgage.
For some people, premier checking accounts can be a smart choice.