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Best Online Checking Accounts 2017

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Best online checking accounts: Aspiration offers 1.00% APY, a top interest rate, followed by Bank5 with 0.76%. For 24/7 customer service, go with Ally. Capital One has an above-par overdraft policy, while Simple is tops for its budgeting tools. Where Discover Bank shines: up to $120 cash back per year.

Online-only banking has come a long way. Many traditional banks have now embraced some of these institutions’ features, including free ATM access, robust websites and mobile-friendly features including remote check deposit.

The best online banks still usually offer higher interest rates and friendlier fee structures than brick-and-mortar banks, in part because of the money they save by not owning branches. And they’re just as secure, backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

» MORE: Switch banks in four steps

Here are some of our favorite online checking accounts. Take a look at our checking account tool for even more options near you.

Best interest rate

Aspiration Summit Account, 1% APY on balances of $2,500 or more

Aspiration
Learn more
at Aspiration
Although Aspiration is an investment firm, not a bank, its Summit Account functions much like a standard online checking account. Deposits are FDIC-insured, and there is no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement.

But Aspiration’s interest rates separate it from the pack: Balances of at least $2,500 earn an annual percentage yield of 1%, while smaller balances earn 0.25%. You will also receive unlimited ATM fee reimbursements worldwide.

BANK5 CONNECT HIGH-INTEREST CHECKING, 0.76% APY

Bank5+Connect
Read full review
on NerdWallet
Along with its outstanding APY, Bank5 Connect gives members access to thousands of free ATMs and reimburses up to $15 per month in fees racked up at other banks’ ATMs. It has strong mobile banking apps and low fees: There’s no monthly service fee, and the $15 overdraft penalty is well below the national median of $34.

You’ll have to put down $10 to open an account and maintain a balance of at least $100 to earn interest.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Best customer service

ALLY INTEREST CHECKING

Ally+Bank
Read full review
on NerdWallet
Ally provides strong rates, more than 43,000 surcharge-free ATMs and exceptional customer service. You can contact Ally via:

  • A call center staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Real-time chat
  • Secure messaging in online banking
  • Twitter

Ally also offers a great digital experience that includes all the online banking essentials in an easy-to-use package.

» MORE: How to deposit cash at an online-only bank

Best overdraft policy

360 CHECKING® BY CAPITAL ONE

Capital+One
Read full review
on NerdWallet
This Capital One checking account gives you several ways to handle overdrafts. The best options include:

  • Applying for an overdraft line of credit, a short-term borrowing option with a reasonable 11.75% interest rate and no transfer fees
  • Using a 360 Savings account to cover overdrafts for free
  • Having the bank decline charges that you don’t have enough cash to cover

The 360 Checking account also offers excellent online and mobile tools and fee-free access to more than 40,000 ATMs.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best high-yield online savings accounts

Best budgeting tool

SIMPLE

Simple
Read full review
on NerdWallet
Banking startup Simple had more than 100,000 checking customers when BBVA acquired it in early 2014. It built that user base by designing a top-notch set of digital tools.

Instead of making spending decisions based on your available balance, a figure that can be misleading, Simple users can check their “safe to spend” number. It’s an estimate of the amount you can afford to spend based on your balance, upcoming bills and savings goals.

Withdrawals within the massive Allpoint ATM network are fee-free, though you can withdraw only a total of $500 within any 24-hour period, a lower limit than at some other online banks.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best free checking accounts

Best rewards program

Discover CashBack Checking

Discover
Read full review
on NerdWallet
You’ll need to have a Discover product, like a credit card or savings account, to qualify for the Cashback Checking account, but it will probably be worth it. Discover Bank’s checking account lets you earn up to $120 per year in cash back on debit card purchases, online bill payments and cleared checks. You’ll also have access to 60,000 free ATMs.

One caveat: You won’t be able to deposit cash, except at Discover’s one branch location in Delaware.

Tony Armstrong is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: tony@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @tonystrongarm. Devan Goldstein of NerdWallet contributed to this report.

Verified Feb. 2, 2017.


METHODOLOGY

To determine the best accounts, we took a close look at over 60 financial institutions: 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.

Financial institutions surveyed include: Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, Andrews Federal Credit Union, Aspiration, Associated Bank, Bank5 Connect, BankDirect, Bank of America, Bank of Internet, Bank of the West, Barclays, BB&T, BBVA Compass, Boeing Employees Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One 360, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, Citibank, Citizens Bank, Comerica Bank, Commerce Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Discover Bank, EverBank, Fidelity, Fifth Third Bank, First Tech Federal Credit Union, Golden 1 Credit Union, GS Bank, HSBC Bank USA, Huntington Bank, KeyBank, MemoryBank, MetaBank, M&T Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, People’s United Bank, PNC, Radius Bank, Regions Bank, Santander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Simple, Star One Credit Union, State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina, State Farm Bank, Suncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony Bank, TCF Bank, TD Bank, Union Bank, UFB Direct, USAA, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Woodforest National Bank, Zero Financial and Zions Bank.

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