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Best Online Checking Accounts of 2017

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  • 360 Checking® By Capital One
  • Alliant Credit Union Free High-Rate Checking
  • Aspiration Summit Account
  • Discover Cashback Checking
  • Schwab Bank High-Yield Investor Checking

The best online banks 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 — or in the case of a few financial institutions on this list, not very many branches. And they’re just as secure, backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the National Credit Union Administration.

» MORE: Switch banks in four steps

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

360 CHECKING® BY CAPITAL ONE

Capital+One
Read full review
on NerdWallet
This Capital One checking account has a better overdraft policy than most banks and credit unions. It 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 checking accounts

Alliant Credit Union Free High-Rate Checking

Alliant+Credit+Union
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on NerdWallet
Unlike most other credit unions, Alliant makes it easy to become a member. Unless you meet other eligibility requirements, you’ll have to make a one-time donation of $10 to an Alliant-affiliated nonprofit. And with this checking option, you’ll have access to over 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs, and can qualify for a 0.65% APY if you opt out of paper statements and have at least one electronic deposit made to your account each month.

Alliant doesn’t participate in shared branching and doesn’t have many physical locations, so you’ll probably have to take care of most tasks online. That shouldn’t be an issue, though, as Alliant’s digital tools are better than those offered by most other credit unions.

ALLY INTEREST CHECKING Account

Ally+Bank
Read full review
on NerdWallet
Checking at Ally comes with decent 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.

Aspiration Summit Account

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

Bank5+Connect
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on NerdWallet
Along with its outstanding APY of 0.76%, 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.

BANK OF INTERNET USA ESSENTIAL CHECKING

Bank+of+Internet
Learn more
at Bank of Internet
With Essential Checking, you won’t owe overdraft fees; transactions are declined if there isn’t enough money in the account. Plus, the account offers unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements and it doesn’t charge a monthly fee. Although Essential Checking doesn’t bear interest, Bank of Internet has a few other checking accounts with rates as high as 1.25%.

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

DISCOVER CASHBACK CHECKING

Discover
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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.

FIDELITY CASH MANAGEMENT ACCOUNT

Fidelity
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on NerdWallet
Strictly speaking, Fidelity’s Cash Management option is a full service brokerage account. That said, it looks a lot like other online checking options. It has no monthly fee and comes with unlimited refunds for every ATM in the country, along with online bill pay and a mobile check-deposit service. Customers’ accounts are insured up to $1.25 million by the FDIC. Fidelity has more than 180 branches, so this isn’t technically an online-only option.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best free checking accounts

RADIUS CHECKING

Radius+Bank
Read full review
on NerdWallet
Radius belongs to a network of about 7,500 cash machines, and it doesn’t charge out-of-network ATM fees. You’ll also receive unlimited refunds for fees charged by other ATM owners. Because Radius has only one full-service branch, you’ll have to be comfortable banking online.

SCHWAB BANK HIGH-YIELD INVESTOR CHECKING

Schwab+Bank
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on NerdWallet
Schwab Bank High-Yield Investor Checking provides unlimited fee rebates on ATM withdrawals worldwide. The account is free and there’s no minimum deposit requirement. It also offers online bill pay and a mobile check deposit service, and it comes with a brokerage account.

SIMPLE

Simple
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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 per day, a lower limit than at some other online banks.

FREE USAA CLASSIC CHECKING

USAA
Learn more
at USAA
This account comes with 10 free withdrawals from 60,000 “USAA-preferred” ATMs. USAA, which is available to active and former military personnel as well as their eligible family members, also reimburses up to $15 in other banks’ domestic ATM fees per month. It has only a few branches, so you’d probably wind up doing the majority of your banking on your phone or computer. You can reach the bank by phone, Twitter, email or standard mail.

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. 16, 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. For this article, we considered institutions that are primarily online.

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.

How we rate banks and credit unions