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10 Best Online Checking Accounts of 2019

Dec. 20, 2018
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The best online banks have fewer fees and higher interest rates than traditional banks, in part because of the money they save by not operating branches. And they’re secure, backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the National Credit Union Administration.

Here are our favorite online checking accounts.

CHIME
Chime

at Chime,

Member, FDIC

4.0 NerdWallet rating
RADIUS HYBRID
Radius Bank

at Radius Bank,

Member, FDIC

4.0 NerdWallet rating
SIMPLE
Simple

at Simple,

Deposits are FDIC Insured

4.0 NerdWallet rating
ASPIRATION SPEND & SAVE ACCOUNT
Aspiration

at Aspiration,

Deposits are FDIC Insured

4.0 NerdWallet rating
AXOS BANK REWARDS CHECKING
Axos Bank™

at Axos Bank™,

Member, FDIC

4.0 NerdWallet rating
VARO MONEY
Varo

at Varo,

Member, FDIC

4.0 NerdWallet rating
DISCOVER CASHBACK DEBIT
Discover

at Discover,

Member, FDIC

4.5 NerdWallet rating
FREE USAA CLASSIC CHECKING
USAA Federal Savings Bank

at USAA Federal Savings Bank,

Member, FDIC

4.0 NerdWallet rating
ALLIANT CREDIT UNION HIGH-RATE CHECKING
Alliant Credit Union

at Alliant Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

4.5 NerdWallet rating
ALLY INTEREST CHECKING ACCOUNT
4.5 NerdWallet rating

» Looking for a new savings account? Browse our best high-yield online savings accounts

Chime

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Chime

at Chime,

Member, FDIC

Chime is a mobile-only bank that offers the benefits of FDIC insurance and deposit and savings account options.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: With Chime, you can have every debit card transaction rounded up to the nearest dollar and automatically transfer the difference to your Chime Savings account.

Other pros: Chime doesn’t charge overdraft fees. Customers can use over 38,000 free MoneyPass ATMs and can receive their direct deposit up to two days early. If you need to write a check, Chime has an online feature that creates and mails one on your behalf.

What you should know: For deposits that can’t be set up electronically, you’ll need to use a third party service, such as Green Dot, to fund your account. (Read our Chime review for more details.)

Radius Hybrid

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Radius Bank

at Radius Bank,

Member, FDIC

Radius Hybrid Bank is an online bank with robust mobile capabilities for customers. It shines with its ATM reimbursements and solid interest rates for checking, savings and certificates of deposits.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: If your balance hits $2,500, you begin to earn a 1.00% annual percentage yield.

Other pros: Radius belongs to the surcharge-free NYCE and MoneyPass ATM networks, and it doesn’t charge out-of-network ATM fees. You’ll also get unlimited refunds for fees charged by other ATM owners.

What you should know: Because Radius has only one full-service branch, you’ll have to be comfortable banking online. The Hybrid account has an annual percentage yield of 1.00% if your balance is between $2,500 and $99,999.99. You can earn 1.20% APY on balances of $100,000 or more, but if you have that much cash on hand, consider investing it instead. (Read our Radius review for further insights.)

Simple

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Simple

at Simple,

Deposits are FDIC Insured

Simple is an online-only bank that has no monthly maintenance fee, overdraft fee, inactivity fee, card replacement fee or minimum balance requirement.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: 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.

Other pros: Withdrawals within the massive Allpoint ATM network are fee-free.

What you should know: There isn’t a way to deposit cash directly into your Simple account. Also, it passes on Visa’s foreign transaction fee to customers and won’t reimburse out-of-network ATM fees charged by other banks.

(Read our review of Simple.)

Aspiration Spend & Save Account

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Aspiration

at Aspiration,

Deposits are FDIC Insured

Although Aspiration is a financial firm, not a bank, its Spend & Save Account functions much like a standard online checking account. Deposits are insured, and there’s no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: Balances earn 2.00% APY.

Other pros: Customers get unlimited ATM fee reimbursements worldwide.

What you should know: This is an online-only checking account, so customers have to be comfortable with not having in-person service.

(Read our Aspiration review for more details.)

Axos Bank Rewards Checking

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Axos Bank™

at Axos Bank™,

Member, FDIC

Axos Bank, formerly Bank of Internet, offers several checking options with great perks: no overdraft fees, no monthly fees or minimum balance, plus domestic ATM fee reimbursements.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: With Rewards Checking, you also can earn up to 1.25% APY, but you’ll have to jump through a couple of hoops.

Other pros: Axos also has a CashBack Checking rewards program gives you 1% cash back on debit card transactions that require your signature, if you keep at least $1,500 as the average daily balance. If your account falls below that, you earn 0.50% cash back instead.

What you should know: To get the special APY, the bank requires at least $1,000 in monthly direct deposits, and you have to use your debit card 15 times a month on everyday purchases — with a minimum of $3 per transaction — to earn the maximum APY. (Read our Axos Bank review for details on the bank’s other products.)

Varo Money

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Varo

at Varo,

Member, FDIC

Varo is a mobile banking app with a fee-free checking account and a savings account with a competitive rate.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: The Varo checking account is a particularly good deal: With no foreign transaction fees and an international ATM network (including 55,000 Allpoint ATMs in the U.S. and abroad), it’s among the best deals for international travelers.

Other pros: Spend most of your time stateside? Varo is still a solid deal. It doesn’t charge monthly service fees or overdraft fees and its analysis tools can make money management easy.

What you should know: Varo doesn’t have branches, so if you want to add cash directly to your account, you’ll have to go to a retailer that is part of the Green Dot network. Though these accepted retailers are plentiful — like CVS, 7-Eleven, Walmart or Walgreens stores — there is a fee of up to $4.95 to deposit cash at the register.

(Read more in our review of Varo.)

Discover Cashback Debit

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Discover

at Discover,

Member, FDIC

Discover Bank’s checking account lets you earn cash back on certain purchases, and you’ll also have access to 60,000 free ATMs.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: With Discover’s Cashback Debit account, you’ll get 1% cash back on qualifying debit card purchases of up to $3,000 a month.

Other pros: Discover also has a top-rated high-yield online savings account.

What you should know:  There is only one physical branch location, in Greenwood, Delaware, so national customers have to be OK with not having face-to-face customer service.


Free USAA Classic Checking

4.0 NerdWallet rating
USAA Federal Savings Bank

at USAA Federal Savings Bank,

Member, FDIC

USAA is a mostly-online bank, and its membership is available to active and former military personnel as well as their eligible relatives. It has no monthly fees or balance requirements for basic accounts and offers tools that help customers track spending.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: This account comes with 10 free withdrawals monthly from 60,000 “USAA-preferred” ATMs. USAA also reimburses up to $15 in other banks’ domestic ATM fees per month.

Other pros: USAA also has a Cashback Checking account that earns rewards on debit purchases, but it’s currently only available in a limited number of states in the U.S.

What you should know: It has only a few branches, so you’d probably wind up doing the majority of your banking on your phone or computer. (For more details, check out our USAA review.)

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Alliant Credit Union

at Alliant Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Unlike most other credit unions, Alliant makes it easy to apply for membership. If you don’t meet its other eligibility requirements, you can qualify by supporting an Alliant-affiliated nonprofit.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: With this checking option, you can earn a 0.65% APY. To be eligible for interest, you have to opt out of paper statements and have at least one electronic deposit made to your account each month.

Other pros: You’ll have access to over 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs.

 

What you should know: 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 may not be an issue, though, because Alliant’s digital tools are better than those offered by most other credit unions. (Alliant also has a great high-yield savings account.)

Ally Interest Checking Account

4.5 NerdWallet rating

 

Ally is an online-only bank. Its checking account has no monthly maintenance fees or minimum balances, and it has a good rate.

Monthly fee: None

Special features: Although there is only one Ally checking account to choose from, its interest rates are competitive.

Other pros: Ally has more than 43,000 surcharge-free Allpoint 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. You can pair your Ally checking with its savings account, which is among accounts with the highest yields.

What you should know: There isn’t a way to deposit cash into an Ally account. Customers either have to do a direct deposit, an online transfer, a wire transfer or buy a money order and do a mobile check deposit.

» For more stellar options, take a look at NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Other top accounts

These accounts didn’t make our top 10, but could still be a great fit for you. Check them out if you want more options.

  • Capital One 360 Checking: Superior overdraft policy (read full Capital One 360 review)
  • Charles Schwab Bank High-Yield Investor Checking: Earns interest, plus unlimited ATM fee reimbursements worldwide (read full Charles Schwab Bank review)
  • Fidelity Cash Management Account: Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements with some branch access (read full Fidelity review)
  • Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking: Solid APY in a low-fee account (read full Bank5 Connect review)
  • UFB Direct Airline Rewards Checking: Earn American Airlines miles and cash back (read full UFB Direct review)

Best online checking accounts

Checking accountNotable features
Radius Hybrid1.00% APY on balances of $2,500 to $99,999.99, and unlimited reimbursements for out-of-network ATM fees.
Aspiration Spend & Save AccountPays interest.
ChimeAutomatic savings options.
Axos Bank Rewards Checking1.25% APY if certain requirements are met.
SimpleSafe-to-Spend budgeting tool.
Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking0.65% APY and up to $20 in out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements a month.
Discover Cashback Debit1% cash back on many purchases.
Varo MoneyNo foreign transaction fees and worldwide ATM network.
Free USAA Classic CheckingBenefits for members of the military.
Ally Interest Checking AccountUp to $10 in out-of-network reimbursements per statement cycle.

Methodology

We took a close look at over 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 yields, minimum balances, fees, digital experience and more.

Financial institutions surveyed include: Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, America First Credit Union, American Express, Aspiration, Associated Bank, Axos Bank, Bank5 Connect, Bank7, Bank of America, Bank of the West, Barclays, BB&T, BBVA Compass, Boeing Employees Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One 360, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, Chime, CIT, Citibank, Citizens Access, Citizens Bank, Comerica Bank, Commerce Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Discover Bank, E-Trade, Fidelity, Fifth Third Bank, First National Bank, First Tech Federal Credit Union, GoBank, Golden 1 Credit Union, GS BankHSBC Bank USA, Huntington Bank, KeyBank, MetaBank, M&T BankMoven, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, Popular Direct, PurePoint Financial, Radius Bank, Redneck Bank, Regions Bank, Sallie Mae Bank, Santander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Service Credit Union, Simple, State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina, State Farm Bank, Suncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony Bank, TCF Bank, TD Bank, TIAA Bank, Union Bank, UFB Direct, USAA, U.S. Bank, Varo, Wells Fargo and Zions Bank.

How we rate banks and credit unions

 

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