The average US adult stays with his primary checking account for 14 years!
And the trend is quite similar among younger generations, with millennials using the same primary checking account for over a decade.
The primary factor Americans consider when choosing a checking account is the presence of nearby ATMs and branch locations. Also, 49% of American adults prefer in-person banking, significantly higher than mobile banking (25%) or online banking (26%).
However, staying loyal to the same bank may not be in your best interest, considering the new innovations and offers provided by online banks and fintech startups.
Your money should be able to do more than just sitting around, earning nil or minimum interest. Also, traditional banks are known for overcharging for certain transactions.
For instance, Americans pay an average overdraft fee of $33.36, and it’s not just about overdraft charges. You’re paying significantly higher fees for out-of-network ATM usage as well.
The new online banks and fintech startups are ditching higher fees to gain traction in the highly competitive banking industry.
We’ve created a lineup of some of the best checking accounts, tips for choosing checking accounts, and our recommendations in this post.
Our list of the best checking accounts analyzes multiple factors, such as interest rates, maintenance charges, withdrawal charges, ATM network, branch locations, and any additional fees you might pay on the account.
Here are our top picks for the best checking accounts to open this year.
Best for high APY and fee-free checking account.
In a time when most people are habitual of paying a fee for their checking account, AXOS Bank rewards you for opening and transacting through their checking account. The online financial institution, formerly known as Bank of Interest USA, literally has a Rewards Checking account.
AXOS Bank Rewards Checking account is hard to let go because of its APY, 1.25%, and no-fees approach. You can open an account with as little as $50 and start earning interest on your balance.
As an online bank with no branches and ATM network, AXOS Bank improvises quite well with its unlimited ATM fee reimbursements. You can use any domestic ATM and get fee refunds. Also, AXOS Bank supports mobile check deposits, making it easier to deposit funds.
You can order a free checkbook when opening the account. AXOS Bank doesn’t charge overdraft fees or maintenance fees with its Rewards Checking account.
- You earn High APY of 1.25% with some conditions, but that’s still among the highest APYs for checking accounts.
- There are no maintenance fees, no overdraft charges, and no minimum balance requirements with AXOS Bank Rewards Checking account.
- AXOS Bank provides a competitive mobile banking experience, with services like automatic bill payments and mobile check deposits.
- You can open an account with a minimum deposit of $50.
- AXOS bank offers domestic ATM fee reimbursements.
- FDIC insurance (up to $250,000)
- To earn the highest APY, you’ll have to satisfy all three conditions set forth by AXOS Bank, including monthly direct deposits of $1,000 or more, use AXOS debit card for at least 10 transactions, and use your debit card for at least 15 transactions.
You can find out more about AXOS Bank Reward checking account here.
Best for higher account balances and online banking experience.
Ally Bank is one of the leading names in the online banking industry. Ally Bank Interest Checking account got our attention because of its competitive APY (0.50%), in comparison to brick-and-mortar institutions, and large ATM network (43,000).
You can open the Ally Bank Interest Checking account with a $0 minimum deposit. The bank offers a debit card and printed checks with the account for no extra charges. There are no minimum balance conditions or maintenance charges for this account.
The only catch with Ally Bank is its tiered APY rates. All balances below $15,000 will earn an APY of 0.10%, whereas those above $15,000 will earn 0.50%. Also, if you use an ATM outside of Ally Bank’s network, the bank will reimburse a maximum of $10 in ATM charges.
- You can open the Ally Bank Interest Checking account with a $0 minimum deposit or nil monthly balance requirements.
- Ally Bank provides cashier’s checks and a debit card for no extra cost.
- It has a huge ATM network (43,000).
- You can deposit funds through ACH transfers, mobile check deposits, online transfers, or even mail a physical check.
- Any account balance earns interest, although you’ll need $15,000 or more for a better APY.
- Ally Bank provides a robust customer support service.
- FDIC insurance (up to $250,000)
- Ally Bank has a tiered interest structure, which prohibits individuals with low-income balances from earning the highest APY. You’ll need at least $15,000 or more to earn an APY of 0.50%. Any balances below that earn 0.10% only.
- The APY falls short when compared with online checking accounts from other online-only banks.
- There is no branch access, which means you cannot deposit cash in your account.
- ATM withdrawal fees reimbursement is capped at $10 for every statement cycle.
Learn more about Ally Bank Interest Checking Account here.
Best business checking account with high APY and lower fees.
AXOS Bank has made it to our list twice because of its checking accounts, and this time, it’s the Business Interest Checking account we’re going to look into.
AXOS Bank Business Interest Checking account redefines business checking accounts with its lower fees. As long as you maintain a daily balance of $5,000 or higher, you don’t have to pay $10 in maintenance charges. All your account balances earn an APY of 0.80%, and if you intend to keep $5 million or more, you may get even better rates.
Unlike most business checking accounts, the AXOS Bank Business Interest Checking account provides unlimited fee reimbursements for domestic ATM use, up to 50 free items per month ($0.50 post that), free image statements, checks, and 60 free items for remote check deposits.
- AXOS Bank Business Interest Checking account offers an APY of 0.80% on all balances. There are no tiered interest requirements.
- You can open the AXOS Bank Business Interest Checking account with $100.
- You don’t have to pay any maintenance fees if your account balance is above $5,000 (daily). If you fall short, it’s still $10 a month.
- AXOS Bank Business Interest Checking account provides a host of freebies, including 50 checks, unlimited ATM fee reimbursements, and a reasonable number of free items. These features can bring down your overall banking expenses.
- AXOS Bank Business Interest Checking account offers a good mobile banking experience with features such as mobile check deposits and bill payments.
- FDIC insurance (up to $250,000).
- AXOS Bank Business Checking account charges $0.50 after 50 free items. It means if you handle a lot of checks, the cost could add up quickly.
- You have to maintain a minimum daily balance of $5,000 to avoid the maintenance charges.
If you’re interested in finding out more about AXOS Bank Business Interest Checking Account, you can visit the official website.
Best for fee-free services and online banking experience.
If you’re looking for an essential checking account that offers all the required features without charging a fee, the BBVA Free Checking account is a good option.
You can open a BBVA Free Checking account with a minimum deposit of $0. It comes with nil maintenance charges or balance requirements. BBVA offers unlimited ATM transactions within its network (64,000). Also, you get unlimited free check-writing privileges with this account. You can get free paper and online statements with the BBVA Free Checking account.
BBVA Free Checking account comes with a free Visa debit card per account holder. Additionally, BBVA allows you to upgrade your Free Checking account with add-on features, such as unlimited cashier’s check for $2, unlimited standard checks for $2, and out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements for up to four transactions per statement cycle for $5.
These are some downsides to this account, including the lack of any interest and its availability in seven states only (Alabama, California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and Texas)
- You can open a BBVA Free Checking account with a minimum deposit of $25 only.
- There are no account maintenance charges with the BBVA Free Checking account.
- The account holder receives unlimited network ATM transactions, free check writing, and free online as well as paper statements.
- BBVA Free Checking account comes mobile banking, mobile check deposits, and a Visa debit card for every account holder.
- Users can upgrade their accounts by paying minimal charges.
- $2 for unlimited cashier’s check.
- $2 for unlimited standard checks.
- $3 for a safety deposit box.
- $5 for out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements.
- FDIC insurance (up to $250,000).
- BBVA Free Checking account doesn’t offer any interest on your account balance, which could be a turnoff for a lot of users.
- You have to pay up to $3 for out-of-network ATM usage.
- This account is only available in Alabama, California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and Texas.
Learn more about the BBVA Free Checking account here.
Best for college grads and branch banking.
Chase College Checking account is targeted towards college students in the age bracket of 17 to 24 years. The checking account is popular for its fees waiver for up to five years, provided you fulfill the bank’s eligibility criteria.
If you are between 17 years and 24 years old at the time of account opening, you will get a fee waiver. Another way to avoid maintenance charges for Chase College Checking account is to make at least one direct deposit to this account every month or maintain an average daily balance of $5,000 or more.
Chase College Checking account comes with all essential features, including mobile check deposit, online bill payments, and swift transfers through Zelle. Also, account holders can set up alerts for various activities, such as low balance, large transactions, or any other account activity.
Chase provides you with a debit card for your account. It is critical to note that Chase has over 4,900 branches and 16,000 ATMs across the nation. You won’t have to go out of your way for branch banking services.
- You can easily get a fee waiver by satisfying one of the applicable conditions of this account. If you’re a college student, you don’t have to pay any maintenance charges for up to five years.
- Chase College Checking account comes with a debit card that you can use across 16,000 ATMs or 4,900 Chase Bank branches.
- You can avail mobile check deposit, quick transfers through Zelle, and automatic bill payments.
- Chase Collge Checking account allows you to set up alerts for any account activity, such as account access intimations, large transactions, and low balance alerts.
- Chase is running a limited period bonus offer of $100 for Chase College Checking account. You can qualify for the offer by doing 10 transactions within 60 days of account opening.
- FDIC insurance (up to $250,000).
- Chase College Checking account is not an interest-bearing account, which means you don’t earn anything on your account balances.
- Chase doesn’t refund out-of-network ATM fees.
You can learn more about Chase College Checking Account here.
Best APY for a checking account.
Consumers Credit Union is on our list for one simple reason, its high APY. If you pass the eligibility criteria, you can earn as high as 4.09% APY on account balances up to $10,000. That’s some of the highest APYs we have seen across any type of accounts.
Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account has tiered APY structure.
- You can earn an APY of 2.09% on balances up to $10,000 if you sign up for eDocuments, make at least 12 debit card purchases every month, and deposit $500 or more in the account.
- Your APY rises to 3.09% if you satisfy the conditions for 2.09% APY along with spending $500 from your CCU Visa Credit Card.
- If you satisfy the conditions for 2.09% APY and spend over $1,000 using CCU Visa Credit Card, your APY rises to 4.09%.
In addition to one of the highest APYs across any banking products, Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account charges nil maintenance fees. You don’t have to maintain a monthly balance, and you get unlimited checking-writing abilities with this account.
Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account provides a Visa debit card to every account holder. You can get unlimited ATM fees reimbursement. Also, Consumers Credit Union has over 30,000 ATMs and roughly 5,000 shared branches open for its customers.
- You can qualify for an APY as high as 4.09%, which is simply beyond anything we have found so far.
- There are no monthly maintenance charges or minimum balance demands with the Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account.
- You get unlimited ATM fee reimbursements with this checking account.
- You will receive unlimited checks with the Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account.
- Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account offers online banking and mobile banking with several features, including regular financial transactions, bill payments, and online transfers.
- Your funds are protected under the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (up to $250,000).
- The APY drops significantly for balances over $10,000. You earn 0.20% on balance above $10,000 and 0.10% for accounts having balances in excess of $25,000.
- If you fail to fulfill the initial requirements, your APY drops to 0.01%.
If you are interested in finding out more about Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account, check out its official website.
Best rewards checking account offering cashback for qualified spends.
Discover is popular for its all-season credit cards, but the card provider also operates an online bank, Discover Bank, that offers multiple banking solutions. We have included Discover on our list because of the Discover Cashback Debit account.
The primary reason we like Discover Cashback Debit account is its 1% cashback rewards for purchases of up to $3,000. That’s right, you will earn cashback for all qualifying purchases, earning a maximum of $30 per month or $360 a year. To put that in perspective, you’ll need to maintain at least $18,000 throughout the year to generate the same returns in a savings or checking account with a 2% APY.
Discover Bank has a network of over 60,000 ATMs, making it easier to withdraw cash without any fees. Also, Discover Cashback Debit account doesn’t have any monthly charges, minimum initial deposit, or account balance requirements.
You can get standard checks, a debit card, official bank checks, and expedited debit cards or bank checks replacements without any charges.
The only limitation we could find with the Discover Cashback Debit account is that the account is non-interest bearing, but if used the right way, you can generate higher returns (in the form of cashback) than any other checking account.
- You can earn a cashback of 1% for all qualifying purchases. There are very limited products that offer cashback on checking accounts.
- Discover Cashback Debit account comes with $0 monthly fees, no minimum deposits, and free replacement debit cards or checks.
- Discover Bank has an ATM network of 60,000 ATMs, making it fairly easy to withdraw cash.
- Discover Cashback Debit account comes with a high-quality mobile app experience, providing features like mobile check deposits, ability to freeze your debit card, and other banking transactions.
- Discover is popular for its excellent customer support.
- FDIC insurance (up to $250,000).
- Discover Cashback Debit account doesn’t earn interest on any account balances.
- The qualifying transactions for cashback are limited, making it somewhat tricky to generate maximum returns.
- You will have to pay for out-of-network ATM usage.
You can find out more about the Discover Cashback Debit account here.
Best mobile checking account with high APY.
Unlike other checking accounts in our list, Simple is more of a budgeting app with a checking account. It is an online bank from BBVA USA, which means your accounts are, technically, held with BBVA USA.
Simple comes with multiple checking accounts, including a Simple Checking account and a high-yield checking account. You can open your Simple Checking account online with a $0 minimum deposit and no maintenance charges. Simple Checking account earns an APY of 0.01%, but any funds that you transfer to your protected savings goals earn an APY of 1.40%. You can automatically transfer funds to your allocated goals by setting up automatic transfers or do it manually.
Simple Checking account comes with a Safe-to-Spend feature under which, it automatically creates expense categories and reserves funds for these expenses. The rest of the amount is reflected as the safe to spend amount. You can set up goals for different short-term and long-term financing requirements. However, do understand that these funds are kept within the same account, so you can access them in case of an emergency.
Protected Goals feature make the Simple Checking account a winner in our list. Unlike simple goals, funds in your Protected Goals are stored separately, ensuring that you do not dip into your savings. The app allows you to make unlimited transfers from these protected goals to your Simple Checking account. Any funds you keep under these Protected goals earn an APY of 1.40%.
Simple Checking account comes with a Visa Debit card and an ATM network of over 40,000 ATMs. You can withdraw funds from these network ATMs without incurring any charges. Simple doesn’t charge for out-of-network ATM transactions, but you may have to pay the charges imposed by other banks or ATM operators.
The Simple Mobile app is the backbone of this entire ecosystem. You can deposit checks online, transfer funds, set up a budget, create short-term goals, and protected goals within the app. Some additional features of the app include bill pay service, an option to block your debit card, link external bank accounts, and download account statements.
- You can open a Simple Checking account online with a $0 minimum deposit, no monthly balance requirements, and nil maintenance charges.
- Simple Checking account offers a free Visa debit card for every account holder. You can order 25 checks for $5.
- Simple Checking account allows you to track your spending and alerts you when you reach spending limits. You can set up short-term goals and Protected goals within the Simple mobile app.
- Any funds in your Protected goals qualify for an APY of 1.40%, although any additional funds in the Simple Checking account earn an APY of 0.01% only.
- Simple has a huge ATM network of 40,000 ATMs.
- FDIC insurance (up to $250,000).
- While protected goals earn an APY of 1.40%, your remaining funds will earn a low APY of 0.01%.
- You will have to pay up to a 1% fee for international debit card usage.
- Simple doesn’t reimburse ATM fees incurred on out-of-network ATM usage.
Learn more about Simple Checking Account here.
Best fee-free checking account with a large ATM network.
If you’re looking for a reputable bank that offers a simple checking account with unlimited ATM fee reimbursements, TD Bank Beyond Checking account is worth a look.
You can open a TD Bank Beyond Checking account with a minimum deposit of $0. The account comes with a maintenance charge of $25, but you can waive these charges by satisfying certain conditions. You can maintain $2,500 in minimum daily balance, receive $5,000 or more in monthly deposits, or maintain $25,000 or more across eligible TD accounts to waive the maintenance fees.
You don’t have to pay any ATM charges across the US as long as you maintain a daily balance of $2,500 or higher. The bank provides free standard checks, paper statements, money orders, incoming wire transfers, or stop payment items.
Having a TD Bank Beyond Checking account qualifies you for a discount on personal loans and home equity loans interest rates. Any funds up to $10,000 earn an APY of 0.01%, 0.02% APY for funds between $10,000 and $49,999.99, and 0.03% for funds above $50,000.
- You can open a TD Bank Beyond Checking account with a $0 minimum deposit.
- TD Bank offers maintenance fees waiver ($25) as long as you keep a daily balance of $2,500, or receive $5,000 or more in direct deposits, or maintain $25,000 or more across eligible TD Bank accounts.
- TD Bank provides unlimited ATM fee reimbursements for account balances above $2,500.
- The conditions to qualify for maintenance fees waiver are hard to qualify.
- TD Bank Beyond Checking account offers low APYs across different interest tiers.
- You’ll need a minimum daily balance of $2,500 for ATM fee reimbursements.
If you need more information about TD Bank Beyond Checking Account, visit the official website of TD Bank.
Best fee-free checking account with a large network.
Wells Fargo doesn’t require any introduction. The mere fact that one out of three American households maintain an account at Wells Fargo is enough to indicate its penetration rate in the country.
Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account is ideal for consumers looking for a full-service banking experience with the comfort of online banking. You can open the Everyday Checking account with as little as $25. The account comes with a maintenance fee of $10, which is easily avoidable. You have to satisfy one of these conditions; do 10 or more debit card transactions in a month, maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more, make direct deposits of $500 or more, or if you’re a college student between 17 and 24 years.
Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account comes with 24/7 fraud protection, zero liability protection (as long as you follow their reporting guidelines), and alerts for any account-related activities.
- Wells Fargo’s huge branch and ATM network (13,000) is one of the primary benefits of the Everyday Checking account.
- You can waive account management fees by satisfying any of the listed conditions.
- Wells Fargo offers intuitive budgeting and financial management tools within its mobile app itself.
- Wells Fargo is a full-service bank, which means you won’t have to look anywhere else for other banking products.
- Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account doesn’t offer any interest on your account balance.
- You can comfortably find fee-free checking accounts with other providers.
You can learn more about Wells Fargo Every Checking account here.
Now that we have listed some of the best checking accounts, let’s find out the benefits of having one.
First and foremost is the convenience checking accounts offer for daily financial transactions. You can withdraw cash at any ATM, go shopping with debit cards, and withdraw funds even if you do not have internet access.
Secondly, checking accounts allow you to schedule bill payments, taking away the worry of making payments every month. Also, you have a permanent record to prove the payment of any dues.
Unlike saving accounts, checking accounts do not have a transaction limit, which means you can deposit and withdraw funds as many times as you please. We do recommend using network ATMs to minimize transaction charges.
A growing number of online banks are offering smart financial management tools with checking accounts. Not only do these accounts make it easier to track your spending, but you can also use automatic transfers to boost your savings. You can analyze spending patterns through monthly reports and adjust your budget accordingly.
Last but not least, checking accounts offer interest on your account balance, which makes it a better alternative than keeping cash.
We have already established the benefits of checking accounts, so the next step is to choose the best checking accounts. Let’s find out some critical factors that you should consider when choosing a checking account.
1. Account maintenance charges.
Americans pay between $5.61 and $15.05 in account maintenance charges, so this is the first thing you should pay attention to. Most of the online banks are waiving off maintenance charges, but you don’t get access to branch banking and other trade-offs. Look for accounts that do not charge maintenance fees or waive it off by satisfying some basic conditions.
2. Additional fees.
A checking account comes with a myriad of additional charges, including transfer fees, annual charges, debit card charges or re-issuance fees, paid checks, and overdraft charges. The trick is to either choose an account that minimizes these charges or maintains transparency when it comes to these extra fees.
3. Overdraft protection.
We already discussed the overdraft fees banks charge and how it has grown over the years. In fact, some banks may charge overdraft fees up to five times a day. Choose an account that offers overdraft protection either by linking a savings account with your checking account or declining excess fund withdrawal requests.
4. Interest rates.
Most of the traditional banks offer lower interest rates on checking account balances, but the equation is changing with more online banks coming into the picture. You can go with a bank that offers a decent APY without sacrificing other features. Our research reveals that the difference between national APY and those on our list could be as high as 80x (times).
5. ATM and branch network.
One of the primary reasons people prefer checking accounts is the convenience of bank-branching and access to funds through ATMs. If you are habitual of visiting ATMs often or prefer branch-banking, go with a bank that has a huge network. Also, be careful about ATM charges. A single ATM transaction could cost as much as $5. It might be better to choose banks that offer ATM fee reimbursements.
6. Digital and mobile banking features.
It’s hard to overlook the convenience of digital and mobile banking. Some features, such as mobile check deposits, can save multiple drives or weekly drives to the bank. Also, if you’re paid through checks, you may want to choose a bank with branch access or online banks that process physical checks sent via mail.
7. Safety of funds.
Checking accounts come with FDIC insurance, which means your funds are safe against any bank failures or bankruptcies, up to $250,000. Make sure that the bank is an FDIC member. In case you’re choosing a credit union, look out for NCUA insurance protection.
8. Security of the platform.
As many as 41% of Americans cite the fear of account or personal information theft as their biggest worry when considering banking services. Choose a bank that uses the best security methods (encryption) while providing identity theft or fraud alerts. You may want to work with a bank that offers fraud protection at a competitive cost.
9. Transfer or withdrawal limits.
Checking accounts are used for daily expenses, bill payments, and cash withdrawals. Make sure that your bank doesn’t have a transfer or withdrawal limit (daily or monthly). Our research indicates that some banks put a limit on the number of daily transactions and the net account balance you can transfer. Also, some online banks may take slightly longer to process checks or transfers, so make sure to have a reserve to fall bank on.
10. Your banking preferences.
In addition to all of these factors, we recommend choosing a bank that suits your banking requirements. If you deal with checks or need cash deposits, branch access is a must for you. On the contrary, if you rarely visit the branch, online banks may offer better features and higher APY. You can start by listing down all the features you need in a checking account and start comparing different checking accounts accordingly.
A checking account is one of the basic banking accounts you need for your everyday financial requirements. Most people do not pay any attention to maintenance charges or other additional fees associated with checking accounts, which is a huge mistake. You may end up paying hundreds of dollars in these charges every year.
Here is what we recommend when choosing the best checking accounts:
- Be alert about hidden charges or maintenance fees.
- Choose a checking account that suits your banking requirements.
- We recommend checking accounts with a huge ATM network or fee reimbursements for out-of-network ATM usage.
That covers how you can choose the right checking account while earning decent returns. If you have any more questions, share them with us in the comments section.