Did you know that the average bank charges around $13 per month for a checking account?
That’s insane. That’s almost $160 per year. Not to mention minimum balance fees, ATM fees, cashier’s check fees, debit card transaction fees, foreign transaction fees, and inactivity fees.
Look, I’m not one to worry about minor expenses.
But I think it’s ludicrous to spend money on something when there’s amazing options for free.
You shouldn’t be spending a single dollar on your checking account. If you have been, make the switch now. You’ll save thousands of dollars over your lifetime.
The 8 Best Free Checking Accounts
For free checking accounts, these are our top picks.
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account
The Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account offers a .15% APY with no monthly fee and no minimum balance if you have a Schwab One brokerage account. Charles Schwab offers unlimited ATM rebates and doesn’t charge for any foreign transactions.
If you travel a lot, the lack of foreign transaction fees and ATM fee rebates can save you a lot of money. Charles Schwab has an app that allows you to access all of your accounts in one place. You can use the app to pay bills or make mobile payments with vendors.
Having to set up a brokerage account is a minor inconvenience but there’s not fees or requirements with it. You can keep a balance of $0 without any issues.
Ally Bank Interest Checking
When people think of online banking, Ally is usually one that instantly comes to mind. The Ally Interest Checking is a great option for an online checking account. Ally requires no minimum balance and only charges $9 for overdraft fees. The national average is around $33. Accounts with balances less than $15,000 earn .10% APY and balances over $15,000 earn .50% APY.
Ally doesn’t charge any ATM fees and offers unlimited reimbursement for any charges you pay at a third-party ATM. The refunds are issued each month. Ally has a mobile app that allows you to deposit via photo, send money to a friend, pay bills, and execute transfers. Ally does charge a small fee for international transactions and stop payment transactions.
The biggest downside is that Ally doesn’t have any retail branches. You’ll need to do 100% of your banking online. If you’re okay with that, it’s a fantastic option.
Discover/ Cashback Debit-Checking Account
Discover’s Cashback Debit-Checking has some of the fewest fees. There’s no maintenance fee, ATM fee, check fee, card replacement fees, minimum balance, or online bill pay fees.
What really takes this card over the top is the ability to earn 1% cashback on every purchase up to $3,000 per month with your debit card. That’s $30 per month in cashback rewards. It’s one of the only checking accounts that offers rewards. To be honest, you should probably get a rewards credit card if this is appealing to you. But if you don’t want a credit card, this account is one way to get rewards on your debit card.
Axos Bank / Essentials Checking
Axos Bank offers a free checking account with an optional feature to have your paycheck deposited up to two days earlier. The Essentials Checking account offers no maintenance fees, no overdraft fees, no monthly balance requirement, and they reimburse any domestic ATM fees.
Axos Bank also offers a cashback checking account that offers up to 1% cashback on eligible purchases if you maintain a $1,500 balance in your account.
Radius Bank / Rewards Checking
Radius Bank is a great free checking account option for people who like earning cashback and interest. Radius Bank offers 1% cash back on purchases made with the checking/debit card. Additionally, account holders earn 1% cashback on balances of $2500 or more.
The Radius Bank Rewards Checking account has no monthly fees or ATM fees. The bank even reimburses any ATM fee. You need to have at least $100 to open the account, but there is no balance requirement after you open the account.
Chime Deposit Account
If you’re looking for a checking account that can do a little more, Chime might be the perfect solution. Not only does the mobile checking account boast no maintenance fees, but you also get free overdraft protection up to $100. You won’t pay any ATM fees, transfer fees, or foreign transaction fees either.
Another perk: you can get your paycheck up to two days early and you can automate saving so that Chime pulls a set percentage from your deposits and puts them into a separate savings account.
T-Mobile is most well-known for its cell phone service. But, this major brand also offers a free online checking account. All balances earn a 1% interest rate. If you have a T-Mobile wireless account, you can earn 4% APY on balances up to $3,000 and 1% on balances over $3,000. To qualify for the higher APY, customers will have to deposit at least $200 per month to their account.
The account also offers no ATM fees, no minimum balance, and no overdraft fee. You can set up automatic bill pay via the mobile app and even make deposits by taking a picture of your check.
Capital One 360 Checking
Capital One, while most well-known for its credit card services, also offers a fee-free online checking account. The account has no minimum balance. As an added perk, Capital One offers your first checkbook free. When you open a Capital One 360 Checking Account, you have access to more than 39,000 fee-free ATMs, free online bill pay, and the ability to deposit your checks through your mobile app.
The free checking account offers a .20% interest rate on all balances. While that certainly isn’t the highest, Capital One has one of the most user-friendly apps, and they have accounts you can set up for your teenager.
If you have Capital One credit cards already, using this checking account is a good way to consolidate accounts and simplify your life.
How to Choose The Best Free Checking Accounts
If you’re on the hunt for a good free checking account, any of the ones we recommend above offer more than enough to meet the needs of most folks. When selecting the options for our list, we considered the following criteria: convenience, bank reputation, extra features, and fees.
Whether you opt for one of our recommended accounts or choose your own, these criteria can help you make a choice that works best for your needs.
Convenience and Accessibility
When we were looking at free checking accounts, we wanted to come up with options that were accessible to anyone. We stayed away from credit unions and localized options. While credit unions can offer many benefits, many of them are restricted to certain professions or locations. If you have a credit union in your neighborhood, consider looking into whether or not they offer free checking accounts.
While many folks can do all their banking online, you may need or prefer a physical branch. In that case, stay away from the online-only options like Ally and Chime. Many of the banks in our list have a limited number of locations. I’d check each to see if a branch is close enough for you. If none of them are a fit, I’d do a search for all the banks that are close enough, then check each of offerings one-by-one.
Most banks have great reputations. But there’s a few that we avoid at all costs.
We avoided included companies like Bank of America and Wells Fargo who ranked low on Forbes list of best and worst banks. The Harris Poll also conducted a study looking at the 100 most visible companies in the United States. The study asked people to rank the companies by reputation. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs all found themselves in the bottom.
There’s so many great free checking accounts out there, there’s no reason to pick a bank with a sketchy reputation.
Gone are the days when a financial institution can win over many customers with the simple promise of no maintenance fees. The free checking accounts we included on this list offered additional features like mobile deposits, early check deposits, and rewards. When picking between 2-3 accounts that all seem like a good fit, pick the one with the rewards you’ll use the most.
We avoided accounts that had any fees, but there are a few that charge overdraft fees. These checking accounts offered benefits that outweighed the optional fees you could run into.
Definitely avoid maintenance, minimum balance, and ATM fees. There’s no reason to have a checking account with them.
It’s worth noting that while most of the checking accounts we chose offer cashback or APY, that doesn’t really matter. You should use rewards cards to get more cash back and you’ll get a much higher APY with a savings account. The biggest benefit of the majority of these accounts is that they offer free transaction fees and no monthly fees. The savings alone are worth your time. The rest of the perks should be considered an added bonus.
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