Updated February 11, 2020 8:42 PM PT

Best Free Checking Accounts

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Many banks advertise free checking accounts. But does free really mean free? And what's the right one for your needs? Read on for our list of top free checking accounts.

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Is Free Checking Really Free?

Not all "free" checking accounts are equal. While some have no monthly fees, other accounts come with an asterisk, like minimum account balances or direct deposit requirements.

Make sure there are no strings attached to your free checking account by asking the following questions:

  • Does the account have a monthly maintenance fee?
  • Is there a monthly minimum balance requirement?
  • Am I required to have direct deposit?
  • What types of other fees are associated with the account?
  • What services are not included with free checking? (e.g., wire transfers)

A truly free checking account should mean zero monthly maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements.

Ask for a copy of the bank's fee schedule before you commit. It'll help you avoid any unnecessary charges associated with your checking account.

In this article, we'll tell you about:

BEST FREE CHECKING ACCOUNTS

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Besides no monthly fees, free checking accounts may offer money-saving perks like:

  • ATM fee reimbursement
  • Overdraft protection
  • Online bill pay

Read on to learn more about the top free checking accounts.

Where can I find free checking accounts?

Your best bet for a free checking account is an online bank. These institutions don't have the overhead costs of traditional banks with physical branch locations. Oftentimes, they'll pass those savings on to you through no-fee accounts.

Local credit unions, local banks, and national banks may also offer free checking accounts. But be sure to read the fine print regarding things like minimum balance requirements just to be sure.

Radius Bank Rewards Checking

    Radius Bank

    Rewards Checking

    • Earn 1.00% cash back on purchases when you use your Radius debit card.
    • Earn 1.20% APY on balances of $100,000 & up.
    • Earn 1.00% APY on balances of $2,500–$99,999.99.

Radius Bank - an online bank headquartered in Boston - offers one of the best rewards checking accounts on the market. You have the opportunity to earn cashback rewards as well as a competitive interest rate.

Radius Rewards Checking features:

  • No monthly service fee
  • No minimum balance requirements (after $100 initial deposit to open account)
  • Interest for balances $2,500 and more
  • Free ATMs worldwide
  • $0 for first order of checks
  • Up to 2 days early access to direct deposit funds

Why We Like It
Radius Rewards Checking gives you unlimited 1% cashback on your debit card. However, there are some conditions. You only qualify for cashback rewards if you: receive $2,500 worth of direct deposits each month, OR keep an average balance of $2,500 or more.

In addition, you can also earn interest on your account balance. For balances of $2,500 - $99,999.99, you earn 1.00% APY. For balances $100,000 and more, you earn 1.20% APY.

Discover Cashback Checking

    Discover Bank

    Online Checking Account - Earn Cash Back

    • 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month
    • No fees
    • Access to over 60,000 no-fee ATMs in the U.S.

Discover took a popular credit card perk and applied it to their debit card. With the Cashback Checking account, customers can earn 1% cash back on debit card purchases, up to $3,000 each month.

Discover operates as a fully online bank accessible to customers through its user-friendly app. The app handles your everyday banking needs and is available on Android and Apple devices.

The Cashback Checking account has:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Cash back on debit card purchases
  • No fees for standard or official bank checks, stop payment orders, insufficient funds, and more
  • No initial deposit requirement

Customer Service
Discover Bank offers 24/7 phone and email customer support from a U.S.-based team. Simply call (302) 323-7810 or send a message through the online Message Center.

Why We Like It
Discover Cashback Debit earns customers cash back on purchases instead of charging fees. But customers can save even more through Discover's no-fee policies on a variety of banking activities.

Checking Accounts with Free ATM Transactions

Here are several checking accounts that charge no ATM fees AND reimburse any fees charged at any ATM in the U.S.:

  • Axos Reward Checking
  • Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking (includes international fees)
  • Radius Bank Rewards Checking (includes international fees)
Some banks, like Capital One, Ally, and Citibank, offer free account access using the Allpoint ATM network. That means customers won't pay fees for transactions at more than 55,000 domestic ATMs. They may, however, be charged fees for using out-of-network ATMS.

Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

    Ally Bank

    Interest Checking

    • 0.10% APY for daily balances less than $15,000
    • 0.50% APY for daily balance over $15,000
    • Be reimbursed $10/month for ATMs outside of Ally Network
    • $0 Minimum Opening Deposit
    • No Fees to Open or Maintain Account
    • FDIC insured
    • Daily Compounding Interest

Ally Bank is an online bank that provides all the services of a brick-and-mortar bank, such as bill pay, mobile check deposit, and direct deposit. They partner with Zelle to allow customers easy money transfers to friends and family using just an email address or phone number.

Ally's totally free checking account has:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Tiered interest based on account balance
  • Free online bill pay
  • No initial deposit requirement
  • 24/7 customer service

Why We Like It
Ally provides a free and convenient online checking account option while paying you interest on your balance. Plus, Ally reimburses customers up to $10 per statement cycle for ATM fees. But you may not need it because they offer customers free access to over 43,000 ATMs in the Allpoint network.

Can I open a checking account with no money?

Several checking accounts will allow you to open an account without an initial deposit. These include:

  • Ally Bank: Interest Checking Account
  • Discover: Cashback Debit
  • Capital One: 360 Checking
  • Simple: Checking Account
  • Chime: Free Mobile Checking

Axos Reward Checking

Axos' innovative approach to banking allows consumers to earn up to 1.25% APY with their Rewards Checking account. It features:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Early access to direct deposit funds
  • Interest bearing
  • $50 minimum deposit to open account

Why We Like It
Axos offers customers unlimited fee reimbursement on all U.S. ATMs. Customers won't pay overdraft or insufficient fund fees, either. Plus, you can ask for your first 50 checks for free when you open your account.

Capital One 360 Checking

Originally a credit card issuer, Capital One now offers online banking services, including the interest-bearing 360 Checking account. It features:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Mobile check deposits and online bill pay
  • Access to 39,000 fee-free ATMs through the Allpoint network
  • No initial deposit requirement
  • Free first set of checks

Why We Like It
Capital One 360 Checking doesn't charge foreign transaction fees when consumers use their debit card abroad. They also have several options to help you avoid overdraft fees, such as a one-day grace period to add funds to your overdrawn account.

Which checking accounts have no minimum deposit?
  • Ally Bank Interest Checking
  • Capital One 360 Checking
  • Discover Cashback Checking
  • Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking
  • Simple Bank

SIMPLE Checking Account

The online bank Simple offers an app with user-friendly features to help you budget and save for future goals. Its Safe to Spend feature projects your account balance with future bills and savings goals taken into consideration.

Simple's checking account has:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Interest bearing
  • Helpful budgeting features
  • Visa debit card

Why We Like It
With Simple, you won't have fees for closing an account, stop payments, debit card replacement, or ATM use. But customers can be charged for using an out-of-network ATM. Their app also helps you set financial goals and automatically save towards them based on a schedule that you decide.

Chime Free Mobile Checking

Chime is a leader in the mobile banking platform. Its app is loaded with great features. Their Get Paid Early service gives you access to your direct deposit two days early. Plus, Chime lets you automate your savings by rounding up purchases and saving the change.

Chime's checking account has:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Short, simple signup
  • Automatic savings option
  • No initial deposit requirement
  • Visa debit card
  • 24/7 customer service through the app or email

Why We Like It
With Chime, you won't see fees for overdrafts, monthly service fees, or foreign transaction fees when using your debit card. Plus, their large ATM network makes it easy to withdraw cash without the surcharge.

Best Checking Accounts with Avoidable Fees

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The accounts below have fees that can be waived by meeting specific requirements. Read on to learn the benefits of each.

Chase Total Checking

    Chase

    Chase Total Checking®

    • Enjoy a $200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit
    • Access to 16,000 Chase ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches
    • Chase Mobile® app - Manage your accounts, deposit checks, transfer money and more -- all from your device.
    • Open your account online now.
    • Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. For branch locations, visit locator.chase.com.

Chase has over 16,000 ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches that customers have access to nationwide. Their large span of physical locations, along with their mobile banking and 24/7 customer support, make Chase a convenient option among consumers. Plus, they have plenty of other financial services, like credit cards, investments, and savings accounts.

Chase Total Checking has a monthly maintenance fee of $12. It can be waived by doing one of the following:

  • Maintaining a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more in your account

  • Having monthly direct deposits totaling $500 or more into your account

  • Maintaining an average daily balance of $5,000 across qualifying Chase accounts

Why We Like It
Chase frequently offers generous bonuses for new customers opening accounts. In addition, you can access your Total Checking account through the Chase app. This includes actions like sending money to friends with Zelle, depositing checks with a picture, and signing up for account alerts.

Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking

Bank of America's nationwide presence means you can find a branch virtually anywhere you live in the U.S. They also offer 24/7 customer support. Bank of America's virtual financial assistant, Erica, helps you manage bills, track your FICO score, lock your debit card, and more.

The Bank of America Advantage Plus checking has a monthly maintenance fee of $12. It can be waived through one of the following:

  • Maintaining a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more in your account

  • Having direct deposits totaling $250 or more into your account

  • Enrolling in the Preferred Rewards program

  • Being a student under 24 years old in high school, college, university, or a vocational program

Why We Like It
Bank of America offers bonuses for new customers opening a checking account. You'll also earn cash back with each purchase when you use your debit card with BankAmeriDeals. You can select a bonus category to earn even more cash back.

Wells Fargo Preferred Checking

Wells Fargo has a robust online banking feature. But you can also access over 5,400 physical branches and over 13,000 ATMs with your Visa debit card. They partner with Zelle, allowing customers to send and receive money with friends and family without sharing personal banking information.

Wells Fargo's Preferred Checking account has a $15 monthly maintenance fee that can be waived by one of the following:

  • Maintaining $10,000 in combined minimum deposit balances

  • Having qualifying direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more

  • Linking a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to the account

Why We Like It
Unlike most checking account options on our list, Wells Fargo Preferred Checking earns interest. Customers also get a $10 discount on personal style checks and no-fee cashier's checks.

What to Look for in a Free Checking Account

When looking for a free checking account, you'll have plenty of options. Here are some things to consider as you review your choices:

  • Fees
    Even accounts with no monthly maintenance fee or minimum balance requirement can end up costing you money. Fees for everything from cashier's checks to insufficient funds charges can vary greatly among banks. Do some research before you commit.

  • Security
    Like traditional banks, the online kind should be FDIC insured. This means that if the bank defaults, the government will pay you back everything you had in the account (up to $250,000). They should also feature top-of-the-line encryption and other measures to protect your personal data and funds.

  • Website & Mobile App
    Your bank should let you handle your business from whenever and wherever you want. Choose one with a user-friendly website, mobile platform, and features like online bill pay and mobile check deposits.

BOTTOM LINE

With the rise of online banks, free checking accounts are becoming more popular. Compare accounts-and banks-to find the best fit for your financial needs. Some banks offer additional perks or bonuses.

And remember, "free" checking isn't always free. Do some research or speak to a bank representative to see if your fee-free checking comes with requirements like minimum account balances or direct deposits.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

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