Best Free Checking Accounts of December 2023

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Want to dodge hefty banking fees? Learn about the best free checking accounts in this detailed guide. No hidden charges or high balances needed.

What is the best bank for free checking?

Many people think that banking has to be expensive. But it does not have to be that way.

In fact, you can enjoy the conveniences of online, branch, or ATM banking without the pesky fees.

These great no-fee checking accounts prove you don't have to break the bank, to bank.

Checking AccountBest ForMinimum Deposit
Discover Cashback DebitCashback Rewards$0
Axos Rewards CheckingCan earn high interest rate$50
Chime Free Mobile CheckingExcellent mobile app; no credit check$0
Chase Total Checking®Lots of branches; new customer cash bonus$0
Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking®Large national bank$100
Aspiration Spend & SaveSustainable banking services$10
BMO Smart Advantage CheckingAffordable checking$25
Ally Bank Interest CheckingFull-service online banking with interest$0
Betterment CheckingATM fees reimbursed worldwide$0
Varo Bank AccountSecond chance banking$0
Capital One 360 CheckingNo foreign transaction fees$0
Nationwide Advantage CheckingPotential for higher interest rate$50
Bluevine Business CheckingFree business checking$0

Tip: A checking account is a great way to teach kids about money management. Find out which accounts you can open for your child and how to choose a first checking account.

What are you most interested in?

Discover Cashback Checking

The Discover Cashback Debit Account is a great choice for free banking. There are no monthly fees, and you pay $0 for checks, stop payment orders, and insufficient funds.

Plus, you earn 1% cash back when you use your debit card (on up to $3,000 in purchases each month). That's potential for some pretty awesome earnings.

But remember, cash back is only for debit card purchases, not for ATM transactions, money orders, paying friends, or loan payments. See website for details.

You get free ATM withdrawals at over 60,000 locations, including ATMs in popular grocery stores, CVS, Walgreens, and Costco.

Customer Service
Discover Bank offers 24/7 phone and email customer support from a U.S.-based team. Simply call 1-801-451-3737 or send a message through the online Message Center.

Discover's cashback program is great if you typically spend a lot on your debit card. But if you like to keep a larger balance instead, the next option is for you.

Axos Rewards Checking

Not only does the Axos Bank Rewards Checking Account has no fees, you can even earn Up to 3.30% interest. That's considered really high right now.

Axos doesn't have its own ATM network. But it gives unlimited rebates of domestic ATM fees, so you can use any machine you want.

What is APY
In simple terms, annual percentage yield (APY) is how much your money will grow in one year, with compounding interest. This assumes that you don't add or withdraw money. For example, if you deposit $1,000 into an account with 1% APY, you'll earn $10 by end of one year.

One thing to note: Axos does tend to require good banking history for approval. If you have some past banking mistakes, no worries, the next bank accepts everyone.

Chime Free Mobile Checking

Chime is a leader in mobile app. The checking account has a Get Paid Early service that lets you receive your direct deposit payment 2 days early.

It also has a cool SpotMe feature, where Chime will help you cover up to $200 (or more) for free. You repay it when you make a deposit. SpotMe only covers debit card purchases, ATM withdrawals, and cash-back transactions.[1]

You can be eligible if you get at least $200 in direct deposits every month. Your SpotMe limit is based on your account history.

Plus, Chime doesn't run any credit checks or reports. So it's a great choice for those with bad credit or poor banking history. It's also ideal for college students who may not have any history.

Should you use an online bank?
Because online banks have less overhead, they don't have as many fees and can even offer interest. They usually partner with nationwide ATM networks so you can withdraw money easily. And you can still do tasks like pay bills online and deposit checks by taking a photo with the mobile app.

Not sure about purely mobile banking? You may consider a national bank if you like doing banking in person.

Chase Total Checking

Chase is one of the largest banks in the US. Even though it's so big, Chase has great customer service reviews, plus a highly-rated mobile app.

Chase Total Checking® isn't exactly free, but it's easy to waive the $12 monthly maintenance fee. All you need is at least $500 in direct deposits. If you can do that, then you don't need to worry about maintaining a minimum balance.

You can also get a Chase bonus as a new customer. You only need to set up direct deposit to receive the bonus - no minimum deposit required!

Do free checking accounts give bonuses & pay interest?
Yes, some do! Here's a list of free checking accounts that either have a welcome bonus or offer interest.

Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking®

Bank of America also offers bonuses for new customers opening a checking account.

The mobile app is packed with features, like built-in budgeting tools and cash rewards program. You also get Erica, the virtual assistant, who can help you manage bills, track your FICO score, lock your debit card, and more.

The monthly fee is easily waived with just a direct deposit of $250 per statement cycle.

Large commercial banks can get a bad rep for being soulless. If you're looking for something with more heart, the next one may be perfect for you.

Aspiration Spend & Save

Aspiration Spend & Save aims to make the world a better place while banking.

Your deposits do not go towards fossil fuel projects that harm the planet. Plus, you can plant a tree with every purchase. Aspiration will round up to the nearest dollar and plant a tree with your spare change.

You pay what you think is fair (even if it's $0). Aspiration donates 10% of whatever people give to charities that help struggling Americans.

Are free checking accounts safe?
Yes, free checking accounts are safe as long as the bank is a member of FDIC. This means if the bank fails, the government insures your money up to $250,000.

BMO Smart Advantage Checking

BMO is a reputable financial institution primarily serving the Midwest region. It also has branches in Arizona and Florida. Or you can easily apply online or by phone.

Their Smart Advantage Checking is another excellent option for free checking. It has no fees on most everyday banking transactions, which spell good news for the budget-conscious.

Although they charge overdraft fees, note that they are waived if the overdraft was due to an ATM withdrawal or a one-time debit transaction.

Ally Bank Interest Checking

Ally Bank is a full-service online bank with checking, savings, IRAs, investment services, and loans. It's a great choice if you want to handle all your finances under one institution.

The Interest Checking account has no minimum requirements and offers interest on all balances. 0.10% APY for daily balances less than $15,000. 0.25% APY for daily balances over $15,000

Other benefits include no overdraft fees, free standard checks, and free access to over 43,000+ Allpoint ATMs. If you do go out of network, Ally will reimburse up to $10 of other banks' ATM fees each statement cycle.

Travel abroad often? This next one is better for frequent travelers to save money.

Betterment Checking

Betterment, the popular robo-advisor, also offers a free checking account backed by NBKC Bank.

Just like a traditional bank account, you get a Visa debit card, mobile check deposit, paycheck direct deposit, and online bill pay. Oh, and there's no overdraft fee.

The really cool thing is that it reimburses all ATM fees worldwide, so you can travel anywhere with your card. Plus, all foreign transaction fees are reimbursed too.

Varo Bank Account

Varo gives you access to your direct deposits 2 days early. The account has no overdraft fees and no foreign transaction fees.

There's a Varo Advance feature that lets you instantly borrow up to $100 cash. You just need to pay it back within 30 days. There's no interest, but there is a small fee based on the amount you borrow. Borrowing $100 will have a $6 fee.

It also offers a savings deposit account that pays 3.00% APY on entire balance, with chance to earn 5.00% APY (on up to $5,000) when you meet requirements.

To get the higher tier APY, you must receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits, don't exceed $5,000 in daily savings balance per month, and keep checking and savings balances above $0.

Varo does not check your credit score or banking history, so it's also great for those needing a second chance.

Capital One 360 Checking

Capital One offers a solid basic checking account with a little bit of interest (no requirements to earn). Plus, the debit card charges no foreign transaction fees.

It also offers several overdraft programs. For example, if you add funds to your overdrawn account within one day, you won't pay a fee.

Capital One differentiates itself from other banks by offering more personalized service, like the Capital One Cafes where you can get in-person financial advice. But the cafes are only in larger cities.

Nationwide Advantage Checking

Nationwide is partnered with Axos Bank to provide banking services.

It's not too hard to earn up to 0.90% APY on your checking balance. You just need to get at least $1,000 in monthly direct deposits and make at least 10 debit card purchases each month.

There are no balance requirements, overdraft fees, or non-sufficient funds fees.

Bluevine Business Checking

Bluevine is a great choice for small business owners and freelancers. Not only does it have no monthly fee, you have the potential to earn a high APY.

Even though Bluevine is an online-only bank, it has a lot of the same features as traditional banks. So it's a good fit for a lot of types of businesses.

You get free cash withdrawals from over 38,000 MoneyPass ATMs. And if you need to deposit cash, you can do so at 90,000+ Green Dot locations (with a small fee). It even gives you 2 free checkbooks.

You can create up to 5 sub-accounts for free. They get their own account numbers. And they can earn interest too (up to $250k in combined balance across all the accounts for Standard tier and up to $3M for Premier tier).

Bluevine offers an optional Premier tier which costs $95 (can be waived with $100k average daily balance and $5k debit card spend). This upgrade plan gives you an even higher 4.25% APY, reduced fees on most payment types, and priority customer support.

Other Free Checking Accounts

If none of the above seem like the right fit for you, here are some other checking account offers.

Wells Fargo Everyday Checking
This account is free for account owners 17-24 years old. For all others, you can waive the $10 monthly maintenance fee with a $500 minimum daily balance or direct deposits of at least $500 each statement cycle.

CIT eChecking
CIT Bank offers a basic checkless checking account with a little bit of interest. CIT Bank doesn't have an ATM network, but it will reimburse up to $30 in other bank ATM fees every month.

Axos CashBack Checking
Axos also offers a CashBack Checking account with no monthly fee. You can get up to 1% cash back rewards on purchases if you maintain a $1,500.00 average daily collected balance.

Schwab High Yield Investor Checking
Schwab checking account is a favorite for frequent travelers because it has no foreign transaction fees and reimburses all ATM fees worldwide.

FNBO Direct Online Checking
FNBO Direct offers a little bit of interest on all balances. It's only $1 to open and has no monthly service charges.

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking
Alliant High-Rate Checking has no monthly fees and offers a decent interest rate. To earn that interest, you must opt for eStatements and have a recurring monthly electronic deposit.

Anyone is eligible to join Alliant Credit Union by becoming a member of Foster Care to Success. Alliant will even pay a $5 membership fee.[2]

Is free checking really free?

Not all "free" checking accounts are equal. Some accounts may have requirements you have to meet.

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.

How to Avoid Overdraft Fees

Overdrafts is one of the biggest banking problems for Americans. In just one year, 54% of Americans overdrafted 2-5 times.[3] With overdraft fees averaging $35 each, it can add up fast.

So how can you avoid these stressful fees? Luckily, banks usually have some overdraft programs to help.

  • Sign up for text alerts. You can get an alert when your account balance is low. This way, you can add more money before an overdraft happens.

  • Opt out of overdraft coverage. If you don't sign up for overdraft coverage, your bank will auto-decline transactions if you don't have enough money. This could be embarrassing at the cash register, but hey, at least you avoid the fee.

    When a bank says there's no overdraft fee, what it means is that they will just decline transactions when you don't have enough funds. It doesn't mean that you can overdraw and have a negative balance.

  • Grace period to add funds. Some banks give you a chance to avoid the fee if you deposit or transfer money to cover the overdraft by a deadline. This is not a bad option if you realize you've overdrawn your account and can act quickly.

    For example, Chase gives you until end of the business day to add funds. Capital One gives you 1 day to add funds.

  • Overdraft transfer protection. This is when you link a savings account with your checking account. When you overdraw, money can automatically be transferred from your savings to cover the amount.

    But be aware - some banks charge you for the transfer. Some banks will make the transfer for free (like Chase). And note that usual 6/mo transaction limits still apply for savings accounts.

  • Overdraft line of credit. This option isn't available for all banks. But some will let you take out a line of credit to cover overdrafts. You pay it back with interest.

Can you have $0 in your checking account?
It's okay if your checking account balance falls to $0. However, if it goes below $0, you could incur overdraft fees. And be careful that some checking accounts charge a monthly fee unless you maintain a certain balance.

If you have a free checking account with no minimums, you could have $0 balance. But if you leave your account empty and never use it, the bank may automatically close your account.

Hidden Fees to Watch Out For

Even if your account has no service fee, here are common hidden fees you may encounter.

  • Overdraft fee: This is when you don't have enough money to cover a purchase, but your bank covers it. The average bank charges $30-$35 each overdraft. And you can be charged multiple times in a single day.

  • Non sufficient funds: This is triggered when your bank rejects a payment because your account doesn't have enough money. Even if you have overdraft protection, you can still be charged this fee if you bounce a check. This is also called a returned item fee.

  • Out of network ATM withdrawals: Most banks have their own ATM network. If you're in a pinch and need to use a random ATM, you'll be charged a fee - usually around $2.50 - $3.50. Some banks will reimburse out-of-network ATM fees.

  • Paper checks: Still need to write checks? Some banks charge you for each set of checks. If you write checks often, look for an account with free checks.

  • Inactivity fee: Some banks charge an inactivity fee if you don't have any banking activities. It can be as much as $5 - $20 per month. You can avoid this fee by simply making any deposit or withdrawal, or using the debit card just once.

  • Paper statement: As more banks are going green, they may charge a fee for printing and mailing statements to you. To avoid this, simply opt-out and sign up for electronic statements only.

  • Wire transfers: Wire transfers are usually used to transfer money internationally or for a big purchase (like a house down payment). They usually cost $25 - $50 each. Some banks may offer free domestic wire transfers.

What Experts Say

As part of our series on saving and banking, CreditDonkey assembled a panel of industry experts to answer readers' most pressing questions.

Here's what they said:

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 brick-and-mortar banks. Oftentimes, they'll pass those savings on to you through no-fee accounts.

Local credit unions and community banks may also offer free checking accounts. But some may have a minimum balance requirement in order to waive the monthly service fee.

If you can easily meet the requirements, then don't overlook those either if they offer the convenience and features you need.

What are minimum deposit and balance requirements?
The minimum deposit is how much money you need to open a checking account (usually $0-$100). The minimum balance is how much you need to maintain in your account, to avoid a monthly fee. True free checking accounts don't have a minimum balance requirement.

What is the easiest checking account to open?

If you've had some past banking mistakes, it can be hard to open a traditional checking account.

Most banks will do a soft credit check and run your banking history through the ChexSystem. They can deny you if you've had too many overdrafts or a bad credit score.

But not all hope is lost. Second-chance banking offers you an opportunity to get back into the game, so you can rebuild your banking history.

Here are the easiest checking accounts to open that don't use the ChexSystem or require credit approval.

  • Chime: No monthly fees, balance requirements, or overdraft fees. Plus, you can get your direct deposit 2 days early.

  • Varo: No monthly service charges, minimums, or overdraft fees. Offers access to direct deposit up to 2 days early.

  • Sofi Bank: A nationally chartered bank that offers SoFi Checking and Savings which is a combined checking and savings account with no monthly fees or minimums. You get free access to 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs.

  • GoBank (by Green Dot): A bank exclusively at Walmart. The monthly fee is waived as long as you have $500 in direct deposits each statement cycle.

  • Wells Fargo Clear Access Checking: Specifically for those unable to get standard accounts. But it has a $5 monthly service charge (that can be waived for account owners age 13-24).

What to look for in a free checking account

Minimum DepositMonthly FeeATMs
Discover$0$060,000+ Allpoint or MoneyPass ATMs
Axos Bank Rewards Checking$50No monthly maintenance feeUnlimited domestic ATM reimbursements
Chime Mobile Checking$0$060K+ fee-free ATMs at convenient locations like Walgreens, 7-Eleven, CVS and more
Aspiration Spend and Save$10Pay What is Fair55,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Ally Bank$0$043,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Betterment$0$0ATM fees reimbursed worldwide
Varo$0$055,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Capital One 360$0$070,000+ Capital One, MoneyPass, and Allpoint ATMs
Nationwide Advantage$50$080,000+ fee-free ATMs

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

  • Monthly fee / balance requirements
    If you don't want any restrictions, then look for a bank with no maintenance fees. Most of the banks on our list has no monthly service fee. There are a couple of banks that have a fee, but it's incredibly easy to waive.

    How much should you have in your checking account?
    You should keep at least 1 month worth of expenses in your checking account. It's smart to add a 30% buffer. This will give you enough to cover everyday living costs plus any unforeseen expenses.

    The most you should have is 2 months' worth of expenses. Any money above that will be better off in a high yield savings account or investment account.

  • Other banking fees
    Does the bank charge for things like overdrafts, insufficient funds, checks, wire transfers? Make sure the bank is transparent about their other fees.

  • Access
    Do you want the option of banking in-person, or are you okay with completely online banking? Also make sure the bank has convenient ATMs near where you live and work.

  • Website & Mobile App
    Whether on your computer or mobile device, you want to be able to handle your finances from anywhere. Choose a bank with a user-friendly website, mobile app, and features like online bill pay and mobile check deposits.

  • Security
    Your bank 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).

What you need to open a checking account

To open a checking account, you will need:

  • Government issued ID, like a driver's license
  • Social Security Number
  • Proof of address (lease or utility bill)
  • Contact information (name, home address, email address, phone number)
  • Date of birth
  • Money for the opening deposit (if required)

You can open a checking account either online or in-person at a branch. To open an account by yourself, you need to be at least 18.

Most financial institutions will run a soft credit check on you to see your past banking history and then approve or deny you for the account.

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
  • Capital One 360 Checking
  • Chime Free Mobile Checking

Checking Accounts with Free ATM Transactions

Here are some of the best banks to avoid ATM fees.

  • Axos Reward Checking - unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements

  • Charles Schwab Investor Checking - also reimburses international ATM fees

  • Alliant Credit Union - reimburses up to $20 of ATM fees per month[4]

  • Ally Interest Checking - reimburses up to $10 of ATM fees per month[5]

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 out-of-network ATM withdrawals.

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.


  1. ^ Chime. Fee-Free Overdraft with SpotMe, Retrieved 10/21/2023
  2. ^ Alliant. Who is eligible to join Alliant?, Retrieved 10/21/2023
  3. ^ Pew Center on the States, Overdraft America: Confusion and
    Concerns about Bank Practices
    , Retrieved 10/21/2023
  4. ^ Alliant. Does Alliant rebate fees if I use an out-of-network ATM?, Retrieved 10/21/2023
  5. ^ Ally. ATMs & withdrawals FAQs: What are your ATM fees?, Retrieved 10/21/2023

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Member FDIC

Chase Total Checking® - $200 Bonus

Expires 1/24/2024
  • New Chase checking customers enjoy a $200 bonus when you open a Chase Total Checking® account with qualifying activities
  • Access to more than 15,000 Chase ATMs and more than 4,700 branches
  • Chase Mobile® app - Manage your accounts, deposit checks, transfer money and more -- all from your device.
  • JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC
  • Open your account online now
  • Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. For branch locations, visit
  • Chase Overdraft Assist℠ - no overdraft fees if you're overdrawn by $50 or less at the end of the business day or if you're overdrawn by more than $50 and bring your account balance to overdrawn by $50 or less at the end of the next business day*

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