If you’re looking for a free checking account, you have multiple options in both traditional and online banks. With more than 4,100 banks in the U.S., according to the FDIC, the choices can be downright overwhelming.
It can help if you get clear on what you want in a checking account, narrow down your options, and then read reviews like the one below to find the best free checking account to meet all your needs.
12 Best Free Checking Accounts
When you’re ready to open a new checking account, consider the no fee checking accounts on this list. We’ve evaluated the fees, minimum deposit requirements, annual percentage yield APY on those that earn interest, and more.
Most of the best checking accounts offer features like overdraft protection, mobile banking and the ability to get paid up to two days early with your direct deposit. But financial institutions that let you earn interest on your checking balance or deliver cash back also gained our favor.
Chime boasts truly fee-free checking and a host of advantages for those seeking an online-only banking solution. The bank has no monthly service fees, no overdraft fees, no transaction fees, and no minimum daily balance fees. If you lose your debit card, you don’t even have to pay to replace it!
Bank of America offers three Advantage checking accounts:
- Advantage Plus
- Advantage Relationship
Like Chime, Wealthfront is not a bank. But some would argue that, with no monthly maintenance fee, FDIC insurance of up to $5 million through partner banks, and a high 4.55% annual percentage yield APY on the Wealthfront Cash Account, it’s even better.
The only credit union on our list of the best free checking accounts, this checking account is open to virtually all U.S. residents over the age of 18.
Ally is not just a robust fin-tech; it is a nationally chartered bank with $196 billion in assets and 11 million customers. The bank offers an interest earning checking account with no monthly fee and no overdraft fees, high-yield savings, money market account and CDs. Plus, it provides investment services, loans, and credit cards.
Varo Bank has the distinction of being the first financial technology company to become a nationally chartered, online only bank. While most of the banks on our list of best free checking accounts have important features in common, Varo has a few perks that are harder to find in a free account.
In the world of finance, Discover is best known for offering a straightforward cashback rewards credit card. Discover’s free online checking account also offers cash back rewards of 1% for up to $3,000 worth of debit card purchases monthly.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. is not just one of the “big four” banks in the U.S. It is the biggest bank in the U.S. and the world’s largest financial institution based on market cap. For that reason, many people choose Chase Bank for its convenience and 4,700 branches nationwide.
Methodology: How We Select the Best Free Checking Accounts
We evaluated multiple factors to find the best free checking accounts for consumers across the U.S. Whether you have large monthly direct deposits or have been “unbanked” until now, you’ll find the best free checking accounts for any need or any budget here.
ATM network or generous ATM-fee reimbursement program
You shouldn’t have to pay extra money to access your money. After all, that’s the opposite of a “free checking account,” isn’t it? You want to find a bank with a large, fee-free ATM network to conveniently withdraw cash or make deposits. If the bank reimburses out of network ATM fees, that’s a bonus.
Nationwide availability (Physical locations or mobile access)
If you’re looking for a traditional bank, you want to make sure it has branches near you. Otherwise, an online bank might be the best choice. For this list of free checking accounts, we eliminated credit unions that don’t serve customers nationwide or have strict membership requirements.
Credit unions are often a solid choice for banking, and often have low fees and high interest rates. For instance, Navy Federal Credit Union is a highly ranked financial institution backed by the National Credit Union Administration. But it’s only open to members of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. veterans, their families, and Department of Defense personnel.
We tailored this list around banks with national appeal, with means they serve customers nationwide, with no residency requirements or specific occupational requirements. The one outstanding credit union on the list, Consumers Credit Union, is open to virtually anyone in the U.S. over the age of 18.
No Monthly Maintenance Fee
When most people think of a free checking account, they think of one with no monthly maintenance fees. You’ll see a few banks with monthly maintenance fees on this list because the benefits outweigh the fees. But any monthly service fees are easy to waive by meeting direct deposit or minimum balance requirements.
Low Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements
Truly free checking accounts should be accessible to most consumers. That means having low or no minimum deposit or minimum balance requirements.
No or Low Foreign Transaction Fees
If you travel abroad or make international transactions, you don’t want to pay fees. This may not be important to everyone, but foreign transaction fees may be a point to consider.
No Account Closure Fee
This was a deal-breaker for us. If you choose to close your account, you should be allowed to do so with no account closure fee. All the banks on this list make it as easy to close your checking account as it is to open it.
No Overdraft Fees
Likewise, if you accidentally spend more money than you have in your account, you shouldn’t be punished. Sometimes we forget that an automatic payment cleared or sometimes, you just need a helping hand to make it to your next paycheck. We gave preference to account with no overdraft fees, overdraft protection, or generous overdraft forgiveness.
Benefits such as high APY, cash-back rewards, or other additional perks
From cash back debit cards to interest bearing checking accounts, generous perks can make it easy to choose one fee-free checking account over another. Other nice-to-have features include:
- The ability to pay bills online
- Early direct deposit
- Mobile check deposit
These account features make it easy to manage your money. We evaluated all these aspects when compiling our list of the best free checking accounts.
Whether you opt for a neobank or a traditional bank with brick-and-mortar branches, you want fast and responsive customer service. We took branch hours or phone hours into consideration, as well as a responsive chat or email for those who prefer automated service without speaking directly to a person.
Other Products and Services
Many people want to use the bank that holds their primary checking account as a one-stop shop for all their financial needs. They don’t want to download another mobile app, remember another password, or keep their money in different places.
For this reason, we considered the availability of high yield savings or money market accounts, CDs and other financial services when choosing the top free checking accounts. Chase, Capital One, and a few others got bonus points from us for the ability to link a child’s account to teach money management at a young age.
How to Choose the Best Free Checking Account
Before you choose a free account, decide what features are most important to you. Do you want a bank with brick-and-mortar branches or are you comfortable banking online only? If you choose an online financial institution, find out if there is a way to deposit cash, since some only allow mobile deposits and ACH transfers from other accounts.
Most of the checking accounts on this list offer similar features, including an easy to use mobile app, no monthly fees, direct deposit capabilities, and overdraft protection. Some have no minimum deposit to open the account, which is convenient since you can set up the account and then fund it within a few days or when you receive your next paycheck.
If you’re looking for interest bearing checking accounts, you’ll find a few on this list. Others provide debit rewards, which isn’t a common feature in a free deposit account. These benefits can help put extra cash in your pocket to help you reach your financial goals.
Determine if you want a linked savings. If so, do you want the capability to transfer funds into multiple savings buckets to help with budgeting?
All the banks on this list are FDIC insured for up to $250,000 per account holder for each type of deposit account. CCU is insured for the same amount by the National Credit Union Administration. That means your money is safe, which is important in today’s climate of economic uncertainty.
Ultimately, your checking account becomes a hub for your financial life. Whether you’re opening your first account or thinking about switching banks to get free checking and more perks, this list provides a good place to start your search.
Free Checking Account FAQs
See what people are asking about the best free checking accounts.
What are monthly maintenance fees?
Monthly maintenance fees are service charges imposed by a bank simply for holding an account. The free checking accounts on this list have fee free checking or it is easy to waive the monthly maintenance fee by having monthly direct deposits or meeting minimum balance requirements.
Do free checking accounts have any fees?
When people think of fee-free checking, they often think of an account with no monthly maintenance fees. However, some free checking accounts may have a monthly fee that can be easily waived with a monthly direct deposit or by meeting minimum balance requirements within a statement cycle.
So-called free checking accounts may have over fees besides the monthly fee. Read the fine print closely to find truly free checking accounts.
What fees do I need to watch out for?
Some banks who advertise free checking accounts may forego a monthly maintenance fee, but charge overdraft fees, ATM fees, withdrawal fees (typically only for savings or money market accounts), fees for paper checks, fees for paper statements, foreign transaction fees, and wire transfer fees. If you lose your debit card, you might have to pay a fee to have it replaced, as well as covering mailing costs.
Can I open a free checking account without a deposit?
Some banks allow you to open a checking account with no minimum deposit required. Of course, if there are any perks, benefits, or sign-up bonuses, you’ll want to fund the account to earn interest or take advantage of special offers.
How do banks make money on free checking accounts?
Banks might make some money from monthly maintenance fees and other customer service charges. But the bulk of their revenue comes from the interest rate they earn on your money when they invest it in other securities, as well as interest collected on loans they make.
Banks don’t necessarily keep the money you deposit in your account. They hold cash withdraws to allow customers to withdraw their money. But they also invest the money and earn revenue on those funds.
They may also earn money on loan services, financial advisory services, investment services with fees, and other services they provide to customers.
These other revenue streams allow banks to offer free checking accounts without losing money.
What’s the difference between a checking and a savings account?
A checking account is where you keep cash for everyday spending. Typically, you can make debit card purchases and withdraw funds from an ATM easily, without fees. Most checking accounts don’t pay interest on your deposits, but some do.
A savings account, on the other hand, holds money you are saving either for a specific events – such as vacation or large purchase – or for an emergency. Financial experts recommend keeping as much as three to six months of living expenses in an easy-to-access savings account.
Savings accounts pay interest ranging from .01% annual percentage yield APY up to 4% or 5% APY. Be aware that some savings accounts charge fees for monthly withdrawals exceeding a limit of six per month.