It’s a good time to shop for a new checking account. Online banking has set the bar for consumer banking, and you get to enjoy the benefits.
It’s easier than ever to find checking accounts that minimize fees and boost earnings on account balances. Whether you’re looking for an online bank or a bank with local branches, the key is to shop around to find the best deal. The below list will help kick off your search.
10 Best Free Checking Accounts with No Minimum Balance
If you’re interested in opening a checking account while minimizing expense, all you’ll need to do is set aside some time to comparison shop. In addition to deals on fees, take a look at perks the bank offers, searching for amenities like the best annual percentage yield (APY), cash back on debit card purchases, and financial guidance in the app.
Here are the top 10 free checking accounts with no minimum balance requirements.
About the Best No-Fee Checking Accounts
As online-only banks have made financial institutions more competitive, common checking account fees have started to disappear. As long as you meet the requirements, you’ll be able to enjoy no monthly maintenance fees, overdraft protection, and many other benefits.
But with so many options now available, a financial institution has to go a step further to stand out. For national banks, that may mean pushing the “in-person service” angle in addition to having a full suite of online banking features. For online-only banks, it might mean offering interest on your checking balance or early access to your paycheck.
The Pros of Traditional Checking Accounts
Technology has changed the face of banking, but that doesn’t eliminate the demand for physical locations. In fact, your town likely has more banks and credit unions than ever. But many of these branches offer both in-person and online services, so you can still get the best of both words.
Here are some of the pros of traditional checking.
- Can have more stability than some online-only checking accounts
- Local banks and credit unions may have more personalized service
- Withdrawing and depositing cash is often easier
- Typically has a wider range of financial products
- May offer both in-person and online banking
The Pros of Online Checking Accounts
Online checking and savings accounts offer a modern solution to traditional banking, harnessing the power of technology to deliver unparalleled convenience and flexibility. They are designed to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced world, offering advantages that extend beyond the boundaries of brick-and-mortar banks.
In many cases, you’ll get a much better deal on interest and fees than you will with a brick-and-mortar location.
Here are some of the benefits of online checking.
- Typically more competitive fees
- Better rates on interest-bearing checking accounts
- Easily transfer money
- Customer service may have extended hours
- Some online banks offer early access to direct deposit funds
Best Features of No-Fee Checking Accounts
Fees aren’t the only consideration when you’re researching a new account at a bank or credit union. You can find a rewards checking account that helps you earn on every purchase or a free checking account that gives you early access to your paycheck.
But there are also negatives to watch for while you’re comparing banks and credit unions. With some financial institutions, fees are only waived if you keep a minimum average daily balance or have qualifying monthly direct deposits. You’ll also sometimes have a minimum deposit to open the account.
Here are some of the top features of free checking accounts to help you find the best checking account for you.
- Fee-free ATM access or ATM fee reimbursement
- Mobile check deposit
- Overdraft protection
- Easy transfers to and from your savings account
- Online bill pay
If it applies, you might also research whether a bank charges foreign transaction fees or allows free use of ATMs while you’re traveling. If you opt for a bank that charges fees on your other daily activities, you might lose the benefits of not having a monthly fee.
Best Free Checking Accounts Frequently Asked Questions
Now that we’ve looked at the 9 best free checking accounts with no minimum balance, as well as some that have a minimum balance requirement, there are a few other things to consider. Here are some frequently asked questions about fee-free banking.
Which banks offer free checking accounts?
You can find a free checking account at a variety of banks and credit unions, both online and brick-and-mortar. The above list can help you get started.
How do I deposit cash with an online checking account?
One challenge of an online bank account is that you don’t have a physical location for depositing and withdrawing cash. You’ll need to rely on ATMs for your cash transactions, although some online account providers have partnerships with Walgreens or CVS locations for cash deposits.
Since you will rely heavily on ATMs, it’s important to look for a bank or credit union that offers ATM use without fees. Many online banks partner with nationwide ATM services like MoneyPass or Allpoint, while others reimburse up to so many times per month. You can find online checking options that offer unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements.
Are free checking accounts really free?
Unfortunately, nothing is completely free. Most banks and credit unions that offer free checking accounts simply don’t have the monthly service charge account holders would pay at other banks. You may still have to pay overdraft fees or other miscellaneous charges.
Some banks promise no monthly fees, but there are strings attached. You may be required to maintain a minimum balance every day of your statement period. You may also need to have a minimum amount of money going into the checking account via direct deposit each month. Failure to meet the standards could cause a fee to kick in.
What is the financial institution’s definition of a “no-fee checking account?”
A bank can set its own policies when it comes to its checking account offerings. However, consumers do have some rights. If you know those rights, it can help in negotiating account terms before you sign up for a checking account.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for a bank to mark its account as “free,” the account must meet these criteria:
- No monthly service fees
- No fees for exceeding a certain transaction number
- No fees to deposit, withdraw, or transfer money
- No fees for falling below a minimum balance
Banks are allowed to charge fees for certain activities not directly related to the checking account itself. Those include:
- ATM fees
- Overdraft fees
- Bounced check fees
- Balance inquiry fees
- Stop payment fees
- Inactive account fees
- Check printing fees
Is my money safe in an online only checking account?
If you’re used to traditional banks, you may be hesitant to trust online-only banks. But checking and savings accounts operate under similar rules whether they’re online, national, or local.
Before you choose a free checking account, check to make sure it’s FDIC insured. If it is, your funds will be insured by the federal government for up to $250,000 per depositor. If you exceed that maximum, you might want to put some of your funds in a money market account, CD, or savings account with a different bank.
How do you know if a bank is FDIC insured? Typically, it will be listed on their website. You can also look for any bank’s FDIC status using the BankFind tool.
Do banks require any minimums to avoid checking account fees?
Banks can set requirements to qualify for free checking accounts. They simply can’t advertise the account as a “no-fee checking account.” The lack of fees on qualifying accounts will be mentioned in their account features.
In some cases, you’ll also see tiered pricing instead of a minimum balance requirement. A checking account will charge low or no fees at the lower balance tiers, with the higher dollar balances offered as a no fee account option.
What do I need to open a new checking account?
Whether you’re looking at a local bank or credit union or considering online checking accounts, there are some basics you’ll need to get started. You’ll need to have photo identification ready to present, and if you’re opening a joint account, that person may have to provide ID as well.
In some cases, banks require a minimum deposit to establish the account. If your pay comes through direct deposit, you’ll have to redirect your payments to your new account.
Can I earn money on my checking balance?
Traditionally, interest was reserved for savings accounts. You’d deposit money in that separate account to enjoy higher interest earnings. Some banks offer money market options that can boost your interest rates further.
But as competition has increased, checking accounts now offer competitive interest rates as well. You may need to maintain a minimum balance to qualify, or your interest may be tiered, but some digital banks can offer interest rates that rival what your savings account earns.
Can I do everything through an online bank?
Most banks today have a mobile app and online website where you can handle most of your transactions. Mobile check deposits mean you can add paper checks to your account using your smartphone camera, but that won’t help you if someone has handed you cash.
Luckily, ATMs can help with that. You can deposit and withdraw cash at any ATM, although you may have to pay fees. You can also move funds around and accept money through ACH payments and peer-to-peer apps.
But even with all those conveniences, online-only banks have their limits. You may discover the customer service isn’t quite the same through chat and phone conversations. With a traditional bank, you can get that face-to-face interaction with bank representatives if you need it. Digital banks also typically don’t have the full suite of loan options you get with a traditional bank.
Skipping the monthly maintenance fee can save you money on your checking each month. Between traditional banks, credit unions, and online banks, you should be able to shop around and find an option that not only waives monthly maintenance fees but brings plenty of perks that make it worth switching.
Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC. Credit Builder card issued by Stride Bank, N.A.
1. Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees may apply with Chime except at MoneyPass ATMs in a 7-Eleven, or any Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATM.
2. Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. Chime generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.
3. The Annual Percentage Yield (“APY”) for the Chime Savings Account is variable and may change at any time. The disclosed APY is accurate as of May, 22, 2023. No minimum balance required. Must have $0.01 in savings to earn interest.
5. Chime SpotMe is an optional, no fee service that requires a single deposit of $200 or more in qualifying direct deposits to the Chime Checking Account each at least once every 34 days. All qualifying members will be allowed to overdraw their account up to $20 on debit card purchases and cash withdrawals initially, but may be later eligible for a higher limit of up to $200 or more based on member’s Chime Account history, direct deposit frequency and amount, spending activity and other risk-based factors. Your limit will be displayed to you within the Chime mobile app. You will receive notice of any changes to your limit. Your limit may change at any time, at Chime’s discretion. Although there are no overdraft fees, there may be out-of-network or third-party fees associated with ATM transactions. SpotMe won’t cover non-debit card transactions, including ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, or Chime Checkbook transactions. See Terms and Conditions.