Best Free Checking Account

If a free checking account is your top priority, look no further. We analyze checking accounts across the nation to see which free accounts are the best you can get.

Our Pick: Radius Bank Radius Hybrid

  • Best Feature: Higher than average interest rates for a checking account
  • High-yield checking
  • Free ATM access worldwide

The Radius Hybrid is one of the best checking accounts with no fees, high-interest, and unlimited ATM fee refunds. Essentially, you can use any ATM for free. With all this, you even get to earn more interest than you would on most online savings accounts. You get the convenience of a checking account, enabling you to access your money whenever you need it. Meanwhile, you don’t have to get a separate account to grow your savings.


Best Highest Rate Checking Account

The best checking accounts earn just as much interest as high-yield savings accounts. Even better, these accounts offer the opportunity to earn more interest while maintaining the convenience of a traditional checking account.

Our Pick: EverBank Yield Pledge Checking

  • Best Feature: Promises that interest rates will be in the top 5% of the market
  • 1.21% APY introductory interest rate on a checking account

The EverBank Yield Pledge Checking account doesn’t just promise to offer a top-notch interest rate, it also comes with a market-leading introductory APY. The account doesn’t charge a monthly fee and you get unlimited ATM fee refunds when you maintain a $5,000 balance.


Best Checking Accounts with the Lowest Fee

Not all checking accounts are free, but for the right benefits, a small fee could be worthwhile. We evaluate checking accounts from a variety of banks and credit unions to see which ones offer benefits that justify paying a minimal fee.

Our Pick: Ally Bank Interest Checking

  • Best Feature: Free standard checks and cashier’s checks
  • No monthly fees
  • Up to $10 in monthly ATM fee refunds
  • 24/7 live customer service

Ally Bank’s Interest Checking deserves an award for its overall fee policy that includes unlimited, free standard checks and cashier’s checks. Most other checking accounts only offer the first checkbook for free. Ally’s online checking account also comes with no monthly fees, ATM fee rebates, and free overdraft transfers (from other Ally accounts).


Most Convenient Checking Account

Time is money, which is why some people might find convenience to be far more valuable than other benefits. If this sounds like you, take a look at our top picks for the most convenient checking account.

Our Pick: Fidelity Investments Cash Management Account

  • Best Feature: Unlimited ATM fee refunds and checks
  • Unlimited ATM reimbursements
  • Free checks
  • Strong financial health

Fidelity is taking home top honors for its cash management account. With the Fidelity Investments Cash Management Account, you can use any ATM for free worldwide (and receive fee reimbursements for out-of-network ATMs) and there’s no minimum balance or monthly fee. You can easily move money between Fidelity accounts, especially to collect your cash rewards from the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card (one of the top cash back credit cards).


How We Picked

How did we decide what makes a great checking account? We researched around 350 checking accounts from the top banks for this guide.

The Best Checking Account award is given based on widespread ATM access, branch locations, interest earned, perks, bonuses, fees and the ease of waiving them. The overall rank for each institution within a specific category is dependant on how many days in the quarter that institution’s score was among the top 10.

On the surface, checking accounts seem simple, but there are a number of things you need to pay attention to when picking a checking account. Americans give high priority to low fees when selecting checking accounts and downplay customer service, rewards programs, even the financial health of the bank offering services, according to our survey.

MyBankTracker Checking Survey

Monthly Maintenance Fees

A monthly maintenance fee is common for checking accounts, especially those from banks that operate physical branch and ATM networks. Most of the time, you can avoid this fee if you meet one of these criteria:

  • Maintain a minimum balance requirement
  • Receive direct deposits each month (e.g., paycheck, government benefits, etc.)
  • Use your account in a certain way (e.g., perform 10 debit card transactions)

Not all banks charge this fee, we track how to avoid these bank fees.

Basic Checking Account Fees at Top Banks

Account Monthly Fee Minimum Balance to Waive Fee Direct Deposit Amount to Waive Fee
Bank of America Core Checking $12 $1,500 $250 (single)
Wells Fargo Everyday Checking $10 $1,500 $500 (total)
Chase Total Checking $12 $1,500 $500 (total)
Citibank Basic Banking Account $12 $1,500 Any amount + one bill payment
U.S. Bank Silver Checking $8.95 $1,500 $1,000 (total)
PNC Bank Virtual Wallet® Account $7 $500 $500 (total)
Capital One 360 Checking® Account $0 $0 N/A
TD Bank TD Convenience Checking $15 $100 N/A
BB&T BB&T Bright Checking $12 $1,500 $500 (total)
SunTrust Essential Checking $7 $500 $500 (total)
AVERAGE $9.60 $1,010 $468.75

Overdraft Fees

If you take out more money than you have in your checking account, either through a withdrawal, check, or debit purchase, the bank will charge an overdraft fee. This can be as much as $30 or more per transaction.

Overdraft Fees at Top 10 Banks

Banks Overdraft Fee
Bank of America $35
Wells Fargo $35
Chase $34
Citibank $34
U.S. Bank $36 (Free if item is $5 or less)
PNC Bank $36
Capital One $35
TD Bank $35
BB&T $36
SunTrust $36

ATM Fees

Banks let you take money out of their ATM network at no charge but if you use another company’s ATM, you’ll need to pay a fee of a few dollars. The other company might charge you an ATM fee as well. So you could find yourself paying $5 or more just to make one withdrawal. To avoid ATM fees, use a bank that has many machines in your area and

To avoid ATM fees, use a bank that has many machines in your area. Plan ahead to only use in-network ATMs. Another option is to find a bank that charges no ATM fees, even if you use out-of-network machines. Some checking accounts will refund you for the surcharges imposed by these ATMs too.

Out-of-Network ATM Fees at the Top U.S. Banks

Bank Out-of-Network ATM Fee International ATM Fee Foreign Exchange Fee
Bank of America $2.50 $5 3%
Wells Fargo $2.50 $5 3%
Chase $2.50 $5 3%
Citibank $2.50 $5 3%
U.S. Bank $2.50 $5 3%
PNC Bank $3 $5 3%
Capital One $0 $2 3%
TD Bank $3 $5 2.5%
BB&T $3 $5 3%
SunTrust $3 $5 3%
Citizens Bank $3 $5 2.8% or 3%
Fifth Third Bank $0 $5 3%
KeyBank $2.50 $3 2%
Regions Bank $2.50 $5 3%
M&T Bank $3 $5 3%
Comerica Bank $2 $2 3%
HSBC Bank $2.5 $2.5 3%
BBVA Compass $2.5 $2.5 3%
Santander $3 $6 3%
BMO Harris Bank $3 $3 3%

Other Checking Account Fees

If you want the bank to mail paper account statements to you each month, they might charge a paper statement fee. If you bounce a check, meaning you give someone a check and don’t have enough money, you could pay a returned check fee. If your checking account limits monthly withdrawals, you would pay a fee for every withdrawal made over the monthly limit.


Other Important Features & Services

Online Banking

Online banking is virtually found with every bank in the U.S. with online banking, you can usually review your account details, view balances and transactions, pay online bills, perform fund transfers, and much more.

There are great opportunities to save and get great rates through virtual online banks. These banks can offer customers some advantages in lower fees or better rates, however, it’s important to evaluate how convenient or cost-effective these are if you need to conduct physical transactions.

Mobile Banking

Mobile banking lets you manage your accounts directly through a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet device. Many banks offer their own mobile applications on these devices. Mobile banking features will be very similar to the bank's online banking features. However, you could gain access to additional features such as mobile check deposit, which allow you to deposit a check without going to a bank branch or ATM.

Check Printing & Free Checks

While online banking gives you more options to pay bills and transfer money, it’s still nice to have some regular checks. Some companies and government agencies won’t accept online transfers and only accept paper checks. Make sure your bank at least gives you the option to buy checks for your account. If they offer free checks, that’s a nice bonus but it’s inexpensive enough to buy checks yourself.

Bank Customer Service

It's important that checking account you choose offers a comfortable level of customer service. If you prefer dealing with everything in-person, you most likely need to work with a traditional bank that has branches in your area. If you want phone service, make sure your bank has convenient hours to call for help; many offer at least some kind of 24-hour service. Online customer service is also becoming popular. This is a way to chat with a representative online as you go over your online banking account.


Types of Checking Accounts We Track

Checking accounts are the most common type of bank accounts. They let you make withdrawals and deposits out of ATMs, write checks to other people, transfer money with online banking, or make purchases at stores with a debit card. Banks also let you make many transactions per month with a checking account. Other bank accounts, like savings accounts, usually have a strict limit on the number of times you can take money out of your account each month.

Basic

Basic checking accounts are designed for core financial activities. With these accounts, you usually get access to a debit card and online banking. They usually won’t pay interest on your savings, and if you want anything else like write checks or use a safety deposit box, you’ll need to buy them separately. You're likely to face a low monthly account fee with simple fee-waiver requirest --some checking accounts will not charge any monthly fees at all.

Premier

Premier checking accounts come with more perks. They can offer free checks, access to a safety deposit box, waived fees when you use out-of-network ATMs and higher interest rates than basic checking accounts. In exchange, the monthly service fees and minimum balance requirement to waive those fees are likely to be much higher.

Interest Checking & Brokerages

High-interest checking accounts allow your balance to earn interest. Usually, the rates are significantly lower when compared to a savings account. However, you can find some great interest rates with online banks. Another option is to open a brokerage checking account with your stockbroker. Some brokerage firms let their clients open checking accounts that earn more interest, though there might be more restrictions on how often you can take out your money.

Second Chance Checking

If you've mismanaged a checking account in the past, banks could refuse to give you a regular checking account. A second chance checking account can help you repair your reputation with banks. These accounts tend to carry a monthly fee and could have a higher minimum balance requirement. However, after using one of these accounts responsibly for a few months, you’ll likely be able to upgrade to a regular checking account.

Student Checking Accounts

Student checking accounts are basic accounts targeted to students in high school or college. They usually waive the minimum balance requirements and service fees until the student graduates or reaches a certain age.


How To Pick A Checking Account

A checking account is one of the safest places to keep your money. Your deposits are insured by the government so you can’t lose the money you put in your checking account.

Checking accounts also make it easier to manage your finances. You can pay bills with checks or online banking, have your employer automatically deposit your paycheck into your account, and take out money around the world with your debit card. When you manage everything with cash, there’s always the chance you could misplace money, and some companies don’t accept cash payments. With a checking account, you’ll have a more convenient way to handle your finances.

Check Your Banking Needs

How much money do you plan on keeping in your checking account? For most people, this is the biggest factor when they compare checking accounts. A premier account with free checks and other features are nice, but unless you really need to keep thousands of dollars in your checking account, it makes more sense to use a basic account and buy these extras separately.

Your Lifestyle

How often do you plan on making withdrawals? If you like to make multiple small withdrawals every week, make sure your checking account doesn’t have a low limit for transactions.

When it comes to the best checking accounts,  it's important to pick an account with a high-interest rate and low fees. You should choose a checking account that reimburses you for ATM fees, so you don’t get stuck paying $5 or more every time you take money out. If your financial activity is likely to lead to many fees, consider checking accounts with friendly fee policies. Incorporating your lifestyle into your decision is the best way to ensure you're getting the best checking account for you.

Online vs. Traditional Banks

Traditional bank accounts can be more convenient especially if you like being able to talk to a bank teller in person. You usually have access to more branches ATMs and can get money out of a traditional checking account more quickly.

Online bank accounts usually pay a higher interest rate on your savings and checking and have lower account minimums and fees. It can take a little more planning to move money in and out of your online account, but this approach can be more cost-effective. Another solution is to open a checking account at your bank for daily transactions while having most of your money in an online account. When searching for the best online checking account for you, banking convenience is one of the most important features to keep in mind.

For a simple, guided approach to choosing a new checking account, our personalized quiz will find the best checking account for your specific needs.


View Our Best Picks by Category

Best Checking Accounts

Bank Account Category
Radius Bank Radius Hybrid Free Checking
Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Free Checking
Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking Free Checking
EverBank Yield Pledge Checking Highest Rate
Aspiration Summit Account Highest Rate
Radius Bank Radius Hybrid Highest Rate
Ally Bank Interest Checking Low Fee
Radius Bank Radius Hybrid Low Fee
Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Low Fee
Fidelity Investmentst Cash Management Account Most Convenient
Capital One 360 360 Checking Most Convenient
Chase Chase Total Checking Most Convenient