The Best Checking Accounts in Alabama for 2023
Your checking account serves as the center of your financial life. When you get paid, the money goes straight into your checking account. When you pay a bill or swipe your debit card, the money comes out of your checking account.
Because you use your checking account almost every day, it’s important to make sure that you get a checking account that is easy to use and offers the features you need.
When someone opens a checking account, they tend to stick with that bank for a while. That means that banks use their checking accounts to compete for new customers. If you take the time to shop around and compare checking accounts, you can find a great deal.
The Best Checking Accounts in Alabama
If you’re in Alabama and want to open a new checking account, these are some of your best options:
- Valley National Bank - All Access Rewards Checking
- Synovus Bank - Free Checking
- South State Bank - SouthState Checking
Valley National Bank
Valley National Bank offers the All Access Rewards Checking Account, which comes with no monthly service fee.
You can open the account with just $100 and there's the potential to cash rewards for the first year (when you meet the qualifying direct deposit requirements).
Synovus Bank also offers a Free Checking account. There is no monthly fee to worry about. The minimum opening deposit is higher at $100, but you don’t have to keep a minimum balance in the account once you’ve opened it.
SouthState Bank offers the SouthState Checking account, which has no minimum opening deposit when opened online, making it easy for anyone to get started with an account. The account does have a $5 monthly fee, but all you have to do to avoid the fee is sign up for electronic statements. There are no real hoops to jump through.
The account comes with all of the convenience features you’d expect, including online banking, bill payments, and digital wallet options.
How we picked
We reviewed all the checking accounts available from the 50 largest banks by total deposit market share in Alabama (based on FDIC June 2021 data)--serving major cities including Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, and Tuscaloosa.
The top checking accounts were chosen based on the following factors:
- Branch locations
- Monthly fees
- ATM fees
- Interest rates/rewards
- Digital account management features
Make the Most of a Checking Account from a Local Alabama Bank
If you’re looking for a good checking account, one of the best things to do is to look at local and regional banks in Alabama. There are some perks to working with national bank chains, but there are also drawbacks.
In general, national banks offer a uniform experience throughout the country. That means that they don’t do a great job of tailoring their services to local needs.
Smaller banks can focus more on individual customers and offer tailored experiences for their local communities.
If you’re looking to open a new checking account in Alabama, these are three of the best banks.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Local Banks
If you’re in the market for a new checking account, you should take the time to shop around and compare your options.
There are lots of great reasons to work with local banks. One is that they usually have fewer customers, meaning they can provide more personalized service. If you work with a larger bank, you’ll just be a face in the crowd.
However, local banks aren’t perfect. Most smaller banks have only local or regional networks of ATMs. This can be a problem when you travel outside of your bank’s service area. You’ll have to use another bank’s ATMs, which usually means paying fees.
National banks usually have national ATM networks, meaning you won’t face this problem.
Online Checking Accounts Are Available Nationally
If you’ve taken the time to look at options from both local and national banks, but haven’t found the right account, you should also consider online banks.
Online banks have become very popular in recent years and it isn’t hard to see why.
Great features, great price
Online checking accounts tend to have one major advantage over brick-and-mortar banks. Online banks cost much less to operate, so they’re able to offer similar or better services at a lower price.
A traditional bank relies on having a large network of ATMs and branches, which costs a lot to maintain. Online banks can centralize their operations and operate out of just one or two buildings. They don’t rely on having hundreds of branches around the country.
Most online banks take those savings and pass them on to their customers. That means that online checking accounts typically don’t have monthly fees or minimum balances. Many also come with perks like interest and ATM fee rebates.
Some online banks offer more than checking accounts, and those accounts come with similarly premium features.
A common concern surrounding online banks is security. It can be hard to trust a bank that you can’t physically see.
The good news is that online banks receive the same type and amount of protection from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This makes online checking and savings accounts just as safe as accounts from physical banks.
When you make a deposit to an FDIC-insured bank, you are automatically covered. If the bank later goes bankrupt or is otherwise unable to return your money to you, the FDIC will reimburse you for the amount that you’ve lost.
FDIC insurance covers up to $250,000 per depositor, per account type, per bank. The vast majority of people will never get close to exceeding that limit, making it nearly impossible to lose money by depositing it to a checking account, online or otherwise.
What Kind of Account is Right for You?
Online banks can be a great option for many people, but they aren’t right for everyone. Before you open an account, ask yourself these questions.
Are you good at communicating electronically?
If you have an issue with a brick-and-mortar bank, you can get help by dropping by your local branch. With an online bank, you’ll have to rely on phone, email, or chat support.
Are you a regular at your current bank?
People who already do most of their banking at ATMs or online will quickly adapt to a fully online bank. If you do most of your banking in a branch, it might take some adjustment.
How good are you with technology?
Online banks usually prioritize ease of use, but if you generally struggle with technology, it might be better off to stick with a traditional bank.
The Most Important Features of a Checking Account
When comparing checking accounts, these are the most important things to compare.
Many banks charge monthly maintenance fees if you want to keep your account open. These fees slowly eat away at your balance and leave you with less cash to spend on the things you need.
Always look for accounts that have no fees or that have fees that you can easily avoid.
If you’re a frequent user of cash, make sure that the bank you choose has a strong network of ATMs and branches. As an alternative, look for accounts that refund ATM fees charged by other banks.
Most checking accounts don’t pay interest but there are some that do. If you can find one that pays interest on your balance, it’s like getting some free money.
Most banks offer mobile banking apps, but their quality can vary. If mobile and online banking are important to you, make sure that the bank’s app is easy to use and has the basic features that you need.