The Best Checking Accounts in North Carolina for 2024
Your checking account is most likely your most important checking account. It serves as the center of your financial life.
People who open a checking account at a bank tend to stick with that bank for the long term.
Changing your checking account can be annoying because you have so many other accounts that interact with it. That means that banks are willing to compete to draw in new checking customers, in the hope that those customers will use their other services.
If you live in North Carolina and want to open a new checking account, we’ll cover the best options available to you.
The Best Checking Accounts in North Carolina
First Citizens Bank
The First Citizens Bank Free Checking account is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a simple, no-frills account with no monthly fees (with enrollment in paperless statements).
The account has a minimum opening deposit of $50. Once you open the account, there is no minimum balance requirement. You can also sign up for overdraft protection by linking a savings account or by signing up for a line of credit that covers your overdrafts.
Fifth Third Bank
Fifth Third Bank’s Momentum Checking account is a fee-free checking account with no minimum balance requirements. The account comes with all of the features you’d expect from a checking account, including debit card access, quick and easy online banking, and electronic bill payments.
One useful feature is that you can earn rewards when you shop at select merchants using your debit card. This can be a great perk for people who prefer not to use credit cards.
First National Bank
The First National Bank offers a fee-free checking experience with unlimited check writing. All you have to do to avoid the monthly fee is sign up for electronic statements.
The account has no minimum balance requirements and offers free withdrawals at every First National Bank of Pennsylvania ATM.
How we picked
MyBankTracker applied a methodology when choosing our best checking accounts in North Carolina. Our top accounts were picked based on a thorough analysis of the top 50 banks by deposit market share in North Carolina (based on FDIC June 2023 data)--covering major cities including Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, and Winston-Salem.
We focused our selections on checking accounts with low monthly maintenance fees, the least demanding requirements to waive these fees, the bank’s ATM network, and other features included to make a person’s banking life more convenient.
Online Banks Are Available Nationally
If you’ve considered accounts from local banks and larger, national chains and haven’t found one that you like, don’t forget that there are other options.
Online banks have become very popular in recent years and it isn’t hard to see why.
Higher rates, lower fees
Online checking accounts have one major advantage over their brick-and-mortar competition. Because online banks are cheaper to operate, their accounts can offer premium features without charging a premium price.
Traditional banks have to build large networks of branches and ATMs, which means a lot of expense. Online banks can centralize their operations in just a few buildings and don’t need to build far-reaching networks of ATMs. That lets them save a lot of money and pass those savings on to their customers.
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.
One common concern about online banks is safety. How can you trust a bank that you can’t see?
One thing that can put your mind at ease is that online banks get the same level of protection from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This makes online banks equally as safe as their brick-and-mortar competition.
When you use 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, and 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.
Downsides of a Larger National Bank
If you want to get a good checking account, one of the best ways to do that is to work with a local or regional North Carolina bank.
There are advantages to working with national banks, but the drawback of large chains is that they tend to offer a single experience across the country. They don’t do a good job of tailoring their accounts to local needs.
Because local and regional banks serve a smaller area, they have a better sense of what customers in their part of the country need. That means they can tailor their accounts and banking experience to meet local needs.
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.
One benefit of working with a smaller, local bank is that they can provide personalized service. At national banks, you’re often just a face in the crowd.
However, that doesn’t mean that local banks are perfect.
Typically, smaller banks have much smaller ATM and branch networks. This can be an issue if you travel outside your bank’s service area. You’ll be forced to use another bank’s ATM, which often means paying hefty fees.
Conversely, working with a national bank means that you’ll have easy access to ATMs and branches regardless of where you are. That means you can withdraw cash and handle other transactions easily.
What Kind of Account is Right for You?
Online banks are a great choice for many people, but they’re not for everyone.
Ask yourself these questions before opening an account.
Are you good at electronic communication?
Online banking means not visiting a branch when you need help with your account. You’ll be left calling someone or using online chats to get assistance.
Are you a regular at your local branch right now?
If you already do most of your banking online, then you’ll have little trouble adapting to a completely online bank.
How good are you with technology?
Someone who knows how to work a smartphone shouldn’t have trouble with online banking. Technophobes should probably stick with a traditional banking experience as they might struggle to use an online bank effectively.
The Four Most Important Features of a Checking Account
When you’re comparing checking accounts, make sure that you compare these four factors.
Many banks charge monthly fees if you want to have an account. These fees eat away at your balance, leaving you with less money to spend on the things you need. Always look for checking accounts that have no fees or fees that are easy to avoid.
If you use cash a lot, you’ll want to choose a bank with a strong network of ATMs and branches.
Also, consider looking for accounts that refund ATM fees charged by other banks. So, you can use any ATM you want.
Most checking accounts don’t pay interest but some 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.