Updated October 9, 2021

Best Free Checking Accounts

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Banking doesn't have to be expensive. Here is a list of good free checking accounts without outrageous fees or high balance requirements.

What is the best bank for free checking?

Checking AccountBest ForMinimum Deposit
Discover Cashback DebitCashback Rewards$0
Axos Rewards CheckingCan earn high interest rate$50
Chime Free Mobile CheckingExcellent mobile banking; no credit check$0
Chase Total Checking®Lots of branches; new customer cash bonus$0
Bank of America Advantage Plus BankingLarge national bank; easy to waive monthly fee$100
Aspiration Spend & SaveGreen banking services; social mission$10
Ally Bank Interest CheckingFull-service online banking with interest$0
Betterment CheckingNo monthly fees; ATM fees reimbursed worldwide$0
Varo Bank AccountSecond chance banking$0
Capital One 360 CheckingEarns interest; no foreign transaction fees$0
Nationwide Advantage CheckingPotential for higher interest rate$50

Discover Cashback Checking

Up to $30/month in cash back rewards

The Discover Cashback Debit Account lets you earn 1% cash back when you use your debit card (on up to $3,000 in purchases each month). That's potential for some pretty awesome earnings.

Cashback is only eligible for debit card purchases - not for things like ATM transactions, money orders, peer-to-peer payments, or loan payments.

You get free ATM withdrawals at over 60,000 locations, including ATMs in popular grocery stores, CVS, Walgreens, and Costco.

Besides no monthly fees, many other banking activities are also free. You pay $0 for checks, stop payment orders, and insufficient funds.

Customer Service
Discover Bank offers 24/7 phone and email customer support from a U.S.-based team. Simply call 1-801-451-3737 or send a message through the online Message Center.

Discover Bank
Member FDIC

Online Checking Account - Earn Cash Back

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $0
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: N/A
  • ATMs: 60,000+ Allpoint or MoneyPass ATMs
  • Perks: 1% cashback on up to $3,000 in purchases each month

Discover's cashback program is great if you typically spend a lot on your debit card. But if you like to keep a larger balance instead, the next option is for you.

Axos Rewards Checking

Higher interest rate than most savings accounts

Not only does the Axos Bank Rewards Checking Account has no fees, you can even earn Up to 1.00% interest. That's considered really high right now.

Axos doesn't have its own ATM network. But it gives unlimited rebates of domestic ATM fees, so you can use any machine you want.

Axos Bank
Member FDIC

Rewards Checking - Up to 1.00% APY

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $50
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: No monthly maintenance fee
  • APY: Up to 1.00%
  • ATMs: Unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements
  • Perks: Get your first set of 50 checks free

What is APY
In simple terms, annual percentage yield (APY) is how much your money will grow in one year, with compounding interest. This assumes that you don't add or withdraw money. For example, if you deposit $1,000 into an account with 1% APY, you'll earn $10 by end of one year.

One thing to note: Axos does tend to require good banking history for approval. If you have some past banking mistakes, no worries, the next bank accepts everyone.

Chime Free Mobile Checking

Excellent mobile app with lots of benefits; no credit check

Chime is a leader in mobile banking. The checking account has a Get Paid Early service that lets you receive your direct deposit payment 2 days early.

Another great feature is SpotMe, where Chime will spot you up to $200 (or more) on overdrafts for free. You repay it when you make a deposit. SpotMe only covers debit card purchases.

You can be eligible if you get at least $500 in direct deposits every month. Your SpotMe limit depends on your account activity and history.

Plus, Chime doesn't run any credit checks or reports. So it's a great choice for those with bad credit or poor banking history. It's also ideal for college students who may not have any history.

Chime

Free Mobile Checking

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $0
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: N/A
  • ATMs: 60K+ fee-free ATMs at convenient locations like Walgreens, 7-Eleven, CVS and more
  • Perks: Get Paid Early, SpotMe up to $200, no foreign transaction fees

Should you use an online bank?
Because online banks have less overhead, they don't have as many fees and can even offer interest. They usually partner with nationwide ATM networks so you can withdraw money easily. And you can still do tasks like pay bills online and deposit checks by taking a photo with the mobile app.

Not sure about purely mobile banking? You may consider a national bank if you like doing banking in person.

Chase Total Checking

Lots of branches; new customer cash bonus

Chase is one of the largest banks in the US. Even though it's so big, Chase has great customer service reviews, plus a highly-rated mobile app.

Chase Total Checking® isn't exactly free, but it's easy to waive the $12 monthly maintenance fee. All you need is at least $500 in direct deposits. If you can do that, then you don't need to worry about maintaining a minimum balance.

You can also get a Chase bonus as a new customer. You only need to set up direct deposit to receive the bonus - no minimum deposit required!

One downside of big banks is that they're not so lenient on overdrafts. Chase charges $34 for overdrafts. You can avoid the fee if you make a deposit to cover the overdraft before end of business day. See more tips at the end on how to avoid overdrafts.

Chase
Member FDIC

Chase Total Checking® - $225 Bonus

Expires 1/19/2022
  • New Chase checking customers enjoy a $225 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit
  • Access to 16,000 Chase ATMs and more than 4,700 branches
  • Chase Mobile® app - Manage your accounts, deposit checks, transfer money and more -- all from your device.
  • Open your account online now
  • Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. For branch locations, visit locator.chase.com.
  • Minimum Deposit Required: None
  • Direct Deposit Required: Yes
  • Monthly Fee: $12 Monthly Service Fee OR $0 with one of the following, each monthly statement period:
    • Qualifying electronic deposits made into this account totaling $500 or more,
    • OR a balance at the beginning of each day of $1,500 or more in this account,
    • OR an average beginning day balance of $5,000 or more in any combination of this account and linked qualifying Chase checking, savings, and other balances
  • APY: N/A
  • ATMs: 16,000+ Chase ATMs

Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking

Large national bank; easy to waive monthly fee

Bank of America also offers bonuses for new customers opening a checking account.

The mobile app is packed with features, like built-in budgeting tools and cash rewards program. You also get Erica, the virtual assistant, who can help you manage bills, track your FICO score, lock your debit card, and more.

The monthly fee is easily waived with just a direct deposit of $250 per month.

Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking®

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $100
  • Monthly Fee: $12 Monthly Maintenance Fee OR waived with:
    • At least one qualifying direct deposit of $250 or more,
    • OR minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more,
    • OR enrollment in Preferred Rewards,
    • OR a waiver for eligible students under 24
  • APY: N/A
  • ATMs: 16,000+
  • Perks: Preferred Rewards program for extra benefits

Large commercial banks can get a bad rep for being soulless. If you're looking for something with more heart, the next one may be perfect for you.

Aspiration Spend & Save

Green banking services with a social mission

Aspiration Spend & Save aims to make the world a better place while banking.

Your deposits do not go towards fossil fuel projects that harm the planet. Plus, you can plant a tree with every purchase. Aspiration will round up to the nearest dollar and plant a tree with your spare change.

You pay what you think is fair (even if it's $0). Aspiration donates 10% of whatever people give to charities that help struggling Americans.

Aspiration

Spend and Save

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $10
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: Pay What is Fair
  • APY: 1.00% APY if you upgrade to Aspiration Plus
  • ATMs: 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs
  • Perks: Get up to 5% cashback when you shop with socially-conscious retailers

Travel abroad often? This next one is better for frequent travelers to save money.

Ally Bank Interest Checking

Free full-service online banking with interest

Ally Bank is a full-service online bank with checking, savings, IRAs, investment services, and loans. It's a great choice if you want to handle all your finances under one institution.

The Interest Checking account has no minimum requirements and offers interest on all balances

  • 0.10% APY under $15,000
  • 0.25% APY $15,000 or more
.

Other benefits include no overdraft fees, free standard checks, and free access to over 43,000+ Allpoint ATMs. If you do go out of network, Ally will reimburse up to $10 of other banks' ATM fees each statement cycle.

Ally Bank

Interest Checking

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $0
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: 0.10% APY for daily balances less than $15,000; 0.25% APY for daily balance over $15,000
  • ATMs: 43,000+ Allpoint ATMs
  • Perks: Up to $10 ATM fee reimbursements per month

Betterment Checking

No monthly fees; ATM fees reimbursed worldwide

Betterment, the popular robo-advisor, also offers a free checking account backed by NBKC Bank.

Just like a traditional bank account, you get a Visa debit card, mobile check deposit, paycheck direct deposit, and online bill pay. Oh, and there's no overdraft fee.

The really cool thing is that it reimburses all ATM fees worldwide, so you can travel anywhere with your card. Plus, all foreign transaction fees are reimbursed too.

Betterment

Betterment Checking

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $0
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: N/A
  • ATMs: ATM fees reimbursed worldwide
  • Perks: Cashback rewards at popular retailers

Varo Bank Account

No fee banking; high interest on savings

Varo gives you access to your direct deposits 2 days early. The account has no overdraft fees and no foreign transaction fees.

There's a Varo Advance feature that lets you instantly borrow up to $100 cash. You just need to pay it back within 30 days. There's no interest, but there is a small fee based on the amount you borrow. Borrowing $100 will have a $5 fee.

It also offers a savings deposit account that earns interest. You can earn a high 3% APY if you make at least five Varo debit card purchases, receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits, and don't exceed $5,000 in daily savings balance per month.

Varo does not check your credit score or banking history, so it's also great for those needing a second chance.

Varo Bank Account

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $0
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: N/A
  • ATMs: 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs
  • Perks: Get paid up to 2 days early with direct deposit; no foreign transaction fees

Capital One 360 Checking

Earns interest; no foreign transaction fees

Capital One offers a solid basic checking account with a little bit of interest (no requirements to earn). Plus, the debit card charges no foreign transaction fees.

It also offers several overdraft programs. For example, if you add funds to your overdrawn account within one day, you won't pay a fee.

Capital One differentiates itself from other banks by offering more personalized service, like the Capital One Cafes where you can get in-person financial advice. But the cafes are only in larger cities.

360 Checking Account

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $0
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: 0.10% APY
  • ATMs: 40,000+ Allpoint ATMs
  • Perks: Free first set of checks

Nationwide Advantage Checking

Potential to earn a competitive interest rate

Nationwide is partnered with Axos Bank to provide banking services.

You can earn up to 0.90% APY on your checking balance if you have at least $1,000 in monthly direct deposits and made at least 10 debit card purchases each month.

There are no balance requirements, overdraft fees, or non-sufficient funds fees.

Nationwide

Advantage Checking - Up to 0.90% APY

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $50
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: Up to 0.90% APY
  • ATMs: 80,000+ fee-free ATMs

Other Free Checking Accounts

If none of the above seem like the right fit for you, here are some other checking account options.

Wells Fargo Everyday Checking
This account is free for account owners 17-24 years old. For all others, you can waive the $10 monthly maintenance fee with a $500 minimum daily balance or direct deposits of at least $500 each statement cycle.

CIT eChecking
CIT Bank offers a basic checkless checking account with a little bit of interest. CIT Bank doesn't have an ATM network, but it will reimburse up to $30 in other bank ATM fees every month.

CIT Bank
Member FDIC

CIT Bank eChecking

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $100
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: 0.10% APY for balances under $25,000; 0.25% APY with $25,000 minimum balance
  • ATMs: No ATM network, but CIT doesn't charge ATM fees
  • Perks: Up $30 in ATM fee reimbursements per month

Axos CashBack Checking
Axos also offers a CashBack Checking account with no monthly fee. You can up to 1% cash back rewards on purchases if you maintain a $1,500.00 average daily collected balance.

Axos Bank
Member FDIC

CashBack Checking - Earn up to 1.00% Cash Back

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $50
  • Monthly Fee: No monthly maintenance fee
  • ATMs: Unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements

Schwab High Yield Investor Checking
Schwab checking account is a favorite for frequent travelers because it has no foreign transaction fees and reimburses all ATM fees worldwide.

High Yield Investor Checking – Unlimited ATM Rebates

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $0
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: 0.03% APY
  • ATMs: Unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide
  • Perks: No foreign transaction fees

FNBO Direct Online Checking
FNBO Direct offers a little bit of interest on all balances. It's only $1 to open and has no monthly service charges.

FNBO Direct Online Checking

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $1
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: 0.15% APY
  • ATMs: 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking
Alliant High-Rate Checking has no monthly fees and offers a decent interest rate. To earn that interest, you must opt for eStatements and have a recurring monthly electronic deposit.

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

  • Minimum Deposit Required: $0
  • Balance Requirement: $0
  • Monthly Fee: $0
  • APY: 0.25% APY when you opt in to eStatements and have at least one monthly electronic deposit to your account
  • ATMs: 80,000+ fee-free ATMs
  • Perks: Up to $20 ATM fee rebates per month; free first box of checks

Anyone is eligible to join Alliant Credit Union by becoming a member of Foster Care to Success. Alliant will even pay a $5 membership fee.

Is free checking really free?

Not all "free" checking accounts are equal. Some accounts may have requirements you have to meet.

Make sure there are no strings attached to your free checking account by asking the following questions:

  • Does the account have a monthly maintenance fee?
  • Is there a monthly minimum balance requirement?
  • Am I required to have direct deposit?
  • What types of other fees are associated with the account?
  • What services are not included with free checking? (e.g., wire transfers)

A truly free checking account should mean zero monthly maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements.

Ask for a copy of the bank's fee schedule before you commit. It'll help you avoid any unnecessary charges associated with your checking account.

How to Avoid Overdraft Fees

Overdrafts is one of the biggest banking problems for Americans. In just one year, 54% of Americans overdrafted 2-5 times.[1] With overdraft fees averaging $35 each, it can add up fast.

So how can you avoid these stressful fees? Luckily, banks usually have some overdraft programs to help.

  • Sign up for text alerts. You can get an alert when your account balance is low. This way, you can add more money before an overdraft happens.

  • Opt out of overdraft coverage. If you don't sign up for overdraft coverage, your bank will auto-decline transactions if you don't have enough money. This could be embarrassing at the cash register, but hey, at least you avoid the fee.

    When a bank says there's no overdraft fee, what it means is that they will just decline transactions when you don't have enough funds. It doesn't mean that you can overdraw and have a negative balance.

  • Grace period to add funds. Some banks give you a chance to avoid the fee if you deposit or transfer money to cover the overdraft by a deadline. This is not a bad option if you realize you've overdrawn your account and can act quickly.

    For example, Chase gives you until end of the business day to add funds. Capital One gives you 1 day to add funds.

  • Overdraft transfer protection. This is when you link a savings account with your checking account. When you overdraw, money can automatically be transferred from your savings to cover the amount.

    But be aware - some banks charge you for the transfer (like Bank of America charges $12). Some banks will make the transfer for free (like Chase). And note that usual 6/mo transaction limits still apply for savings accounts.

  • Overdraft line of credit. This option isn't available for all banks. But some will let you take out a line of credit to cover overdrafts. You pay it back with interest.

Hidden Fees to Watch Out For

Even if your account has no service fee, here are common hidden fees you may encounter.

  • Overdraft fee: This is when you don't have enough money to cover a purchase, but your bank covers it. The average bank charges $30-$35 each overdraft. And you can be charged multiple times in a single day.

  • Non sufficient funds: This is triggered when your bank rejects a payment because your account doesn't have enough money. Even if you have overdraft protection, you can still be charged this fee if you bounce a check. This is also called a returned item fee.

  • Out of network ATM withdrawals: Most banks have their own ATM network. If you're in a pinch and need to use a random ATM, you'll be charged a fee - usually around $2.50 - $3.50. Some banks will reimburse out-of-network ATM fees.

  • Paper checks: Still need to write checks? Some banks charge you for each set of checks. If you write checks often, look for an account with free checks.

  • Inactivity fee: Some banks charge an inactivity fee if you don't have any banking activities. It can be as much as $5 - $20 per month. You can avoid this fee by simply making any deposit or withdrawal, or using the debit card just once.

  • Paper statement: As more banks are going green, they may charge a fee for printing and mailing statements to you. To avoid this, simply opt-out and sign up for electronic statements only.

  • Wire transfers: Wire transfers are usually used to transfer money internationally or for a big purchase (like a house down payment). They usually cost $25 - $50 each. Some banks may offer free domestic wire transfers.

What Experts Say

As part of our series on saving and banking, CreditDonkey assembled a panel of industry experts to answer readers' most pressing questions.

Here's what they said:

Where can I find free checking accounts?

Your best bet for a free checking account is an online bank. These institutions don't have the overhead costs of traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Oftentimes, they'll pass those savings on to you through no-fee accounts.

Local credit unions and community banks may also offer free checking accounts. But some may have a minimum balance requirement in order to waive the monthly service fee.

If you can easily meet the requirements, then don't overlook those either if they offer the convenience and features you need.

What is the easiest checking account to open?

If you've had some past banking mistakes, it can be hard to open a traditional checking account.

Most banks will do a soft credit check and run your banking history through the ChexSystem. They can deny you if you've had too many overdrafts or a bad credit score.

But not all hope is lost. Second-chance banking offers you an opportunity to get back into the game, so you can rebuild your banking history.

Here are the easiest checking accounts to open that don't use the ChexSystem or require credit approval.

  • Chime: no monthly fees, balance requirements, or overdraft fees. Plus, you can get your direct deposit 2 days early.

  • Varo: no monthly service charges, minimums, or overdraft fees. Offers access to direct deposit up to 2 days early.

  • Sofi Money: a cash management account with no monthly fees or minimums. You get free access to 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs.

  • GoBank (by Green Dot): A bank exclusively at Walmart. The monthly fee is waived as long as you have $500 in direct deposits each statement cycle.

  • Wells Fargo Clear Access Checking: specifically for those unable to get standard accounts. But it has a $5 monthly service charge (that can be waived for account owners age 13-24).

What to look for in a free checking account

Minimum DepositMonthly FeeATMs
Discover$0$060,000+ Allpoint or MoneyPass ATMs
Axos Bank Rewards Checking$50No monthly maintenance feeUnlimited domestic ATM reimbursements
Chime Mobile Checking$0$060K+ fee-free ATMs at convenient locations like Walgreens, 7-Eleven, CVS and more
Aspiration Spend and Save$10Pay What is Fair55,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Ally Bank$0$043,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Betterment$0$0ATM fees reimbursed worldwide
Varo$0$055,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Capital One 360$0$040,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Nationwide Advantage$50$080,000+ fee-free ATMs

When looking for a free checking account, you'll have plenty of options. Here are some things to consider as you review your choices:

  • Monthly service fee
    If you don't want any restrictions, then look for a bank with no maintenance fees. Most of the banks on our list has no monthly service fee. There are a couple of banks that have a fee, but it's incredibly easy to waive.

  • Other banking fees
    Does the bank charge for things like overdrafts, insufficient funds, checks, wire transfers? Make sure the bank is transparent about their other fees.

  • Access
    Do you want the option of banking in-person, or are you okay with completely online banking? Also make sure the bank has convenient ATMs near where you live and work.

  • Website & Mobile App
    Whether on your computer or mobile device, you want to be able to handle your finances from anywhere. Choose a bank with a user-friendly website, mobile app, and features like online bill pay and mobile check deposits.

  • Security
    Your bank should be FDIC insured. This means that if the bank defaults, the government will pay you back everything you had in the account (up to $250,000).

What you need to open a checking account

To open a checking account, you will need:

  • Government issued ID, like a driver's license
  • Social Security Number
  • Proof of address (lease or utility bill)
  • Contact information (name, home address, email address, phone number)
  • Date of birth
  • Money for the opening deposit (if required)

You can open a checking account either online or in-person at a branch. To open an account by yourself, you need to be at least 18.

Most financial institutions will run a soft credit check on you to see your past banking history and then approve or deny you for the account.

Can I open a checking account with no money?
Several checking accounts will allow you to open an account without an initial deposit. These include:
  • Ally Bank Interest Checking Account
  • Discover Cashback Debit
  • Capital One 360 Checking
  • Chime Free Mobile Checking

Checking Accounts with Free ATM Transactions

Here are some of the best banks to avoid ATM fees.

  • Axos Reward Checking - unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements

  • Charles Schwab Investor Checking - also reimburses international ATM fees

  • Alliant Credit Union - reimburses up to $20 of ATM fees per month

  • Ally Interest Checking - reimburses up to $10 of ATM fees per month

Some banks, like Capital One, Ally, and Citibank, offer free account access using the Allpoint ATM network. That means customers won't pay fees for transactions at more than 55,000 domestic ATMs. They may, however, be charged fees for out-of-network ATM withdrawals.

Bottom Line

With the rise of online banks, free checking accounts are becoming more popular. Compare accounts-and banks-to find the best fit for your financial needs. Some banks offer additional perks or bonuses.

And remember, "free" checking isn't always free. Do some research or speak to a bank representative to see if your fee-free checking comes with requirements like minimum account balances or direct deposits.

References

  1. ^ Pew Center on the States, Overdraft America: Confusion and
    Concerns about Bank Practices
    , Retrieved 2/25/2021

Write to Kim Shackleton at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

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Chase
Member FDIC

Chase Total Checking® - $225 Bonus

Expires 1/19/2022
  • New Chase checking customers enjoy a $225 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit
  • Access to 16,000 Chase ATMs and more than 4,700 branches
  • Chase Mobile® app - Manage your accounts, deposit checks, transfer money and more -- all from your device.
  • Open your account online now
  • Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. For branch locations, visit locator.chase.com.
Chime Alternatives

Chime Alternatives

Chase Total Checking Bonus

Chase Total Checking Bonus

Best Check Cashing Apps

Best Check Cashing Apps

Discover Savings Bonus: $150 or $200 Promotion

Discover Savings Bonus

Why Do Checking Accounts Have Fees

Why Do Checking Accounts Have Fees

Citi Accelerate High-Yield Savings Account Review

Citibank High Yield Savings


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