The 10 Best Free Checking Accounts

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Most Americans use their checking account every day. Having a checking account allows you to get paid via direct deposit, set your bills on auto-pay directly from your account, and use a Visa or Mastercard branded debit card for everyday in-person and online transactions. You can access the cash in your account from an ATM machine or get cash back when making a purchase at certain retailers. 

Many banks offer tempting sign-up offers for opening a new checking account. It’s crucial to read the fine print, though. You may have to maintain a certain minimum balance to avoid a hefty monthly fee. There may be a minimum number of times you need to use your debit card throughout the month or you may be required to authorize direct deposits from your employer into the account. 

Ideally, you’ll be able to find a free checking account that offers all of the normal benefits of having a bank account without extra fees. You have a lot of options, so finding the best free checking account for your situation is a simple matter of shopping around. 

Best Free Checking Accounts

1. Chime Spending Account

chime
4.5
4.5/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$0

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

1.00%

ATM FEES

Network of 38,000 fee-free ATMs

  • SpotMe offers fee-free overdraft protection for qualifying account holders
  • Get paid up to two days earlier with direct deposit
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Chime Round Up automatically transfers money to your savings account when you make a purchase with the Chime debit card
  • Replacement debit cards are always free
  • Chime supports mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay™ and Google Pay™
  • No credit check to open an account
  • Chime account holders can sign up to participate in the Chime Credit Builder program to help boost their credit scores

Best for: Those who want to get paid up to two days earlier with tools like SpotMe to help avoid overdrafts and declined charges

2. Discover Bank Cashback Debit

discover-bank
4.5
4.5/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$2,500

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

0.95% APY

ATM FEES

60,000 no-fee ATMs

Account Highlights:

  • 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases every month
  • No minimum balance
  • No insufficient funds fees
  • No overdraft fees
  • 24/7 customer service via phone
  • Rare cashback rewards checking account without restrictive rules
  • Overdraft protections allows Discover to pull needed funds from an account you designate if you don’t have enough money in your checking account to cover a purchase

Best for: Those who want a cash back rewards checking account with zero fees

3. Axos Bank™ Rewards Checking

axos-bank
5
5/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$0

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

Up to 1.25% APY on up to $150,000 depending on account activity

ATM FEES

Unlimited fee-free ATM withdrawals from any domestic ATM

Account Highlights:

  • No overdraft fees
  • No non-sufficient fund fees
  • 24/7 access to customer service via chat, phone, or Twitter
  • Up to 1% cash back rewards on debit card purchases with a CashBack checking account

Best for: Those who want an interest-bearing checking account that also offers cash back rewards on debit card purchases

4. Varo Bank Account

varo-bank
4.5
4.5/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$0

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

Up to 2.8% APY when you make at least five debit card purchases and receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits during the month if you have at least $10,000 in your savings account. All other Varo Bank Account holders receive 1.21% APY on their checking account balance.

ATM FEES

Network of 55,000 fee-free Allpoint® ATMs

Account Highlights:

  • Get your direct deposit paycheck up to two days earlier than with other banks
  • No overdraft fees on up to $50 negative balance when you make five purchases with your Varo debit card and you receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Save Your Change program automatically moves money into your Varo Savings Account when you use your Varo debit card to make a purchase
  • Save Your Pay program automatically moves money into your Varo Savings Account when you get paid

Best for: Frequent international travelers who want the advantage of getting paid up to two days earlier with built-in automatic savings options

5. Capital One 360 Checking®

capital-one
4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$0

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

0.10% APY on balances up to $49,999.99

ATM FEES

Network of 40,000 Capital One® or Allpoint fee-free ATMs

Account Highlights:

  • Free contactless debit Mastercard
  • Next Day Grace option allows you to take one business day to add more funds to your account before being charged an overdraft fee
  • Free Savings Transfer option allows automatic transfer of funds from your 360 savings account to avoid an overdraft fee
  • Balance alerts and text notifications help you stay on top of your account activity and track spending

Best for: Those who want to integrate their Capital One credit cards with a co-branded bank account with benefits like a grace period for overdrafts

6. Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

alliant
4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$5

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

0.25% APR

ATM FEES

Reimbursed up to $20 per month

Account Highlights:

  • No minimum balance requirements
  • With monthly direct deposit and eStatements, you’ll earn 0.25% APR on your account balance
  • Free Visa contactless debit card
  • Alliant Credit Union offers a full menu of lending, investing, and banking services

Best for: Those who like to use a non-profit credit union to meet their banking needs but don’t want to pay fees 

7. Chase Total Checking®

chase-bank
4.5
4.5/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$0

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

None

ATM FEES

Network of 16,000 fee-free ATMs

Account Highlights:

  • $200 bonus if you are a new Chase customer opening a checking account
  • Access to 4,900 branches for in-person banking
  • No fees when you set up a direct deposit of $500 or more to the account
  • Chase Bank also offers mortgage services, auto loans, credit cards, business accounts, and investing services

Best for: Those who want access to one of the largest banking networks in the world with perks like a $200 bonus for opening a free checking account

8. Radius Bank Rewards Checking

radius-bank
4.5
4.5/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$100

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

0.10%

ATM FEES

No fees + unlimited ATM reimbursements for fees charged by other banks worldwide

Account Highlights:

  • 1% cash back on all signature-based and online transactions classified as “credit” when you use a Radius debit card
  • 1.5% cash back when you make a purchase with a Radius debit card at pharmacies, drug stores, fast food restaurants, convenience stores, bookstores, streaming services, and when you donate to social service and charitable organizations
  • Receive automatic direct deposits up to two days earlier than many other financial institutions
  • US-based customer service via email, phone, or chat
  • No recurring or hidden fees

Best for: Those who want to earn up to 1.5% cash back rewards with everyday purchases

9. FNBO Direct Online Checking 

fnbo-direct
4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$1

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

0.65% APY

ATM FEES

Access to more than 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs and 2 million fee-free ATMs worldwide

Account Highlights:

  • Free bill pay services
  • Free stop payment services
  • PopMoney person-to-person payments
  • Free budgeting tools online
  • No minimum balance to receive 0.65% APY
  • 24/7 live customer support via phone

Best for: Those who need a large network of domestic and international fee-free ATMs

10. Simple

simple-bank
3.5
3.5/5

DollarFlow rating

MINIMUM DEPOSIT TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT

$0

INTEREST RATE ON BALANCE

1.00% APY

ATM FEES

Network of 40,000 + surcharge-free ATMs in the United States

Account Highlights:

  • Checking account designed for use with a mobile phone app
  • Integrated budgeting tools show “safe to spend” amount in real-time
  • Detailed view of spending history
  • Customizable Round-Up Rules allow automatic savings when you use the Simple debit card to pay for purchases
  • Add photos, hashtags, merchant names, and notes to purchases

Best for: Those who want a straightforward way to manage their money all in one place from their smartphone

Still have questions about the best free checking accounts? FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about free checking accounts in 2020:

Isn’t it a lot of work to switch bank accounts?

While switching banks isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, it’s a great way to reduce waste in your budget if you are currently paying unnecessary account maintenance, overdraft, or ATM fees. On average, Americans pay $329 per year to banks for fees that they could avoid by switching banks. 

If you decide to switch, be sure to leave enough money in your account to cover all of your outstanding checks and debit card purchases. Pay attention to the bills you have on autopay, too. Update those bills with your new account information so you don’t incur late payment fees. 

With many banks, you can get paid up to two days earlier when you use direct deposit. You may need to get a new form from your employer, or simply change your bank information through their online portal. Don’t close your old account until you are sure that your paychecks will land safely in your new account. 

Are there any good alternatives to a traditional checking account? 

Check cashing services and money orders can perform many of the functions of a simple checking account, but their fees can make this method of handling your money unsustainable. Reloadable prepaid cards are another popular checking account alternative, but they also impose fees for everything from making a cash withdrawal from an ATM machine to paying a bill online. 

If you can get a free checking account, it’s smart to move forward with the process and avoid the hassle and fees associated with many checking account alternatives. 

What if I get denied for a free checking account?

If a bank denies your application for a free checking account, it’s important to find out exactly why they won’t work with you. Call their customer service phone number during business hours to speak with a representative if possible. If you aren’t comfortable talking on the phone, check their website for an instant message or chat option. 

You may be denied a bank account for many reasons. If you’ve bounced checks in the past or had an account with another bank forcibly closed with a negative balance, you may have to clear up those problems before you can open a new account. 

Nearly every bank uses the ChexSystems report to find out if you’ve had problems handling bank accounts in the past. Federal law allows you to get a copy of your ChexSystems report once every 12 months. You also have the right to see your ChexSystems report if a bank turns down your application for a checking account. Access your report by visiting the ChexSystems website

If you can’t clear up your past banking problems quickly, consider a second-chance bank account like the one offered by Varo Bank. Their second-chance account doesn’t use your credit report or your ChexSystems report to qualify you for an account. You’ll get a debit card, access to 55,000 fee-free ATMs, no-fee overdraft protection, and zero minimum balance requirements with a fee-free account that can help you re-establish your banking history. 

How important is it to choose a checking account that earns interest?

If you are paying overdraft fees, monthly maintenance fees, or ATM fees, earning interest on your checking account balance doesn’t matter. First, settle on a fee-free checking account that meets your needs. If you can narrow your list down to two or three contenders, consider the interest rate you could earn on your checking account balance. 

If your checking account balance never dips below a few thousand dollars, consider moving that money to an account that earns more interest

Can I get a free checking account at a smaller bank or credit union?

Many credit unions and local banks with only a few branches offer free checking accounts. The eight banks listed here are national banks that allow anyone to open an account, regardless of where you live in the United States. 

If you prefer to bank in person or want to support your local community credit union, stop in and ask about their free checking account options. You may have to join the credit union, but this often as simple as opening a savings account with a $5 deposit. 

The bottom line:

Choosing a checking account that meets your needs is easier than ever. You have hundreds of banks competing for your business, so it’s just a matter of evaluating their free checking accounts and choosing the one that will save you the most money while helping you move closer to reaching your financial goals. 

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