Today we’re checking out the best free checking accounts for consumers.
Depending on where you bank, what you do, or what you’re comfortable with, there is likely a free checking account that will work for you.
Too many people fall for the myth that banking is expensive and that the only options for a checking account involve fees, or maintaining outrageously high balances to keep the fees waived.
But today, we’re fighting this myth.
We’re going to show you our favorite options depending on your situation, as well as a full round-up of free checking account options that might work for you.
Note: Most of these banks require a credit score of 600 or higher to open a free checking account online. If you don’t have a great score, or don’t have a solid banking history, check out this list of second-chance checking accounts.
The Best Free Checking Account Options
Note: The checking offers that appear on this site are from companies from which The College Investor receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The College Investor does not include all banking companies or all checking offers available in the marketplace.
1. Discover Cashback Debit
Discover offers the Cashback Debit Checking Account. This checking account allows you to earn up to 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases every month.
Plus, this account has no fees or minimum balance requirements!
They are very mobile friendly, have access to over 60,000 free ATMs, and even have no-fee check ordering. Read our full Discover bank review here.
Why I Like It: Cashback debit on a free checking account.
Learn more about Discover Cashback Debit here.
Discover Cashback Debit Account
1% cashback on up to $3,000 in purchases per month
2. Axos Rewards Checking
Axos Bank calls themselves America’s most experienced digital bank. And their Rewards checking account hits every feature you’d expect from a top notch online bank.
Rewards Checking has no minimum balance requirements, no monthly fees, and no overdraft or insufficient fund fees. Plus, they offer unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements!
Axos Bank does require that you have good banking history to get approved.
What’s great about this account is that it’s monthly fee-free, but also pays interest. You can earn up to 1.25% APY right now!
Read our full Axos Bank review here.
Why I Like It: A great free checking account with the ability to earn a high APY.
Learn more about Axos Rewards Checking here.
Unlimited via ATM fee reimbursement
3. Chime Free Checking
Chime was one of the original free mobile banking apps that revolutionized mobile banking. They started with a mobile-first mindset, and also wanted to keep fees as low as possible.
As such, they have a top notching free checking account if you’re okay with a mobile only platform. Chime has no physical locations, and all of their banking is done online – in the app.
Check out our Chime Review here.
Why I Like It: Free mobile banking.
Learn more about Chime Free Checking here.
GO2bank is a mobile bank that is working to take mobile banking to the next level. What we love about GO2bank is that they are really helping people access banking who may have never had a bank account before. GO2bank was created by Green Dot Corp, which many people may already be familiar with.
This account has a $5 monthly fee, but it’s easily waived if you receive an eligible direct deposit payment during the previous monthly statement period.
Plus, the perks are amazing. You can currently earn 1.00% APY (Annual Percentage Yield) on up to $5,000 in your savings account, paid quarterly¹. You can also earn up to 7% cash back when you purchase eGift Cards from the nearly 100 popular merchants in the GO2bank mobile app as well as 3% cash back on Amazon eGift Cards bought in the app².
Plus, they offer up to $200 in overdraft protection with opt-in and eligible direct deposit³.
Read our full GO2bank review here.
Why I Like It: A savings account that earns interest combined with a deposit account that has amazing overdraft protection.
Learn more about GO2bank here.
$5 (waived with qualifying direct deposit)
1.00% APY on first $5,000
5. BBVA Free Checking
BBVA Free Checking is a lesser known bank nationwide, but they do offer nationwide free checking! However, where BBVA really shines is in it’s access to ATMs.
Furthermore, there is no real requirements to maintain free checking at BBVA. They do charge for paper statements (and it’s opt-out), but once you opt-out, you don’t have to worry about making enough direct deposits or having a minimum balance.
Read our full BBVA Bank review.
Why I Like It: Easy online banking without worrying about minimums.
Learn more about BBVA Free Checking here. BBVA USA, Member FDIC.
TX, CA, CO, AZ, NM, AL, FL
Varo is a modern app and online bank that is delivering awesome free checking with interest.
Varo has no minimum balance requirements, no monthly fees, and earns interest!
It includes a debit card and a solid mobile app experience!
Read our full Varo review here.
Why I Like It: A free checking account that can be combined that earns interest.
Learn more about Varo.
7. Nationwide Advantage Checking
Nationwide Advantage Checking is Nationwide’s rewards checking product – and it’s also free! But if you meet the criteria, they’ll pay you an awesome APY on your money!
This account has only a $50 minimum to open, but after that – no monthly maintenance fees, no minimum balance requirements, and no overdraft fees.
Nationwide does require that you’re a well qualified applicant and that you have good banking history to get approved.
You can currently earn up to 0.90% APY by meeting the following criteria:
- 0.45% APY:
Direct deposits (not including intra-bank transfers from another account) totaling $1,000 or higher each month.
- 0.45% APY: At least 10 point of sale transactions per month using Advantage Checking Visa debit card (with a minimum of $3 per transaction).
Check out our Nationwide Bank Review here.
Why I Like It: Free checking with awesome APY potential.
Learn more about Nationwide Advantage Checking here.
Nationwide Advantage Checking
8. Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking®
The Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking® account is listed as a top account because it is available nationwide online, has thousands of locations, and offers some solid options including ways to waive the monthly maintenance fee. Plus, the minimum requirements are easy to meet – check it out.
And right now you can get a $100 bonus offer. See offer page for details. That’s awesome!
Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking® has a $12 per month maintenance fee that’s easily waived if you simply do ONE of the following:
- Be an eligible student under 24
- Have at least one qualifying direct deposits totaling $250 or more into your account, each statement cycle
- Maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500 each statement cycle
Read our full Bank of America review here.
Why I Like It: A great account opening bonus, with one of the largest, most well known banks in the United States.
Learn more about Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking® here.
Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking®
$12* (waived when requirements met)
Get a $100 bonus offer! See offer page for details. At Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.
9. Wealthfront Cash Account
Wealthfront (the popular robo-advisor) recently launched a high-interest checking account, the Wealthfront Cash Account. This account is a great way to earn interest on all of your money and get your paycheck up to two days early.
What’s great about the account is that it provides no account fee banking for all of your spending needs and also earns interest. It currently pays 0.10% APY and you can get started with just $1.
They are very mobile friendly, with 19,000 fee-free ATMs, mobile check deposits, and BillPay.
Read our full Wealthfront review here.
Why I Like It: Interest-bearing checking connected to a solid robo-advisor.
Open a Wealthfront Cash Account here.
10. Radius Rewards Checking
Radius offers the Rewards Checking Account. This is one of the few checking accounts that earns a solid interest rate on your money in the account.
It currently pays 0.10% APY on balances between $2,500 and $99,999, and 0.15% APY on balances over $100,000. You must maintain a $2,500 minimum average balance in the account OR $2,500 in direct deposits per month to earn interest.
They also offer 1% back on debit card purchases, which is similar to other top accounts on this page! They also offer 1.50% cash back on certain bonus categories.
They are very mobile friendly, with unlimited ATM reimbursements, and mobile check deposits.
Read our full Radius review here.
Why I Like It: Interest-bearing checking with cash back debit.
Unlimited via ATM fee reimbursement
Other Great Free Checking Accounts
These accounts are solid free checking account options that you may want to consider in your search!
Aspiration Spend & Save
Aspiration Spend & Save is Aspiration’s cash management account. The great thing about this account is that they offer a variety of features for free. Furthermore, if you do upgrade to Aspiration Plus, you can get up to 1.00% APY on your money!
This account has only a $10 minimum to open, but after that you can pay what you want for a monthly fee (including $0), no minimum balance requirements, and no overdraft fees.
Earning the 1.00% APY does have some restrictions. To earn 1.00% APY interest on Aspiration Save Account balances up to and including $10,000.00 in any calendar month, customer must be enrolled in Aspiration Plus and spend $1,000 or more, monthly, with their Aspiration debit card. Balances over $10,000.00 will earn 0.10% APY. If the requirements are not met each month, the APY will be 0.25% on Save Account balances up to and including $10,000.00. Balances over $10,000.00 will earn 0.10% APY.
Check out our Aspiration Review here.
Why I Like It: Eco-friendly banking with potential to earn a solid APY.
Learn more about Aspiration here.
Unlimited via Reimbursement
OnJuno is a mobile bank that offers an incredibly compelling APY so we wanted to include it here. While OnJuno is technically a checking account, it offers an amazing interest rate that will make savers want to take notice. The only drawback is the limits.
Right now, you can earn up to 2.15% APY on balances up to $30,000. After that, it drops to 0.25% APY on balances up to $100,000.
They offer two different accounts:
- Basic Checking: Up to 2.15% APY on balances up to $5,000
- Metal Checking: Up to 2.15% APY on balances up to $30,000, but there is a fee of $9.99 per month after a 6 month free trial. You can still earn the higher APY for those 6 months.
Their account has just a $0 minimum to open, and no monthly maintenance fees!
Why I Like It: High interest rate on a checking account.
Ally Bank Checking
Ally Bank is one of the most well-known internet only banks around, and they have a great free checking account that matches their brand.
They are known for solid customer service and great banking products. They have no monthly fee free checking, and a great mobile app that allows mobile check deposit.
Read out full Ally Bank review here.
Why I Like It: Well known free checking brand.
Learn more about Ally Bank Checking here.
43,000 Free ATMs, Up To $10 In Reimbursement/Mo
USAA Classic Checking
USAA Classic Checking is a great choice for free checking if you qualify to have a USAA Account. USAA limits membership to servicemembers and DOD employees and their families, so that could be a bar to entry for some.
If you do qualify for USAA, then their USAA Classic Checking is a great product, with no fee checking, free checks, online BillPay, and ATM free reimbursements.
Why I Like It: Free checking, free checks, great mobile app for those that qualify for USAA.
Learn more about USAA Classic Checking here.
Up To 10 Free ATM Withdrawals
Nationwide for USAA Members
nbkc Bank Everything Account
nbkc Bank Everything Account is a great free checking account if you’re looking for a checking account that earns interest, has no minimum, and an easy to use mobile app.
They offer truly free checking, and even offer free checks and a network of free ATMs. They also have mobile check deposit, which they offer for free.
Check out our nbkc Bank review here.
Why I Like It: Free checking, free checks, and free mobile check deposit.
Open an nbkc Bank Everything Account here.
nbkc Bank Everything Account
Fighting The Myth Of Free Checking Accounts
We talked about it slightly above, but there is a long standing myth in America that checking accounts are expensive. As a result, too many people go without this tool, and end up using expensive tools like check cashing, money orders, and more.
According to a CFPB report, the average checking account charge $10-12 in monthly maintenance fees. That’s crazy! There is no reason than anyone should pay these fees when opening a checking account.
Furthermore, to waive these fees, many “big banks” require you to open other products with them (such as a savings account), or maintain a monthly minimum (say $5,000 at all times, or pay the fee), or they require you to have direct deposit setup.
Some banks even have a transaction requirement to waive the fee – for example, you must have 25 debit cards transactions per month, or you get charged a fee. All of these fees and requirements are wrong.
What You Need In A Checking Account
Students (and other people) typically maintain lower balances than older Americans. They also might not have a job yet (for direct deposit), or have other accounts at the bank.
As such, they have unique requirements that we wanted to share, so that you can see how we based our criteria for the best free checking account options.
In order to be one of the best free checking accounts, we put the following criteria in place:
- No Monthly Maintenance Fees: This is a big one. All of the accounts we consider must not charge a monthly maintenance fee, today, or ever. We hate gimmicks, and some banks waive the fee for a certain amount of time, and that’s still not okay with us.
- No Or Low Monthly Balance Required: You shouldn’t have to have huge amounts of money to waive fees or qualify for a free checking account. We only look for banks that don’t have a monthly minimum balance requirement or if they do, it’s incredibly low.
- No Direct Deposit Requirement: Many students don’t have jobs yet, so it can be hard or impossible to get direct deposit. As such, we don’t want banks to require direct deposit for free checking.
- Awesome Online Access: The best free checking accounts will also have awesome online access, a great app or mobile site, and be accessible anywhere.
- No ATM Fees: College students are on the move. They should be able to access their money for free, where ever they are.
Common Checking Account Questions
Still on the fence about what type of checking account to open? We break down the most common checking account questions below:
Is Free Checking Real?
Yes! When we refer to free checking accounts, we are talking about accounts that don’t charge any type of monthly fee to use their service. In some rare cases, we might include a checking account that does have a monthly fee, but it can be easily waived.
What are common checking account fees?
Beyond the monthly fees, you may find checking accounts that charge for ATM withdrawals, ACH transfers, and more.
Do checking accounts pay interest?
Some do! There are interest-bearing checking accounts and non-interest bearing checking accounts. Some pay interest, but only if you maintain a certain balance level in the account. While this can be very helpful, you typically will earn a higher yield in a high yield savings account versus a checking account.
Do you have to pay for ATM withdrawals?
Most banks that advertise free checking don’t make you pay for ATM withdrawals. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t restrictions. For example, many banks either make you utilize their network of ATMs to remain free, or some banks even offer ATM fee reimbursement – where they will refund you a fee charged by an ATM. Banks that offer ATM fee reimbursement typically don’t operate their own network of ATMs.
Are there limits to how much you can have in a checking account?
While there are no limits to how much you can have in a checking account, your money is only insured up to the FDIC insurance deposit limits. As such, you should be mindful of holding more in the account than the insurance limits allow for your account type.
What’s the difference between a fee and service charge?
While many checking accounts are fee-free, most still have service charges. What’s the difference? A service charge is something you pay when you use a service beyond the basics of the account (such as a wire transfer). These services typically cost the bank a lot of money, and they are passing on the cost to you.
Do any banks offer a bonus for opening a checking account?
Yes! Some banks do offer opening account bonus offers if you meet the criteria. While you shouldn’t necessarily make your pick of a bank on a bonus offer, it can be a helpful motivating factor.
Hopefully you can see that there are good options for free checking.
You don’t have to pay fees to have a checking account – you just need to open your account at a good bank.
Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC
¹1.00% APY as of 2/26/21 and may change anytime. Interest is paid quarterly on the average daily balance up to a $5,000 balance.
²Active GO2bank account required to receive an eGift Card. eGift Card merchants subject to change.
³Opt-in required. $15 fee may apply to each eligible purchase transaction that brings your account negative. Balance must be brought to at least $0 within 24 hours of authorization of the first transaction that overdraws your account to avoid the fee.
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