Checking accounts can go a long way in helping you to manage your finances better. Along with savings accounts, checking accounts form part of the most basic bank accounts.
A checking account is the most basic deposit account that’s great for things like debit card purchases and bill pay.
With checking accounts, you can make an unlimited number of card transactions, making them the ideal type of accounts to make payments and pay for purchases.
While some checking accounts are free, some cost money. This can make a serious dent in your budget, especially if things are tight.
The good news is that there are many free checking accounts available today and you don’t have to give up anything by getting a free account.
In fact, some of the best checking account available on the market are completely free.
14 Best Free Checking Accounts
Here are our top free checking accounts in 2021:
- Alliant Credit Union: High-Interest Checking
- Ally Bank: Interest Checking Account
- Aspiration: Spend & Save
- Axos: Rewards Checking
- Bank5 Connect: High-Interest Checking
- BBVA: Online Checking
- Capital One: 360 Checking Account
- Charles Schwab: High Yield Investor Checking
- Chime: Spending Account
- Discover: Cashback Debit Checking Account
- Lili: Freelancer Account
- M1 Finance: M1 Spend
- Varo: Bank Account
- Wealthfront: Cash Account
1. Alliant Credit Union: High-Interest Checking
Alliant’s High-Interest Checking account has no service fees and no balance requirements. The account also has an APY rate of 0.25% but, to earn this, you need to go paperless and make monthly deposits into the account.
You also get a free contactless Visa debit card with access to over 80,000 fee-free ATMs. If you find yourself having to withdraw from an out-of-network ATM, Alliant also offers $20 per month in ATM fee rebates for surcharges.
The credit union also promises to refund the ATM fees that very same day.
The account comes with an award-winning mobile banking app that includes mobile check deposits and card management, among other features.
2. Ally Bank: Interest Checking Account
Ally Bank’s Interest Checking Account does not charge maintenance fees, and there is no minimum opening deposit either. You can earn an APY of 0.10% of your minimum daily balance is under $15,000, but this goes up to 0.25% for higher balances.
You get access to over 43,000 fee-free ATMs, and you can also expect reimbursements of up to $10 per statement cycle for any charges incurred from using out of network ATMs.
The account is FDIC-insured and is compatible with Zelle and Amazon Alexa. If you’re looking to save money, you can make use of Round-Ups and have your transactions rounded and transferred to a savings account.
3. Aspiration: Spend & Save
If you’re eco-conscious, Aspiration’s Spend & Save Plan is something you might want to consider. The Plus plan costs $15 a month, but the standard plan is free.
You’ll be able to sleep better, knowing that your deposits will not be used to find the oil industry. You can also earn between 3% and 5% cash back when making Conscience Coalition purchases. You also get a personal impact score that can help you understand your impact on the environment to help you shop from shops and brands that uphold your values.
Their ATM network includes some 55,000 locations from which you can withdraw without incurring any fees. You also have the option to round up purchases and plant trees.
4. Axos: Rewards Checking
Axos’ Rewards Checking account has no maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements either. You get an APY that can go as high as 1.25%, but you’ll need to meet some requirements to be eligible for the full rate.
The bank does not charge NSF or overdraft fees and offers unlimited reimbursements on any domestic ATM fees incurred. There is a minimum deposit requirement of $50.00 to open the account.
Axos takes security very seriously and offers several security-related features and tools to help you keep your account secure. These features include 2-step authentication, SSL encryption, biometric authentication, and regular updates to their systems.
5. Bank5 Connect: High-Interest Checking
Bank5 Connect is an online-only bank offering a high-interest checking account to see you get an APY of 0.20%. You will need to maintain a minimum balance of $100 to earn interest, but there are no maintenance fees to pay.
To open a Bank5 Connect High-interest Checking account, you will need to deposit at least $10. If you opt for electronic statements, you will not be charged, but there is a $1 per statement charge to receive it through the mail.
External transfers are also free, and you can get reimbursements of up to $15.00 per statement cycle when using out-of-network ATMs.
6. BBVA: Online Checking
BBVA’s Online Checking account places great importance on the user experience, offering an award-winning mobile app to manage your account. There are no monthly fees, but you’ll need to deposit a minimum of $25.00 to open the account.
You can also opt-out of paper statements and save $3.00 per month. ATM withdrawals are free from over 64,000 AllPoint ATMs, participating 7-Eleven locations as well as BBVA ATMs.
Each account holder gets a free BBVA Visa debit card that includes cash back rewards on eligible purchases. You can also opt-in for several additional services, including overdraft protection and the BBVA ClearBenefits program.
7. Capital One: 360 Checking Account
Capital One’s 360 Checking Account does not have any monthly service charges, and there are no balance requirements to keep the account open. There are no minimum opening deposit amounts, making this checking account very accessible.
There are some charges for extra services such as overnight check or replacement card deliveries, stop payments, or rejected checks. Having said that, with a bit of planning, most of these charges can be avoided.
Their ATM network includes over 40,000 fee-free ATMs, and you can get in-person help from any of their branches or cafes. Their highly-rated mobile app includes quite many features such as bill payment, access to Zelle, mobile check deposit, and many others.
The account earns a respectable APY of 0.10% but has no reimbursements for using out-of-network ATMs. Overdrafts can be quite expensive, so caution is highly recommended.
8. Charles Schwab Bank: High Yield Investor Checking
If you’re an investor with a Schwab One brokerage account, the Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account is worth checking out. You will need to link this checking account to your Schwab One account to take advantage of what it offers.
There are no service fees or account minimums. You can also get an APY of 0.03%, but you’ll need to keep a minimum balance of $0.01 to get the rate.
The account doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, has unlimited ATM fee rebates, and includes a mobile app that allows you to take care of all of your banking needs right from your phone.
You can apply for this account online or by calling the bank. Or downloading paper applications right from the bank’s website.
9. Chime: Spending Account
Chime’s Spending Account comes with no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements. Withdrawals are free from over 38,000 ATMs, and debit card replacements are also free.
One other notable feature of Chime Spending Accounts is SpotMe. While there are some eligibility and limit requirements, Chime can ‘spot’ you up to $200 should you make purchases that go over your account balance. There are no fees for using this feature – your account will simply go into a negative balance by the spotted amount.
Direct deposits can be paid up to 2 days earlier, and there is also a round-up feature to help you grow your savings automatically. Accounts are FDIC insured through either The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank.
10. Discover: Cashback Debit Checking Account
Discover’s Cashback Debit Checking Account doesn’t charge fees for most things, starting with the monthly maintenance fees. There also aren’t any balance requirements or activity requirements.
You get fee-free withdrawals from over 60,000 ATMs, but there are no reimbursements when using out-of-network ATMs. The bank also doesn’t charge any fees for NSF (non-sufficient funds), official bank checks, check orders, replacing debit cards, and many other things.
You also get 1% Cashback on the first $3,000 worth of purchases when using the account debit card each month. This means you can potentially make up to $30.00 back each month.
You can use the accompanying mobile app to transfer funds using Zelle, make check deposits, freeze your debit card, and even find the nearest fee-free ATM.
If you’re a freelancer looking for a free checking account for your business, then a Lili Account might be exactly what you’re looking for. Lili does not charge any account fees, and there isn’t a minimum balance to maintain either.
There is no minimum initial deposit, no overdraft fees, and ACH bank transfers are free as well. You also get access to expense management functionality free of charge, which allows you to flag personal versus business expenses for easy roundup come tax time, and an automatic tax-saving “bucket”.
Direct deposits can show up in your account up to two days earlier, and you also get a Lili Visa business debit card with fee-free withdrawals from over 32,000 ATMs.
12. M1 Finance: M1 Spend
M1 Spend is a checking account that neatly integrates with other M1 products, including M1 Invest. The standard M1 Spend account does not have account fees and does not require any balance minimums.
Unless you upgrade to an M1 Spend + package, you do not get any cash back on your purchases, and there is no interest either. You get one ATM reimbursement per month, and international fees range between 0.8% and 1%.
M1 Spend accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000, and you also get an M1 Spend debit card.
13. Varo: Bank Account
Varo’s Bank Account has no minimum opening deposit and no monthly account fees. There are also no fees for transfers or foreign transactions. As Varo is an online bank, there are no physical branches to visit, but their ATM network includes over 55,000 Allpoint ATMs.
Transfers from one Varo account to another are free and instant – as long as both accounts were opened before the 1st of October 2020 or after. You can also receive your pay up to 2 days earlier.
While Varo has no physical branches, you can still deposit checks and cash. Checks can be easily deposited through the app. On the other hand, cash can be deposited at any 90,000+ Green Dot Reload @ the Register locations. Do be mindful that fees may apply.
14. Wealthfront: Cash Account
Wealthfront’s Cash Account does not charge any of the typical bank fees associated with checking accounts, including monthly service fees and overdraft fees. Wealthfront also doesn’t charge any fees for excess activity, stop payments, or account minimum.
Instead, you get an APY of 0.35% and compatibility with PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App. There is a $1 minimum opening deposit amount, and the account is FDIC insured up to $1,000,000.
The account also includes unlimited free transfers, and you can get your pay up to 2 days earlier.
The ATM network includes some 19,000 fee-free ATMs, and you can make purchases using Apple Pay or Google Pay.
What Makes a Checking Account Free?
Checking accounts that don’t have a monthly fee are considered to be free. Some of these will require a minimum initial deposit amount, but most checking accounts at this tier don’t.
Some banks offer checking accounts with monthly fees but include a way to have the fee waived. For example, with a minimum daily balance or setting up direct deposit.
While these types of checking accounts can be free, they are not free out of the box, so we didn’t include them in our review of the best free checking accounts.
One important thing to keep in mind, however, is that even free checking accounts can have charges. “Free” only refers to the monthly maintenance fee.
Essentially, it means there is no charge for basic access to the account. But looking out for other charges can help you make sure the account remains free.
Here are some ways to minimize checking account fees and things to look out for when evaluating checking accounts:
- ATM transactions. Banks with large ATM networks can help you avoid ATM fees when you need to withdraw.
- APY rates. Interest-bearing accounts with high APY rates can help you earn money on the balances you keep in the account, helping you offset any charges you might incur
- Transfer fees. Free wire transfers or compatibility with services such as Zelle can help you make payments without paying anything extra. This is important, especially if you’re looking to transfer money from one account to another often.
- Online banking. A good banking app can help you avoid lengthy trips to the bank with features such as mobile check deposits and the ability to freeze your credit card, adding convenience and peace of mind.
- Other fees. Replacing a lost credit card, overdrafts and checks are some of the things that can incur extra charges, with some banks not charging for these things.
What Makes a Checking Account The Best?
Since we all have different financial needs and requirements, what might be the best account for one person, might not necessarily be the best for the next person. Even so, there are a few things that everyone can benefit from.
These are what makes an account the best:
- Interest Rates. High APY (Annual Percentage Yield) interest rates can benefit everyone as they allow you to earn money on your account balance.
- Low or No Fees. While free accounts do not charge a monthly fee, they might charge other fees for extras such as overdraft fees and ATM fees.
- Reimbursements. Reimbursements for such things as using an out-of-network ATM can greatly benefit everyone, especially if you get caught in a pinch and have to use the nearest ATM.
- Low Opening Deposits. Low opening deposits lower the entry barrier, with most accounts reviewed here having either very low opening deposit requirements or none at all.
- FDIC or NCUA Insurance. Insurance but the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) or the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) can help you keep your money safe should something happen to the bank or credit union you hold the account with
- Offers and Perks. Many banks also offer tons of perks, offers, and new bank account bonuses where you can earn some extra money for opening an account. It’s always important to be clear on the qualifying criteria of checking account bonuses so you can be 100% sure you’ll meet them.
Free Checking Accounts FAQs
What banks offer free checking?
Many banks offer truly free checking accounts, while others offer a way to avoid fees – as long as you consistently meet their waiving requirements.
Who has totally free checking?
Many banks have totally free checking accounts where you don’t have to meet any requirements to benefit from no fees. These include:
- Capital One
- Charles Schwab
…among others. Do keep in mind that free checking accounts may still have other fees.
Where can I open a free checking account?
Most banks that offer free checking accounts allow you to open a bank account online. This is certainly true for online banks that have no physical branches to visit.
Traditional banks and credit unions generally offer the facility to open an account online or visit one of their branches. You should also be able to get assistance by calling the bank’s phone number.
What banks don’t charge a monthly fee?
Banks that offer free checking accounts don’t charge a monthly fee. Some banks will also charge a monthly fee with a waiver, as long as you meet some requirements.
These requirements will generally include maintaining a daily or monthly balance and/or setting up a direct deposit with monthly funds going directly into the checking account.
What are common free checking account benefits?
The most common features of free checking accounts are no monthly fees and no balance requirements. Most, if not all, come with intuitive mobile apps, debit cards, and access to fee-free ATM withdrawals with some limitations.