While check-writing is less common these days, the popularity — and necessity — of checking accounts hasn’t budged. 94% of adult Americans have a bank account, and plenty of more unbanked consumers want one.
Whether in-person or online, a checking account is a vital way to get paid, pay bills, and manage your finances.
Many banks will charge you monthly checking account fees ranging from $7 to $15 a month, but they also offer ways for you to get those fees waived for maintaining a minimum balance or setting up direct deposit.
Additionally, there are many other institutions that offer flat-out, fee-free banking.
We’ve analyzed the checking account offerings of several dozen credit unions and banks, and have put together our selection of the best no-fee options for features and customer service.
6 Best No-Fee Checking Accounts
Here are the best no-fee checking accounts you can open an account with today:
- Axos Bank Rewards Checking
- Discover Cashback Debit Checking
- Varo Bank Account
- Ally Spending Account
- nbkc Bank Everything Account
- U.S. Bank Smartly Checking
1. Axos Bank Rewards Checking
- Minimum deposit: $50
- APY: 3.30% on balances up to $50,000
- ATM fees: Domestic fees reimbursed
While not a top ten bank for branches or revenue, Axos Bank is a large financial organization with over $20 billion in assets. Axos offers low-cost and fee-free banking solutions for businesses and individual consumers.
Axos Bank’s Rewards interest-bearing checking offers a number of great features. It has no minimum balance requirements, no monthly maintenance fees, and doesn’t charge non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees for account overdrafts.
Axos also offers unlimited reimbursement for out-of-network ATM charges anywhere in the U.S. It also features a tiered rewards system, with different balance and direct deposit requirements per billing cycle.
- Tiered interest rate up to balances of $50K
- No account maintenance fees
- No NSF or overdraft fees
- Unlimited reimbursement for domestic ATM fees
- Over 90,000 network ATMs
- No interest on balances of over $50,000
- Difficult to meet monthly requirements to earn the highest tier interest rate
- No physical branch locations
- $50 minimum opening balance requirement
Axos Rewards Checking
Axos Rewards Checking has no maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements. Top that off with earning interest on your account balance makes this a great checking account option.
2. Discover Cashback Debit Checking
- Minimum deposit: $0
- APY: N/A but 1% cash back on debit card purchases
- ATM fees: 60,000 surcharge-free ATMs in the U.S.
While Discover Bank is better known for its credit card products, the financier offers excellent FDIC-insured consumer banking services.
A Discover Cashback Debit Checking account is fee-free — no monthly maintenance fees, no minimum balance requirements, and access to over 60,000 fee-free ATMs throughout the U.S.
In addition to a Discover debit card, account holders get checks (standard of official bank checks), free stop-payment orders, and free expedited delivery of replacement debit cards.
Customers can also sign up for overdraft protection for no NSF fees or overdrafts. Additionally, there’s no deposit return fee if a third-party party payment you receive bounces.
- Earn 1% cash-back rewards for debit card purchases — up to $3,000 a month
- No monthly maintenance fees
- No ATM fees
- Over 800,000 ATM locations at ATMs, credit unions, and banks in over 100 countries
- No NSF fees if you opt-in to free overdraft protection
- Outstanding mobile app with a near-perfect rating (4.9 stars) in the app store with over 4.2M reviews
- No interest earned on your account balance
- Monthly cash-back maximum for debit card spending — up to $3,000 in spending per month or up to $30 cash back
- No reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees
3. Varo Bank Account
- Minimum deposit: $0
- APY: None
- ATM fees: No fees at 55,000+ network ATMs
Varo Bank offers an outstanding online and mobile banking experience. While Varo checking accounts are not interest-bearing, you can earn up to 5.00% APY with a free Varo savings account and grow your savings with easy, automated savings tools.
Varo’s “Save Your Pay” feature lets you direct a percentage of your direct deposit pay to your savings account each month. There’s also a round-up feature to automatically round up your debit card purchase to the nearest dollar, and then transfer the funds to your savings account.
- 00% to 5.00% APY on Varo savings
- No minimum balance is required to open an account
- No monthly maintenance fees
- Access to over 55,000 fee-free ATMs in the Allpoint ATM network at Target, CVS, and other popular national retailers
- Early payday to get paycheck funds up to 2 days early
- Contactless Visa debit card with cash back
- Avoid overdrafts with Varo Advance; borrow up to $100 which must be repaid within 30 days.
- Zelle integrations; Varo bank account holders can send, receive, or request money through Zelle within the Varo app
- Varo Believe offers other complementary products, like the Varo Believe secured credit card which offers cashback shopping with over 50 brands, no annual fee, and no hard credit pull
- No paper checks offered
- Limited account options
- Fees to deposit cash; cash deposits only available at third-party retailers
- Out-of-network ATM fees
- No interest for checking accounts
- No physical bank branches
4. Ally Spending Account
- Minimum deposit: $0
- APY: 0.10% on minimum daily balances less than $15,000 or 0.25% APY for minimum daily balances over $15,000
- ATM fees: Up to $10 per billing cycle in out-of-network ATM fees reimbursed
If you don’t need a brick-and-mortar bank, an interest-bearing checking account with Ally Bank may be a great option.
Apart from its lack of physical locations, Ally has all the bells and whistles of big-box banking including cashier’s checks, personal checks, wire transfers, and an exceptional banking app.
- No minimum deposit to open an account
- ATM fee reimbursement of up to $10 per statement cycle
- 10% or 0.25% APY, depending on the daily account balance
- Overdraft protection with Overdraft Transfer Service and Coverdraft
- Spending buckets to track and manage daily spending
- Get paid up to 2 days early with early direct deposit
- $200 signup bonus for new Ally Spending Account customers
- Online-only bank
- No physical branch locations
- $15,000 minimum daily balance required for 0.25% APY
- No cash deposits
5. Nbkc Bank Everything Account
- Minimum deposit: $0
- APY: 1.50%
- ATM fees: Up to $12 per month in out-of-network ATM fees reimbursed
Nbkc stands for National Bank Kansas City. Based in the Kansas City area, the financier offers a great fee-free banking experience.
This means no fees for monthly maintenance, in-network ATM withdrawals, money orders, cashier checks, stop payments, or foreign transactions. Additionally, there are no minimum balance or monthly activity requirements.
Additionally, Nbkc offers up to 1.50% APY and overdraft protection.
- Combined money account for checking and savings
- No returned item fees
- No overdraft or NSF fees
- No monthly account maintenance fees
- No monthly minimum balance is required to earn APY
- No ATM fees at over 37,000 MoneyPass ATM locations
- Reimbursement of up to $12 per month for out-of-network ATM fees
- $5 fee for outgoing domestic wire transfers
- $45 fee for incoming and outgoing international wire transfers
- Limited branch locations; only five locations all in Missouri or Kansas
- Limited customer service; not available 24/7
6. U.S. Bank Smartly Checking
- Minimum deposit: $25
- APY: Variable rate – not published on the U.S. Bank website
- ATM fees: 4,700+ fee-free ATMs
The U.S. Bank Smartly Checking account is a good option for consumers who want overdraft protection and the convenience of banking with a large chain that has over 2,000 locations. It offers consumers no-fee overdraft protection through its Overdraft Fee Forgiveness program.
There is a $6.95 monthly account maintenance fee, but it’s waived for members of the military, consumers under age 24 or over age 65, meeting an average minimum account balance, or setting up monthly direct deposits of at least $1,000.
Smartly Checking offers different tiers of APY rewards:
- Five-star mobile app with built-in Smart Assistant
- Automated spend tracking and alerts
- Built-in budgeting tools
- 2,000 Branches
- Part of the vast MoneyPass ATM network with over 40,000 ATMs
- Overdraft fee forgiveness
- Smart Rewards program with four tiers of APYs
- $300 signup bonus
- Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees
- Not all members are eligible for mobile check deposit
- No published APY fees
- $25 minimum deposit
- Monthly fees of $6.95, but there are many ways to waive
- No reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees
- No branch locations in Washington D.C. and AL, AK, CT, DE, GA, HI, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MS, NH, NJ, NY, OK, PA, RI, SC, VA, VT, WV
U.S. Bank’s Smartly Checking Account earns variable interest and comes with a wealth of benefits to help you manage, move, and spend your money wisely.
Common Checking Account Fees
Generally, when banks talk about no-fee checking accounts, they mean accounts with no monthly maintenance fees or no fees to open an account.
However, lurking beneath the service are common checking account fees — even when it comes to free accounts — for not meeting certain conditions or for ancillary services.
- Monthly maintenance fees
- Paper statement fees
- Wire transfer fees
- Out-of-network ATM fees — including fees to view the balance
- Foreign ATM fees
- Foreign transaction fees
- Overdraft fees
- Returned item fees
- Cashier’s check or certified check
- Money orders
- Stop payment fees
- Debit card replacement fees
- Excessive transaction fees
- Bill payment fees
- Paper checks
- Account closure fees — may be assessed for closing an account too quickly after opening it
- Overdraft protection fees — there may be a charge associated with this service
- Check image service fees
- Dormant account or inactivity fee
The best checking accounts will waive monthly maintenance fees for meeting some basic requirements, like receiving direct deposit into your account or keeping a minimum balance of around $1,000. But many of the other fees on our list are common — especially with large, traditional banks.
Online banks tend to charge lower fees or no fees, for services like wire transfers, ATM withdrawals (they may offer unlimited fee reimbursements), or better overdraft protection. They offer extras to woo over customers in spite of their lack of physical locations.
Tips for Choosing a No-Fee Checking Account
There are many factors to consider when selecting the right checking account. Here are some questions you should ask before you sign, or click, on the dotted line of your bank account agreement.
How Does the Financial Institution Define a “No-Fee Checking Account”?
Typically, a “no-fee” or “fee-free” checking account means no monthly account management fees. However, banks and credit unions will charge some fees for some of their checking account services.
Review the financial institute’s fee schedule to see what is and is not included. Common items to look for include returned check fees (for items you deposit that do not clear), overdraft fees, ATM fees, and duplicate statement fees.
How Much Are These Other Fees?
These other fees, like ATM fees or returned item fees, can range from a few dollars to $34 for an NSF transaction. These fees can add up quickly.
You cannot be charged more than the published rates, but a financial institution can increase its fees as long as it provides you with written notice at least 30 days in advance of any fee hike.
What Are the Requirements for Opening a No-Fee Account?
To open and hold a fee-free account, here are some common bank requirements:
- A minimum opening deposit of $10 to $50 to open an account
- Maintain a minimum daily balance, commonly set at anywhere from $100 to $2,500
- Keep the account in good standing; overdrawn accounts may be closed and sent to collections
- Make a certain number of deposits each month, or deposit a minimum dollar amount
- Belonging to a particular group or affiliation, like college students, senior citizens, or union members
Does the Checking Account Pay Interest?
Many no-fee checking accounts do pay interest, with interest rates commonly ranging from 0.04% to 1.5%. The rate is usually calculated based on your account’s daily average balance, with tiered interest rates based on the amount in your account.
While interest is a nice perk, it may not be enough to offset the bank’s other fees. If you earned $15 a month for a $1K balance, that’s not bad. But it means nothing if you are paying $30 a month for NSF overdrafts, statement fees, or ACHs.
How Is the Bank’s Customer Service?
Nobody needs their bank customer service until they need customer service, and that’s when the option to chat with an agent — online or via phone — becomes important. If there’s a snafu or critical issue with your account on Friday afternoon, you don’t want to have to wait until 8 a.m. PST on Monday to talk to someone.
And not all 24/7 customer service is necessarily good customer service.
Read reviews from actual customers first. Check out TrustPilot, the Better Business Bureau, and reviews for the bank’s app in iTunes and Google Play.
How Do I Open a No-Fee Checking Account?
If you’re aged 18 or older and have a government-issued ID, the process is fairly straightforward.
- Make a list of the monthly banking features you’ll need, like billpay, checks, overdraft protection, ACH transfers, early payday, and ATM withdrawals.
- Shop different credit unions and banks that offer no-fee Review their rates or surcharges for services you’ll need. Read the consumer reviews.
- Apply for an account. With almost any account, you can apply online.
- Provide your personal details, including your full name, Social Security number, address, and a copy of your driver’s license or other government-issued ID.
- Make any opening deposit that’s required. If you opened your account online, you should be able to transfer funds from PayPal or an existing bank account.
- Complete any additional steps needed to maintain a fee-free account, like setting up direct deposit with your employer. You’ll need to provide your work with your new routing and account number. Your bank may have a printout with this information, or your employer may ask you to fill out a specific form.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common FAQs that consumers have about opening and maintaining a no-fee checking account.
What banks offer no-fee checking accounts?
Many banks, both national and smaller regional chains, offer no-fee checking accounts. Some options to consider include Capital One 360 Checking, Chime Online Checking, First Citizens Bank Free Checking, Alliant, and Chase Total Checking.
What are the minimum deposit and balance requirements?
Minimum deposit and balance requirements vary by bank. Many fee-free checking accounts do not require any opening deposit, but those that do typically require an amount ranging from $10 to $50.
Some financial institutions may require you to maintain a daily average balance of $100 to $2,500. For fee-free consumer accounts, the daily balance requirements are likely to be much closer to $100.
What are non-sufficient fund fees?
Commonly referred to as a bounced check fee, a non-sufficient fund fee is a charge that banks and credit unions assess when your account balance doesn’t have enough funds to clear a check, debit card payment, bill pay, or other financial transaction.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), banks charge an average of $34 per NSF and these are a major revenue stream for financiers. Banks and credit unions collect several billion dollars every year from NSFs and similar overdraft penalties.
Keep careful tabs on your account to avoid a negative balance, which could impact your credit score if a credit card payment or other bill pay bounces.
- Consider applying for overdraft or NSF fee protection
- Apply for an early payday advance if you must
- Link your checking account to a savings account or bank credit card if able
- Opt in to account for low-balance alerts via text message or email
- Review your statements so you can catch errors quickly
Monthly subscriptions are a frequent culprit of NSF fees. Make sure to catch any errant monthly fees right away so you can successfully dispute them.
Is it better to open a bank account online or in a bank?
It depends on your banking preferences. Online banks commonly offer better perks, like $100+ signup bonuses, fewer account fees, and better interest rates.
However, physical banks offer the convenience of branch locations, more extensive customer service, and a wider range of financial products and services like money market accounts (MMAs), mortgages, car loans, IRAs, and other investment products.
With most physical banks, like Wells Fargo or U.S. Bank, you can apply for an account online.
How does FDIC insurance work?
FDIC stands for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It’s a federal government agency that maintains the stability of banks by insuring a consumer’s bank deposit.
FDIC will insure up to $250,000 per account holder per bank. So if the bank fails and loses your funds, the government will cover your deposit of up to $250,000 or up to $500,000 per joint account per chartered institution.
Credit union account holders can receive similar coverage of up to $250,000 per consumer per credit union. Credit union coverage is offered through the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
Checking accounts are vital for U.S. consumers, but it doesn’t mean you need to shell out monthly fees. There are many fee-free checking accounts, including ones that offer attractive perks like cashback for debit card purchases, up to 3.30% APY on checking account balances, early payday, and 24/7 customer service.
Not only are there plenty of options for online and traditional deposit accounts, many offer very generous sign-up bonuses.