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Published: Oct 23, 2017 4 min read
Empty pockets
Antonio Martin Sotelo—Getty Images

It can be tricky to maintain a steady balance in your checking account—especially if you pay a high rent or have a car payment due at the end of the month. And yet a majority of banks will charge you a fee if your checking account dips below a certain threshold—often set at a couple of thousand dollars.

But you’re not alone if your checking account balance doesn’t stay above your bank's required minimum. The median balance for U.S. households is less than $3,000, according to the latest Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances. And for those under 35, the median is even lower—just $1,200, ValuePenguin reports.

If you fall below the required minimum, you'll probably wind up paying. Of the over 400 checking accounts that Money and Bankrate.com evaluated, the average monthly maintenance fee was $9.50. So if you can't keep enough money in your account to top the minimum, you could be looking at upwards of $100 in unnecessary monthly checking account fees every year—even if you can avoid additional charges for out-of-network ATM withdrawals and overdrafts. (A separate Money-Bankrate poll found that people think they pay an average $13.92 in fees each month.)

To help you keep more money in your pocket, Money this year rounded up the best checking accounts that charge no monthly maintenance fees, as well as low out-of-network ATM and overdraft fees.

Big Bank: KeyBank

If you’re looking for a big traditional bank with a wide footprint, but without paying big monthly fees, KeyBank is a winner.

Branches: Over 1,200 in 15 states (AK, CO, CT, ID, IN, ME, MA, MI, NY, OH, OR, PA, UT, VT, WA). Also 1,500 ATM locations nationwide

Best Checking Account: Hassle-Free Checking

Monthly Fee: $0
Outside ATM Fee: $2.50
Overdraft Fee: $0
Interest: None

Credit Union: Alliant Credit Union

Alliant has the benefits of a credit union, but with branches in several big states. It's also easily accessible online.

Branches: 12 in four states (CA, CO, IL, TX) plus the District of Columbia

Eligibility: Donate at least $10 to Foster Care for Success or work for one of 250 partner companies.

Best Checking Account: High Rate Checking

Monthly Fee: $0
Outside ATM Fee: $0, plus refunds $20 of ATM surcharges.
Overdraft Fee: $25
Interest: 0.65% if you sign up for e-statements and have at least one monthly electronic deposit (including direct, ATM, or mobile deposits).

Online Bank: Bank of Internet USA

If you can survive without a branch experience, you can get a great deal by using an online bank. Bank of Internet USA was also Money's pick for best online bank.

Branches: None

Best Checking Account: Rewards Checking

Monthly Fee: $0
Outside ATM Fee: $0, plus refunds all surcharges from other ATMs
Overdraft Fee: $0
Interest: 1.25% if you set up direct deposit and use your debit card at least 15 times a month