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March 18, 2020

What makes a superior checking account these days? According to most online surveys, customers tend to pick checking and banking accounts based on which ones have the lowest fees and offer the most convenience, particularly in terms of locations and online banking capability.

Other important features include large, no-fee ATM networks, bonuses for signing up and/or meeting minimum balance and direct deposit requirements, robust money management tools, mobile apps that are easy to use, and a lack of burdensome fees and hidden charges. Let’s not forget Annual Percentage Yields (APY) rates either — because while some checking accounts charge you monthly fees, others pay decent interest rates back to customers.

For the purpose of this guide, we used the above criteria to highlight the banks that stand out from the pack. If you’re ready to make a switch and get the best checking account for your needs, consider the banks on this list.

Important Things to Know About the Best Checking Accounts

  • Many banks offer checking account “signup bonuses” you can earn if you meet minimum balance or direct deposit requirements. Although this generally is a great one-time perk, make sure you read the fine print. Some offers may require you to keep your account open for 90 days to retain the bonus. Make sure you understand your particular bank’s offer so you can follow directions and earn the bonus you’re after.
  • Keep an eye out for fees, as well as any minimum balance requirements you’ll need to meet to avoid them. If you don’t plan to keep much cash in your checking account, you’re better off looking for an account that has a low balance requirement, or no minimum balance fees.
  • Make sure to verify whether the account you’re considering offers ATMs in your vicinity. If you don’t, you could wind up paying out-of-network fees when you get money or handle other banking transactions.
  • If you prefer to bank on the go, check whether banks you’re considering offer a mobile app. Having access to an app makes it easy to deposit checks, track your balance, and pay bills no matter where you are.

The 5 Best Checking Accounts of 2020

The best checking accounts of 2020 offer superior bonus offers, low fees, and plenty of ATMs. We did all the research upfront to help you find the best one to fit your needs.

  • Chime Bank: Best Checking with No Fees
  • Consumers Credit Union: Best Checking APY Offer
  • PNC Bank: Best Checking Bonus Offer
  • Discover: Best Checking Rewards Program
  • BBVA: Best for No ATM Fees
  • Axos Bank: Best for Low Account Balances

Chime Bank: Best Checking with No Fees

Chime is one of several online banks in our list offering innovative checking accounts with no minimum balance requirements and no hidden banking fees. They also offer a unique and easy-to-use mobile app, and you can withdraw your money at 38,000 no-fee MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATMs.

Chime offers direct deposit fund access up to two days earlier than other banks, meaning you can use your paycheck faster once you sign up. Finally, the Chime app makes it easy to set up account alerts that notify you when a purchase is made, a deposit hits your account, and more.

Summary of benefits:

  • No banking fees and no minimum balance requirements
  • Get access to more than 38,000 no-fee ATMs
  • Access direct deposit funds up to two days early
  • Set up account alerts via the mobile app

Consumers Credit Union: Best Checking APY Offer

Consumers Credit Union may not be a household name, but the institution does offer one of the best APYs among all the checking accounts we evaluated. At the moment, Consumers Credit Union’s checking account product lets you earn up to 5.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you meet minimum deposit and debit card purchase requirements each month. You won’t pay a monthly maintenance fee on your account either, and there are no minimum balance requirements.

Surprisingly, Consumers Credit Union also offers access to more than 30,000 ATMs nationwide, as well as 5,000 shared banking branches. You also get unlimited reimbursement of all ATM fees charged by other banks provided you meet minimum requirements.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn up to 5.09% APY for balances up to $10,000 if minimum debit card purchase and balance requirements are met
  • Access over 30,000 ATMs and 5,000 bank branches nationwide
  • No monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements
  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursement if minimum debit card purchase and balance requirements are met

PNC Bank: Best Checking Bonus Offer

PNC Bank offers several checking accounts that feature a tiered bonus offer when you sign up for PNC Virtual Wallet. At the moment, you can earn up to $300 in rewards if you open a new Virtual Wallet with Performance Select or a new Performance Select Checking account. You can also earn a $200 bonus if you open a new Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend or Performance Checking account. A $50 reward is available if you open a new Virtual Wallet or Standard Checking account. With each offer, you need to make at least 10 PNC Bank Visa debit card transactions within 60 days and set up $5,000, $2,000, or $500 in direct deposits, respectively.

PNC Bank lets you open a checking account with $0 to start online, and you only need $25 to open an account in a branch. You can avoid paying service charges on your checking account by meeting the qualifying direct deposit requirements above. Note that monthly service charges for PNC checking accounts otherwise vary from $7 to $25, depending on the type of account you open.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn $50, $200, or $300 in bonuses for opening a PNC checking account when you opt for PNC Virtual Wallet and meet minimum debit purchase and direct deposit requirements
  • Avoid monthly account maintenance fees if you meet minimum direct deposit requirements
  • $0 minimum opening balance requirement to open an account online
  • $25 required to open a checking account in a branch

Discover: Best Checking Account Debit Card Rewards

Discover offers a really interesting take on checking that could be advantageous for those who make a lot of debit purchases. Their cashback debit program, which works with a Discover checking account, gives customers 1% back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month. Their accounts also come with no monthly maintenance fees, and there are no minimum balance requirements either.

Discover gives you access to more than 60,000 no-fee ATMs in the United States, and like other major banks they offer a feature on their website that lets you check for ATMs in your area

Summary of benefits:

  • Discover checking accounts have no monthly maintenance fees or hidden fees
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Earn 1% back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month
  • Access more than 60,000 ATMs nationwide without a fee

BBVA: Best for No ATM Fees

BBVA Compass offers a premium checking account that comes with a little bit of everything consumers want. For starters, you can earn a $200 cash bonus when you open an account and set up at least $4,000 in qualifying direct deposits within 60 days. Customers also earn 1.00% APY on any balance amount. A BBVA Compass account can be opened with as little as $25, and you’ll have access to more than 64,000 ATMs nationwide where you won’t pay fees for getting cash and handling other transactions. Finally, two foreign ATM fees are refunded per month.

Prospective customers should note that a $19 monthly fee applies to accounts with less than $4,000 in qualifying direct deposits per month or an average daily balance of less than $4,000.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn $200 in bonus cash with qualifying direct deposits
  • Earn 1.00% APY on any checking balance
  • No monthly maintenance fees if minimum direct deposit or minimum balance requirements are met
  • Access more than 64,000 no-fee ATMs nationwide

Axos Bank: Best for Low Account Balances

Axos Bank offers online checking accounts that work well for consumers with low balances. This checking account doesn’t charge any monthly maintenance fees regardless of how low your balance drops, and there are no insufficient funds fees or overdraft fees either.

You’ll get all foreign ATM fees reimbursed with most Axos Bank accounts, and you can earn an APY of 1.25% if you meet a minimum direct deposit requirement and use your connected debit card for a minimum number of transactions each month.

Summary of benefits:

  • Earn up to 1.25% APY if minimum direct deposit and minimum debit purchase requirements are met
  • No minimum balance requirement or monthly maintenance fees
  • Get foreign ATM fees reimbursed with most accounts
  • No insufficient funds fees or overdraft fees

How We Found the Best Checking Accounts of 2020

We chose the checking accounts listed above because they have reasonable fees (or no fees), and other benefits consumers love. Here are all the major details we considered when compiling the checking accounts for this list.

Reasonable Fees (or No Fees)

We gave preference to checking accounts that don’t charge any monthly maintenance fees, but we also considered accounts that charge fees you can easily avoid with a minimum balance or minimum direct deposit amount each month. We did not include any checking accounts on this list that charge regular, recurring fees consumers have no way to avoid.

Bonus Offers

We looked for checking accounts that offer initial signup bonuses, although we gave preference to those that make their bonus offers easy to earn. After all, most consumers don’t want to jump through too many hoops or keep an exorbitant amount of money on deposit to earn a few hundred dollars in bonus rewards.

Interest Rate Offers

We also gave bonus points to checking accounts that let you earn interest on your balance or on purchases made with a connected debit card. We only included interest rate offers that weren’t connected to accounts with high fees.

ATM Access

Finally, we gave preference to checking accounts that give consumers access to a broad selection of ATMs nationwide without any fees. We also looked for checking accounts that reimburse some foreign ATM fees if minimum account requirements are met.

What You Need to Know About the Best Checking Accounts of 2020

Ready to sign up for a new checking account this year? Here are a few more details you should know and understand before you do.

Understand the Minimum Deposit and Minimum Balance Requirements

The best checking accounts of 2020 offer attractive APY offers and bonus rewards based on direct deposits or debit transactions, but there are often many details hidden in the fine print. Before you sign up for a top checking account offer, make sure you understand the exact requirements you need to meet to earn bonus cash and avoid monthly maintenance and other fees.

You Can Have More Than One Checking Account

If there are a few accounts on this list that have caught your eye, don’t forget that you can have more than one checking account at any given time. Many consumers sign up for new accounts to earn bonus offers and spread their savings across them in order to maximize their funds.

You can do this a few times per year to rack up banking bonuses, and you don’t have to keep each new account open forever. Just make sure that you can meet any minimum balance or deposit requirements before you sign up for each new offer, and especially when you sign up for multiple offers.

ATM Access May Matter More Than You Think

Take special care to check the ATM network for your new checking account. If you wind up with a new account that doesn’t offer ATM access in your area or where you withdraw money the most, the ATM fees you pay could add up fast and wipe out any interest you’ve accrued or bonus cash you’ve earned.

Most banks offer a page on their website that lets you search for ATMs based on your city of residence or your zip code, so make sure to check.

Summary: Best Checking Accounts of 2020

Checking Account “Best of” Category
Chime Bank Best Checking with No Fees
Consumers Credit Union Best Checking APY Offer
PNC Bank Best Checking Bonus Offer
Discover Best Checking Rewards Program
BBVA Best for No ATM Fees
Axos Bank Best for Low Account Balances

 

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