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Published: Jul 17, 2023 29 min read
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TOP PARTNER
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Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month1

  • No minimum opening deposit and no minimum balance

  • Early Pay: early paycheck access up to 2 days early
  • No monthly account fees
  • FDIC insured

1. See website for details

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Bank of America Advantage Banking

  • $200 bonus offer - see offer page for more details
  • Easy, anytime access to thousands of financial centers and ATMs 
  • 24/7 security - includes fraud monitoring, secure sign-in, card locking features, and more
  • Digital Banking - pay using a variety of methods
  • Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC
Our Partner

Cash bonus up to $300 with direct deposit set up1

  • Earn up to 4.60% APY2 on savings balance
  • Earn up to 0.50% APY2 on checking balance
  • No account fees 
  • 2-day-early paycheck
  • Up to $2M of FDIC insurance through a network of participating banks


1. Certain terms apply

2. Rates as of 10/23/2023

Our Partner

Get paid up to 2 days early with direct deposit

  • No minimum balance, no monthly fees and no overdraft fees
  • Over 60,000 fee-free ATM locations
  • Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC
Our Partner

Earn up to $400 when you open and use a new, select Virtual Wallet from PNC Bank

  • Earn up to $400 - conditions apply
  • No minimum deposit to open
  • Over 60,000 fee-free ATM locations
  • Relationship interest rates on your Growth (Savings) account
  • FDIC Insured

 

*Rates and APYs are subject to change. All information provided here is accurate as of July 7, 2023.

A checking account allows you to manage your funds by making deposits, withdrawing money from ATMs or in person and transferring funds online. You can also use your debit card to make purchases both in physical stores and online.

While checking accounts include standard features like round-the-clock access to your balance through online or phone banking, and the convenience of receiving payroll or government benefits via ACH direct deposit, the best checking accounts offer additional benefits such as cash-back rewards on purchases, earning interest on your balance and zero monthly fees.

We evaluated dozens of brick-and-mortar banks, online banks, credit unions and other financial institutions for our list of the best checking accounts available today. Below, you’ll find our top picks, plus details on how to choose the right checking account for you. Read on to learn more.

Our Top Picks for Best Checking Accounts of 2023

  • HOPE Credit Union - Best Checking Account for High Yields
  • PNC Bank - Best Checking Account for Managing Finances
  • Betterment - Best Checking Account for ATM Fee Reimbursement
  • SoFi - Best Hybrid Checking and Savings Account
  • Chase - Best Checking Account for College Students
  • Upgrade - Best Checking Account for Cash Back
  • Ally Bank - Best Checking Account for Overdraft Protection
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Best Checking Account Reviews

Pros
  • High APY at 3.01%
  • Up to $20 in ATM fees reimbursed each cycle
  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • No minimum balance requirement
Cons
  • $10 membership fee to join credit union
  • $25 overdraft fee
  • 30 days to resolve overdrafts or account will be closed
  • If minimum requirements aren't met, APY is only 0.10%

Why we chose it: All HOPE Rewards Checking account holders only need to meet a few simple requirements to get the credit union’s highest APY, which is the top APY rate among the companies we evaluated.

In addition to more than 5,000 branches across the southern U.S., HOPE Credit Union also offers online and mobile banking services. All Rewards Checking account holders get a minimum APY. You can get the highest APY by meeting the following requirements each month:

  • A minimum of 12 debit card transactions
  • Use the online banking (HOPENet Online) or the bank’s mobile app (HOPE Mobile5) at least once
  • Receive e-statements
  • Maximum balance of $10,000

HOPE Rewards Checking charges no monthly fees and requires no minimum balance. The credit union also reimburses up to $20 in ATM fees per statement cycle — so long as you meet the account qualifications mentioned above.

You must be a member of the credit union to use its financial products, including Rewards Checking. To become a lifetime member, you must make a one-time $10 donation to the Hope Enterprise Corporation, a nonprofit focused on developing equal access to economic opportunity.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$0
ATM Network
More than 5,000 (PULSE, Credit Union 24 or MoneyPass) and up to $20 in out-of-network fees reimbursed per statement cycle
APY
Up to 3.01%

Pros
  • Combine checking with two interest-bearing accounts
  • Monitor spending with money management tools
  • Set a balance threshold with Low Cash Mode to help you avoid overdrafts
  • Up to $400 sign-up bonus with qualifying direct deposits
Cons
  • Overdraft fee is high at $36 per item pay day
  • Savings APYs are low-yield (0.01% to 0.03%)
  • Only reimburses up to $5 in ATM fees per statement period

Why we chose it: PNC’s mobile app includes comprehensive money management features, such as push alerts for low balances and upcoming payment reminders.

The PNC Virtual Wallet combines checking with interest-bearing accounts plus offers free money management tools. You can opt for a Spend account only or add Reserve and/or Growth accounts. These accounts function as follows:

  • Spend - Typical checking account, does not accrue interest
  • Reserve - Interest-bearing checking account
  • Growth - Interest-bearing savings account

Money management tools include Low Cash Mode, which sends alerts by text, email or push notifications on your mobile device when your balance is low. Other features include a budget-setting tool and upcoming bill pay reminders.

Using the mobile app, you can cancel a transaction — including checks — if it will overdraw your account. If you choose to go ahead with the payment, PNC gives you 24 hours to deposit money into your account and avoid the overdraft fees. If you ultimately overdraft more than $5, the fee is $36 per item per day on any of the Virtual Wallet accounts. However, there are no fees for returned items that aren’t processed because the total exceeds your available balance.

PNC has more than 60,000 in-network ATMs across the U.S. For out-of-network ATMs, the bank reimburses up to $5 in fees per statement period.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$7, waived with a $500 in monthly direct deposits or combined balance between accounts
Balance to Open
$0 if opened online
ATM Network
Approximately 60,000
APY
Spend: 0%, Reserve: .01%, Growth .02% to .03%

Pros
  • Up to 5% cash back at eligible retailers
  • Does not earn interest
  • No monthly fees or overdraft fees
Cons
  • No interest on checking balance
  • Cannot deposit cash

Why we chose it: Betterment’s unlimited reimbursement of all ATM fees, both domestic and international, makes it our pick for best bank for ATM fee reimbursements.

Betterment Checking is a zero fee, mobile-first checking account offered through nbkc bank. Its biggest standout: Betterment repays all fees from all ATM companies. The bank also reimburses all foreign transaction fees. Additionally, Betterment Checking is a rewards account: You can get up to 5% cash back on debit card purchases online and in person from eligible retailers like Costco, Sam’s Club and Adidas.

You can open a checking account via the Betterment site or the app. No initial deposit is required. Plus, unlike similar mobile-focused checking accounts, Betterment also offers joint accounts.

Betterment has an additional security perk — you can change your card’s PIN or even lock your card from your mobile phone.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$0
ATM Network
All ATM fees are reimbursed
APY
N/A

Pros
  • Checking earns 0.5% interest, savings account APY at 4.60%
  • No overdraft fees, plus overdraft protection up to $50
  • Up to 15% cash back at select local retailers
  • No monthly or overdraft fees
  • Up to $300 sign-up reward with qualifying direct deposits
  • Up to $300 sign-up reward with qualifying direct deposits
Cons
  • No out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement
  • Must have $1,000 in monthly direct deposits to qualify for overdraft protection

Why we chose it: SoFi offers multiple cash deposit locations throughout the Green Dot network, despite being an online-only bank.

SoFi’s overdraft protection coverage feature covers up to $50 of overdrawn funds. As long as you have recurring direct deposits of $1,000 or more, SoFi will not charge a fee for the overdrawn amount. Funds from your next deposit are automatically applied to the negative balance.

Unlike many online banks with no physical locations, SoFi lets you make cash deposits at participating retailers through the Green Dot network — a mobile banking institution that specializes in prepaid debit cards. Cash deposits are possible at any of the thousands of Green Dot locations at retailers such as 7-Eleven, Walmart, Dollar General, CVS, Kroger and Walgreens.

While out-of-network ATM fees are not reimbursed, SoFi customers have free access to more than 55,000 Allpoint located across the U.S.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$0
ATM Network
55,000
APY
Checking: 0.50%, Savings and Vaults: up to 4.60%

Pros
  • $100 sign-on bonus with qualifying transactions
  • No fees on overdrafts up to $50
  • No monthly fees for up to five years while in college
  • Zelle integration for quick peer-to-peer payments
Cons
  • No interest or cashback rewards
  • Enrollment eligibility ends at 24 years old
  • 17-year-olds cannot open an account online
  • $3 fee for non-Chase ATM use

Why we chose it: Chase’s $100 sign-on bonus, no fees until graduation and free educational personal finance content make it our best account for students.

College students aged 17 to 24 can open a Chase Bank College Checking account and receive a $100 bonus when they make 10 qualifying transactions — which include debit card purchases, Zelle transactions, mobile check deposits and online bill payments — within 60 days of opening.

A valid student ID is required to open the account. Chase charges no maintenance fees for five years or until after the student graduates, whichever comes sooner. A $6 maintenance fee applies after, which can be waived with qualifying direct deposits (payroll or government benefits) or by maintaining a minimum $5,000 average daily balance.

Additionally, Chase College Checking customers aren’t charged fees for overdrafts of up to $50. For overdrafts of more than $50, there’s no fee so long as the account holder brings the balances to less than -$50 by the next business day.

Even if you don’t have your card in hand when visiting one of the 16,000 Chase ATMs, you can still use Chase’s smartphone app to access your funds via their cardless ATM access feature.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$6, waived for up to five years while in college
Balance to Open
$0
ATM Network
16,000 ATMs across the U.S.
APY
N/A

Pros
  • Up to 2% cash back on debit card purchases
  • No monthly fees, no overdraft fees
  • Up to five ATM fees reimbursed per month
  • Rewards Checking with Performance Savings and a $1,000 direct deposit makes account eligible for 5.21% APY
Cons
  • Not an interest-bearing account
  • No physical branch locations
  • No cash deposits

Why we chose it: Upgrade stands out for offering up to 2% cash back on debit card purchases, including online transactions.

Many rewards checking accounts require that transactions be signature-based to qualify for cash back. However, Upgrade does not. All debit card purchases, whether online or in person, earn cash back with Upgrade’s Rewards Checking account.

Everyday expenses paid with your debit card qualify for 2% cash back when you have a minimum $1,000 monthly direct deposit, with a limit of $500 per calendar year. (After this, you’ll earn 1% on all transactions.)

Eligible transactions for 2% cash back include:

  • Gas stations such as Shell and Chevron
  • Mobile carriers such as T-Mobile and AT&T
  • Drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS
  • Streaming services, including Disney+ and Netflix
  • Restaurants, such as McDonald’s, UberEats and Starbucks

On all other purchases, whether online or in person, customers earn 1% cash back. There is no limit on this category. Additionally, Upgrade does not charge overdraft fees with this account. If your balance is lower than an attempted payment, Upgrade will not process the transaction.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$0
ATM Network
N/A - up to five ATM fees reimbursed per month
APY
N/A

Pros
  • No fees for overdrafts, low balance or monthly maintenance
  • Free tools for tracking or limiting spending
  • Earn up to 0.25% APY on your checking account balance
  • Get payroll direct deposits up to two days early
Cons
  • No cash deposits
  • Highest APY requires $15,000 average daily balance
  • Out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement limited to $10 per statement cycle

Why we chose it: Ally Bank’s online Checking account offers overdraft protection that goes beyond the no-fee approach, allowing up to $250 in overdrafts at no charge.

Ally Bank does not charge overdraft fees and provides coverage up to $250 through its CoverDraft program. Customers are automatically eligible for at least $100 in CoverDraft protection 30 days after depositing at least $100 into their Interest Checking account.

Coverage includes debit card transactions (cash back transactions, too), automatic payments, transfers to other financial institutions and bill payments by personal check. However, Zelle transfers, ATM withdrawals and transfers to Ally Bank investment accounts are not covered.

You can also choose to link your Ally Bank Savings or Money Market accounts as a backup. Overdraft amounts will be transferred from these accounts. Note that these transactions do count as one of the six limited transactions allowed with Savings and Money Market accounts.

If you opt out of CoverDraft, you won’t be charged for overdrafts. Ally Bank will decline transactions that exceed the funds in your account. Additionally, Ally Bank’s Interest Checking is an interest-bearing account.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$0
ATM Network
43,000
APY
0.10% - 0.25%

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Other checking accounts we considered

To compile our list of the best checking accounts, we looked for companies with wide ATM accessibility and surcharge rebates, plus perks such as a low (or no) minimum balance requirements and cash back on purchases. Although this eliminated many companies from making our limited cut — Chime, Citi, Radius, Alliant, Capital One 360 Checking and Bank of America — others might fit your needs.

Axos Bank for Nationwide

Pros
  • Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursement
  • Make cash deposits at various retailers
  • No monthly account fees
Cons
  • Deposit of $50 required to open account
  • Retailers may charge a fee for cash deposits
  • $500 limit on cash deposits (up to $1,500 at select retailers)

Axos Bank’s Rewards Checking account has high-interest potential, but you must meet certain requirements. Standard use of your checking account — direct deposits, 10 debit card transactions per month — will only earn you qualification for a small fraction of its highest possible APY.

Why Axos bank didn’t make the cut: To get the highest APY offered with Axos for Nationwide’s Rewards Checking account, customers must open additional accounts, including an Invest Managed Portfolio and an Invest Self-Directed Trading Account.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$50
ATM Network
Approximately 91,000
APY
0.40% - 3.30%

Chime

Pros
  • Overdraft up to $200 with no fees
  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance fee
Cons
  • Not an interest-bearing account
  • $2.50 fee for out-of-network ATMs, no reimbursement
  • Available only via mobile app

Fintech company Chime charges no monthly services fees and requires no minimum balance for its checking account. Customers also get up to $200 in overdraft protection through its SpotMe program. If you don’t enroll in SpotMe, you won’t be charged overdraft fees; Chime will decline any transactions that exceed your balance.

Chime Checking Account and $200 qualifying direct deposit required to apply for the secured Chime Credit Builder Visa Credit Card. See chime.com to learn more.

Why Chime didn’t make the cut: Chime’s free SpotMe program covers up to $200 in overdrafts at no charge, but another bank (Ally) offers slightly more coverage ($250) as well as interest on the account balance.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$0
ATM Network
More than 60,000
APY
N/A

Charles Schwab

Pros
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursement
Cons
  • Low APY (0.45%) compared to other interest-bearing checking accounts

Schwab Bank’s High-Yield Investor Checking account is a solid option for frequent travelers due to its lack of foreign transaction fees and unlimited ATM fee refunds. Unfortunately, despite its name, this checking account’s APY is lower than many of the interest-bearing accounts we evaluated.

Why Schwab Bank didn’t make the cut: Other financial institutions on our list have higher annual percentage yields than Schwab Bank’s checking account.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$0
ATM Network
All ATM fees are refunded
APY
0.45%

Wealthfront

Pros
  • No overdraft fees
  • No monthly fees
  • Up to $1 million FDIC insured
Cons
  • No ATM fee reimbursement
  • Limited fee-free ATM network (19,000)

Wealthfront’s Cash Account is not a traditional checking account. Instead, it is a cash account held at a brokerage firm. However, despite what the name implies, you can deposit paper checks through the mobile app and set up ACH deposits. Additionally, because Wealthfront is a brokerage firm, it offers up to $3 million in FDIC insurance on its Cash Accounts.

Why Wealthfront didn’t make the cut: Wealthfront charges $2.50 for ATM transactions outside its network, which includes 19,000 ATMs. Other banks in our top picks have over 50,000 ATMs in their networks and/or reimburse ATM fees.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$1
ATM Network
19,000
APY
1.40%

Current

Pros
  • No monthly fees
  • No overdraft fees
  • Overdraft protection up to $200
Cons
  • Cash rewards program applies to in-person debit transactions only
  • No reimbursement for using out-of-network ATMs
  • Not an interest-bearing account

Current is a fintech company that provides banking products, including a checking account called Spend. The account requires no monthly fees or minimum balance. It also offers points-based rewards ($1 for every 100 points spent at participating retailers) and extended overdraft protection of up to $200.

Why Current didn’t make the cut: While we like the overdraft protection program at Current’s Spend account, Ally Bank offers $50 more in coverage. The cash rewards system at Spend is also beat by Upgrade’s cash-back on debit card purchases, including online.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$0
Balance to Open
$0
ATM Network
40,000
APY
N/A

Wells Fargo

Pros
  • Minimum opening deposit is low at $25
  • No overdraft fees
  • Up to $1 million FDIC insurance through partner banks
Cons
  • No annual percentage yield
  • No rewards
  • ATM network is small (12,000) compared to other financial institutions

Wells Fargo's Everyday Checking account includes physical checks and requires a low opening balance of $25. However, the bank charges a monthly account fee of $10. To avoid this fee, you must maintain a minimum balance of $500 or receive $500 or more each month in direct deposits.

Why Wells Fargo didn’t make the cut: There’s a $2.50 charge from Wells Fargo for using an out-of-network ATM, and you’ll also incur whatever fee the ATM company charges. Additionally, the Everyday Checking account doesn’t pay interest or offer any rewards, unlike other accounts in our top picks.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$10, waived with $500 balance or $500 in direct deposits
Balance to Open
$25
ATM Network
12,000
APY
N/A

HSBC

Pros
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • No annual percentage yield or rewards
  • $5K monthly direct deposits or $75K minimum balance to waive monthly fee of $50

HSBC is a U.K. bank with many physical branches around the world, including the U.S. Being an international bank, its services focus on customers who travel often, offering no foreign transaction fees on its checking account. However, to avoid account maintenance fees, HSBC requires a minimum balance of $75,000 or $5,000 in monthly direct deposits.

Why HSBC didn’t make the cut: The account balance minimum to waive the monthly account fee of $50 is higher than what’s required by other banks in our top picks.

HIGHLIGHTS
Monthly Fee
$50
Balance to Open
$1
ATM Network
43,000

Best Checking Accounts Guide

Whether you’re looking to find a better checking account or you're about to open one for the first time, here are some things to consider when making your choice.

Table of contents

Checking account pros and cons

A checking account is a transactional account, which means it’s meant for depositing and withdrawing funds. Depending on your checking account, the following pros and cons may apply.

Pros Cons
Deposit and store cash, checks, funds transferred electronically (e.g., ACH deposits, PayPal deposits, transfers from other accounts) Some checking accounts require a minimum deposit to open
Access funds via debit card (transactions at retailers, ATM withdrawal), checks, in-branch withdrawals, transfers to other accounts Some banks charge monthly account fees
Schedule automatic payments online, e.g., monthly utilities or streaming services Some accounts charge fees for using out-of-network ATMs
Use your bank account for peer-to-peer payment platforms, e.g., PayPal, Zelle Many financial institutions set limits on daily withdrawal amounts
Your bank statement can be used as proof of income when shopping for loans Accounts with unresolved overdrafts may be sent to collections, which can hurt your credit score
Funds are insured either by FDIC or NCUA up to $250,000 per insurer per account APYs on checking accounts (if offered) are significantly lower than that of other savings products

What are checking accounts used for?

A checking account provides you with easy ways to deposit and withdraw money. Accounts come with a complimentary debit card that you can use for payments in-person and online, such as at retailers or to pay bills through a utility company website. You can also use your debit card at ATMs to withdraw funds and check your balance.

Most financial institutions provide an online banking site as well as a mobile app. Through these, you can schedule transfers from other accounts and receive ACH deposits (e.g. payroll, government benefits). Additionally, virtually every mobile banking app offers mobile check deposits.

Checking account vs. savings account

Checking accounts and savings accounts are similar in how you fund the accounts — mobile deposit, transfer from a linked account or direct deposits. Beyond this, though, there are a lot of differences between checking and savings accounts.

If your goal is to find a place for your savings, check out our guides to the best savings accounts and high-yield savings accounts for more information. You can also take a look at the best money market accounts and best certificate of deposit rates for savings instruments with an even higher interest rate, but stricter rules.

Business vs. personal checking account

A personal checking account is meant for individuals with everyday deposit and withdrawal needs. Business checking accounts offer additional features tailored specifically to business owners and, in some cases, their employees.

Personal Checking Account Business Checking Account
Usually no minimum balance or deposit requirements Minimum balance or deposit requirements always apply
May be co-owned by another person, allowing for separate debit cards for the same account Allows for employee debit cards, with the ability to set predetermined spending and withdrawal limits
Some might not charge any fees or will offer ways to waive existing fees Always charges fees, which are much harder to waive
Rarely offers additional services Additional services such as bookkeeping and payroll may be offered
Unlimited free transactions Limited number of transactions before fees apply

If you’re planning on opening a checking account for your new or existing business, read through our guide to the best business checking accounts to find the one that addresses your needs.

Do checking accounts earn interest?

Some checking accounts earn interest, but annual percentage yield (APY) rates are considerably lower than that of other interest-bearing bank accounts. There are very few that could be considered high-interest checking accounts — see HOPE Credit Union, our pick for Best Checking Account for High Yields. However, if you're looking to grow your money over time without the potential risks of investing, a high-yield savings account is a better option.

How much money can you overdraft in a checking account?

How much you can overdraft your account will depend on the bank, credit union or other financial institution of your checking account. Limits of $200 and $500 are common, while some banks will simply return the payment unpaid if the payment amount is higher than the balance of your account. Remember that most banks apply fees to overdrafts — even accounts with overdraft protection may charge a fee if your account balance is negative for too long.

Checking account fees

Account fees are common across many banks and you'll rarely find a bank that doesn't charge for at least some of its account services. However, increased competition between banks has led many of them to drastically lower or eliminate some of these fees.

Here are some of the most common fees associated with checking accounts:

  • Monthly fees: Unsurprisingly, running a bank costs money and keeping an account open isn’t free. Checking accounts generally charge monthly fees, sometimes called maintenance fees, typically in the $6 to $12 range. In many cases, you can waive these fees by meeting certain requirements, such as keeping a specific minimum balance in your account at the end of each month.
  • Overdraft or insufficient funds fees: Fees for insufficient funds vary among banks, but can be as high as $30 or more. However, many banks — for example, Betterment and Chime — won’t charge an overdraft fee if the negative balance is resolved within a specific period of time.
  • ATM fees: If you withdraw money from an ATM that’s outside your bank’s network, you will be charged ATM fees by the ATM company and, in some cases, by your bank, too. These fees can range anywhere from $1.50 to over $10. Several banks reimburse some or all of these fees through a monthly credit.
  • Paper statement: Banking statements that you can print or save as a file are available online and through mobile apps. But if you want a paper statement mailed to you, your bank may charge a fee for this service.

How to choose a checking account

Checking account features such as fees and perks vary across financial institutions. Consider the following factors when opening a new checking account.

Interest rates and cash-back rewards

Though more commonly associated with savings accounts, many checking accounts also yield interest on balances. However, the interest rates are usually much lower than what you would find on savings accounts — especially when compared to high-yield savings accounts.

Some accounts also offer cash back of 1% to 2% on purchases. Be sure to read the fine print, as many banks only award cash back on transactions that require a signature, rather than contactless payment purchases or those that require you to input your PIN.

Accessibility

Being able to access your money wherever you are matters just as much as having an account with good perks. Depending on your preference and needs, an online-only bank can be just as good an alternative as one with multiple branches across the U.S. and abroad.

A bank’s ATM network is important to consider, as most banks charge ATM fees if you withdraw money outside of their network. These fees can quickly add up, so be sure to check the availability of in-network ATMs in your area. However, some banks reimburse a portion or all fees incurred from out-of-network ATMs.

You should also consider how easy it is to contact your bank’s customer support. A bank that offers you multiple contact methods — phone, email, live chat, in person — should always rank high on your list. Bonus points if customer service is offered outside typical business hours or, even better, 24/7.

Security

Because checking accounts tend to be most people’s primary spending accounts, security is usually a paramount concern.

These are some of the more common security features offered by banks for their checking accounts:

  • EMV chips on debit and credit cards: Chip-enabled cards are more secure than cards with magnetic strips as that strip is more vulnerable to “skimmers” — devices that can capture your account information when processing a transaction. Chips, on the other hand, generate one-time information that is unique to each transaction, making it useless to potential scammers and data thieves.
  • One-time passwords for online transactions: One-time passwords can be sent to your email or your phone to confirm it’s really you making that online transaction. These passwords are only valid for a few minutes at a time, possibly deterring someone who might have access to your account, but not your email or phone.
  • Biometric logins (fingerprint, facial/voice recognition, etc.): These are currently the best security measures for your online information. Since your biometric information is unique to you, it is the best way to prevent unauthorized access to your money.

In addition to securing your account information, you should also make sure the bank that holds your account is insured by the FDIC — or the NCUA in the case of credit unions — which insures customers for up to $250,000 in the event of a bank failure (usually caused by insolvency).

Bear in mind that these agencies only insure $250,000 per customer, per financial institution. This means that if your total funds exceed this amount across all your accounts (checking, savings, etc.), you should consider opening a second account with a different bank to ensure all of your money is properly insured.

New sign-up bonuses

Some banks offer incentives for opening a new account with them. For example, a bank may offer a $300 new account bonus, provided you’re not already banking with them. There are usually requirements to qualify for these bonuses, such as setting up direct deposit for a minimum total each month. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of these incentives.

What do you need to open a checking account?

Opening a checking account at a financial institution is a fairly straightforward process, whether online or at a brick-and-mortar branch. You can always expect to fill out a form that requires you to provide the following documents and information:

  • Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Government-issued ID (state license, passport, etc.)
  • Date of birth
  • Contact information (address, phone number, email)

Best Checking Accounts FAQs

What is overdraft protection?

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Overdraft protection links your checking account balance to another source of funds, whether it's a separate account or a credit line. Its purpose is to protect your account should you make a payment that exceeds your balance.

Note that this is not the same as a bank's claim of no overdraft fees. Some banks allow customers to have a negative balance for a certain period of time before charging any fees. Others simply decline transactions that exceed your available balance.

Which banks offer free checking accounts?

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Online-only banks have the most offerings when it comes to free checking accounts with no monthly fees. However, some traditional banks also offer checking accounts without fees. Keep in mind that many banks require you to meet some criteria, such as a minimum amount of direct deposits each month, to keep your account free of fees.

How do I close a checking account?

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To close a checking account, you should call the customer service number for the bank, credit union or financial institution where your account is held. Some banks do allow you to close your account online, but more likely, you’ll need to speak with a representative by phone. Additionally, some banks and credit unions that require you to close your checking account in person at a branch location.

You won’t be able to close your account if you have a negative balance. Also, remember to change any direct deposits or automatic payments to another bank account.

Should I have more than one checking account?

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Whether or not you need more than one checking account will depend on your needs. For instance, some married couples have a joint checking account, in addition to their own deposit accounts, to handle mortgage payments and shared expenses.

A second checking account may also come in handy if you have more than $250,000 saved up; the FDIC only insures up to that amount per customer per bank, so a second account at a different bank is a good way of keeping all of your money insured.

How much money can you overdraft in a checking account?

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How much money you can overdraft your checking account varies by bank, credit union or financial institution. Many checking accounts charge a fee of around $25 per item overdrafted. However, there are others that don’t penalize account holders for overdrafts, such as Ally Bank — our pick for Best Checking Account for Overdraft Protection. Ally Bank allows up to $250 in overdrafts with no fees.

How We Chose the Best Checking Accounts

To create our list of the best checking accounts, we evaluated dozens of financial institutions, including credit unions, major banking institutions, online banks and fintech companies.

Factors for determining our top picks include:

  • Member FDIC or member NCUA - All checking accounts on our list are insured by one of the two financial organizations.
  • Annual percentage yield (APY) - We looked for the highest available APYs among checking accounts that yield interest.
  • Cash-back rewards and other bonuses - We evaluated rewards offered by banks with rewards checking.
  • Monthly fees - No fees, low fees or easy-to-waive monthly fees weighed heavily in our decision-making.
  • Overdraft protocol - We looked for checking accounts with no overdraft fees and helpful overdraft protection programs.
  • Opening deposit - We looked for zero to low opening deposit amounts.
  • ATM network and ATM fee reimbursement - Extensive ATM networks and/or multiple or unlimited ATM fee reimbursements received strong consideration.
  • Customer support - We looked to financial institutions with easy access to customer support.
  • Financial standing - We looked for banks, including new digital banks, that show financial stability according to S&P Global Ratings, Moody’s and Fitch Group.

Though we always try to include accurate and up-to-date information on regulatory and legal actions, we don’t claim this information is complete or fully up to date. Checking account features such as annual percentage yield rates and rewards programs are subject to change. As always, we recommend you do your own research as well.

Summary of Money’s Best Checking Accounts of 2023

  • HOPE Credit Union - Best Checking Account for High Yields
  • PNC Bank - Best Checking Account for Managing Finances
  • Betterment - Best Checking Account for ATM Fee Reimbursement
  • SoFi - Best Hybrid Checking and Savings Account
  • Chase - Best Checking Account for College Students
  • Upgrade - Best Checking Account for Cash Back
  • Ally Bank - Best Checking Account for Overdraft Protectionge15a604f361