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Best Online Checking Accounts in 2020

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Bank accounts, and especially checking accounts, are fairly easy to come by. An overwhelming number of American households have a bank account. But not all checking accounts are created equal. And just because one checking account is ideal for one person doesn’t mean it’ll be perfect for another.

The best checking accounts are going to offer you low fees, free ATMs service, and good customer support. Earning interest on your money is a major plus, as well.

Interested in knowing which checking account you should be using? Continue reading and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.

What to Look for in a Checking Account

Each person is going to have individual needs when deciding on their ideal checking account. Generally, though, you’re going to want to avoid monthly fees. Many people view these fees as not worth the benefits that come with the account.

If banks do charge fees, you can usually get around them by maintaining a minimum balance.

Free ATM access is also a big selling point for checking account owners. If your bank is relatively small, they may offer refunds on out-of-network ATMs.  Some online banks offer refunds on all ATMs, even international ones.

BBVA Free Online Checking

BBVA offers free online checking with all of the full-service features.  This account only requires an initial deposit of $25 and has  no monthly service charges or ATM fees at BBVA USA ATMs.

BBVA also offers one year free Visa Debit Card for each account holder where you have the ability to earn cash back rewards.  On top of this, BBVA offers unlimited check writing and free customizable alerts on your account.

Finally, with this free checking account, you will also get additional benefits such as overdraft protection and enrollment into the BBVA ClearBenefits Program that can help you with identity theft restoration and insurance, cell phone protection and other great protection services at a monthly fee of $4.

Simple Individual Checking

Simple was founded in 2009 to provide a simple and enjoyable checking experience. The company offers branchless, online banking to its customers. It also provides a mobile app and a Visa Debit Card.

With the app, you can:

  • link to external accounts,
  • transfer money instantly to other Simple customers
  • block your card if it’s stolen or lost
  • make direct deposits
  • deposit checks with a smartphone photo
  • use third-party payment services like Venmo and Square

The only fee you can expect to pay is a $5 charge for a book of 25 checks. Simple also has an Allpoint network of 40,000 ATMs. If you use an ATM outside of the network, you may be charged by the ATM owner but you won’t be charged by Simple.

And while Simple doesn’t offer bill pay, you can use the routing and account numbers to set up payments or you can send a Simple check. There’s also no minimum opening balance.

The mobile app also provides various budgeting tools so that you can divide your money into different categories, including regular goals, protected goals, safe-to-spend, and expenses. Although there are also great third-party budgeting apps you can get too.

The money in the “protected goals” category will be siphoned off into a separate checking account that earns a high 1.55% APY. There are also no interest or overdraft fees if a transaction exceeds your available balance.

 

Heritage Bank eCentive Checking Account

Heritage Bank is based in Spicer, Minnesota and offers several checking and savings account options. If you want to earn 0.33% APY on your account, you will need to either pay a $17 fee each month or maintain a minimum balance of $1,000.

If you get a Jumbo Deposit account, you’ll receive a 1.01% APY if you maintain a minimum balance of $320,000. And with their Legacy Checking account, you’ll get 0.04% APY for a minimum balance of $1,000.

The most attractive part of banking with Heritage Bank, though, is its eCentive debit card and checking account. It requires an opening balance of $100 but you’ll get 1.53% APY. However, you’ll have to meet certain criteria: customers need to receive monthly eStatements, receive at least one direct deposit, and make a minimum of 10 debit card purchases or payments excluding ATM transactions.

And even if you can’t make the 10 payments each month with eCentive, your account will still earn interest, although it will only be 0.05% APY. There also won’t be any minimum balance requirements and no monthly service fees.

If you decide to not enroll in monthly eStatements, you’ll receive a $4 charge each month for paper statements that are sent via USPS. And with the mobile app, you can do banking online for free and use the ePay online pay to conduct all of your banking needs. And online banking clients can send money to anybody with Heritage Bank’s “Popmoney” service.

It should be noted that the bank has “hybrid” ATMs in only seven cities – across South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. These ATMs let customers interact with tellers via live video. The tellers can be accessed 12 hours a day on weekdays.

To make up for the limited number of ATMs, all fees charged by ATM owners will be refunded by the bank, up to $25 each month. And for those who are small business-minded, it’s worth knowing that this is an employee-owned community bank.

 

NBKC Bank Personal Account

At NBKC bank, they call their checking account a Personal Account. This account comes with a starter book of checks, no fees, and a debit card. With a Personal Money Market account, you’ll get 1.01% APY if your balance is below $1 million.

Although the minimum opening deposit for both the Personal Money Market and regular Personal accounts is $5, you only need to have one cent in either of the accounts to earn interest. You also get online banking on a variety of devices.

You can access mobile banking with the fingerprint API from Android and Touch ID from Apple. With Bill Pay, you can set up recurring online payments. And you can do mobile deposit with your smartphone.

A big benefit is that the bank won’t charge you at all for:

  • online banking
  • NSFs or overdrafts
  • eStatements
  • incoming domestic wires
  • returned paper or electronic items
  • Bill Pay
  • cashier’s checks

As an NBKC Bank customer, you’ll also get to access over 30,000 MoneyPass ATMs at no charge in the United States and Puerto Rico. And if another ATM owner charges you, NBKC Bank will refund you up to $12 each month.

On the downside, you’re going to have to pay $5 for outgoing domestic wires. It’s also going to cost you $45 for both receiving and sending international wires.

 

TIAA Bank Yield Pledge Checking

TIAA Bank is a Fortune 500 company that offers low minimum savings and checking accounts. It also offers a high-yield money market and checking accounts. First-time money market account customers will get 1.40% APY while first-time checking account customers will get 0.50% APY.

These APYs only last for the first year. After that, the APY drops to 0.35%.

TIAA promises that their yields will always be within the top five percent among its competition. There’s also no monthly fee for a High Yield Pledge checking account, but it does require an opening deposit of $100.

For Basic Checking, you only need an opening balance of $25. And as long as you maintain a daily balance of $25, you’ll avoid the $5 monthly fee.  When you bank with TIAA, you’ll get extended warranty protection and online banking services. You’ll also have access to the bank’s network of 80,000 ATMs.

And as long as you maintain a daily average balance of $5,000, you’ll be fully reimbursed for all out-of-network ATM fees. If you don’t maintain that balance, you’ll be refunded up to $15 per month.

There are several fees that you have to watch out for with an account at TIAA, though. Some fees that you may be charged include:

  • NSFs – $30
  • stop payment fee – $25
  • cashier’s check – $10
  • return deposited item fee – $10
  • expedited overnight bill payment – $15

By enrolling in overdraft protection, you can avoid having to pay NSF fees.

Ally Interest Checking Account

Ally is an FDIC-insured online bank that provides a strong APY in both its checking and savings accounts. If you maintain a $15,000 minimum daily balance, you’ll get 0.5% APY in your checking account.

Although you can’t deposit cash at a branch, you can physically deposit funds at one of its many Allpoint ATMs. You can also use Ally eCheck to deposit checks by taking a photo with your phone. And you can use Zelle to send money to pretty much anyone who has a bank account.

Ally is a bank that’s made for the digital age. They offer their customers 24/7 account access from anywhere to find ATMs, check balances, and pay bills. And if there’s no Allpoint ATM around, Ally will reimburse you up to $10 a month for ATM fees.

Another great perk is that its interest-bearing checking account is compounded daily.

One thing to be aware of is that, even though there’s no opening minimum balance required, a customer needs to fund their account within 30 days or the account will be closed.

Highlights

  • Min Opening Deposit – $0
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Interest Rate – Up to 0.50% APY
  • ATM Access – Free at 43,000 nationwide units and up to $10 in fee reimbursement/month

 

Capital One 360 Checking

Capital One has both a powerful online presence while offering many brick-and-mortar branches and several Capital One Cafes. They provide a variety of financial services and mainly cater to commercial clients, small businesses, and consumers.

Those who open a Capital One checking account will need to go paperless and accept all of their communications by way of electronic delivery. Although there is technically no minimum balance needed, your account isn’t considered to be open until there’s at least one cent in the account.

Also, this checking account won’t make you pay any monthly fees and your first 50 checks will be free of charge. Your APY will also depend on how high your account balance is.

With the Capital One mobile app, you can make check deposits, get account activity alerts, and manage your accounts. Some fees you might be charged include:

  • cashier’s check – $20
  • outgoing domestic wire transfers – $30
  • overdraft fees of up to $35
  • stop payment fees – $25

It’s also important to point out that Capital One was the victim of a data breach in 2019 and the records of over 100 million applications and accounts were exposed.

 

Radius Bank Rewards Checking

Customers earn 1% cash back on signature-based purchases each month with Radius Bank Rewards Checking. With their Superhero Checking account, customers will earn 0.5% APY on balances of at least $2,500 and their interest will be matched by Radius and donated to March of Dimes. The Superhero account also provides 1% cash back on purchases, and the proceeds will go to charity.

Both types of checking accounts require an opening balance of $100. However, there are no monthly maintenance fees.

There’s also a third type of checking account – Essential Checking. This is for customers who want to rebuild their banking history. There’s a minimum opening balance of $10 and customers need to pay a monthly maintenance fee of $9.

Customers of any of these checking accounts will need to receive eStatements.

If you’re a Superhero or Rewards Checking account customer, you’ll get your first order of checks for free. You’ll also have access to an unlimited number of ATM fee refunds.

With the Radius Bank Mobile app, you can manage your accounts plus gain access to helpful budgeting tools.You can also add your debit card to Samsung Pay, Google Pay, or Apple Pay if you want to make purchases with your phone.

While keeping an average daily balance of $2,500 can be tough, you’ll also need to maintain that amount to get the 1% cash back rewards. You can avoid this requirement, however, if you make a direct deposit of $2,500 or more into your account each month.

The Best Online Checking Account for You

As we can see, there are many different types of checking accounts out there. And you shouldn’t have to feel stuck with having to choose a checking account that’s only offered by one of the major banks. Go with a checking account that’s going to fit your lifestyle and makes managing your money as easy as possible.

Interested in learning how to get better at saving your money? Let us help you today!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn the online checking basics

What is a checking account?

Checking accounts are the workhorses of a banking institution. They don’t simply hold your money and accrue interest (more on that later) but can also empower you to spend.

Online banking, and indeed, most non-cash transactions wouldn’t be possible without a checking account. Along with credit cards, checking accounts work to guarantee your funds to the vendor you transfer to. The bank provides an assurance that the debt created by the charge will be honored and if not, it creates a paper trail that confirms that the debt even exists.

In the days before instant online and digital certification of checks, it took time for paper checks to clear. The time for a check to clear left some people the time to deposit funds on Wednesday for service they paid for on Monday.

This practice was part of the original foundation of checking systems. It allowed people to both store money and to be liquid at the same time without the need to travel to their bank and withdraw funds for each purchase or bill.

To guarantee the funds, banks rolled out more and more sophisticated technology in the paper checks themselves to keep fraudsters from designing checks that seemed real but weren’t attached to any real account.

The transfer to digital approval of checks created both the debit card and eliminated much of the fraud associated with intentionally passing bad checks.

How do checking accounts work?

A checking account uses a specific pathway (represented by the routing number) to get to funds you have allocated to be used (represented by the account number).

Verifying these numbers, along with some encryption, is how your debit card requests funds from the bank and transfers them to the vendor. Whether you use a bill pay service, a debit card, or a paper check, the system behind the scenes changes but the routing number/account number works the same way.

The bank makes money through two revenue streams: the interest charged on the lending of money and fees. Customers utilize banks for three services: to request loans, to store money, and to use money more effectively.

Money in checking is always ready for use and can be accessed without limits (other than the number of funds). Because the funds are always available and always on the cusp of leaving the bank, they are considered volatile and hard for the bank to use for other purposes such as lending.

What are checking account costs and fees?

In light of the fact that checking account funds don’t work for the bank in terms of lending, they often have fees attached to them. These fees range from a one-time fee for opening an account to monthly recurring fees to penalty fees for specific types of transactions.

That said, banks also need to offer checking accounts to give customers easy and secure access to funds. So banks tend to be competitive in how these costs and fees are constructed and leeway in getting them waived.

Even though bank account fees seem a nuisance, they often beat the alternatives. Prepaid cards and pay-as-you-go cards lack a sufficient repository of funds for vendors to consider them trusted. This is the reason that using these cards for many transactions comes with addition, per-use fees.

How are checking account fees established?

To start a checking account you need to open a bank account. If you already have a savings account or money market with a bank, they may waive this first fee. In most circumstances, the opening fee is little more than the first monthly maintenance fee charged in advance.

These fees are also commonly waived if you open the account with a sufficient balance. In other cases, no opening fee is charged but a minimum deposit is required to even open an account.

Probationary periods are also common practice to access certain additional services within a checking account. These types of account maturations allow the bank to establish trust in the customer to cover potential losses from expanded privileges.

What are monthly fees for checking accounts?

Given the almost necessity of a checking account to access funds and pay bills, banks use monthly fees to cover some of their costs in offering the accounts. These fees vary between institutions but remain constant from one branch to another. They run as low as $1 a month to as high as $15 or more.

Most institutions list a set of criteria a customer can meet to have the monthly fee waived. These include keeping a monthly minimum balance, having a monthly amount deposited via direct deposit, or using your debit card a number of times per month.

If you make many card transactions with a pre-paid or pay-as-you-go card, you would easily pay more than the high of $15 in transaction fees.

What are overdraft fees on checking accounts?

The most costly fee to consumers is the overdraft fee. These fees only apply to funds used through a checking account and generate the most significant revenue for banks.

Always carefully read through the overdraft policy of a bank and be careful to opt-out and be firm about your decision

What are transfer fees on checking accounts?

For the most part, a checking account doesn’t charge you for each individual transaction. Realistically, the only time you will see a fee attached to a transfer is if a third party is needed to complete the transfer.  These fees get charged by the third party such as an out of network ATM or a fund wiring agency.

The only other transfer fees are those charged by a savings or money market account for tapping into funds prematurely or too often. Per federal law, you can only take six withdrawals per month from a savings account. Drawing from a retirement account before it matures often carries stiff penalties in addition to fees.

This limit means you need to learn to budget and utilize services properly if you don’t have a checking account in place.

Are checking accounts FDIC insured?

Some consumers wonder if checking accounts are FDIC insured. The answer is that they can be. Like any other account at a bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) insures a bank for $250,000 per depositor.

In addition that is per institution and per ownership category. So, if you are single and have an account with only one bank, you are insured up to that $250,000 limit.

If you have multiple checking accounts under your name with the same bank, you are still only insured up to $250,000. However, if you have a checking account in a different bank, then you would be covered for an additional amount.

The ownership category would also cover you for a joint account, a business account, and a personal account with the same bank as long as there was at least one other name attached to each account outside of your personal.

What banks offer free checking?

Many banks offer free checking for a limited population and then an account with a monthly maintenance fee for most everyone else.
For students in high school and college, special, limited transaction and service checking accounts are offered for free. For retirees drawing Social Security, feeless accounts also exist.

The first group is offered as a courtesy by the bank to create early loyalty and teach fiscal responsibility. The latter benefits the bank from the consistent nature of the deposits and the knowledge that the funds come from a guaranteed source.

In addition to these common offerings, some banks offer no-fee checking accounts. Here’s a quick list of banks offering free checking and the conditions attached to each. Unless noted, these offer ATM reimbursement for ATM access, meaning that they allow you to use third party machines and credit you back for fees in most cases.

Ally Bank Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $0
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Interest Rate – Up to 0.50% APY
  • ATM Access – Free at 43,000 nationwide units and up to $10 in fee reimbursement/month

Axos Bank Essentials Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $0
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Interest Rate – None

BBVA Free Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $25
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Interest Rate – None
  • ATM Access- Free at 55,000 nationwide units
  • Limited Availability – AL, AZ, CA, CO, FL, NM, and TX

Capital One 360 Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $0
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Interest Rate – 0.20% APY
  • ATM Access – Free at 40,000 nationwide units

Chase Total Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $0
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Monthly Fee – $12 (unless waived)
  • Interest Rate – None
  • Limited Access – Nationwide except for AK, HI, and PR

Chime Free Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $0
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Interest Rate – 0.01% APY
  • ATM Access – Free at 30,000 nationwide units

Discover Cashback Debit Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $0
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Rewards – 1% cash-back for up to $3,000 in purchases/month
  • ATM Access – Free at 60,000 nationwide units

Nationwide My Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $100
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Interest Rate – 1.7% APY

Radius Bank Rewards Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $100
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Interest Rate 0.15% APY

USAA Classic Checking

  • Min Opening Deposit – $25
  • Min Balance – $0
  • Interest Rate – Up to 0.01% APY
  • ATM Access – Up to 10 Free ATM uses
  • Limited to USAA members
Do checking accounts accrue interest?

Checking accounts accrue interest like a savings account or money market. The interest rates tend to be lower, though some high-interest online-only accounts can be found.

For the most part, if your objective is to store money and have it grow, you are better looking into a solid yield savings account.

Is it possible to have multiple checking accounts?

It is possible to have multiple checking accounts with the same institution or across multiple institutions. There is no limit set to the number of accounts a person can have in their name. At some point, you hit diminishing returns on what benefits you gain and how many fees you can avoid through balances held and account usage.

Purpose

Having multiple accounts is a good way to budget. If you are drawing on separate funds for each transaction, you have a better chance to spot errors in your accounts and to keep in mind how much spending money you have that isn’t allocated for bills.

You may have opened a second chance checking account while recovering from a bankruptcy or building credit.

You also might want a secondary account to separate business and home expenses when running a home office. If you work multiple jobs or have multiple funding sources, keeping a separate account for each makes taxes much easier. Most spouses having a joint account but may keep their own individual accounts for private purchases and rainy day savings.

Complications

Holding multiple accounts can itself get confusing if you don’t have a specific reason to keep each one. If you ever find yourself wondering why you opened an account, that is a clear sign you don’t need it.

Remember that each time you open an account, the bank will look at your history through ChexSystems. If your banking history is less than pristine, they may not allow you to open another account for their financial security and yours.

Gain Fiscal Confidence

It’s never a bad idea to learn more about options for controlling your finances. What is a checking account if not a financial tool that helps you move through life with little effort?

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