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Fortunly's Guide

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Checking Accounts

By
Julija A.

July 30,2021


A checking account is a vital money management tool. It’s perfect for handling everyday deposits and withdrawals, so it’s one of the most common products of the banking industry. In contrast with less liquid savings or investment accounts, the best free checking accounts allow multiple transactions on a daily basis.

With so much competition in the banking market, there’s no doubt that you’ll be able to find the best fit for your needs, as long as you know your options. Determining the best checking option can be a daunting task. We’ve checked out fees, minimum balances and initial deposit requirements, ATM availability, online and mobile banking platforms, and customer service.

We've compiled this review list to help you make the most educated choice and pick one of the best checking accounts on the market.

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Best Checking Accounts to Open in 2021

Min. initial deposit:
None
Min. account balance:
None
Monthly fees:
$4.95
APY:
None
Open Account
Offer details
Min. initial deposit
None
Min. account balance
None
Monthly fees
None
APY
0.10% - 0.25%
Open Account
Offer details
Min. initial deposit
None
Min. account balance
None
Monthly fees
None
APY
0.20%
Open Account
Offer details
Min. initial deposit
None
Min. account balance
None
Monthly fees
None
APY
N/A
Open Account
Offer details
Min. initial deposit
None
Min. account balance
None
Monthly fees
None (Basic), $4.99 (Premium)
APY
None
Open Account
Offer details
Min. initial deposit
None
Min. account balance
None
Monthly fees
None
APY
0.03%
Open Account
Offer details
Min. initial deposit
$25
Min. account balance
None
Monthly fees
None
APY
0.01% on balances of $1,000
Open Account
Offer details
Min. initial deposit
None
Min. account balance
None
Monthly fees
None
APY
0.25%
Open Account
Offer details
Min. initial deposit
None
Min. account balance
None
Monthly fees
None
APY
1.41%
Open Account
Offer details
Evaluation Criteria

The Best Checking Accounts — Our Methodology

Before you open a checking account make sure that you go for the option that isn’t restrictive to your spending style and that has all the features you need. Take advantage of the extreme competitiveness of the banking market by shopping around for the most convenient option out there. Keep in mind that no one can stop you from holding multiple checking accounts, too.

Here are the factors we took into account while building this list:

Monthly fees

The number of both online and brick-and-mortar banks that have decided to scrap the maintenance-fee-charging policy keeps growing. With so many excellent checking accounts that come without the burden of monthly fees, we are not sure why anyone would settle for an account that comes with them. 

ATM fees and availability

An ATM usage fee is a fee that banks charge when you use automated teller machines. Although most banks don’t charge you a fee if you use an ATM within your account provider’s network, the best banks will also reimburse the fees you get charged when using another bank’s ATM. Some banks have huge networks of own-brand ATMs, while others collaborate with other banks and third-party ATM providers.

Other fees

All the companies that got featured on our list have exceptional checking account offers that don’t come with a long list of fees. However, there are certain services that usually incur fees even with the best bank accounts. Some of the most frequent charges include:

  • Overdraft fees
    An overdraft occurs when you don't have enough funds in your account to cover a payment you've made. If your bank covers the difference for you, that is called overdraft protection, a service that usually incurs an average fee of $34.
  • Wire transfer fees
    Wire transfers are an expensive way to move money from one bank account to another. However, they are also one of the most convenient options if you need a quick transfer. Even with the best online checking accounts, you'll probably get charged a typical $25 fee for an outgoing wire transfer within the United States. Incoming wires, on the other hand, don’t usually bear charges.
  • Foreign transaction fees
    With most banks, foreign transaction fees are added to every transaction that you make abroad. These charges apply when you make a purchase with your card or when you use an ATM to make a withdrawal. A foreign transaction fee can amount to anywhere between 1% and 3%.
  • Stop payment fees
    You can direct your bank not to honor a check you have written. You do that by issuing a "stop payment" order. This will cost you up to $35. Stop payment charges are lower with some good checking accounts.

Minimum account balance

A minimum balance is an amount of money that a user must have in an account to be eligible for a certain benefit or to avoid a certain fee. There are quite a few different reasons why banks require minimum balances in checking accounts. In some cases, a minimum balance must be kept in order to keep your account open. In other circumstances, a certain balance may be required to gain interest or waive fees. In this review, we’ve also included some of the banks with the best checking accounts that come with no minimum balance requirements at all.

Minimum initial deposit

An initial deposit or a minimum deposit is the amount of money required to contribute upon opening a checking account with a bank or other financial institution. Minimum deposits can vary significantly, and higher requirements are usually correlated with premium service packages. As a result of increased competition in the banking market, the average minimum deposit requirement has dropped. For the purpose of this review, we’ve made sure to include only the banks that ask for reasonable initial deposits as well as those that allow you to open a checking account online instantly.

User experience: online and mobile banking features

All the banks that have made their way to our review let their customers manage their finances via easy-to-use online and mobile platforms.

APY

The option to earn interest on your cash is a great feature of many checking accounts. However, there are certain factors that you need to consider in relation to APY or annual percentage yield. Did you know that a high yield checking account can end up costing you more than a different bank's non-interest-bearing option? It's common for an interest-bearing checking account to come accompanied by a multitude of fees as a tradeoff. If you don't feel like paying monthly service fees, ATM fees, and overdraft protection fees, or being charged for wire transfers and foreign transactions, perhaps you should opt for a non-interest-bearing checking account that comes with fewer fees. 

American interest rates are at historic lows right now. A checking account with a 0.01% APY requires you to set aside $1,000 and not touch it for a whole year in order to earn 10 cents in interest. You’re better off choosing a bank whose branch is a block closer to your home or office - you’ll save a lot more than 10 cents in gasoline and wear-and-tear on your car.

Customer service

No one likes wasting their time waiting in long lines or struggling to conduct a productive conversation while solving a problem over the phone. Any respectful business will strive to provide exceptional customer service, and that's especially true for banks. We took the time to compare checking accounts and find the best banks based on how fast and effective their customer support is when problems arise.

Quick Breakdown

The Best Checking Accounts for 2021

The Best Business Checking Accounts — In-Depth Reviews

Chase Secure Banking Review
Chase Secure Banking Review Logo Open Account

On Official Website

Minimum initial deposit:
None
Minimum account balance:
None
Monthly fees:
$4.95
ATM fees:
No fees for in-network ATMs
Other fees:
$2.50 per out-of-network ATM withdrawals ($5 outside the US, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands)
APY:
None

Chase is a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase & Co. – a global leader in financial services. The bank has been in business for more than 200 years. During that time, it opened branches in more than 100 countries. Chase Secure Banking is one of its best checking account offers for people who have had problems managing their finances in the past.

Anyone can qualify for Secure Banking as long as Chase can verify their identity and confirm that they haven’t committed fraud in the past. 

Fees

Aside from the monthly service fee of $4.95, you won’t have many charges to worry about. The only additional fees that you might encounter can easily be avoided since they are related to non-Chase and international ATMs. Whenever you use a non-Chase ATM for inquiries, transfers, or withdrawals, you’ll have to pay $2.50. Transfers and inquiries at ATMs outside the US, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands cost $2.50 as well, while withdrawals are $5.

The best banks to open a checking account at are those that are transparent about their pricing, which is exactly how Chase operates. As its customer, you’ll even be advised to opt for standard rather than express shipping of a replacement card since the rush request costs $5. 

Convenience and special features

Chase provides its customers with nearly 16,000 ATMs and more than 4,700 branches. On top of that, it has a mobile app that you can use to transfer funds, monitor your account activity, pay bills, and deposit checks.

Once you open your checking account online or at a nearby Chase branch, you’ll also be able to access your credit score free of charge at any time, and you’ll be notified whenever changes appear on your credit report. If any of those notifications makes you suspect that someone might have gotten ahold of your card information, you should contact Chase as soon as possible. Thanks to the bank’s zero-liability account protection, you’ll be reimbursed for any unauthorized card transactions. In the event of you losing or misplacing your card, you can use the lock feature available in your mobile app. 

User experience and customer service

Although Chase has several interest checking accounts, the Secure Banking account isn’t one of them. That’s because it was created with a very specific customer base in mind. Its purpose is to help those with bad or no credit history enter a traditional banking relationship and avoid debt. 

Customers can even request an in-person or virtual meeting with one of Chase’s financial experts to define and discuss their financial goals. You can locate the nearest Chase branches through the bank’s online branch locator.

Standard customer support services are available via phone, email, and social media. Telephone support hours vary from department to department.

Bottom line

Although Chase Secure Banking has very few checking account fees and enables you to keep a close eye on your credit reports, it lacks some of the perks that other accounts on this list offer, such as a reward program or an APY. Nevertheless, it’s perfect for those looking for an affordable and easily obtainable checking option. In addition, you can always use Chase Secure Banking as a temporary solution until you raise your credit score high enough so that you can qualify for a different Chase product.

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Ally checking account
Ally checking account Logo Open Account

On Official Website

Minimum initial deposit:
None
Minimum account balance:
None
Monthly fees:
None
ATM fees:
None
Other fees:
$7.50 returned deposit item fee; $25 overdraft fee; $20 fee for outgoing domestic wires
APY:
0.10% on balances below $15,000; 0.25% on balances of $15,000 or more

Ally is an online-only financial institution based in Detroit, Michigan. The company offers banking services, car financing, mortgage loans, and stock brokerage. Ally is considered one of the best online banks for checking accounts. It is a strong favorite among consumers who seek good rates, prompt customer service, and easy-access mobile banking with their transactional accounts. As a company that operates online-only, Ally doesn't have any physical branches to invest in, so a bigger portion of its capital can be put towards developing state-of-the-art financial products.

Fees

If you open an account with Ally, you’ll get one of the best checking accounts with no fees. This online bank doesn’t charge its customers for monthly maintenance, ATM withdrawals, ACH transfers, copies of online statements, domestic and international incoming wires, postage-paid deposit envelopes, and checks. Another thing that you won’t need to worry about is a minimum account balance.

Ally’s website is also completely transparent when it comes to the fees for any additional services you might need. These include a $7.50 fee for a returned deposit item, a $25 overdraft fee, a $10 excessive-transaction fee, a $20 fee for outgoing domestic wires and a few more. For a full list of relevant fees, make sure to check Ally Bank's website.

Convenience and special features

Although Ally has no physical locations to welcome its customers, Ally is still the best online bank when it comes to convenience and accessibility. An Ally checking account comes with a network of 43,000 free ATMs nationwide. As per deposits, you can opt for mobile check deposit, sending a check by mail, or setting up direct deposit or a wire transfer. The only option that isn’t available is making a cash deposit.

Ally checking accounts are marketed as one of the few accounts that reward its holders. With an APY that starts at 0.10% and reaches 0.25%, if you keep a minimum daily balance over $15,000, it is clear that Ally offers one of the best high-interest checking accounts out there.

User experience and customer service

Taking customer service seriously is a must for any reputable online-only financial institution. As one of the best online banks, Ally clearly takes great pride in making up for its lack of physical locations by providing highly-responsive customer support. Should you have any questions, there are plenty of ways to get answers - by phone, mail, email, or live chat. However, before you try to get in touch with a customer service representative, you should consult the help center section on this online bank's website. The help center is put together remarkably well and covers anything you might want to know and more. If you prefer mobile banking, you won't be disappointed by Ally's mobile app.

Another feature that proves that Ally provides one of the best checking accounts out there is its app that works as an all-in-one financial tool. It lets you make payments and deposits, transfer funds, and it shows your account balance anytime, anywhere. Both iOS and Android app versions have accumulated a number of excellent reviews.

Bottom line

Most banks that operate entirely online have the same weak point - they leave their customers without the option to deposit cash. That’s exactly one of the biggest drawbacks of Ally’s checking. On the other hand, Ally imposes almost no fees and its checking account rates are among the best in the business. If you prefer managing your finances on your smartphone, Ally’s free online bank account is well worth a second look.

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Capital One checking account
Capital One checking account Logo Open Account

On Official Website

Minimum initial deposit:
None
Minimum account balance:
None
Monthly fees:
None
ATM fees:
None
Other fees:
$35 overdraft fee, can be avoided if items are covered in one business day; up to $40 per domestic outgoing wire
APY:
0.20%

Ranking 98th on the Fortune 500 list, there is no doubt that Capital One Financial Corp. is one of the largest and most recognizable banks in the United States. Capital One started as a small business in 1988 and grew into a bank holding company specializing in credit cards, checking and savings accounts, auto loans, and other financial offerings. 

Thanks to its wide range of financial products, Capital One has established the reputation of a convenient financial institution for those who want to hold all their accounts with one company. This financial institution is also recognized as one of the best banks for checking accounts alone.

Fees

Capital One’s checking account option called 360 Checking is marketed as fee-free and for a good reason. The bank’s website even encourages its users to read the fine print because there are no monthly fees, ATM fees or other hidden costs. Apart from that, with 360 Checking you don’t need to worry about a minimum initial deposit or a minimum account balance since there are no requirements in either of these departments. 

Naturally, even the best checking account options offer a few additional services that can incur fees. When it comes to overdrafts, Capital One will charge you $35 per transaction unless you make the most of the “Next Day Grace” program and cover the overdraft amount until 12 PM ET of the following business day. As per wire transfer services, there are no fees for domestic incoming wires, while you can be charged up to $40 per transfer for a domestic outgoing wire. Make sure to consult Capital One’s website for the full list of fees.

Convenience and special features

Capital One may provide a checking account with no fees, however, it doesn’t offer many physical locations. This bank’s branches are located in less than 10 states, including New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Its ATM network, on the other hand is wide-spread, and has more than 39,000 locations.

Although the Capital One brick-and-mortar locations are scattered, the good news is that you can open and manage your checking account online, over the phone or by paying a visit to a physical branch if there is one near you. One of the most convenient features this bank offers to mobile-only users is the option to deposit a check from your phone.

Finding a checking account that pays interest is like a needle in a haystack. But, with an annual percentage yield of 0.20%, Capital One offers one of the best interest-bearing checking accounts on the market.

User experience and customer service

From our experience, Capital One's customer service agents are nothing but prompt and helpful. Representatives can be reached even during evening hours, seven days a week. Other types of support include live chat for logged-in users and support on Twitter. Apart from physical bank branches, Capital One offers another way of reaching a representative to discuss the high-interest checking accounts. There are more than forty Capital One Cafés, unique hybrid offices, where users can learn all about banking options, open an account and even drink coffee while using the bank’s free Wi-Fi. 

With an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars both on the App Store and Google Play, it is obvious that Capital One takes great pride in providing the best smartphone banking experience to its users. The bank's mobile and online banking services also come with a few useful tools to help you manage your finances.

Bottom line

Capital One 360 offers a top-of-the-line banking experience by providing one of the best interest-earning checking accounts on the market. Apart from the lack of fees, other upsides include highly responsive customer support, online financial management tools, and flexible overdraft options. As for the downsides, the company has a limited number of physical branches. 

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Chime Review
Chime Review Logo Open Account

On Official Website

Minimum initial deposit:
None
Minimum account balance:
None
Monthly fees:
None
ATM fees:
None for in-network ATMs; $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee
Other fees:
None
APY:
Non-interest checking account

Chime is a digital bank founded in 2013 as a forward-looking alternative to traditional banking. Nowadays, thanks to its no-fee policy, Chime is considered one of the best online checking account providers. Although it's mobile-only, Chime is still an FDIC-insured bank. When you open a bank account with this provider, you get a checking account (or a spending account, according to Chime's nomenclature), as well as a debit card and a linked savings account. 

Chime strives to provide easy-access banking for those who have uncomplicated finances and wish to manage their accounts on their smartphones, instead of going to a brick-and-mortar branch. It is clear that Chime's target market consists mostly of millenials. 

Fees

No monthly maintenance, no minimums, no overdraft charges - Chime’s checking account bears almost no fees. You don't even need to worry if your average daily balance decreases because there is no such thing as a minimum account balance requirement with this checking account. Chime won’t charge you for using any of the in-network MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATMs. However, a small fee of $2.50 will apply if you decide to use an out-of-network ATM.

Convenience and special features

Not only does Chime provide a free online checking account with no deposit requirements, but is also puts your money at your disposal in a record amount of time. As a user of Chime’s spending account, you can expect deposited funds to hit your account two days earlier than it would if you were an account holder with a traditional bank. The company claims that it makes the money accessible to you as soon as your employer deposits it. While setting up direct deposits with Chime is easy, depositing cash, on the other hand, can be a pain. The only option is to go to a Green Dot cash deposit location and pay a fee of up to $4.95 per deposit.

This online checking account provider has no physical locations that you can visit, however, its ATM network consists of more than 38,000 MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance free ATMs.

Although Chime’s spending account isn't one of those interest-bearing options, there are still ways to build up your savings with this bank. Here's the deal - you can round up every purchase you make with your debit card to the nearest dollar to make a deposit towards your Chime savings account.

User experience and customer service

Free online checking account providers need to make mobile apps the core of their business model to keep ahead of the game. With a rating of 4.7/5 on the App Store and 4.6/5 on Google Play, there is no doubt that Chime takes customer satisfaction on its smartphone app very seriously. Some of the app's amazing features include daily balance updates, alerts for transactions in real-time, and the option to block transactions in the case of a missing card or suspected fraud.

Chime’s no fee checking accounts come with diversified customer service channels. Any issues can be reported to the bank's customer service via email, the Chime mobile app, or by telephone. Customer support representatives can be reached by phone Monday through Saturday from 7 AM to 7 PM CST, and Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM CST. Based on our experience, this bank’s customer service is decent, however it’s not an area where Chime really shines.

Bottom line

If you are not bothered by the fact that Chime’s checking option is not one of those high interest checking accounts and therefore not a place to park your savings, this online bank’s fee-free, but still FDIC-insured checking can turn out to be a much better choice than anything a traditional neighborhood branch might offer.

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Current Review
Current Review Logo Open Account

On Official Website

Minimum initial deposit:
None
Minimum account balance:
None
Monthly fees:
None for the Basic account, $4.99 for the Premium account
ATM fees:
No fees for in-network ATMs
Other fees:
3% per international transaction; $3 for using foreign ATMs
APY:
None

Current’s products defy the standard checking account definition, which is precisely what Stuart Sopp set out to achieve when he founded the company in 2015. The online-only bank is yet to reach its full potential, but as things stand now, it’s well on its way to becoming hugely popular.

Fees

One of Current’s main selling points is the affordability of its services. There are no charges of any kind for overdrafts, instant money transfers, or in-network ATM withdrawals. There’s also no minimum balance requirement. However, you’ll have to pay $2.50 every time you use an out-of-network ATM, and if you leave the US, you’ll need to watch out for the 3% international transaction fees, as well as $3 international ATM fees.

Owners of Current’s online checking accounts will also need to cover a $5 fee to have their card replaced if it happens to get damaged or misplaced. For $20, the new card can be delivered via express mail. 

Although account statements will be automatically added to your app once a month, you can request paper statements as well. One statement will cost you $2.

Current offers two personal account types – Basic and Premium – and one account type meant for teens. While the basic account is free, you’ll have to set aside $4.99 per month to take advantage of Current’s premium features. You can get the teen checking account offer with an annual subscription of $36 per teen. Know that the bank might lower the fee if you sign up for several accounts.

Convenience and special features

Usually, people tend to avoid online-only banks because they make putting cash into one’s account difficult. Current has solved this issue by enabling its customers to deposit money at more than 60,000 stores. Withdrawing funds is just as convenient since you can do it at any of the 55,000 ATMs.

At Current, we found some of the best reward checking accounts available right now. You can earn up to 15 points whenever you use your card at one of the companies that the bank cooperates with. These points can be exchanged for cash. 

If you sign up for the premium subscription, you’ll also receive your paycheck two days faster than you would at a traditional bank, and you’ll be able to overdraft up to $100 free of charge. What’s more, the bank will cover any holds that a gas station may put on your card, meaning that the entirety of your funds will be available to you at all times.

Those looking for the best checking accounts for teens should end their search here. With Current cards, you can teach your children how to manage their money in a safe environment that you create from them using various teen account settings in your app. For instance, you can set spending limits for your kids, enable notifications that will let you know every time they make a purchase, or block specific stores.

User experience and customer service

The Current mobile app makes money transfers fast and easy – it lets you send and receive funds instantly and use your phone’s camera to deposit checks effortlessly. That’s not the only reason why so many Current bank reviews praise it. Namely, the app also sends you spending insights and lets you set up budgeting tools and savings pods.

The saving pods are especially noteworthy as they help you set aside money for specific purposes. You can even turn on the round-up feature, which will automatically move a small portion of money into your pod every time you make a purchase. Basic account holders get one pod, while premium customers get three.

If you have any questions regarding Current’s checking account deals, you can consult the bank's comprehensive FAQ section or get in touch with its customer support team via email, phone, or live chat. Phone support is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, while the live chat operators respond to inquiries 24 hours a day on workdays and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST on weekends.

Bottom line

Current is an excellent bank for those who want to pay extra attention to their budget or perhaps teach their children how to do so. It may not offer any checking account interest rates, but it provides its customers with generous rewards and plenty of deposit and withdrawal locations.

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Charles Schwab checking account review
Charles Schwab checking account review Logo Open Account

On Official Website

Minimum initial deposit:
None
Minimum account balance:
None
Monthly fees:
None
ATM fees:
None; unlimited ATM reimbursements worldwide
Other fees:
$25 outgoing domestic wire fee; $10 per cashier’s check; $25 per returned check
APY:
0.03%

Charles Schwab is best known for offering a stellar investing platform, however, the company also operates in banking, trading, and wealth management. With its headquarters in San Francisco, Charles Schwab has at least one physical branch in almost every state as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The only exceptions are Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming. 

Fees

Schwab Bank's FDIC-insured checking account comes with a long list of fee-free services. There are no account opening fees, monthly maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees or minimum balance requirements. ATM withdrawals are free-of-charge, and thanks to the unlimited ATM fee reimbursement program, you don't have to worry about fees if you use an out-of-network ATM anywhere in the world.  As a user of one of the best interest checking accounts provided by Schwab, you won’t be charged an overdraft fee if you happen to have enough funds on a linked brokerage or savings account to cover the difference. Other free-of-charge services include domestic incoming wires, stop payments, debit card replacements, checks, and more. 

There's a $25 outgoing domestic wire fee, a $10 fee per cashier’s check, and a $25 fee that applies when a check is returned due to insufficient funds. For a complete list of both paid and fee-free services, make sure to visit the bank's website.

Convenience and special features

When you open a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor checking account, by default you get a Schwab One brokerage account, too. Even though you are not obligated to use the brokerage account, it certainly is a convenient feature for anyone interested in trading.

Not only does the Schwab checking option have few fees, but this bank also offers a reasonable APY rate of 0.03% which makes it one of the best APY checking accounts.

If you are a frequent traveler, note that this bank’s ATM reimbursement policy is almost unmatched as they offer unlimited rebates for any automated teller machine worldwide. Another great feature is the free bill paying service that takes no time to set up. Here’s how it works - you let Schwab know about all the details and the bank makes sure that your bills get paid on time each month.

User experience and customer service

When it comes to mobile banking, it's safe to say that Charles Schwab bank is one of the best in the game. Both the Android and iOS app keep getting awarded with high user satisfaction rates.

Schwab bank provides multiple lines of customer support, including round-the-clock live chat support, Twitter, and phone support. Customer support over the phone is available Monday through Friday from 4 AM to 8 PM PT, and Weekends from 6 AM to 7:30 PM PT. With a physical branch in almost every state on top of the diversified customer service channels, you can rest assured that every question you may have will be matched with a prompt answer.

Bottom line

There are many reasons why Charles Schwab is considered the best bank for checking accounts. This financial institution has excellent options if you are looking to earn a decent rate on your account and don't need to deposit cash frequently. The lack of fees and minimum account balances, as well as the many perks including unlimited ATM rebates, reassure that you’ll be able to bank without having to worry about any unexpected charges. Having multiple customer service channels is also a plus. On the other hand, one of the drawbacks that comes with applying for a checking account with Scwab is the fact that you’ll need to pass the bank’s hard inquiry on your credit to become a customer.

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USAA checking account
USAA checking account Logo Open Account

On Official Website

Minimum initial deposit:
$25
Minimum account balance:
None
Monthly fees:
None
ATM fees:
None for in-network ATMs; $2 fee per transaction after 10 out-of-network toll-free withdrawals
Other fees:
1% foreign transaction fee; $29 overdraft fee; $29 stop payment fee
APY:
0.01% on balances of $1,000

USAA Federal Savings Bank was established in 1983 as a subsidiary of USAA, a Fortune 500 financial services company based in San Antonio.

To qualify for USAA, one of the best banks for checking accounts, you have to be an active member of the military, a former part of the military personnel, or a military family member. From a non-affiliated civilian’s point of view, these requirements can be interpreted as a huge drawback. However, it is clear a limited number of eligible users help the company concentrate on developing an exceptional set of banking services that include some of the best checking and savings accounts.

When it comes to checking options, this bank has two choices - the USAA Classic checking account and the USAA Cashback rewards checking account. The biggest difference between the two options is that the first earns you interest if you keep a balance of at least $1,000, while the latter offers a reward of $0.10 cashback with every debit card purchase.

Fees

As one of the banks with free checking account offers, USAA charges no fees to open and maintain either of the two aforementioned choices. You’ll have to deposit a minimum of $25 upon opening a new checking account with this bank, but apart from that initial deposit, there are no minimum balance requirements. The bill paying service is another feature that has no charges.

Although a checking account with USAA comes with almost no fees for the most frequently used services, there are still a few charges that can’t be avoided even with the best checking accounts. You can expect a 1% fee for any debit card or ATM transaction completed in a foreign country. Unless you opt for the overdraft protection service or set up your savings account as a backup, you’ll be charged a hefty $29 overdraft fee. Other charges include a $29 stop-payment fee, and a $2 fee per transaction after the tenth toll-free use of an out-of-network ATM.

Convenience and special features

The company's physical financial centers can be found at a limited number of locations. These include branches in the states of Colorado, New York, Maryland, and Texas. To compensate for the lack of brick-and-mortar locations, as one of the best banks in America for checking accounts, USAA offers a network of 1,200 branded free-to-use ATMs that also take deposits. Apart from that, there are more than 60,000 USAA-favored ATMs where the bank's users can make ten fee-free withdrawals each month. The fee that applies after the tenth transaction and the fact that these ATMs can't take deposits are the only downsides. For the situations when you have no choice but to use a non-network ATM, USAA offers a reimbursement service of $15 per cycle.

Although USAA Classic checking is an interest bearing option, an APY of 0.01% doesn’t make it one of the best high yield checking accounts on the market. However, a minimum account balance of $1,000 is not a high interest earning threshold compared to other banks’ requirements.

Excellent online and mobile banking features represent another way of compensating for the lack of physical branches, and military payday comes a day earlier if you set up direct deposit.

User experience and customer service

USAA's smartphone app lets you make mobile deposits, send money using Zelle and locate nearby ATMs. Apart from the standard features, the bank's mobile app comes with a digital assistant that you can turn to in case you stumble upon any issues. With a rating of 4.6 out of 5 on Google Play and a score of 4.8 out of 5 on the App Store, it's clear that this bank provides one of the best no fee checking accounts when it comes to managing your finances on the go.

Another USAA online banking feature that deserves a closer look is the budgeting tool that helps its users classify their transactions and track expenditures. This bank’s mobile app works as a portal where you can gather all of your financial accounts. Apart from that, only the best banks for checking and savings accounts have comprehensive financial advice sections on their online platforms, and USAA is one of them.

Not only is USAA considered one of the best national banks for checking accounts, but this financial company also has an excellent reputation when it comes to customer care. Other than visiting one of the very few USAA brick-and-mortar locations, you can reach the bank's customer care agents via telephone, live chat on the website, mobile app, fax, email, regular mail, and even social media. When it comes to phone support, the representatives are available during business hours.

Bottom line

With an abundance of top-notch financial products for the military-affiliated, USAA has positioned itself as one of the leaders in the banking market. So, is this the best bank to open a checking account with? If you can qualify for membership, and you don't mind the lack of physical location and low APY, the no-fee checking account and exceptional online budgeting tools that come with it are definitely worthwhile.

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FAQ
What banks offer free checking accounts? +

Some of the best checking account options that go largely without any fees are offered by Chime, Capital One, Ally Bank, Charles Schwab, USAA, and Simple. While shopping for a checking account, make sure that you compare not only the fees, but also the APY, ATM availability, as well as mobile app ratings.

What’s the best bank for a checking account? +

The best bank to open a checking account with is the one that offers all the features that suit your needs. The banking market is very competitive and the top competitors are the ones that offer low fees, high APY, a wide network of ATMs, a stellar mobile platform, and helpful customer service. Our picks for the best bank account providers include  Chime, Capital One, Ally Bank, Charles Schwab, USAA, and Simple.

How many checking accounts should you have? +

There’s nothing wrong with having more than one checking account with different banks, as long as you are able to justify the multiple accounts. If you are a business owner you need one of the best business checking accounts to manage your company’s finances, however, you still have to open a separate account for your personal transactions.

Can having too many bank accounts hurt your credit? +

Having more than one checking account is completely legitimate. In most cases, the number of accounts that you hold as well as the amount of money that you keep there have nothing to do with your credit score. However, be careful not to open multiple checking accounts at a few different banks within a short time frame. Here’s another piece of advice - make sure to keep your balances positive to avoid any complications.

Does a checking account earn interest? +

Given that they are meant for frequent everyday transactions, most checking accounts are not interest-bearing, and even with the best checking account rates you’ll learn less than if you open a savings account at the same bank. In some cases, a higher APY comes with higher fees, so it’s important to do the math before deciding where to park your savings.

What bank has the highest interest rate on checking accounts? +

If a high APY on a checking account is of the utmost importance for you, there are a few options that you should consider. When it comes to the best checking accounts that also come with a high APY, some of the best financial institutions to consider include Ally Bank and Capital One. Ally’s checking option offers an interest rate of up to 0.50%, while Capital One’s checking account comes with an APY of 0.20%.

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