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.
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.
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.