Whether you're looking for an account that offers rewards (OnJuno), automatic savings (Chime), or a high APY (FNBO), there's an account on this list for you.

Modern-day checking accounts have the potential to do so much more than provide consumers with an easy method of payment. Today, you can have your checking account earn money for you, provide you with valuable shopping benefits, and give you an edge in specific situations.

For that reason, it’s important to know as much as you can about what’s available and what each company has to offer you. Here’s a more detailed look at some of the best checking accounts in the industry today, along with just what they have to offer.

Best fee-free checking accounts overview

Checking Account Best ForMinimum Balance
ChimeBoosting Savings
None
OnJunoEarning a Bonus RateNone
LendingClub BankUnlimited Cash BackNone
AspirationSocial ConsciousnessNone
WealthfrontInvestorsNone
FNBO DirectFNBO Direct Online Users$1
HSBC Premier CheckingBonus Cash BackNone
USAAMilitary MembersNone

Best for boosting savings: Chime Checking Account

Best Free Checking Accounts Of 2020 - Chime

  • Minimum balance requirement: $0.
  • APY: 0.50% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) - 8x the national average!
  • Sign-up bonus: $0.
  • Monthly fee: $0.

When it comes to online checking accounts, Chime holds its own against the competitors. The reason this financial app makes the cut is that it is a great choice for those just starting out with a no-thought approach to savings. Here are some of the benefits you’ll find:

  • Up to two days early payday with direct deposit.
  • No overdraft fee.
  • 38,000 fee-free ATMs.
  • Automatic savings.
  • No credit check.

There’s no opening deposit or minimum balance required for a Chime account. And once you open your account, everything is done online. You will receive a Visa-backed debit card, with all the power of a Visa and the availability to grab cash from 38,000 ATMs — with no fee. Set up direct deposit with your paychecks and you can even get paid up to two days in advance, giving you some help, if you should need it. 

But my favorite thing about Chime is that you’ll automatically get a savings account, too. And every time you use your debit card to make a purchase or pay a bill, the amount is rounded up to the nearest dollar, and that money is instantly transferred into your savings account. The same can happen with your direct deposit. You can have up to 10% of your paycheck put directly into your savings account. It’s tough when you are just starting out to think about savings, so Chime is doing it for you.

Chime Disclosure - Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
1Chime cannot guarantee when files are sent by the IRS and funds can be made available.
^Early access to direct deposit funds depends on payer

 

Chime APY Disclosure - 1The Annual Percentage Yield (“APY”) for the Chime Savings Account is variable and may change at any time. The disclosed APY is effective as of November 1, 2021. No minimum balance required. Must have $0.01 in savings to earn interest. 2The average national savings account interest rate of 0.06% is determined by FDIC as of November 1, 2021 based on a simple average of rates paid (uses annual percentage yield) by all insured depository institutions and branches for which data are available. Visit https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/rates/ to learn more.

Open account/get details or read our full Chime review.

Best for attractive bonus rate: OnJuno

Best No-Fee Checking Accounts Of 2021 - OnJuno

  • Minimum balance requirement: $0.
  • Bonus Rate: 1.20% Bonus (subject to change at any time).
  • Sign-up bonus: None.
  • Monthly fee: $0.

If your checking account balance stays below $5,000, OnJuno may be the best bank for you. You’ll earn a 1.20% Bonus on your cash deposits, paid monthly directly into your account. While you won’t earn the Bonus Rate on amounts over $5,000, you’ll still earn 0.25% until you reach $100,000, with 0% paid on amounts above that.

You’ll also earn 5% cash back on purchases you make with five merchants you select. You can choose from a wide range of top brands, including Walmart and Target. If you have a Basic account, you’ll get 5% cash back on up to $500 in purchases per year. That limit increases to $3,000 if you sign up for a Metal Membership.

Here are a few other benefits you’ll get with an OnJuno account:

  • No credit checks.
  • Remote deposit.
  • No hidden fees.
  • Fee-free ATM access at 85,000 Allpoint & MoneyPass® ATMs.

OnJuno also offers immigrant-friendly banking, allowing U.S. immigrants to apply for an account. You’ll only need a Social Security Number and passport to sign up. You’ll enjoy all the benefits U.S. account holders receive. Plus, with OnJuno’s low foreign exchange rates, you can send money to friends and family overseas directly from your smartphone.

But what stands out about OnJuno is its seamless integration with the apps I use every day. As soon as I sign up for an account, I’ll get a virtual card that I can use to make online purchases. I can also input that card to my Apple Pay (it works with Google and Samsung Pay, too) to use while I’m running errands or hanging out with friends. OnJuno integrates with 3,800 financial institutions and numerous apps via Plaid, so I can easily transfer funds or invest in stocks.

Open account/get details.

Best checking for unlimited cash back: LendingClub Rewards Checking

Best Free Checking Accounts Of 2021 - LendingClub Bank

  • Minimum deposit: $100.
  • Minimum balance requirement: None.
  • APY: 0.10%.
  • Monthly fee: $0.

LendingClub Bank is a very enticing online bank. They have a free online checking option if you want to earn cash back on your purchases. You’ll earn up to 1% unlimited cash back on debit card purchases.

Even when you aren’t spending, your LendingClub Rewards Checking account is earning you money. You can earn up to 0.10% APY on your balance. If your balance hits or exceeds $100,000, your interest rate can even go as high as 0.15% APY.

Here are some other features you’ll get with your free LendingClub Bank checking account.

  • No monthly fees.
  • Apply online in under three minutes; manage entirely online afterward.
  • No minimum balance requirement after you open your account with $100.
  • Cash back program.
  • Early access to funds with direct deposit.

Best of all, with LendingClub Bank, you have easy access to your funds at all times. Not only can you use the mobile banking app, but you can use any ATM to deposit checks or withdraw funds. LendingClub Bank rebates any fees you pay, including those charged by the banks that own the ATMs you use.

If you ever need help with your account, you can access customer support via text, chat, and phone. Support is available seven days a week, almost around the clock.

Open account/get details or read our full LendingClub Bank review.

Best checking with a purpose: Aspiration

Best Free Checking Accounts Of 2020 - Aspiration

  • Minimum balance requirement: $10.
  • APY: 0% with Aspiration Standard; up to 5.00% APY (Variable) with Aspiration Plus.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn $150 when you spend $1,000 in the first 60 days with Aspiration’s monthly-fee-optional, no-interest Spend & Save plan; earn $200 when you spend $1,000 in the first 60 days with Aspiration Plus. 
  • Monthly fee: $0 (or whatever you think is fair) with the Standard account; $7.99/month (or $5.99/month if you pay annually) with Aspiration Plus.  

Aspiration takes a unique approach to spending and saving. You’ll not only get fee-transparent services, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference. Your account is fossil-fuel free and with every enabled swipe, Aspiration rounds up your change to plant a tree.

But the cash back rewards are where this card really shines. With this cash account, you’ll earn everyday cash back on your purchases with no cap, 0.5% on your purchases at retailers like Walmart and Target and up to 3% to 5% cash back with brands like Warby Parker and Blue Apron. 

Here are some of the features Aspiration offers:

  • Choose your own monthly fees
  • No ATM fees at 55,000 locations worldwide.
  • Cash back rewards.
  • Depending on your plan, earn a sign-up bonus of $150-$200 for users who spend $1,000 in the first 60 days.

If you don’t mind fees, you can sign up for Aspiration Plus, which gives you up to 5.00% APY (Variable) on your account balance. Your cash back rewards are accelerated with this plan, offering up to 10% cash back on debit card purchases with certain mission-driven merchants.

This account does cost $7.99 a month, or $5.99 a month if you pay annually, but Aspiration Plus offers a way to offset the cost. All you have to do is spend $1,000 on your Aspiration debit card within 60 days of account opening and they will reward you with a $200 bonus.

Open account/get details or read our full Aspiration review.

Best checking account for investors: Wealthfront

Best Free Checking Accounts Of 2020 - Wealthfront

  • Minimum balance requirement: None.
  • APY: 0.85%.
  • Sign-up bonus: $0.
  • Monthly fee: $0.

Wealthfront provides a platform to help you build and strengthen your finances. This starts with Wealthfront Cash Account, a high-interest free checking option that gives you a fee-free place to stow your money. Best of all, you’ll earn 0.85% APY with your new Wealthfront Cash Account.

But one of the best things about Wealthfront is that it gives you multiple ways to pay your bills. You’ll get a debit card and access to 19,000 ATMs, of course, but you can also pay friends using Cash App, Venmo, or Paypal and make purchases using Apple Pay or Google Pay. Here are a few of the top features you’ll get with Wealthfront Cash:

  • No monthly fees.
  • Unlimited free transfers.
  • $1 to open and no account minimum fees.
  • Early access to paycheck with direct deposit.
  • Access to 19,000 ATMs.
  • Self-Driving Money™ to automatically route funds into your investment accounts.
  • Organize funds into separate savings buckets.

Wealthfront is best for building your investments, whether you’re just getting started or you’re an experienced investor. You don’t have to take advantage of Wealthfront’s investment tools, but if you do, you get unlimited transfers from your cash account to your taxable investment accounts and IRA investment accounts. Plus, the Self-Driving Money™ feature monitors your cash flow and automatically invests funds once your bills and savings are accounted for. As you continue to save, you can create savings buckets to visualize how much progress you’ve made to individual goals, like a house down payment or emergency fund.

Open account/get details or read our full Wealthfront Cash review.

Best online checking account: FNBO Direct

  • Minimum balance requirement: $1 to open account.
  • APY: 0.65%.
  • Sign-up bonus: None.
  • Monthly fee: None.

FNBO or First National Bank of Omaha is a small, almost overlooked bank, but it would be a real shame if you did because this bank is truly online banking done right. For people who are not interested in long lines, drab tellers, and inconvenient interactions, First National Bank is the perfect solution for you. Here are some of the benefits FNBO has to offer with its checking accounts:

  • Visa Direct debit card.
  • Two million+ ATMs globally.
  • Overdraft forgiveness.
  • Free incoming wires.
  • Free stop payments.

To begin with, First National Bank waives several fees that most other banks do not. For example, you won’t have to pay for incoming wires or to put a stop on payments. And in terms of monthly fees, you’ll never have to worry about any of those. Customers will also appreciate the free person-to-person payment option, handled by Popmoney.

As mentioned, First National Bank checking accounts are also extremely convenient. You can do everything online, from tracking your debit card activity to actually paying your bills directly from your checking account. You can even arrange recurring payments for frequent charges like utility bills and schools. First National Bank allows customers to set up direct deposits into their checking account as well, so your recurring payments will always be covered.

Open account/get details or read our full FNBO Direct review.

Best checking account with an up front bonus: HSBC Premier Checking

Chase Secure Banking Review: Corporate Banking with Online Convenience - HSBC

  • Minimum balance requirement: None.
  • APY: 0.01%.
  • Up Front Bonus: Welcome Deposit up to $500
  • Monthly fee: $50; but waived with one of three qualifying activities.

HSBC is now offering it’s Premier Checking Account with the ability to earn $500 Welcome Deposit for eligible new customers who open a new HSBC Premier checking account and complete qualifying activities. To qualify you must open your HSBC Premier checking account online by June 30, 2022 and make recurring monthly Qualifying Direct Deposits totaling at least $10,000 from a third party to your HSBC Premier checking accounts for 3 consecutive months from the second full calendar month after account opening.

The drawback of this account is in its monthly maintenance fee.  There’s a $50 for account holders BUT that fee can be waived by accomplishing one item from this list:

  • Set up direct deposits totaling at least $10,000 per month.
  • Have a mortgage with an initial balance of at least $500,000 with HSBC.
  • Keep an average daily balance of $75,000 in your HSBC deposit and investment accounts (in total).

I think the easiest thing to accomplish for those with a decent wage is to keep the direct deposits coming in your HSBC Premier Checking account.  Coincidentally, it’s also the best way to ensure you receive the maximum cash back amount per month; so this account is perfect for people who can consistently bring home $60k plus from their work.

HSBC Welcome Deposit Disclaimer - Deposit products are offered in the U.S. by HSBC Bank USA, N.A. Member FDIC.

Open account/get details or read our full HSBC Premier Checking review.

Best checking account for military members: USAA

  • Minimum balance requirement: None ($25 minimum opening balance).
  • APY: 0.01%.
  • Sign-up bonus: None.
  • Monthly fee: $0.

USAA is an exclusive military banking service that provides the flexibility, ease of use, and reach that service families need. Since military personnel and their families are usually on the move or settling in far-flung locations, the USAA banking system provides plenty of benefits to suit these requirements, and the checking accounts available offer just as much convenience and understanding. Here are some highlights:

  • 60,000+ ATMs around the world.
  • No monthly fees.
  • No monthly balances.
  • Finance management tools.

As long as you are military personnel or a family member of one, USAA has a lot to offer, and USAA is particularly accommodating to young adults and college students. You can choose from 4 different kinds of checking accounts including:

  • Classic checking.
  • College checking.
  • Youth spending.
  • Military recruits checking.

USAA requires that you open your account with a minimum of $25, but after that, there are no minimum balance requirements. Also, new recruits won’t need to pay the minimum opening requirement either. Regardless of which account you choose, there are no monthly fees whatsoever. You can use the more than 60,000 ATMs around the globe for free (up to ten times a month), and you’ll get up to $15 reimbursement on ATM fees not included in USAA’s network. Finally, USAA works directly with DFAS for faster direct payments, provides prefilled 1199A forms, and minimizes charges for military members.

Open account/get details or read our full USAA Bank review.

What to look for in a checking account

With so many financial institutions offering checking accounts today, you might start to feel a little light-headed at the options. Wondering which checking account is right for you? Here are a few key factors to look at before you open an account of your own:

No or low monthly maintenance fees

If a checking account costs you $10 a month to hold onto, you’re being charged $120 a year for nothing. There are too many free checking account options for you to be paying even a nominal $5 per month.

Most of the choices found on this list are monthly maintenance fee-free like Aspiration and FNBO Direct Checking. The HSBC accounts are practically free since the monthly fee is waived if you maintain a minimum balance and/or direct deposit.

Bottom line, don’t settle for a checking account that charges a monthly fee. Ever.

Transaction limitations

Many checking accounts will waive the monthly fee (all of the cool banks are doing it), but they’ll hit you somewhere else it really hurts. Namely, transactions.

Checking accounts that limit your transaction ability or charge hefty fees after the first few transactions kind of defeats the purpose of a fee-free account. Look for an account instead that offers no limitations on withdrawals, deposits, and money transfers.

ATM access

Another important “feature” of a good checking account is the accessibility of ATMs. This is another area where banks often hit unsuspecting customers hard because when you’re stuck without cash and need to take out money, you’ll do it at any ATM you can find, even if it incurs a hefty service charge.

A good checking account will have ample ATMs across the country and won’t charge you for using them. HSBC has thousands of machines all over the world and won’t charge you to use them. Aspiration really takes the cake here though, allowing you to use any machine anywhere, reimbursing you any service fees incurred.

Mobile app or online access

While you might not consider yourself the most tech-savvy individual, most people would be hard-pressed to name a service that they use on a regular basis that doesn’t offer online banking or mobile access.

In today’s connected society, we need everything easily accessible, at our fingertips, 24/7, and that includes our banking. Not every bank will offer a dedicated mobile app, but a good checking account option will, at the very least, have smooth, integrated online access. If you can take that experience to your mobile device, well, that’s all the better.

Pros & cons of different types of checking accounts

When you are weighing your options, it’s important to consider the different types of checking accounts before you settle on the one that’s right for you. After all, what’s good for one person or situation won’t be good for someone else.

Here are a few of the pros and cons associated with the most common types of checking accounts:

High-yield checking account

Pros:

  • Low or no monthly fees.
  • Can accrue interest on your balance.

Cons:

  • Must maintain a high balance throughout the month, each month.

Good for:

  • If you keep several thousands of dollars in your checking account each month, a high-yield checking account is great for you.

Rewards checking account

Pros:

  • Earn rewards on everyday spending.
  • Get a lower interest rate after a certain amount of usage.

Cons:

  • Usually, come with higher than average monthly fees.

Good for:

  • People who use bank services such as debit cards, direct deposit, and other bank services on a regular basis will benefit from this rewards program.

Second-chance checking account

Pros:

  • Low minimum balance requirements.
  • Low monthly fees.

Cons:

  • Generally, restrict your access to some basic services until you’ve “proven” yourself to be trustworthy.

Good for:

  • Anyone whose account has been closed for delinquent payments or behavior and wants a second chance.

Joint checking account

Pros:

  • Easily allows two people to access the same account.
  • Useful for couples, colleagues, or relatives to share their resources.

Cons:

  • Can easily fall into overdraft because multiple users are withdrawing from the same account.

Good for:

  • Couples who want to have a communal household budget account.

FAQs about our best free checking accounts

There’s a lot of information about different types of free checking accounts. Is there an easy way to figure out which one is really the best for me?

While every person and situation is unique, there are a few basic ITTT scenarios when it comes to checking accounts. For example,

  • If you regularly carry a balance of more than say $2,500, then you might as well enjoy the benefits of a high-yield checking account. These come with no monthly fees and offer you a chance to get your money working for you.
  • If you have bounced many checks, had an account closed in the past, or have many unresolved bills, you may be limited to which accounts you can open. If this is your situation, a second-chance account may be your best option.
  • If you need to share your account with a business partner, spouse, or older child, a joint account is helpful.

If you’re still not sure, read through some of our other articles about checking accounts to get a better idea of which one is suitable for every situation.

I deposited a check from my landlord for some repairs I covered last month, but the money isn’t in my account. Why not?

To understand why your money isn’t in your account, you have to understand how the money actually gets to your account to begin with. It’s not an instantaneous thing, despite living in a primarily digital world, it’s a process. The money has to go to a clearinghouse, and then to the writer’s bank, and then finally the funds are transferred to your bank. Since the process takes time, the money only shows up a few days later. And sometimes, there’s a lag at one of the stages, taking longer to get to your account.

Other reasons a check may take longer to clear is if there’s a hold on your account, the check is from out of state, or for some other reason including bank clerical errors. If you don’t see the money in your account after the standard business processing time, be in touch with your bank to ensure there wasn’t a mistake on their end.

I had a rough month last month and ended up withdrawing more than I had in my account. What will happen to my checking account?

Many checking accounts offer overdraft protection. This insurance policy is helpful if you’re traveling and not keeping track of your expenses or if you have a month when you’re withdrawing a lot. It’ll basically cover you for the amount that you’ve overdrawn from your account. If you don’t have this insurance, the transaction will probably not go through.

Just remember, though, with overdraft protection you are getting charged a fee for the protection and you’ll still have to pay back the money (it’s not free!) So, account holders need to be careful not to get too comfortable with overdraft protection or you could wind up in substantial debt.

Read more: Understanding Overdraft Protections And Fees

I bounced a check recently. I thought I had money in the account but it wasn’t enough to cover the full amount. Now what?

Bouncing a check is bad on two counts:

  1. You will have to pay a service fee. Chances are you’ll pay two, one to the bank, and another one to the merchant (recipient of the check). With bounced check fees averaging around $27 a piece, you’re talking about a pricey mistake if you make it too often.
  2. You’ll end up getting a mark on your record for delinquent behavior. Bouncing a check is a sign of irresponsible account maintenance. This is not a good sign and can affect future financial options.

You’ll want to do your best to avoid bouncing checks, and if it’s already happened, deal with it responsibly and then put a plan into place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Summary

Today, checking accounts not only make life easier, but they come with a lot of benefits to the account holder as well. Don’t just settle for the first offer you get; check out the more in-depth reviews for these and other checking accounts available to find the best, most competitive option for you in 2021.

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About the author

David Weliver
Total Articles: 304
David Weliver is the founder of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues he faced during his first two decades as an adult. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.