With so many banking options, there’s no need to pay high opening and maintenance fees on your checking account.
If you’re at a community bank or credit union, the checking account is most likely free — but don’t assume it. Ask if there are any balance requirements to make sure no monthly fees are charged and what the “gotcha” charges might be for insufficient funds.
If you aren’t a part of your local credit union, your first step is to head to the internet. All of the following checking accounts I’ll mention are free, so your choice will boil down to other factors — ranging from minimum balance requirements to waived ATM fees.
Capital One 360
The Capital One 360 Checking Account has no fees and no minimum balance requirements. There is also no minimum requirement to open the account.
While the rate of return isn’t stellar, it’s still something. The amount you’ll earn with Capital One will depend on your account balance.
You’ll receive a free MasterCard® Debit card for all purchases, and with over 39,000 ATMs around the country, you likely won’t have to travel far to avoid ATM fees.
With other features such as mobile check deposit, bill pay, and the ability to send cash, the Capital One 360 Checking account is a great deal all the way around.
Ally’s free checking account offers a great, interest bearing account, with the 24/7 live customer service, for those who like speaking to real people when an issue comes up.
If you’ve got a minimum of $15,000 in your account, you’ll be rewarded with a higher APY.
You can use any Allpoint® ATM (they have over 43,000) or get reimbursed up to $10 per statement for any fees.
Like the Capital One 360 account, you can use mobile deposit and send money using Ally eCheck Deposit® and Popmoney®.
Aspiration Summit Checking
Aspiration’s Summit Checking is called one of the best checking accounts available. This is due to the fact that their checking account historically offers one of the highest rates of return on any online checking account.
Another claim to fame that the Summit Account offers is no ATM fees ever. That’s right, ever. That even applies to ATMs outside the U.S. If you use one of the Aspiration, SUM ATMs, you won’t be charged a fee at all, and if you’re charged a fee on an ATM outside this networks, you’ll be fully reimbursed.
The only catch is that you must be “invited” in order to open an account. You sign-up and put your name on a waiting list. According to recent reviews, it doesn’t take too long to get the actual invitation—about a month or so.
First Citizens Bank
While the First Citizens Bank checking account isn’t as glamorous as the Summit Account, it is still free to maintain. After your initial $50 deposit into your account, there’s no balance requirement and no maintenance fees.
You’ll have access to a Visa® Debit Card, mobile (and tablet) banking, unlimited bill pay, and access to over 475 ATMs.
What makes First Citizens’ account especially unique is your option to get, what they call their, Together Card® account, for three dollars a month.
The Together Card is a deposit account and debit card that is claimed to be a safer alternative to a pre-paid card. First Citizens Bank advertises the account as a way for parents to teach their teenagers how to responsibly manage money. The card functions as a credit card, but parents can keep an eye on spending through text and other alerts.
Radius Bank does things a little differently. They offer a Hybrid Checking Account, which combines the interest rate of a high-yield savings account with the utility of a free checking account.
Just $10 is required to open an account. After that, there’s no minimum balance or monthly fees.
Like the Summit Account, there are no ATM fees. For foreign ATM fees, you can get a rebate.
You’ll also get a free debit card and checks (for those rare occasions when you actually need checks…).
Like any good online bank, you have access to mobile banking. You can send money, deposit checks, and even set a budget.
Almost all online banks and accounts offer free checking. So your choice should boil down to other useful services as well as the bank’s reputation for excellence.
Checking accounts were never meant to cost as much as they do today — not just in fees, but aggravation as well. You shouldn’t being pay extra for your hard-earned money.
» Check out our article on the Best Checking Accounts for Young Professionals.