The more you’ve got in your checking account, the more noticeable your return will be. For example, if you’ve got $5,000 in an account that earns 4% — which several of these high-yield checking accounts offer — you’ll receive a whopping $200 per year for doing practically nothing.

If you want to earn a discernible amount of interest for your money, everyone knows you need to store it in a high-yield savings account… right?

Wrong.

In recent years, high-yield checking accounts have emerged as a popular banking solution. Even an interest rate of 1% APY adds up over time. If you were to keep a minimum $1,000 balance in that account, that’s $10 you’ll earn in interest.

Of course, you can do way, way better than 1%. The only thing that may give you pause before opening one of these accounts is that high-yield checking accounts often come with strings attached. You may need to set up a direct deposit or maintain a minimum balance to qualify.

Is it worth the trouble? I’ve found it’s all about choosing the right bank. Let’s take a look at some of the best high APY checking accounts. You could earn up to 5% for relatively zero effort.

Best High-Yield Checking Accounts

Liberty Federal Credit Union Vertical Checking: Best Overall

  • APY: 3.3% APY on account balances of up to $20,000 (then 0%)
  • Monthly account fees: $0
  • Minimum monthly balance: $0
  • ATM fees: Up to $15 reimbursed
  • Minimum opening deposit: $25

Liberty Federal Credit Union is the recently rebranded name of the Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union. And despite its formerly hyper-exclusive-sounding moniker, this credit union welcomes just about anyone to open an account. If you have no affiliation via employee groups/organizations, you can simply donate $5 to the Mater Dei Friends & Alumni Association to qualify for a new account.

To earn 3.3% APY on up to $20,000, you’ll need to fulfill a few requirements each month:

  • Complete at least 15 debit purchases;
  • Receive one direct deposit;
  • Log into your online banking account at least once; and
  • Receive electronic statements.

Otherwise, you’ll earn no interest at all — and you won’t receive any ATM fee reimbursements.

Pros:

  • Excellent APY on abnormally high $20,000 balance.
  • No monthly account fees.

Cons:

  • Requires a $5 donation to open an account for most of us.
  • Larger-than-average list of monthly tasks to earn the highest APY.
  • You won’t accrue any interest for money above $20,000.

Learn more/apply.

Elements Financial High Interest Checking: Best for a High Intro APR

  • APY: Promotional 4% on account balances up to $20,000 (then 0.1% for any higher balance)
  • Monthly account fees: $0 if you opt into electronic statements
  • Minimum monthly balance: $0
  • ATM fees: $0 for transactions within the Alliance One, Allpoint, or CO-OP network (surcharges with any other ATMs will vary)
  • Minimum opening deposit: $0

The ability to earn 4% back for up to $20,000 is virtually unprecedented. If you park $20,000 in your account for the first year, you could potentially earn $800 in interest! If you’re not impressed by that, you should be.

To earn 4% APY, you must make at least 15 qualifying transactions each statement cycle. Think debit card purchases, ATM and ACH withdrawals, bill payments, and checks. If you don’t manage to achieve this, you’ll earn an abysmal 0.05% APY that month.

Keep in mind the current non-promotional APY is 2%, and once your account has been open for 12 months, this regular APY will automatically activate on the first day of the next month. In other words, you’ll automatically begin accruing only 2% APY on your balance of $20,000 or less — although “only 2%” is still higher than the vast majority of checking accounts out there.

For any money in your checking account beyond $20,000, you’ll unfortunately still earn an unimpressive 0.1%. And you’re still bound by the 15-transaction requirement to avoid an earning rate of just 0.05%.

But before you try to collect your 4% and run, note that closing your account within 180 days of opening will disqualify you for the 4% return.

Pros:

  • Incredibly high promotional 4% APR on up to $20,000.
  • No fees.
  • $5 deposit from Elements Financial upon account opening.

Cons:

  • 4% APR ends 12 months after account opening.
  • Interest on balances higher than $20,000 is extremely low (0.1%).

Learn more/apply.

SoFi Checking and Savings: Best for Account Balances Above $20,000

  • APY: 2% on all balances
  • Monthly account fees: $0
  • Minimum monthly balance: $0
  • ATM fees: $0 when withdrawing at ATMs under the Allpoint network (of which there are 55,000) — all others will incur varying fees
  • Minimum opening deposit: $0

Many high APY checking accounts begin tapering off (or eliminating) the interest you’ll receive after $20,000. Not 3.99% - 8.24% APR (including auto-pay discount of 0.25%). Even if you have a trillion dollars in your account, you’ll earn 2% APY. The only requirement is that you set up direct deposit. If you opt not to do that, you’ll still earn 1% APY.

SoFi Checking and Savings has very customer-friendly policies. You aren’t required to have a minimum balance and you can open an account with no minimum initial deposit. It also has a neat feature that allows you to get your paycheck up to two days early.

If you want to deposit cash, on the other hand, you’ll have to go to a Green Dot retail location. Deposits can cost up to $4.95, which is nearly unforgivable.

Pros:

  • Extremely easy to open an account.
  • Earn 2% APY no matter how high your account balance is.
  • Ability to receive paycheck two days early.

Cons:

  • No reimbursements for using an out-of-network ATM.
  • Up to $4.95 to deposit cash into your account.

Learn more/apply.

Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking: Best for Balances Up to $10,000

  • APY: Up to 5% on up to $10,000. Balances between $10,000 and $25,000 earn 0.2% APY. Higher balances earn 0.1% APY.
  • Monthly account fees: $0
  • Minimum monthly balance: $0
  • ATM fees: Unlimited reimbursement
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5

The Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking is one of the more high-maintenance checking accounts you’ll encounter — but the APY is so delicious that it could definitely be worth the effort.

You’ll earn 3% APY on balances up to $10,000 (after that, APY sharply declines). You’ll need to:

  • Make at least 12 debit card purchases each month;
  • Receive either direct deposits, mobile check deposits, or ACH credits of at least $500 each month; and
  • Enroll in eDocuments.

You’ll also get unlimited ATM reimbursements by meeting these requirements.

However, if you also open a Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card, you can potentially earn significantly more APY. By spending $500 on your card each month, you’ll boost your APY to 4%. And by spending $1,000, you’ll earn an outlandish 5% APY.

If you’ve got $10,000 in your checking account, you could earn $500 in a single year.

Pros:

  • Up to 5% APY.
  • No ATM fees.
  • No monthly fees.

Cons:

  • You must open a credit card to get the highest APY.
  • Extremely low APY for balances exceeding $10,000.
  • You must pay a one-time membership fee of $5.

Learn more/apply.

La Capitol Federal Credit Union Choice Checking: Best for a Small Account Balance

  • APY: 4.25% on up to $3,000. 2.67% APY between $3,000 and $10,000. Account balances over $10,000 earn 0.1% APY.
  • Monthly account fees: None if you meet requirements — otherwise, $8
  • Minimum monthly balance: $1,000
  • ATM fees: Up to $25 in reimbursements
  • Minimum opening deposit: $50

The La Capitol Federal Credit Union Choice Checking account gives you an excellent 4.25% APY on up to $3,000.

Yes, you can earn more — we just examined the Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking which offered up to 5% — but La Capitol won’t require you to open a credit card to earn its highest APY. You’ll only need to make 15 debit card transactions per month (not counting ATM activity). If you make less than 15 transactions, you’ll earn just 0.1% APR for the month.

You’ll be charged a $2 fee if you don’t enroll in e-statements or if the accountholder’s age is under 17 or over 60 (which is… strange).

Enrolling in e-statements is also what unlocks your ability to receive up to $25 in ATM fee reimbursements each month.

Pros:

  • Excellent potential APY up to $3,000.
  • Earning the highest APY doesn’t require much effort.

Cons:

  • You must maintain a sizable average account balance to avoid monthly fees.
  • There are weird age discrimination fees.

Learn more/apply.

Axos Bank Rewards Checking: Best for No Minimum Balance

High-Yield Checking Accounts - Are They Worth It? - Axos Bank

  • APY: Up to 1.25%
  • Monthly account fees: $0
  • Minimum monthly balance: $0; more complicated to earn higher APY
  • ATM fees: Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements
  • Minimum opening deposit: $50

With Axos Bank Rewards Checking, you’ll receive up to 1.25% APY. The rate is variable, but it applies no matter what your balance is.

Here’s how it works — try to keep up:

  • You’ll earn an easy 0.4% APY when you receive monthly direct deposits totaling $1,500 or more.
  • After you’ve set that up, you can earn another 0.3% APY by making 10 transactions of at least $3 each month (or signing up for Personal Finance Manager “Account Aggregation.”
  • You’ll earn another 0.2% APY by keeping an average balance of at least $2,500 per month in an Axos Invest Managed Portfolios Account.
  • You’ll earn another 0.2% APY by keeping an average balance of at least $2,500 per month in an Axos Invest Self Directed Trading Account.
  • Finally, you’ll get an additional 0.15% APY when complete full monthly payments on an Axos Bank mortgage, personal loan, or auto loan.

These numbers add up to 1.25% APY. A bit convoluted, but decent earning potential.

Pros:

  • 1.25% APY applies no matter how large your account balance is.

Cons:

  • Earning the highest APY requires jumping through a notable amount of hoops.
  • You’ll need to float thousands of dollars with Axos for the best rate.

See details/apply or read our full Axos Bank review.

What’s a High-Yield Checking Account?

First things first: checking and savings accounts are meant to be used differently.

A checking account is where business is done. You can pay bills, freely withdraw and deposit money (for the most part), move money to other accounts, etc.

A savings account gives you more limited access to your money; it’s designed as a place for your money to gather dust (hence, “savings” account). Savings accounts may severely limit the number of transactions you can perform each month. You likely won’t even receive a debit card when opening a savings account.

No matter which best fits your goals (perhaps both do!), a high APY account will benefit you the most, as long as you can satisfy all the account terms.

Read more: How Many Bank Accounts Should You Have?

How to Choose a High-Yield Checking Account

There are plenty of options when it comes to high-yield checking accounts. But there’s far more to a great checking experience than the interest you earn. Examine other elements, like rewards and unique features.

Here are three things to keep in mind during your search:

  1. Requirements and restrictions — Pay close attention to the minimum balance requirement. Some don’t start paying the higher rate until you have thousands of dollars in the account.
  2. Access to account — Sure, you’ll have a mobile app, but what happens when you need cash? What happens when you have a check to deposit? Look at the options available to you based on where you live, and make sure you won’t pay a fortune in fees for the convenience.
  3. Bonus features — Some checking accounts issue interest and rewards. When comparing various accounts, don’t discount this value. Earning cash back on every dollar you spend can add up, bringing in far more than you’d earn in interest over the same time period.

Read more: Best Checking Accounts Promotions, Deals, and Offers

Who Needs a High-Yield Checking Account?

If you’ve regularly got several thousand dollars in your checking account, you’re losing money by not using a high APY checking account. Potentially hundreds of dollars, in fact.

It’s like they say — you need money to make money. The more you’ve got in your checking account, the more noticeable your yield will be. For example, if you’ve got $10,000 in an account that earns 4%, you’ll receive a whopping $400 per year for doing practically nothing.

Who Doesn’t Need a High-Yield Checking Account?

You probably already know the importance of saving, but it’s equally important that you put your money to work for you. Low-risk, high-interest savings accounts are one of the best ways to do this. Being able to have the money in your checking account working for you is a huge bonus.

That said, a high-yield checking account may not be for everyone. Here are some people who might not benefit as much:

Diligent Savers

If you’re diligent about moving most of your money over to interest-bearing accounts, the low balance you keep in your checking may not be worth it. These types of accounts work best for those who prefer to keep most of their money in their checking.

Read more: Investing vs. Saving: Which Should You Do, When, and How?

Those with Low Funds

Anyone with low balances who are trying to get ahead of their bills may find earning interest is the last thing they need to worry about. This mostly applies if the account you’re considering requires you to keep a minimum balance or restricts you to a fixed number of withdrawals a month.

Read more: How Much Money Should You Save Each Month?

Frequent Cash Users

Since most high-yield checking accounts are money market accounts, watch out for a limit on withdrawals with the lender you choose. You should also be cautious about any out-of-network fees. Many lenders will reimburse those fees, but if you’re restricted to a fixed number of ATMs, check to make sure there’s one in your area.

Read more: Money Market vs. Savings Accounts: Which Should You Use?

The Bottom Line

Although the above are our favorite high-yield checking accounts, it can’t hurt to research for yourself. I’ve given you a baseline, letting you know what’s available, but the best account for you depends on your own spending habits and typical account balance.

With a little shopping around, you can find a checking account that will provide all the features you find most important. And remember: interest rates can change at any time. It might not be the best idea to fully invest in a bank just because of the current APY it offers.

Featured image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock.com

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About the author

Sarah Hostetler
Total Articles: 10
Sarah Hostetler is a freelance writer and has been featured on Million Mile Secrets and The Points Guy. She covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.