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11 Best Free Checking Accounts in February 2024


It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find truly free checking accounts. But they’re still out there if you know where to look.

Indeed, many online banks and a few choice brick-and-mortar stores still offer legitimately free, FDIC-insured accounts with few restrictions and plenty of sweeteners. Some even pay interest, though not enough to keep up with inflation.

If you’re looking for the best free checking account that won’t eat away at your deposits, take a closer look at these options available to customers throughout the United States.

Best Free Checking Accounts

Here are the best free checking accounts on offer right now.


1. U.S. Bank Smartly® Checking

  • Best Overall
  • Minimum deposit: $25
  • APY: 0.001%
  • ATM access: 4,700 ATMs

Earn up to $800 when you open a new U.S. Bank Smartly® Checking account and a Standard Savings account online and complete qualifying activities.

Subject to certain terms and limitations. Offer valid through March 12, 2024. Member FDIC. 

Earn up to $500 with a new Bank Smartly® Checking account. Complete the following within 90 days of account opening:

  • Enroll in online banking or the U.S. Bank Mobile App
  • Make two or more direct deposits totaling $3,000 to $4,999.99 to earn $100, $5,000 to $9,999.99 to earn $300, or $10,000 or more to earn $500

Earn $300 with a new Standard Savings account:

  • Make new money deposit(s) totaling $25,000 or more by March 31, 2024
  • Maintain a balance of at least $25,000 until June 30, 2024

Offer may not be available if you live outside of the U.S. Bank footprint or are not an existing client of U.S. Bank or State Farm.

Additional features:

  • No ATM transaction fees at U.S. Bank ATMs and no surcharge fees at MoneyPass® Network ATMs 
  • Manage cash easily with automated budgeting and ways to save in a #1-rated mobile app
  • Send money with Zelle®
  • No fee overdraft protection transfers from a linked deposit account, $50 overdrawn Available Balance safety threshold, and Overdraft Fee Forgiven program
  • Get access to U.S. Bank Smart Rewards® and take advantage of additional benefits

Sign Up for U.S. Bank Smartly® Account


2. Rewards Checking Plus via Upgrade

  • Best for Cash Back
  • Minimum deposit: $0
  • APY: Up to 5.07% on linked savings account with at least $1,000 monthly direct deposit
  • ATM access: Yes, but doesn’t have a network

Rewards Checking Plus via Upgrade has one of the best cash-back programs of any free checking account. It’s perfect for everyday spending, especially if you have a direct deposit of at least $1,000 a month, making your account ‘active’ and opening up more benefits.

  • Get 2% cash back1 on eligible debit card purchases at convenience stores, drugstores, restaurants, and bars (including delivery) and on utility bills and certain monthly subscriptions
  • Get 1% cash back1 on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn up to 5.07% on linked Performance Savings account
  • Get up to five third-party ATM fees reimbursed monthly

Additional features:

  • Get paid up to 2 days early3
  • No monthly account fees2
  • No minimum deposit to open the account 
  • No ongoing balance requirements
  • No overdraft fees
  • 1% back on all purchases

Sign Up for Rewards Checking Plus via Upgrade

1Rewards Checking Plus customers who set up monthly direct deposits of $1,000 or more earn 2% cash back on common everyday expenses at convenience stores, drugstores, restaurants and bars – including deliveries – and gas stations, as well as recurring payments on utilities and monthly subscriptions including phone, cable, TV and other streaming services, and 1% cash back on all other debit card purchases. 2% cash back is limited to $500 in rewards per calendar year; after $500, customers earn 1% cash back on all eligible debit card purchases for the remainder of the year. Rewards Checking Plus accounts with less than $1,000 in monthly direct deposits 60 days after account opening will earn 1% cash back on common everyday expenses and 0.50% cash back on all other eligible debit card purchases. Some limitations apply. Please refer to the applicable Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.
2There are no overdraft fees or annual fees associated with Rewards Checking Plus accounts. Rewards Checking Plus charges no ATM fees, but third-party institutions may charge you a fee if you use their ATM/network or if you use your Upgrade VISA® Debit Card internationally. For Active Accounts, Upgrade will rebate ATM fees charged by another institution for debit card withdrawals in the United States, up to five times per calendar month. To be eligible to receive third-party ATM fee rebates in any calendar month for eligible ATM withdrawals made during that month on a Rewards Checking Plus account, the account must be an Active Account in the prior calendar month. See the Active Account page for more information. As a courtesy to new customers, Upgrade will provide third-party ATM fee rebates for 60 days after account opening regardless of account user status. Some limitations apply. Please refer to the applicable Cross River Bank Checking Deposit Account Agreement and Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.
3Early direct deposit requires set up of recurring electronic direct deposit from your employer, payroll, or benefits provider and is limited to direct deposits under $5000. Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing in which we receive notice of impending direct deposit, which is generally up to two days before the scheduled deposit date.
4Active Accounts with a monthly direct deposit of $1000 are eligible for additional benefits on Rewards Checking Plus such as additional cash back rewards, ATM fee reimbursement, and more. See the Active Account page for more information.


3. Fifth Third Momentum® Checking

  • Best for Extra Time to Avoid Overdraft Fees
  • Minimum deposit: $0
  • APY: n/a
  • ATM access: 40,000 fee-free ATMs

Limited Time Offer: Earn a $325 cash bonus when you sign up for a new Fifth Third Momentum® Checking account and set up a direct deposit of at least $500 within 90 days.

Fifth Third Momentum® Checking is everything you need in a checking account and nothing you don’t — which means you’ll never pay a monthly maintenance fee to keep it open. Access your money anytime, anywhere using Fifth Third’s website and mobile app, and look forward to additional time to make a deposit and avoid overdraft fees.

Offer available in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Illinois.

Additional features:

  • No minimum balance requirement
  • No minimum deposit required to open your account
  • No overdraft protection fees
  • Fifth Third Extra Time gives you a full business day to make a deposit and avoid overdraft fees
  • Get your paycheck up to 2 days early with no fee
  • Enjoy unlimited check-writing privileges
  • Get cash at more than 50,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Get cash at more than 40,000 fee-free ATMs

Sign Up for Fifth Third Bank


4. Wealthfront Cash Account

  • Best for Investors
  • Minimum deposit: $0
  • APY: 5.0%
  • ATM access: 19,000 fee-free ATMs

Limited Time Offer: For a limited time, get $30 bonus cash when you open a Wealthfront Cash Account and fund your new account with at least $500 in new money. Terms apply.

Wealthfront got its start as a low-cost investment management solution, and its robo-advisor platform remains core to its value.

But the Wealthfront Cash Account has quickly established itself as a top free checking solution — one that offers one of the best yields on the market right now. 

The Wealthfront Cash Account supports Wealthfront’s Self-Driving Money™ vision, a  money management automation tool that uses rules and goals set by you to keep your financial plan on track — effortlessly routing incoming deposits to pay bills due in the coming days, keep your emergency savings funded, maintain your progress toward other savings goals, and invest for the long haul.

Additional features:

  • Low minimum opening deposit (just $1)
  • No account maintenance fees
  • 5.00% APY on all balances
  • Get paid up to two days early with direct deposit
  • Seamless mobile check deposit. Put your money to work in the market within minutes FDIC insurance on balances up to $8 million (standard coverage tops out at $250,000);
  • FDIC insurance on balances up to $8 million (standard coverage tops out at $250,000)
  • Pay friends with apps like Cash App, Venmo, and PayPal
  • No overdraft fees

Sign Up for Wealthfront

Money Crashers, LLC receives cash compensation from Wealthfront Advisers LLC (“Wealthfront Advisers”) for each new client that applies for a Wealthfront Automated Investing Account through our links. This creates an incentive that results in a material conflict of interest. Money Crashers, LLC is not a Wealthfront Advisers client, and this is a paid endorsement. More information is available via our links to Wealthfront Advisers.


5. Go2bank

  • Best Debit Card Rewards
  • Minimum deposit: $0 if opened online
  • APY: 4.50% APY2 on savings up to $5,000
  • ATM access: 90,000+ Green Dot locations

Go2bank earns its place as the best free checking account on the market thanks to a confluence of can’t-miss features that few competitors can match: 

  • An impressive yield on savings (4.50% APY2 on savings up to $5,000)
  • Up to 7% cash back on eligible electronic gift card purchases in the app1
  • Payday up to two days early with ASAP Direct DepositTM 3
  • The option to deposit cash at participating retail stores (fees and deposit limits may apply)
  • Up to $200 in overdraft protection with opt-in and eligible direct deposit. (Overdrafts paid at Go2bank’s discretion; terms and conditions apply.)
  • Avoid the $5 monthly fee with an eligible direct deposit
  • Avoid the $15 overdraft fee by repaying overdraft transactions within 24 hours of authorization of the first transaction that overdrafts the account

Sign Up for Go2Bank

1Active GO2bank account required to receive an eGift Card. eGift Card merchants subject to change
2GO2bank, Member FDIC. Interest paid quarterly on the average daily balance of savings during the quarter up to a $5,000 balance and if the account is in good standing. 4.50% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) as of April 2023. APY may change before or after you open an account.  The average national savings account interest rate of 0.39% is determined by the FDIC as of 4/18/23. Visit https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/rates/ to learn more. Fees on your primary deposit account may reduce earnings on your savings account.
3Direct deposit early availability depends on timing of payor’s payment instructions and fraud prevention restrictions may apply. As such, the availability or timing of early direct deposit may vary from pay period to pay period. The name and Social Security number on file with your employer or benefits provider must match your GO2bank account exactly or we will decline your deposit.


6. Chime® Deposit Account

  • Best for Building Credit
  • Minimum deposit: $0
  • APY: 2% on savings
  • ATM access: 60,000+ fee-free ATMs

Chime is a mobile-first financial app that merges the low cost of online checking and savings accounts with the convenience of truly on-the-go banking. 

So do lots of other finance apps. What makes Chime different is that it can also help you build credit — if you need to — as you spend and save. 

That’s thanks to Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card*, a secured credit card that boasts:

  • No annual fee or interest
  • No credit check to apply
  • No minimum security deposit is required**
  • Credit limit tied to your security deposit

What about Chime’s checking account? Benefits include:

  • No monthly fees
  • Nearly 60,000 fee-free ATMs***
  • Automatic savings to round up the change on every debit card transaction
  • No minimum opening deposit and no minimum daily balance
  • Solid yields on eligible savings balances
  • Comprehensive mobile app featuring mobile check deposit, fee-free P2P transfers, fee-free electronic bill pay, and mobile payment app compatibility (Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay)

Sign Up for Chime

Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC.
*To apply for Credit Builder, you must have received a single qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more to your Checking Account. The qualifying direct deposit must be from your employer, payroll provider, gig economy payer, or benefits payer by Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposit OR Original Credit Transaction (OCT). Bank ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, verification or trial deposits from financial institutions, peer to peer transfers from services such as PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo, mobile check deposits, cash loads or deposits, one-time direct deposits, such as tax refunds and other similar transactions, and any deposit to which Chime deems to not be a qualifying direct deposit are not qualifying direct deposits.
**Money added to Credit Builder will be held in a secured account as collateral for your Credit Builder Visa card, which means you can spend up to this amount on your card. This is money you can use to pay off your charges at the end of every month.
***Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees may apply except at MoneyPass ATMs in a 7-Eleven, or any Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATM.


7. Capital One 360 Checking

  • Best for Overdraft Protection
  • Minimum deposit: $0
  • APY: 0.10%
  • ATM access: 70,000 fee-free ATMs

The Capital One 360 Checking account is one of the best free checking accounts because there are no minimum balances to worry about; they don’t charge fees for any balance, even $0.

The account includes mobile deposit, the ability to lock/unlock your debit card from the app, and real-time alerts about your account. 

Capital One 360 also includes three options for overdraft protection:

  • Auto-decline, which declines transactions if you don’t have the funds
  • Free transfer if you have a linked savings account and want to transfer funds
  • No-fee overdraft, which approves specific transactions with the requirement that you repay them as quickly as possible (no fees)

The Capital One 360 checking account also includes:

  • FDIC insurance coverage
  • 2-day early access to direct deposit funds
  • Cash deposits at major retailers like Walgreens, Duane Ready, and CVS
  • Free Zelle transfers
  • In-person support at Capital One branches or cafes 

8. Ally Spending Account

  • Minimum deposit: $0
  • APY: 0.25%
  • ATM access: 43,000+ fee-free ATMs

The Ally Spending Account is an FDIC-insured checking account with no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. You can access your funds at 43,000+ fee-free ATMs, and Ally reimburses up to $10 per month in non-network ATM fees.

A unique feature Ally Spending offers is spending buckets. Much like savings buckets, they are spots to save money for your monthly spending. You can set an amount for each category and Ally will keep track of your spending in each category so you know how much you have left to spend.

Other features the Ally Spending account offers include:

  • 2-day early access to direct deposit
  • Overdraft Transfer Service and CoverDraft, which provides up to $250 in overdraft protection for no fee
  • Robust mobile app to help you manage your money 24/7
  • Remote check deposit
  • Free Zelle transfers

9. Axos Rewards Checking

  • Minimum deposit: $0
  • APY: Up to 3.30%
  • ATM access: Any (Axos reimburses all ATM fees)

Limited Time Offer: Use code AXOS300 when you open a new Axos Rewards Checking Account and have direct deposit of at least $5,000 in the first 7 months. You must also keep a minimum average daily balance of $7,000.

The Axos Rewards Checking account has no fees, not even ATM fees if you go to a non-network ATM. Plus, you can earn up to 47x the national average APY for checking accounts. Here’s how it works:

  • Earn 0.40% if you have at least $1,500 in monthly direct deposits
  • Earn 0.30% if you make at least 10 debit card transactions
  • Earn 0.99% if you have a $2,500 average daily balance in a Managed Portfolios account
  • Earn 0.99% if you have a $2,500 average daily balance in a Self Directed Trading account
  • Earn 0.60% if you use your Rewards Checking account to make Axos loan payments

The Axos Rewards Checking account mobile app is robust and offers:

  • 24/7 banking
  • Custom auto alerts
  • Transfer money between accounts or pay friends
  • Set up security measures to keep your money safe

10. Quontic High Interest Checking

  • Best for Low Minimums
  • Minimum deposit: $100
  • APY: 1.10%
  • ATM access: 90,000+ fee-free ATMs

Quontic High Interest Checking makes earning category-leading interest on eligible checking account balances easy. It also has a low minimum opening deposit: just $100. That makes it easy to get off the ground and start earning right away.

To earn 1.10% APY on balances up to $150,000 and 1.10% APY on balances between $150,000.01 and $1,000,000, simply open your account with at least $100 to start. 

Then, meet the easy transaction requirement: at least 10 qualifying debit card point-of-sale transactions of $10 or more per statement cycle.

In statement cycles where you don’t meet the transaction requirement, you’ll earn a token APY only. 

Additional features:

  • Pay no ATM fees when you use your debit card at ATMs in the AllPoint®, MoneyPass®, and SUM® networks, or at Citibank® ATMs located in Target, Speedway, Walgreens, CVS, Kroger, Safeway, Winn Dixie, or Circle K
  • Use the mobile app to make seamless mobile check deposits, pay bills online, and transfer funds to friends
  • Track purchase receipts right in the app

Sign Up for Quontic Bank


11. Discover® Cashback Debit

  • Best for Low Fees
  • Minimum deposit: $0
  • APY: n/a
  • ATM access: 60,000+ fee-free ATMs

Discover Bank is a full-service online bank with an unusually generous, totally free checking account. 

Although the 1% cash-back* yield is absolutely worth writing home about, the real benefit for users is its forgiving fee schedule. With Discover, you never have to worry about fees for:

  • Bill pay
  • Insufficient funds
  • Check reorders
  • Replacement debit cards
  • Bank checks
  • In-network ATM transactions at more than 60,000 locations

And, of course, there’s no monthly maintenance fee here.

Additional features:

  • Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in eligible debit card purchases each month* — that adds up to as much as $30 cashback per month, or $360 cash back per year
  • No minimum balance or minimum deposit requirements
  • Free overdraft protection — link your Discover checking account to another Discover deposit account and automatically transfer funds to cover transactions that would normally result in a negative balance
  • Get your paycheck up to two days early with no charge

Sign Up for Discover Bank

*See website for details

Common Checking Account Fees

Even free checking accounts can have fees if you aren’t careful. Here are the most common fees to consider when opening a checking account:

  • Maintenance fee: Most banks offer a way to waive a monthly maintenance fee, but you could pay a fee if you don’t meet the minimum balance or monthly transaction requirements.
  • Overdraft fee: Most banks have done away with overdraft fees, but always read the fine print before assuming you can go over without any consequences.
  • ATM fees: Most banks on our list have a network of fee-free ATMs. However, if you go outside that network, you may pay a fee either to your bank, the third-party bank, or both.
  • Statement fees: Many banks charge a fee for a paper statement. It’s easiest and cheapest to sign up for e-statements and print them yourself.

Pros and Cons Free Checking Accounts

Consider these pros and cons before assuming a free checking account is the right choice.

Pros

  • Most free checking accounts don’t have a minimum balance requirement
  • Many free checking accounts include other perks like budgeting tools or high APYs on linked savings accounts
  • Many banks have large ATM networks to help you avoid ATM fees

Cons

  • You may have to jump through hoops to avoid the fee, such as making a certain number of transactions or having a certain amount of direct deposits
  • You may miss out on high APYs because the bank doesn’t charge any fees

Methodology

We use several important factors to choose the best free checking accounts on the market. Each relates in some way to the overall cost of the account — lower is better — or to its features or overall usability.

Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements

It’s less and less common for free checking accounts to require significant opening deposits or ongoing balances. 

Minimums are more common in accounts that charge maintenance fees because it’s easier to tie a fee waiver to a particular balance threshold. “Maintain a minimum daily balance of at least $1,500 to waive the $12 monthly maintenance fee” — you get the gist. 

Still, you’ll find a few behind-the-times accounts that still require hefty minimum balances. So, all else being equal, we prefer free checking accounts with low or no minimums.

Account Yield

Even as high-minimum checking accounts become less common, rewards checking accounts grow more plentiful. That’s great news for folks seeking a return on their balances, however modest.

We always prioritize high-yield checking accounts over checking accounts with no yields. The best in the business boast yields north of 1%.

Debit Card Rewards

Purchase rewards programs aren’t as common in the free checking space as in the credit card world, where cash-back credit cards and travel credit cards seem to grow on trees.

Fortunately, rewards debit cards aren’t absent from the scene. We put a lot of effort into finding free checking accounts that pay users back for everyday purchases — sometimes as much as 5%, 10%, or more on select purchases.

Budgeting Capabilities

Budgeting with spreadsheets is so 2000s. If you’re comfortable using a mobile banking app, you have an astounding array of choices for budgeting help too. 

That’s because some of the best mobile budgeting apps double as banking apps that automatically allocate your income to emergency savings, longer-term goals, and day-to-day expenses. We’re big fans of these two-for-one deals.

Mobile Features

At this point, any checking account that’s not mobile-friendly is behind the times. But the best accounts go the extra mile and make it easy — even preferable — to bank on the go. All else being equal, we prefer these accounts and the financial institutions behind them.

Other Products and Services

When is an online bank more than a bank? When it’s also your brokerage account, home equity lender, education financier, and so on.

We don’t automatically rule out banks that stick to plain-vanilla deposit accounts. We do prefer comprehensive options, though — institutions that make it easy to spend, save, invest, and plan from the same app.

Other Account Fees

Make no mistake, “free checking” doesn’t mean “100% without fees.” Most of the accounts on this list charge fees for certain types of transactions or activities, such as ATM withdrawals and wire transfers. Fortunately, it’s usually possible to avoid these fees under normal circumstances.

Then again, because “normal” isn’t always a given, the size and type of these fees matter. We look for banks and accounts that keep them to a minimum or waive them entirely.


FAQs

Still have questions about free checking accounts? Never fear. We have answers.

Do Free Checking Accounts Have Any Fees?

Not all free checking accounts are totally, 100% free. Depending on which bank you choose, you could encounter some or all of the following free checking account fees:

  • ATM withdrawal fees (in-network and/or out-of-network)
  • Wire transfer fees
  • Overdraft fees
  • Insufficient funds fees and stop payment fees
  • Paper check fees
  • Less common fees like account research charges

What Are Monthly Maintenance Fees?

At many banks, you must pay a monthly maintenance fee to keep your checking account open. Monthly maintenance fees at traditional brick-and-mortar banks can range from a few dollars to $20 or more, depending on the bank and the account’s perks.

To avoid these fees, you may need to maintain a high minimum daily balance, make regular deposits of a certain size or frequency, or execute a minimum number of transactions in a statement period. That’s not always possible if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

Are Free Checking Accounts Safe?

Yes, as long as they have FDIC insurance up to the statutory maximum of $250,000 per account. FDIC insurance protects your checking account balances against bank failures and certain other events that would otherwise wipe them out. 

Be aware that FDIC insurance doesn’t protect investment account balances or value stored in alternative assets like cryptocurrencies. If you invest in stocks or crypto with the same app you use for day-to-day money management, those investment balances are subject to more risk.

How Do You Open a Free Checking Account?

These days, even “traditional” banks make it easy to open free checking accounts online. In fact, some of the top free checking accounts are “online-only” accounts backed by brick-and-mortar financial institutions.

Use the links on the list above to find your preferred bank’s application page, or visit the website directly and start the online application process. You’ll need to provide basic personal information and funding account information, but the actual application process shouldn’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes.

How to Choose the Best Free Checking Account

Ready to open a free checking account but unsure how to choose the best? Consider these tips:

  • Ensure there are no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements
  • Consider the APY and if that matters to you (it should if you keep a balance)
  • Determine if you want cashback rewards on purchases
  • Look for investment benefits if you want all your accounts together
  • Check out customer service reviews
  • Read the fine print on yields to determine if it’s an introductory offer
  • Look for bonuses for opening a new account and understand the terms
  • Evaluate the mobile app to ensure it’s up-to-date and user-friendly

When choosing from the best free bank accounts, it’s important to take your time and choose wisely. Consider what you need to reach your financial goals and chances are there is an account out there to help.

Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.