Advertiser Disclosure
X

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which MoneyCrashers.com may receive compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site, including, for example, the order in which they appear on category pages. MoneyCrashers.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers, although best efforts are made to include a comprehensive list of offers regardless of compensation. Advertiser partners include American Express, Chase, U.S. Bank, and Barclaycard, among others.

By

Views

46.4K

Shares

24

Dig Deeper

23,379FansLike
17,093FollowersFollow
36,475FollowersFollow

Become a Money Crasher!
Join our community.

12 Best Free Checking Accounts at U.S. Banks

Views

46.4K

Shares

24

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find truly free checking accounts. At many banks, you’re now required to pay a monthly maintenance fee for the privilege of keeping your checking account open. Such fees can range from a few dollars to $20 or more, depending on the bank and other associated 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.

Fortunately, it’s still possible to find free checking accounts. You just have to know where to look. Many online banks offer legitimately free, FDIC-insured (up to $250,000 per account) accounts with few restrictions and plenty of sweeteners. Some even pay noticeable interest.

If you’re looking for a 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

1. Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account

Very Attractive Yields, Even on Low Balances

bank5connect logoIf you’re looking for an attractive yield with a reasonable minimum balance requirement, it’s hard to do better than the Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account. Bank5 Connect also has reasonable overdraft fees and a generous reimbursement policy for third-party ATM fees. A sub-par mobile app counts against it, but the main website works okay on mobile devices.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s a $10 minimum opening balance and no daily minimum balance requirement. However, to earn interest you need to keep a daily balance of at least $100.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: All Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account balances greater than $100 yield 0.76% APY. This is significantly higher than many competitors.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Bank5 Connect never charges a fee for withdrawing money at U.S. ATMs. If you withdraw from other banks’ ATMs, Bank5 Connect reimburses those surcharges up to a total of $15 per month. Your first order of personal checks (five books), all wire transfers, and cashiers checks are also free. The UChoose Debit Rewards program earns 1 point per $2 spent on signed and PINless debit card transactions. Redeem your points for travel, gift cards, and merchandise at Bank5 Connect’s rewards portal.
  • Mobile Features:Check deposit and bill pay. The account is Android and iPhone compatible, though the mobile app is not as user-friendly as other options.
  • Overdraft Options: If you have a savings account with Bank5 Connect, you can opt in to an overdraft transfer program that automatically pulls money from it to cover a checking account overdraft at no charge. If you don’t have another account with Bank5 Connect, you can opt in to overdraft protection, which levies a flat fee of $15 per overdraft.
  • Possible Fees: Returned deposit ($7), stop payment ($15), paper statement ($1 per month), and levies and garnishments, which occur when a government entity pulls funds from your bank account to cover back taxes, judgments, or other legal obligations ($25 per item).

2. Discover Bank Cashback Checking

1% Cash Back on Up to $3,000 in Debit Card Purchases Each Month

Discover Bank is a full-service online bank with an unusually generous, totally free checking account. The headline here is the account’s 1% cash back yield on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month. That adds up to as much as $30 cash back per month, or $360 cash back per year.

Discover Bank has no minimum balance requirements and boasts a pretty forgiving fee schedule with no bill pay, check reorder, replacement debit card, bank check, or wire fees. Plus, customers have fee-free access to more than 60,000 ATMs around the U.S. – more than most competitors.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: None.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: No yield, but qualifying debit card purchases earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 spent each month. P2P transfers, third-party money market purchases, ATM transactions, and point-of-sale cash back transactions don’t earn cash back or count toward the spending cap.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Discover Bank doesn’t charge ATM fees. Checks, replacement debit cards, and a slew of other services are free.
  • Mobile Features: The account is Android and iPhone compatible, with impressive functionality across the board.
  • Overdraft Options: Discover Bank doesn’t have a formal overdraft protection plan. Insufficient funds transactions cost $30 per item, limit one per day, and Discover Bank reserves the right to decline them at any time.
  • Possible Fees: Stop payment ($15), outgoing wire ($30), NSF transactions ($30).

See our Discover Bank review for more information.


3. Ally Bank Interest Checking

No Minimums; No ATM Fees, Ever

Ally Bank is one of the original online banks, and its Interest Checking account remains immensely popular. There are no minimums of any kind here. Ally also reimburses all third-party ATM fees, without exclusion. Low overdraft fees (just $9 per transaction) sweeten the deal further.

Drawbacks include low yields on modest balances and a surcharge on all international transactions.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s no minimum deposit to open an account, and no minimum daily balance.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account yields 0.10% APY on balances less than $15,000, and 0.60% APY on balances greater than that amount.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Ally Bank never charges ATM fees and provides unlimited reimbursements for all third-party ATM fees or surcharges at the end of each month.
  • Mobile Features: Mobile check deposit (Ally eCheck Deposit), ATM finder, send money to a friend (Popmoney), bill pay, and internal and external transfers using the Zelle® money transfer app. The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: Ally lets you opt in to a free overdraft transfer service that pulls funds from your savings or money market account to cover negative balances. You can also opt in to an overdraft protection program that charges a one-time fee of $25 per overdraft transaction. If you don’t elect either program, you won’t be able to make transactions that would result in an overdraft.
  • Possible Fees: Stop payment ($15), outgoing wires ($20), and international transactions (1% of transaction total).

See our Ally Bank Review for more information.


4. Capital One 360 Checking

No Minimum Balances; $50 Account Opening Bonus

capital one 360 logo360 Checking from Capital One 360 comes with an attractive yield, especially for larger balances. Though the once-generous account opening bonus has been discontinued, the relatively low fees make this a low-overhead option for frugal account holders.

360 Checking’s mobile app is among the best in the business, with intuitive mobile check deposit, an interactive ATM finder, seamless person-to-person money transfers, and text alerts for a wide range of account functions. Drawbacks include high fees for replacement debit cards, high minimum balance requirements for the best annual yields, and no out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s no minimum deposit or balance required for this account.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: Capital One 360 Checking yields 0.20% APY on balances up to $49,999.99, 0.75% APY on balances between $50,000 and $99,999.99, and 1.00% APY on balances greater than $100,000.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Capital One 360 customers enjoy access to about 40,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide – 38,000 in the Allpoint network, and 2,000 Capital One-branded machines. All new accounts come with a free checkbook as well. Out of this network, your ATM fees aren’t reimbursed.
  • Mobile Features: Mobile check deposit, ATM finder,  bill pay, and text alerts for balances and bills due. The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: You can opt in to an overdraft line of credit that accrues daily interest at variable rates north of 10% APR. You can also opt into an overdraft protection service that charges $35 per item, or a free savings transfer program that draws from your Capital One 360 savings account.
  • Possible Fees: Statement copies ($5), NSF or non-sufficient funds check ($9), and domestic outgoing wire (up to $40).

See our Capital One 360 review for more information.


5. Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking

Tiered Yields up to 1.25%

bank of internet usa logoThe Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking account is one of several free checking options offered by Bank of Internet USA, a pioneering online bank. Rewards Checking doesn’t automatically pay interest, but you can earn a yield of up to 1.25% on your funds by meeting certain qualifications. These include using your debit card 10 times per month and accepting a monthly direct deposit of at least $1,000. Basically, BoI wants to be your primary checking account.

BoI is one of the few online-only banks that allows remote cash deposits, thanks to its partnership with the Green Dot® Reload @ the Register program. If you earn a substantial portion of your income in cash, this is a definite perk – though, at up to $4.95 per transaction, it’s not cheap.

One big downside is no overdraft service unless you open another account with BoI. And, though the bank advertises free checks with a new checking account, you actually need to request them when you open the account (and checks might not be the first thing on your mind at that time).

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: You need $100 to open a Rewards Checking account, but there’s no minimum daily balance requirement once it’s open.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: Rewards Checking accounts come with a base yield of 0%. However, you can earn interest on balances of any amount in several ways. If you only receive a $1,000 direct deposit or use your card at least 10 times (but less than 15 times) in a given month, your annual interest rate for that month is 0.4166%. If you use your card at least 15 times, it’s 0.8333%. If you both receive a $1,000 deposit and use your card at least 10 times, your rate for that month is also 0.8333%. If you receive a $1,000 deposit and use your card at least 15 times, you earn 1.25%. Qualifying transactions must be $3 or greater.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Bank of Internet USA offers unlimited reimbursements for all U.S. ATM fees. You also get your first 50 checks free with a Rewards Checking account if you ask for them at account opening.
  • Mobile Features: Check deposits, bill pay, send money to friends, and FinanceWorks (a budgeting tool from Quicken). The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: Bank of Internet USA offers free overdraft transfers from a linked internal savings or money market account. If you don’t opt in to this service, any transaction that would result in an overdraft fails.
  • Possible Fees: Debit card replacement ($10), cashiers checks ($10), stop payment ($35), cash deposits at participating retail locations through Green Dot Reload @ the Register (up to $4.95 per transaction).

6. Independent Bank Free Rewards Checking

Potential for Very High Checking Yields

Independent Bank is a Texas-based institution that offers banking products to customers across the United States. Though its Free Rewards Checking account comes with a relatively low baseline interest rate, it has the potential to yield up to 1.50% annually when used properly. If you satisfy certain conditions, the Free Rewards Checking account pays better than many 24-month CDs. These conditions are:

  • You must make least 12 debit card purchases per month
  • Sign up for electronic statements
  • Have at least 1 monthly direct deposit or debit

Other useful features include the option to link to Independent Bank’s REALSaver savings account for automatic savings transfers.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: You need to make a minimum opening deposit of $100, but there’s no minimum balance requirement thereafter.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account has a baseline annual yield of 0.01% on all balances. However, you can dramatically boost your account’s annual yield – to 1.50% on balances up to $10,001 – by meeting 3 qualifications: signing up for electronic statements, initiating at least 1 direct deposit or debit per month, and making at least 12 debit card transactions per month. If you meet the qualifications, only balances below $10,000 are eligible to yield 1.50% annually.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Independent Bank never charges a fee to use ATMs. It also offers reimbursements for all ATM fees levied by other institutions, up to $20 per billing cycle. If you open a REALSaver account (yielding 0.50% annually on balances up to $15,000), sign up for electronic statements, initiate a monthly direct deposit, and make at least 12 monthly debit card transactions, Independent Bank automatically deposits your ATM reimbursements into that account.
  • Mobile Features: Bill pay, ATM finder, check deposit, and text alerts. The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: Independent Bank allows you to tie in a checking or money market account and make transfers to cover your checking account’s overdraft transactions. The fee for this service is $7 per active day (days on which a transfer is required). You can also opt in to an overdraft protection program that charges a one-time fee of $34 per overdraft transaction. Or you can opt into an overdraft line of credit program, which charges variable interest on overdrafted balances. If you don’t opt in to any of these programs, you can’t make transactions that would result in a negative balance.
  • Possible Fees: Stop payment ($35), NSF or non-sufficient funds checks ($35), and outgoing wire transfers ($25).

7. FNBO Direct Online Checking Account

Competitive Yields on All Checking Account Balances

fnbo direct logoThe FNBO Direct Online Checking account is a straightforward product that pays an attractive yield on all balances, has a negligible minimum opening deposit ($1), and never requires a minimum balance. Despite its no-frills appearance, this account has a nice mobile platform that lets you send money directly to friends and family at no charge.

FNBO does have some drawbacks: no reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees and hefty daily overdraft fees.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s a minimum opening deposit amount of $1 and no minimum balance requirement.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account yields 0.65% APY on all balances.
  • Rewards and Incentives: FNBO Direct doesn’t charge its own ATM withdrawal fees. However, it never reimburses ATM withdrawal fees charged by other banks.
  • Mobile Features: Bill pay and send money to a friend using the Popmoney app (free for standard-duration transfers, $10 for next-day transfers). The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: You can opt in to an overdraft protection program that charges a one-time fee of $33 per transaction, up to a daily maximum overdraft charge of $132. That’s equivalent to 4 overdraft transactions per day. FNBO Direct waives this fee for 1 overdraft per calendar year. If you don’t opt in, you can’t make transactions that would result in an overdraft.
  • Possible Fees: Outgoing wires ($15) and cashiers checks ($10).

See our FNBO Direct Review for more information.


8. eOne Checking by Salem Five Direct

No Minimum Opening Deposit or Balance Requirements

salem five direct logoThis account from Salem Five Direct offers a decent yield across the board, boasts a straightforward cash back program that rewards virtually all debit card purchases, and has a relatively low minimum opening balance requirement. It also reimburses all third-party ATM fees without limit – a powerful sweetener for a bank that has few branded ATMs of its own.

On the flip side, the annual yield is a bit low – it hasn’t changed since 2012. Plus, the mobile platform isn’t very user-friendly. Perhaps it hasn’t changed since 2012 either. And this account isn’t available through Salem Five’s physical branches, which dot Massachusetts – the only state with supplemental DIF insurance.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s a $100 minimum balance required to open your account.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: All balances held in Salem Five Direct’s eOne Checking account yield 0.25% annually.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Salem Five Direct reimburses all ATM fees charged by other financial institutions. Your first order of checks (5 books) is also free.
  • Mobile Features: Bill pay and mobile check deposit. The account is Android and iPhone compatible, though the platform feels outdated.
  • Overdraft Options: You can opt in to an overdraft protection program that charges a one-time fee of $25 per overdraft transaction. Under this program, Salem Five Direct doesn’t charge for overdrafts of less than $5. However, if you don’t opt in, any transaction that would result in an overdraft fails.
  • Possible Fees: Stop payment ($30), paper statements ($2.95 per statement), and returned deposits ($7.23).

9. TIAA Bank Yield Pledge Checking

Yield Always in Top 5% of U.S. Checking Accounts; Many ATM Fees Waived

TIAA Bank (formerly EverBank) is a full-service online bank with a very attractive checking option: the Yield Pledge Checking Account. The “pledge” is that the account’s yield will always be in the top 5% of all U.S. checking accounts, as measured by the Bankrate BRM Index (released monthly). So far, TIAA Bank has held up this bargain.

Other advantages include a robust mobile app and an overdraft line of credit that may be cheaper than a traditional overdraft fee. The biggest drawback is the high minimum opening deposit requirement – $5,000. Other drawbacks include a minimum balance requirement for reimbursement of out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: TIAA Bank requires a minimum opening deposit of $5,000, but you don’t have to maintain a minimum daily balance once the account is open.
  • Account Opening Bonus: For balances less than $250,000, TIAA Bank pays an annual interest rate of 1.21% APY for your first 12 months. After 12 months, Yield Pledge Checking’s prevailing rates, which range between 0.25% APY and 0.71% APY, take effect.
  • Yield: TIAA Bank promises that Yield Pledge Checking’s yield is always in the top 5% of U.S. checking accounts. This account pays annual interest on a tiered scale: 0.25% for balances less than $9,999, 0.46% for balances between $10,000 and $24,999, 0.51% between $25,000 and $49,999, 0.61% between $50,000 and $99,999, and 0.71% for balances greater than $100,000.
  • Rewards and Incentives: TIAA Bank never charges a fee to withdraw money from an ATM in the U.S. Additionally, if you keep at least $5,000 in your account, you are reimbursed for other banks’ ATM fees.
  • Mobile Features: ATM finder, bill pay, check deposit (with photo), and send money to friends (People Pay). The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: TIAA Bank doesn’t charge a flat overdraft fee. To avoid fees completely, you can link another TIAA Bank account (savings or money market) to your checking account. If you attempt a transaction without sufficient funds in your checking account, TIAA Bank automatically pulls money from one of those accounts. Each overdraft transfer counts toward your monthly limit of 6 outgoing transfers from your savings or money market account – a limit that’s common to all online banks on this list. If you’d prefer not to open or link another TIAA Bank account, you can opt in to an overdraft line of credit, which essentially charges a variable interest rate on negative balances. This rate is based on the prime rate plus 5.9%.
  • Possible Fees: Cashiers check ($10), domestic wires ($25), and uncollected item ($30).

10. UFB Direct Airline Rewards Checking

1 American Airlines AAdvantage Mile for Every $3 Spent 

UFB Direct is affiliated with Bank of Internet USA, but administers a separate checking account that focuses on cash back and airline rewards. For every $3 you spend with your debit card, you earn 1 American AAdvantage mile, up to 120,000 per year. Though exact redemption values vary based on route popularity and other factors, 25,000 miles is enough to cover the cost of a round trip between any North American destinations.

Other perks include a free overdraft transfer program and the ability to make cash deposits at participating retail locations through Green Dot® Reload @ the Register – though you’ll pay up to $4.95 per transaction for that privilege. The biggest downside is the lack of an annual yield.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s a minimum opening deposit of $100, but no minimum balance thereafter.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account doesn’t pay interest.
  • Rewards and Incentives: UFB Direct’s biggest draw is an airline rewards program that earns a baseline of 1 American Airlines AAdvantage mile for every $3 spent by debit card, and an additional 1-time bonus of 1,000 miles for scheduling a monthly direct deposit totaling at least $1,000. To be eligible, you need to sign up for an American AAdvantage rewards account before opening your UFB Direct Airline Rewards Checking account. You can earn a maximum of 120,000 miles in a calendar year. UFB Direct also offers unlimited fee reimbursements on all U.S. ATM withdrawals. And you can activate exclusive cash back offers at participating retailers, reducing your out-of-pocket costs for purchases made every day.
  • Mobile Features: Bill pay, check deposit, send money to a friend (Popmoney), and email and text alerts for balances and transactions. The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: This account comes with a free overdraft transfer program. When you link another UFB Direct account, the bank automatically pulls funds to cover overdrafts from your Airline Rewards Checking account. If you don’t link an account and you try to make a transaction that would result in an overdraft, the transaction fails.
  • Possible Fees: Debit card replacement ($10), stop payment ($35), cashiers checks ($10), cash deposits at participating retail locations through Green Dot Reload @ the Register (up to $4.95 per transaction).

11. First Internet Bank Free Checking

Low Minimum Opening Deposit; No Minimum Balance Requirement

first internet bank logoFormerly known as First Internet Bank of Indiana, First Internet Bank (or First IB) serves U.S. customers nationwide. It doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement and has a negligible minimum opening deposit.

Its biggest drawbacks include no yield and no reimbursement for other banks’ ATM fees. If you can manage a minimum daily balance of $500, spring for First IB’s Interest Checking Account, which yields 0.55% APY and waives its $10 monthly maintenance fee when you keep your balance above that threshold.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: You can open an account with a $25 deposit. There’s no minimum balance requirement after that.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account doesn’t pay interest.
  • Rewards and Incentives: First Internet Bank of Indiana doesn’t charge its own ATM fees. However, it never reimburses those of other banks, which is problematic because its own ATM network is small. You get 50 checks free with your account opening and free online bill pay services.
  • Mobile Features: Enrollment in FinanceWorks and bill pay (optional, costs $4.95 per month). The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: You can opt in to an overdraft protection plan that charges a one-time fee of $30 for each overdraft transaction. Otherwise, transactions that would result in an overdraft fail.
  • Possible Fees: Paper statements ($3), replacement debit card ($5), and overdraft fee ($30).

12. State Farm Bank Checking Account

Low Account Opening Balance and No Minimum Balance Requirements

State Farm Bank is the consumer banking arm of State Farm, best known for its comprehensive lineup of insurance products. With a low account opening balance requirement and no ongoing minimum balance requirements, the State Farm Bank checking account is definitely worth a look in its own right though.

Perks include mobile check deposit, unlimited ATM fee reimbursements with a recurring direct deposit arrangement, and solid overdraft protection. The fee structure is relatively lax here – if you’re careful, you won’t pay much to keep this account running. But the nonexistent yield is a problem.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: You need $25 to open an account, but there’s no ongoing balance requirement after that.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: None.
  • Rewards and Incentives: State Farm never charges fees at non-State Farm ATMs. It also offers unlimited foreign ATM fee reimbursement with a qualifying direct deposit arrangement. Otherwise, the limit is $10 per statement cycle. Other perks include a complimentary first round of checks.
  • Mobile Features: The Pocket Agent® app is Android and iPhone compatible. Features include mobile check deposit, customizable alerts, and full online banking interface.
  • Overdraft Options: You can choose up to 2 “protecting accounts” – basically, any State Farm Bank account other than your free checking account – backstop transactions that would otherwise result in overdrafts. Transfers are made in $25 increments for a flat $3 fee per item, regardless of the shortfall’s size. You can also connect your account to a State Farm Visa credit card and use the card’s cash advance feature as a fallback. Standard cash advance fees (the greater of $10 or 4% of the transaction amount) and interest rates (variable) apply.
  • Possible Fees: Debit card replacement ($5 for regular expedience), NSF transaction ($25 if no overdraft protection, limit 3 per day), and stop payment ($20 per item).

Final Word

If you cling to the quaint notion that you shouldn’t have to pay for a basic checking account, any one of these options should suit you. However, before you settle on a choice, do your homework. Be especially vigilant for any signs of systemic problems, such as data security issues or a pattern of customer service complaints, at your chosen bank. After all, you don’t want to stop being an educated consumer just because a product or service is free.

What’s your favorite free checking account?

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Next Up on
Money Crashers

family sitting on the sofa

Top 10 Green Energy Technologies & Solutions for Home Improvement

Between heating and cooling your home, gassing up your car and watering your lawn, energy costs are one of the most significant expenses that...
5 Great Future Career Fields

10 Great Career Fields for the Future

Picking the right career field can keep you from experiencing disappointment when job hunting. There is so much competition for jobs right now and...

Latest on
Money Crashers

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

See why 218,388 people subscribe to our newsletter.

What Do You Want To Do
With Your Money?

Make
Money

Explore

Manage
Money

Explore

Save
Money

Explore

Borrow
Money

Explore

Protect
Money

Explore

Invest
Money

Explore