What are the best free checking accounts?
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 mortars 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 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
These are the best free checking accounts around right now. Each does at least one thing really well, whether that’s automated budgeting, mobile usability, or comprehensive money management features.
Our pick for “best overall” free checking account offers the best value for the widest number of potential users, in our view.
Best Overall: Go2bank
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 (1.00% APY2 on savings up to $5,000)
- Up to 7% cash back on eligible electronic gift card purchases in the app1 and 3% cash back on Amazon gift card purchases
- 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
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. 1.00% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) as of January 2021. APY may change before or after you open an account. The average national savings account interest rate of 0.05% is determined by the FDIC as of 12/14/20. 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.
Best for Cash Back: Rewards Checking via Upgrade
Rewards Checking via Upgrade4 is the best free checking account for people who like earning cash back on everyday purchases — which is most people, last we checked.
Here’s how the cash-back program works:
- Earn 2% cash back2 on eligible debit card purchases of common everyday items — including purchases at convenience stores, drugstores, restaurants, bars, utility bills, and certain monthly subscriptions
- Earn 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases, every day2.
- Rewards Checking customers can receive discounts on loans and cards through Upgrade3
- No minimum opening deposit
- No annual fee, ATM fees, overdraft fees, or transfer fees1
1 There are no account fees, overdraft fees, annual fees, or transfer fees associated with Rewards Checking accounts. Rewards Checking 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. Upgrade will rebate any ATM fee 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, customers must have (i) an open Rewards Checking account and (ii) either maintained an average daily balance in their account of at least $2,500 in the prior calendar month or made direct deposits into their account totaling at least $1,000 during the prior calendar month. As a courtesy to new customers, Upgrade will provide third-party ATM fee rebates for up to the first 2 calendar months after account opening regardless of account activity. Some limitations apply and terms and conditions may change. Please refer to the applicable Cross River Bank Deposit Account Agreement and Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.
2 Rewards Checking customers accrue 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 charges. 2% cash back is limited to $500 in rewards per calendar year; after $500, customers accrue 1% cash back on all eligible debit card charges for the remainder of the year. Some limitations apply. Please refer to the applicable Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.
3 The interest rate on a new loan or credit line through Upgrade may be up to 20% lower than would otherwise be applicable without this discount, as long as you have an active Rewards Checking Account. Additional terms may apply. Please refer to the applicable Truth-in-Lending Disclosure and Loan Agreement.
4 Upgrade is a financial technology company, not a bank. Rewards Checking services provided by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC. Upgrade VISA® Debit Cards issued by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Personal Loans made by Upgrade’s bank partners. Personal Credit Lines are issued by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. The Upgrade Card is issued by Sutton Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.
Best for Investors: Wealthfront Cash Account
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.
- Low minimum opening deposit (just $1)
- No account maintenance fees
- 2.00% 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 $1 million (standard coverage tops out at $250,000);
- Free in-network ATM access
- Pay friends with apps like Cash App, Venmo, and PayPal
- No overdraft fees
Best for Customer Service: Albert
Albert has an unusually robust customer service offering for a low-key personal finance app. It’s all the more impressive for being free — though if you’re willing to pay at least $6 per month, upgrading to Albert’s Genius plan entitles you to 24/7 access to experts who stand ready to answer any and every money question that pops into your head.
- Albert’s debit card and app have no monthly maintenance fee
- Access your paycheck up to 2 days early
- Seamless saving and budgeting for a healthier financial life
- Up to 20% cash back on eligible purchases
- No overdraft fees and paycheck advance up to $250 to cover overdrafts
- Guided investing starting at just $1 with the Genius plan
- No minimums or trading commissions
Best for Extra Time to Avoid Overdraft Fees: Fifth Third Momentum® Checking
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.
- 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
Best for Automated Budgeting: Douugh
Douugh is a feature-rich money management app that keeps you on top of your financial situation — however complex it happens to be.
At its core is Salary Sweeper, an automated tool that works in the background to direct your income into one of two buckets:
- Your Bills Jar, which boasts its own virtual card and is designed to handle day-to-day spending needs
- Your Savings Jar, a longer-term bucket that you can divide up into single-purpose sub-jars
Because Douugh automatically diverts funds earmarked for bill payments and savings goals before they hit your account, you’re never surprised by an unpaid bill or frustrated by your lack of progress toward a longstanding financial objective. And you can rest easy in the knowledge that everything else is safe to spend on your Mastercard debit card in the here and now.
- No minimum opening deposit or ongoing balance requirement.
- Connect your account to the Cash App, Venmo, or PayPal to easily send funds to friends
- Use Apple Pay to complete transactions on the go
- Virtually no additional fees
Best for Building Credit: Chime Deposit Account
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 Chime Credit Builder, a secured credit card that boasts:
- No annual fee or interest
- No credit check to apply
- No minimum security deposit required
- Credit limit tied to your security deposit
What about Chime’s free checking account? Benefits include:
- No monthly fees
- Nearly 40,000 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)
Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
Best for Business Owners: Novo Business Checking Account
Truly free business checking accounts are tough to find, and getting tougher. But at least Novo holds down the space for now — thanks to a free business checking account that’s light-years ahead of any of the big banks’ alternatives.
Novo’s fee-free business banking experience is powered by Middlesex Federal Savings F.A. It doesn’t impose limits on deposits, which is basically unheard of in the category. And it offers a growing list of app integrations, including Slack (a leading workplace collaboration tool) and Xero (an accounting solution for small businesses).
- Make a $50 deposit (which remains in your control) to activate Novo’s features
- Unlock exclusive perks worth thousands of dollars in potential value
- Novo may cover insufficient balance transactions on a case-by-case basis
Novo is a fintech, not a bank. Banking services provided by Middlesex Federal Savings F.A.; Member FDIC.
Best for Earning Interest (Yield): Quontic High Interest Checking
Quontic High Interest Checking makes it easy to earn category-leading interest on eligible checking account balances.
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.
- $100 minimum opening deposit
- 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
Best for Low Fees: Discover Bank Cashback Checking
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.
- Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in eligible debit card purchases each month — that adds up to as much as $30 cash back per month, or $360 cash back per year.
- No minimum balance requirement
- 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
Methodology: How We Select the Best Free Checking Accounts
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.
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
Fortunately, rewards debit cards aren’t totally absent from the scene. We put a lot of effort into finding free checking accounts that pay users back for everyday purchases — sometimes to the tune of 5%, 10%, or more on select purchases.
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.
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 on and 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.
Free Checking Account 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’re now required to pay a monthly maintenance fee for the privilege of keeping 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 what perks the account offers.
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 still not sure how to choose the best?
First, make sure the accounts you’re considering really don’t have monthly maintenance fees. Some banks and especially fintech apps don’t clearly disclose pricing on their websites.
When in doubt, look for questions about maintenance fees or subscription plans in their FAQs. If they do charge these fees, they’ll have to talk about it there.
Next, think about what you hope to get out of your account. Do you want above-average yield? Rewards on debit card purchases? The option to invest excess cash in the stock market? Look for accounts that tick these boxes.
Finally, find out what actual users think of the accounts you’re considering. Are there hidden usability or customer service issues? Do teaser yields tend to drop over time, reducing your return? Are the banks behind the times when it comes to mobile features and add-ons like budgeting support?
Take your time and choose wisely.