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Betterment Checking and Debit Card Review

Betterment Logo

Our rating



  • thumbs-upVirtually no fees
  • thumbs-upVery good return on eligible spending
  • thumbs-upBetterment also offers investment and crypto accounts


  • thumbs-downNo loans or lines of credit
  • thumbs-downSome spending won't earn rewards
  • thumbs-downNo interest on checking balances

The world has no shortage of online and mobile-first banks. I spend a lot of time researching and writing about financial technology, and if I find them all difficult to keep straight, I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone unfamiliar with the landscape. Finding a reliable place to park your money shouldn’t require so much effort.

If you’re looking for some help, you’ve landed in the right place. Betterment Checking, a relatively new digital deposit account from the robo-investing pioneer, is a better choice than 80% of the alternatives. It deserves a place on your shortlist.

A big source of Betterment Checking’s strength is its association with Betterment’s other financial accounts, which include a high-yield savings account and multiple investment accounts. But Betterment Checking stands on its own thanks to its virtually nonexistent fee schedule and above-average debit card rewards program. See if it makes sense for you.

What Is Betterment Checking?

Betterment Checking is a free checking account with no minimum balance requirement. It comes with a Visa debit card that earns cash-back rewards on purchases with hundreds of merchants. 

Unlike some “free” checking accounts that charge overdraft or ATM withdrawal fees, Betterment Checking has virtually no fees, and it reimburses out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees worldwide.

Betterment’s banking partner is NBKC Bank, which provides financial services for Betterment Checking users. Through NBKC Bank, Betterment Checking deposits carry up to $250,000 in FDIC insurance.

Betterment Checking is one of several financial products offered by Betterment. Others include a high-yield savings account (Betterment Cash Reserve), a taxable investment account, a retirement investment account, and a crypto investment account. You must apply for and open each account separately, but if you just need a day-to-day money management account, you’re free to use Betterment Checking only.

What Sets Betterment Checking Apart?

Betterment Checking has three key selling points that set it apart from most other online checking accounts:

  • It’s Truly Fee-Free. Many online deposit accounts call themselves “free,” betting you won’t read the fine print. But Betterment Checking really is free. It doesn’t have a monthly maintenance fee, it waives overdraft fees, and it reimburses ATM and foreign transaction fees.
  • It’s One of Several Financial Accounts From Betterment. Betterment isn’t a one-stop financial shop because it doesn’t make loans or issue credit cards. But it’s more than just a single-digital deposit account. You can park your money in a savings account, invest in ETFs, and hold crypto with Betterment.
  • It Has a Very Good Rewards Program. Betterment Checking is a true rewards checking account. You can earn up to 5% cash back instantly on eligible purchases with big-name brands like Costco and Adidas here.

Key Features of Betterment Checking

These are Betterment Checking’s most important features. Use this list to determine if Betterment Checking is a good fit for you.

Visa Debit Card

Open a Betterment Checking account, get a Visa debit card accepted by millions of merchants worldwide. Good deal.

Betterment Checking’s Visa debit card is contactless. You can swipe, dip, or tap to pay, depending on the merchant’s payment setup. You can also add your card to Apple Pay or Google Pay and complete in-person transactions with your phone.

Automatic Cash-Back Rewards

With Betterment Checking, eligible debit card purchases earn up to 5% cash back (and occasionally more). 

There’s a catch. Unlike traditional debit or credit card rewards programs, you won’t earn on every purchase. Through Dosh, its rewards partner, Betterment Checking delivers cash back only on purchases with specific merchants.

That’s the bad news. The good news: You can earn with thousands of participating merchants, including big names like Costco and Adidas. And because the average earn rate is higher than the standard 1% or 1.5% offered by most flat-rate rewards debit cards, you may still come out ahead, though that ultimately depends on how (and how much) you spend.

Joint Checking Accounts

You can set up your Betterment Checking account as an individual account (with you as the sole account holder) or a joint account (with you and a partner as equal account holders). 

The joint account option is commonplace at traditional brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions, but it’s not that common (yet) in the online banking world. Many financial technology companies don’t see it as a priority, possibly because they tend to serve younger consumers who are less likely to be in serious domestic relationships. So it’s notable and welcome that Betterment Checking goes the extra mile for couples.

Complimentary Cell Phone Protection Coverage

Pay your monthly cell phone bill in full with your Betterment debit card and you’ll qualify for up to $600 in cell phone protection coverage per claim (minus a $50 deductible per claim). You’re limited to two claims per year, so this isn’t a license for recklessness, but it’s still a nice guard against the unexpected.

Account Fees (Or Lack Thereof)

To reiterate, Betterment Checking has virtually no fees. That means:

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance fee
  • No overdraft fees
  • No in-network ATM fees
  • Reimbursement of all out-of-network ATM fees, including at international ATMs
  • Reimbursement of foreign transaction surcharges (usually 1% of the transaction amount)

Bottom line: You don’t have to worry about Betterment Checking nickel-and-diming you as big-name traditional banks are wont to do.

Paper Checks

If you still pay for stuff by check occasionally, Betterment Checking has you covered. You do need to request paper checks, though. They don’t come automatically when you open an account.

Betterment started off as a robo-advisor platform for hands-off investors who didn’t want to pay financial advisor prices. That investing platform is still at the company’s core; Betterment Checking is a relatively late arrival.

But you have to walk before you can crawl, so don’t feel bad if you don’t have spare cash to invest. To start, you can open a Betterment Checking account only. As your net worth grows, you can add:

  • A high-yield savings account with up to $1 million in FDIC insurance coverage (Betterment Cash Reserve) and a juicy interest rate (currently 4.35% APY)
  • A taxable investment account — just answer a few questions about your goals and risk tolerance, and Betterment builds your portfolio using low-cost ETFs
  • A tax-advantaged investment account for retirement — same deal here on the automation front, no stock-picking necessary
  • A crypto account where you can buy, sell, and hold Bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies

If and when you open these accounts, you can link them to your Betterment Checking account and move fiat currency (not crypto) between them at will within the app. 

Advantages of Betterment Checking

These are the strongest features of Betterment Checking. 

  • Virtually No Fees. Unlike many competitors that claim to be free but still find a way to part users from their hard-earned money, Betterment Checking really is free. You don’t have to worry about maintenance, overdraft, or ATM fees here.
  • Offers a Joint Account Option. Ready to merge finances with your spouse or domestic partner? Open a joint checking account with Betterment Checking. Many competitors don’t offer this flexibility, at least not yet.
  • Reimburses Out-of-Network ATM and Foreign Transaction Fees. If you need cash far from home, fear not: Betterment Checking reimburses out-of-network ATM fees, so you’ll never have to worry about predatory cash machine surcharges. The same goes for Visa’s standard 1% foreign transaction fee — Betterment covers that too.
  • Get a Better-Than-Average (and Instant) Return on Eligible Spending. You can earn up to 5% cash back on eligible purchases with Betterment Checking. Cash rewards hit your account immediately after you’ve earned them  — no need to redeem them manually. Check the app for the latest offers and plan your spending accordingly.
  • Pairs With Investing and Savings Account If You Need Them. Betterment also offers a fee-free savings account (Betterment Cash Reserve) and multiple investment account options. So you can take care of your day-to-day and longer-term financial needs here, no problem.  
  • Pay With Paper Checks If You Want. You can write checks from your Betterment Checking account if you need to. This is another above-and-beyond feature that many digital finance apps don’t bother with anymore.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Cell Phone Protection. Betterment Checking’s cell phone protection plan is complimentary when you pay your monthly phone bill in full out of your account. If you’re prone to damaging or destroying your cell phone, it’s a nice perk to have.

Disadvantages of Betterment Checking

Consider these drawbacks before opening a Betterment Checking account.

  • No Loans or Credit Lines Here. Betterment doesn’t offer loans or lines of credit, including credit cards. (You can use the “credit” option on your Visa debit card to pay for stuff, but that doesn’t count because the money still comes right out of your account.) So it’s not a full-service financial institution.
  • No Interest on Balances. Many online checking accounts pay interest on balances. Not Betterment Checking. If you want to earn interest on your day-to-day funds, look to Ally Bank’s Interest Checking account as an alternative.
  • Not All Purchases Qualify for Rewards. The not-so-hidden downside of Betterment Checking’s rewards program is that it’s tied to specific brands, like Costco and Aeropostale. That’s great if and when you spend with those brands, but some purchases will slip through the cracks.

Is Betterment Checking Legit?

Yes, Betterment Checking is legit.

Betterment has been around for more than a decade. It was one of the first low-cost robo-advisors for hands-off investors and remains a top choice for people who don’t want to pay full-service human advisor prices. Though Betterment Checking wasn’t part of Betterment’s original product lineup, it’s an organic part of the Betterment family with the same impressive pedigree. 

How Betterment Checking Stacks Up

If you’re looking for alternatives to Betterment Checking, you’ll soon come across the Wealthfront Cash Account. 

Both are low-cost, high-yield deposit accounts tied to low-cost automated investment platforms. See how they compare here.

Betterment CheckingWealthfront Cash Account
Monthly Fee$0$0
Debit CardYesNo
Spending RewardsYes, up to 5% cash back with select brandsNo
YieldNone, but links to Betterment Cash Reserve (current yield 4.35% APY)Yes, currently 5.00% APY

Final Word

Betterment Checking is, well, better than most of the online deposit accounts I’ve reviewed. It has a very good (though limited) rewards program, virtually no fees, and a joint account option. It offers opportunities for growth, too. You can start with a Betterment Checking account, then open a Betterment Cash Reserve account and one or more Betterment investing accounts as your net worth grows.

Is Betterment Checking right for everyone? No. You might want a flat-rate rewards program rather than one tied to specific merchants, or an account that pays interest on cash balances. 

And even if Betterment Checking is your ideal online checking account, Betterment probably won’t be the only financial institution you’ll work with in your life (or even this year). With no credit products, CDs, or money market accounts, its account lineup has some important gaps you’ll need to fill elsewhere.

Betterment Logo

Our rating



  • thumbs-upVirtually no fees
  • thumbs-upVery good return on eligible spending
  • thumbs-upBetterment also offers investment and crypto accounts


  • thumbs-downNo loans or lines of credit
  • thumbs-downSome spending won't earn rewards
  • thumbs-downNo interest on checking balances
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.