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A checking account allows you to easily make deposits and withdrawals to pay for everyday expenses such as rent, mortgage, groceries, and bills. However, they are not all created equal. The best checking accounts offer special benefits such as high annual percentage yields (APYs), low or nonexistent monthly fees, and special offers for opening an account.
Learn more about the best checking accounts, how to choose the best checking account for your needs, and the general requirements banks will have for opening a checking account.
Best checking accounts compared 2023
|Checking account||Best for||APY*||Monthly fee||Special offer|
APY for high balances
Up to 3.30%*
Up to $300 welcome bonus (up to and including December 31st)
New accounts will receive $200 with direct deposit set up within 90 days. Offer expires 10/18/2023
Free pay ring ($29 value) in lieu of a debit card
Balances less than $15K earn 0.10% APY; balances $15K or more earn 0.25% APY (Annual Percentage Yield)
Up to $250 bonus
Debit card security
Up to 0.25%*
Tweens and teens
Capital One 360 Checking
Easy cash deposits
Citi Basic Banking
Our recommendations for best checking account for October 2023
Best APY for high balances: Axos Rewards Checking
If you have monthly direct deposits of at least $1,500, you can start earning interest (0.40%) on your Axos Rewards Checking account. Meeting some additional requirements listed below can increase your APY, eventually reaching a maximum of 3.30% on up to $50,000:
- Making at least 10 debit card purchases of at least $3 each or signing up for the Account Aggregation/Personal Finance Manager tool.
- Maintaining an average daily balance of at least $2,500 in a managed investment portfolio.
- Maintaining an average daily balance of at least $2,500 in a self-directed portfolio.
- Making a monthly loan payment from your Axos Rewards Checking account.
If you meet all four requirements, you earn the maximum APY of 3.30%.
Best for mobile app: Chase Total Checking
The Chase mobile app offers three ways for you to get paid or make payments. You can send and receive money instantly and with zero fees in the app via Zelle. Chase QuickDeposit allows you to deposit checks easily from the app, avoiding a trip to a Chase branch to cash a check. And you can set up the My Chase Plan from the app, which helps break up card purchases into smaller payments that fit your budget. You can also set up automatic savings, make a budget and track your spending, and monitor your credit health—all directly from the Chase app.
Chase Total Checking charges a $12 monthly service fee, but you can waive it each month that you meet any of the following criteria:
- Have $500 or more in monthly direct deposits.
- Maintain a $1,500 balance at the beginning of each day.
- Keep at least $5,000 across Chase accounts.
New accounts will receive $200 with direct deposit set up within 90 days. But hurry, this incredible offer expires on 10/18/2023.
Best for high APY: Quontic High Interest Checking
With an APY of 1.10%, the Quontic High Interest Checking account helps you earn extra interest on your money just by making transactions. In order to get the high APY, you’ll need to make at least 10 qualifying transactions on your debit card per statement cycle, and each transaction must be at least $10. However, this likely won’t be a problem if you use Quontic as your main checking account.
In addition to the high APY, a Quontic High Interest Checking account has no monthly fee and no minimum balance requirement to earn cash back. However, you will need at least $100 to open an account. Quontic also offers an unusual feature—Quontic Ring Pay—which allows you to make transactions with a wearable ring rather than needing to carry your debit card with you. You’ll get the pay ring for free upon opening an account.
Best for overdraft protection: Ally Bank (Member FDIC) Spending Account
If you accidentally overdraw your checking, Overdraft Transfer Service will automatically transfer the money from your Ally Bank Savings or Money Market Account to cover your negative balance. CoverDraft is a service, not a line of credit or a guarantee. If your purchase isn't covered for any reason (let’s say the transaction exceeds your CoverDraft limit, for example), it will be declined—but we'll never charge you an overdraft fee. CoverDraft will cover up to $100 or ($250 if you have qualifying direct deposits of at least $250 for two months in a row) and then your next deposit will automatically apply to the negative balance.
Two other important benefits: (1) Early direct deposit gives you access to your money up to two business days sooner. To trigger it, two eligible direct deposits must be made to your Ally Bank Spending Account within six months. (2) The budget-friendly option to set aside money in specified “spending buckets” (30 is the maximum number) for regular expenses such as gas, groceries, and mortgage payments.
Other pluses: interest on your checking account, and free incoming wires (domestic and international) and official cashiers checks. You also get access to 43,000+ free Allpoint® ATMs and up to $10 reimbursement for fees charged at other ATMs per statement cycle.
Best for rewards: SoFi Checking
When you open a SoFi Checking account, you’ll be eligible for a bonus of up to $250, depending on your deposit amount. Then you’ll benefit from SoFi Member Rewards, where you can earn points for getting paid, spending at certain retailers, monitoring your credit, and more. SoFi Member Rewards points can be redeemed for cash, shares in an investment account, or a statement credit on a SoFi credit card. You can manage and redeem your points from the SoFi app. This program is designed to help SoFi members achieve financial independence.
Best for debit card security: Chime Checking Account
When you open a Chime checking account, you can customize your debit card security settings to meet your needs. For example, you can set up daily balance notifications and real-time transaction alerts to keep tabs on your money and identify any unauthorized transactions faster. You can also block transactions immediately from the Chime mobile app if you misplace your card, averting unauthorized usage.
Best for zero fees: CIT Bank eChecking
Although many checking accounts have a $0 monthly maintenance fee, the CIT Bank eChecking account goes a step further. First, CIT Bank does not charge ATM fees and offers up to $30 per month for reimbursements for other banks’ ATM fees. CIT Bank also doesn’t charge fees for overdrawing your account, check mailing, online transfers, or incoming wire transfers. There may be a fee for overnight delivery of a replacement card if yours is lost or stolen or for initiating a wire transaction of less than $25,000, but these fees will likely be rare.
Best for tweens and teens: Nationwide First Checking
Parents know the importance of teaching their children about money, and opening a Nationwide First Checking account can help kids learn how to manage their money while they’re still living at home. This account is designed for children ages 13 to 17 years. It has daily transaction limits of $100 for cash withdrawals and $500 for debit purchases to prevent children from inadvertently making large purchases, and there are no fees for overdrawn or insufficient funds. In all, a Nationwide First Checking account is a solid choice for parents or guardians looking to help their children learn to manage their money well as adults.
Best for money management: First Citizens Free Checking
The Free Checking account from First Citizens comes with access to a program called Manage My Money. Here, you can link any accounts you have with other banks and keep tabs on your overall financial health each month. The program will categorize transactions so you can see where your money is going and identify where you can cut back to save. First Citizens also has a $0 fee for those who enroll in paperless billing within the first 60 days of opening an account and offers overdraft protection for checking customers.
Best for easy cash deposits: Capital One 360 Checking
One of the drawbacks of online banking can be the inability to deposit cash at a local brick-and-mortar location. With the Capital One 360 Checking account, you can deposit cash to your account at any CVS location using the on-site ATMs. In 2021 CVS had almost 10,000 locations, so this could be a huge benefit.
Capital One also offers several overdraft protection options, early paycheck access, Zelle transfers, and several physical branches and “cafes,” where you can get a snack and a drink, enjoy free Wi-Fi, and chat with Capital One ambassadors.
Best for no-frills checking: Citi Basic Banking
Sometimes you just want to settle for something simple. When it comes to checking accounts, that’s Citi Basic Banking. This checking account offers unlimited check writing, fee-free ATM withdrawals, and easy money movement—and that’s it.
A Citi Basic Banking account does have a $12 monthly maintenance fee, but it’s waivable as long as you make one direct deposit and one bill payment per month while maintaining a combined balance of at least $1,500 in your checking and other eligible linked accounts (including checking, savings, and money market accounts).
To determine the best checking accounts, we considered several factors. We compared monthly maintenance fees across a number of highly rated checking accounts, giving preference to those with either a $0 fee or a small but waivable one. We also considered the APY for each checking account we researched, looking for those that could help customers earn more interest on their money. We compared apps, looked for attractive features, and considered special offers for opening an account.
Different types of checking accounts
There are several different types of checking accounts to be aware of while you’re searching for the best one for your needs, including the following:
- Traditional. This type of account offers the basics: check writing, a debit card, and online bill pay.
- Premium. A premium checking account has additional perks over a traditional account, but they usually come at a price.
- High-interest. Traditional checking accounts often have no or a very low APY, but a high-interest account can offer a larger return on the money you keep in your checking account.
- Business. A business may have several different checking accounts to cover payroll, business expenses, and other business-specific situations.
- Check-less. If you don’t need to write paper checks, you may prefer an account that just uses a debit card for transactions.
- Rewards. A rewards checking account can help you earn points that can be redeemed for cash back, account statement credits, and more.
How to pick the best checking account for you
Selecting a checking account can seem overwhelming with so many options from which to choose, and the best checking account for one person likely won’t meet the needs of someone else. The following can help you determine the best checking account for you:
- Do your research. Determine what your biggest needs are and look for accounts that meet those needs. For example, do you want to earn the highest possible APY, or would you prefer a lower APY in exchange for a sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards?
- Consider the cons. In addition to reviewing the pros of each contender, read up on the cons. If an account has a requirement to waive the monthly fee that you can’t meet, it might be best to look elsewhere.
- Understand your preferences. Do you want to do all your banking from a mobile app, or would you like the option to visit a brick-and-mortar location?
- Review the fees. While some checking accounts appear to have none, they may still charge some fees, such as for outgoing wire transfers or ordering checks.
- Understand the welcome offer. If a bank has a welcome offer on its checking account, make sure you read the small print. Is there a minimum deposit amount required to get the maximum welcome offer amount? If so, can you meet that requirement?
Requirements to open a checking account
To open a checking account, you’ll need to bring a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, and provide some basic personal information, including your Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), birthdate, address, and phone number. Many checking accounts require a minimum deposit amount to open them,so make sure you know the specifications and bring cash or a check. If you’re under age 18, you’ll need a co-owner (typically a parent or guardian) to sign the paperwork on your behalf.
Alternatives to checking accounts
There are many options when it comes to checking accounts, but what if you prefer to be “unbanked”? There are several alternative options to consider if you don’t want to manage your money using a checking account.
- Cash. Keeping your money in cash form is convenient and can reduce overspending, but if you lose cash, you can’t get it back. The best checking accounts are insured, which means your money will be safer.
- Prepaid cards. You can get a reloadable prepaid card and pay cash into it regularly rather than using a checking account. Some may offer benefits such as overdraft protection and transaction monitoring.
- Money orders. If you need to make a payment, you can send a money order instead of a check. You’ll just take cash to a place that issues money orders, such as a bank or post office, and exchange it for a money order. However, if that money order is lost, you can’t recoup your lost funds.
- Online payment services. You can use services such as PayPal, Venmo, and CashApp to make payments and deposit money instead of using a checking account.
Although there are several alternatives, it’s usually safer and more convenient to keep your money in a checking account, particularly if you use one that has a high APY or offers rewards.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What is the best bank for a checking account?
This depends on what you're seeking. If you want an account with a high APY, Quontic may be the best option. If you want a good rewards program, SoFI could be the way to go.
What is the most frequently charged fee on checking accounts?
That would be the monthly maintenance or service fee. However, many checking accounts today waive the fee if you can meet certain conditions, such as carrying a minimum balance or making a certain number of transactions, and some don’t have the fee at all.
How can I avoid Chase checking account fees?
There are three ways to avoid the monthly fee on a Chase checking account.
- Making electronic deposits of $500 or more from a payroll provider or government benefit provider.
- Maintaining daily balance of $1,500 or more.
- Keeping a combined beginning day balance of $5,000 or more in your checking account and linked qualifying deposits or investments through JPMorgan Chase & Co.
How much can I overdraw my checking account?
It will depend on your bank. Many banks have overdraft protection for their checking accounts, but the amount they’ll allow you to overdraw will depend; some may have a $100 cap, while others may go up to $250 or more if you meet certain eligibility requirements.
Which is better: Online checking account or brick-and-mortar?
This depends on what you want. Online checking accounts have many benefits, including high APYs and the ability to bank from anywhere. Still, some customers prefer being able to go to a physical bank location and speak to a representative in person.
What is the difference between a checking account and a savings account?
You use a checking account to manage your everyday finances, such as receiving paychecks, paying bills, and purchasing groceries and gas. You can pay with your debit card or a check, and you can withdraw cash from an ATM.
Savings accounts are designed to help you put money away for a rainy day. They’re limited to six withdrawals per month or statement cycle, and some accrue high interest to allow you to grow your money slowly in a low-risk way.
*APY is subject to change. APY updated as at October 2nd, 2023.
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