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The best no-fee checking accounts right now

Tanza Loudenback   

The best no-fee checking accounts right now
Finance7 min read

A good checking account is a necessity. It's a temporary home for the money you earn and soon spend on your needs, wants, and future goals - and it shouldn't cost you anything.

These days, most (if not all) banks offer conditional no-fee checking accounts. That is to say, your monthly service fee can be waived if you meet minimum balance or recurring deposit requirements.

In this list, we want to highlight the checking accounts that charge zero monthly maintenance fees, no matter where your balance lies. You might notice this list is similar to our list of best checking accounts - that's because we value no-fee products and have mentioned many of the best already.

Below you'll find our picks for the best no-fee checking accounts available right now. Each of these accounts comes with a debit card, FDIC insurance, and mobile app access.

PFI Best Capital One 360 Logo Banner

Capital One 360: Best no-fee checking account overall

Why it stands out: Access to over 39,000 Capital One and AllPoint ATMs; no monthly service, overdraft, or foreign transaction fees; mobile check deposit available; connects to Zelle for digital money transfers; multiple overdraft protection options; and all balances earn 0.20% APY. Plus, Capital One ranks No. 4 on J.D. Power's US National Banking Satisfaction Study.

What to look out for: Minimal branch locations. Though Capital One Cafés are popping up in big cities around the US, the bank only operates about 470 branches in nine states.

PFI Best Discover Logo Banner

Discover CashBack Debit: Best no-fee checking account for rewards

Why it stands out: Access to over 60,000 ATMs; no monthly service or overdraft fees; mobile check deposit available; connects to Zelle for digital money transfers; and earns 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases every month.

What to look out for: Location restrictions. You can only use your Discover debit card in the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

PFI Best Barclays Logo Banner

US Bank Student Checking: Best no-fee checking account for students

Why it stands out: Access to 4,700 US Bank ATMs, 28,000 ATMs in the MoneyPass Network, and 3,000 US Bank branch locations; no monthly service fees for students; no overdraft transfer fees when linked to a deposit account; fee reimbursement for up to four non-US Bank ATM transactions per statement cycle; connects to Zelle for digital money transfers; and mobile check deposit available.

What to look out for: Minimum opening deposit of $25. Also, although US Bank ranked above Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and CitiBank on J.D. Power's US National Banking Satisfaction Study, it's categorized as "about average."

PFI Best SoFi Logo Banner

SoFi Money: Best checking account/savings account hybrid

Why it stands out: Unlimited reimbursement for ATM fees worldwide; mobile check deposit available; no monthly service or overdraft fees; all balances earn 1.60% APY; and you get 20% cash back on Lyft rides.

What to look out for: SoFi Money is technically a cash management account, which is a type of brokerage account. However, this account has all the features of a checking account, including a debit card and FDIC insurance, and many features of a savings account, including a high APY.

PFI Best Simple Logo Banner

Simple Online Checking: Best online-only checking account

Why it stands out: Access to 40,000 AllPoint ATMs; mobile check deposit available; built-in budgeting feature that automatically portions out fixed expenses after each paycheck is deposited and leaves you with a "safe to spend" amount; and the ability to open and easily transfer excess funds into a high-yield companion account that earns 1.75% APY on balances under $10,000 and 1.90% APY on balances above $10,000.

What to look out for: Limited overdraft options. If you attempt to make a purchase with your debit card that requires more funds than are available in your account, Simple will decline the transaction. At this time, there are no other options for overdraft protection.

Other no-fee checking accounts we considered and why they didn't make the cut:

  • Charles Schwab High-Yield Investor Checking Account: This no-fee checking account that earns 0.15% APY on all balances is a good deal, but you have to open a brokerage account at the same time.
  • Ally Interest Checking Account: This no-fee account is comparable to Simple's online checking account, although Simple has a budgeting feature and offers a higher-earning savings account than Ally. However, Ally does have more overdraft options and earns 0.10% APY on balances under $15,000, if that's important to you.
  • CIT Bank eChecking: The minimum opening deposit for this account is $100 and it only offers up to $15 of fee-free ATM visits a month, otherwise it's a fine account earning 0.10% APY on balances below $25,000.
  • Betterment Everyday: This is still in beta, but it has the makings of a solid checking account: ATM fees reimbursed worldwide, no monthly service fees or overdraft fees, and a boosted rate on your savings account.
  • TD Bank Student Checking: While TD Bank ranked No. 1 on J.D. Power's US National Banking Satisfaction Study, its only ATM and branch locations are on the East Coast, and there's a $3 fee each time you use a non-TD ATM.
  • Axos Essential Checking: A solid online-only checking account with unlimited ATM fee reimbursement, but nothing extra special.
  • Axos Cash Back Checking: This account offers up to 1% cash back on purchases (up to $2,000 per month), but doesn't count transactions from grocery stores and requires an average daily balance of $1,500 to earn the cash back. If your balance falls below that limit, you get 0.50% cash back.
  • Axos Rewards Checking: This account touts up to 1.25% APY, but to get the full rate you need to have monthly direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more and a total of 15 transactions per month (min $3 per transaction) on your debit card. You also need $50 to open the account.
  • Chime: A solid online-only, no-fee checking account with overdraft protection options, quick direct deposit, and access to over 38,000 ATMs, but additional features are not as good as Simple.
  • TIAA Yield Pledge Checking: No monthly service fees and all balances earn 1.01% APY for the first year; after that, the rate drops to between 0.25% to 0.65%. To enjoy unlimited ATM reimbursement you need to keep an average daily balance of at least $5,000. You also need at least $100 to open the account.

Frequently asked questions:

Why trust our recommendations?

At Personal Finance Insider, we strive to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of nearly three dozen checking accounts available at over 20 national and online-only banks so you don't have to.

We understand that "best" is often subjective, however, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a checking account - no fees, for example - we outline the limitations, too.

How did we choose the best no-fee checking accounts?

To find the best no-fee checking accounts, we consulted our list of the best checking accounts, many of which are completely free for all accountholders, regardless of their balance. To compile that list, we considered offerings at over 20 financial institutions, as well as reviews at popular comparison sites like Bankrate and Nerdwallet, to determine the strongest options.

We also polled Business Insider employees for their favorite picks and considered J.D. Power's US National Banking Satisfaction Study for 2019, which measures customer satisfaction at America's largest retail banks.

While big retail banks in the US have the most widespread ATM and branch location access, they typically do not offer completely free checking accounts, so we didn't name a winner for ATM and branch access.

Unlike a savings account, a checking account doesn't need to have a high interest rate to be good. In fact, the annual percentage yield (APY) shouldn't matter much if you're using your checking account to pay your monthly bills and cover expenses in short order. If your money is constantly flowing in and out of your checking account, it won't get a chance to earn much interest anyway.

What banks offer free checking accounts?

You can find completely free checking accounts at Ally, Betterment, CIT Bank, US Bank, TD Bank, Capital One, Charles Schwab, Discover, Axos, and SoFi Money, to name a few.

Which banks have the best checking accounts?

Through our extensive research, we've concluded that the best checking accounts available right now are at Chase, Capital One, Discover, Simple, and SoFi Money. Some of these may offer to waive service fees if certain requirements are met, but most charge none at all.

Which banks have free checking with no minimum balance?

Several banks offer free checking accounts with no minimum balance or opening deposit requirement, including Ally, Charles Schwab, Betterment, and Capital One.

Tanza Loudenback has been writing about money every day for more than three years. She is an expert on strategies for building wealth and financial products that help people make the most of their money. She is in the process of becoming a licensed CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP).

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