Best Banks for Checking Accounts

Your Everyday Money Management Account

Women taking money from the ATM
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 RgStudio/Getty Images

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Your checking account might be your most important financial account. You receive income, pay bills, and make purchases from that account, so it’s crucial to have everything working smoothly. Not only do you need an account that functions well, but a bank that minimizes fees so you can keep more of what you earn.

With those goals in mind, we’ve identified the best banks for your next checking account. These accounts all offer essential checking account features, and your deposits are insured up to federal limits by the FDIC or NCUA.

Best for Cash-Back Rewards: Discover Bank

Discover

 Discover

Cash back rewards may seem plentiful with credit cards, but debit cards are less generous. Discover Bank’s Cashback Debit account is a free online checking account with rewards. Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 of qualifying debit card purchases each month, for total monthly rewards of up to $30. There are no monthly fees, and there’s no minimum balance requirement. If you already use your debit card for everyday spending, the extra cash is a bonus. But if you prefer credit card rewards, this may not be the best fit.

What We Like
  • Rare opportunity to earn rewards on debit card spending

  • Discover’s robust offering of accounts for one-stop shopping

What We Don't Like
  • Users may forgo advantages of spending with a credit card

Best for Earning Interest: nbkc Bank

nbkc Bank

 nbkc Bank

Although the 0.15% APY you’ll earn in your personal account at nbkc won’t make you rich, in today’s low-interest environment, this rate stands out. The account has no monthly fees, and unlike some accounts that pay relatively high interest, nbkc Bank does not set significant restrictions. For example, you don’t need to use your debit card numerous times per month or limit certain withdrawals to six per month. nbkc asks that you deposit at least $5 when opening an account (or fund it within 75 days), and you can deposit checks with your mobile device.

What We Like
  • Easy to qualify for the rate

  • Up to $12 per month in global ATM fee rebates

What We Don't Like
  • Modern, informal vibe might not appeal to fans of traditional banking

Best for More Than $250,000: Wealthfront Cash Account

Wealthfront

If you keep substantial amounts of cash in checking and want to earn interest, Wealthfront is worth a look. The Cash Account pays 0.10% APY on your balance, and you can have up to $1 million dollars covered by FDIC insurance—in a single account. To provide that level of coverage (above the standard $250,000 limit), Wealthfront spreads your money among several FDIC-insured banks. You can spend from your account with a debit card or by setting up electronic transfers.

If you have more than $250,000 to deposit, a checking account might not be the best place for your funds (unless you constantly use that money). Consider a high-yield savings account, where you can potentially earn more on your savings.

What We Like
  • Automatically spread funds among multiple banks

  • No monthly fees or overdraft charges

What We Don't Like
  • Individual accounts only (no joint account at this time)

Best for Minors: Capital One

Capital One

 Capital One

Capital One helps children and teenagers learn about money with a free checking account designed for kids. Minors get a debit card for spending, accounts are available for children as young as eight years old, and there are no monthly fees or account minimums. Parents or guardians can monitor the account with online access and account activity alerts. Some parents may appreciate that the debit card cannot be used to make purchases at businesses that are considered inappropriate for young adults, such as liquor stores and bars. The account pays 0.10% APY (Annual Percentage Yield).

Capital One’s 360 Checking also offers an APY of 0.10%.

The mobile app features instant purchase notifications, mobile check deposit, and allows you to send money via Zelle. You can also lock your card via the app if you ever lose it.

What We Like
  • Interest-bearing account for kids and teens ages 8 and up

  • Provides a substantial level of autonomy (if parents want that)

What We Don't Like
  • No paper checks, though teens may not need those often

Best Credit Union: Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union

For fans of customer-owned institutions, Alliant Credit Union offers a free checking account that pays 0.25% APY on your balance. Credit unions require you to be eligible before joining, but that’s easy with Alliant. Anybody can become a member after joining Foster Care to Success, which helps teens in foster care throughout the U.S.

To earn interest on your balance, you need to sign up for electronic statements and complete at least one electronic deposit into your account each month. If you don’t meet those requirements, you won’t earn anything, but there are still no monthly fees.

What We Like
  • No account minimum or monthly fees

  • ATM rebates up to $20 per month

What We Don't Like
  • Must have electronic statements and make one electronic deposit per month to earn interest

Best With Branches: Chase Bank

Chase

 Chase

Big banks may not have a reputation for low-cost accounts, but Chase Bank’s Total Checking account comes pretty close. With nearly 4,700 branches available, you can bank in person if you so choose. You can also waive the monthly fee by direct depositing at least $500 per month or keeping a daily balance of at least $1,500 in the account. If you don’t qualify for a waiver, expect to pay $12 per month.

What We Like
  • Several ways to eliminate the monthly fee

  • A basic, adequate account with numerous physical locations

What We Don't Like
  • Potential for steep ATM, overdraft, and other fees

Best for Global Travel: Schwab Bank

Charles Schwab

 Charles Schwab

The Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account has the essential features you’d expect in a checking account, and it’s well-suited for travel. Schwab provides unlimited ATM fee rebates around the world, and there is no foreign transaction fee for purchases or withdrawals in foreign currency. There are no monthly fees or account minimums, and you earn 0.03% APY on your checking account balance.

What We Like
  • Unlimited ATM fee rebates in the U.S. and abroad

  • No monthly fees or minimums required

What We Don't Like
  • Must open a linked brokerage account whether you want it or not

Compare Providers

Bank or Credit Union Why We Picked It
Discover Bank Best for Cash-Back Rewards
nbkc Bank Best for Earning Interest
Wealthfront Cash Account Best for More Than $250k
Capital One Best for Minors
Alliant Credit Union Best Credit Union
Chase Bank Best With Branches
Schwab Bank Best for Global Travel

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Checking Account?

A checking account is a bank account that allows for frequent transactions. You might deposit your pay (or have your employer do it automatically through direct deposit) and use the account as a holding area for funds you plan to use soon. Spending money from these accounts is easy. For example, you can:

  • Transfer money from the account to pay bills online
  • Make purchases with a debit card
  • Instruct billers to deduct funds automatically every month
  • Withdraw cash for spending at an ATM or the bank
  • Write checks
  • Link your account to payment apps like PayPal, Venmo, and more

It’s often wise to keep funds in a checking account and spend electronically instead of walking around with large sums of cash. When your bank or credit union is federally insured, your deposits are covered up to $250,000 if the bank goes under.

What Makes a Good Checking Account?

A checking account should be inexpensive and easy to use. Monthly fees are particularly problematic because they’re easy to avoid, and they slowly drain your account. Overdraft charges and other fees can also add up to hundreds of dollars per year.

Be sure to choose a checking account with the services you need. Several features you might find valuable include:

  • Online bill pay that allows you to schedule payments and make on-demand payments
  • Remote or mobile check deposit 
  • The ability to link external accounts
  • ATM fee reimbursements
  • The option to lock your debit card when you don’t plan to use it
  • Official payments like cashier’s checks and money orders
  • Customer service by chat, phone, or mobile app to help when you need a hand
  • ATMs that accept deposits

Key Checking Account Terminology

Available balance: The amount that you’re free to spend from your checking account. The available balance might be different from your account balance due to new deposits into your account or holds on funds in your account.

Debit card: A debit card is a plastic payment card linked to your account. You can use that card like a credit card for in-person purchases or with online merchants. You can also withdraw cash from an ATM with your debit card.

PIN: Your personal identification number (PIN) is a numeric code that helps to protect your account. You may need to enter your PIN when you withdraw cash at an ATM or perform other transactions. Keep that number secret because it helps prevent unauthorized users from accessing your account.

Insufficient funds: If you try to spend more than your available balance, you may have to pay an insufficient funds fee. Always check your balance and stay up-to-date on your account by balancing the account monthly and setting up alerts.

Overdraft: When your bank allows you to spend more money than you have in your account, you become overdrawn. Banks often allow you to opt in to a feature known as “overdraft protection,” which allows you to cover the difference between the amount you want to spend and the amount you have in your account. Overdraft protection often has a maximum limit and may come with a fee. It may be smart to pass on this feature and only spend what you can afford.

Remote or mobile deposit: When you receive a check, you can deposit the funds by taking a picture of the check with your bank’s mobile app.

Endorsement: To deposit funds, you may need to sign the back of checks and other payments you receive. This is known as endorsing the item, and you can add restrictions, such as endorsing a check “for deposit only.”

Article Sources

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  1. FDIC. "Deposit Insurance FAQs." Accessed July 19, 2021.

  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Student Banking 101." Accessed July 19, 2021.