Free checking accounts allow users to deposit and withdraw money. You can use them to deposit income, pay bills, make direct purchases, and more.
The best free checking accounts are easy to open, have a low minimum deposit requirement, and charge no monthly maintenance fees. They may also offer perks such as rewards, higher APYs, free eStatements, and are insured up to the federal limit by the FDIC.
Best Free Checking Accounts of 2021
Best Overall : Axos Bank Rewards Checking
We chose Axos Bank Rewards Checking as the best overall due to its potential for high yield along with zero monthly maintenance fees, zero overdraft fees, and no balance requirements.
No monthly maintenance or overdraft fees
Simple direct deposit process
$50 minimum opening deposit
No interest rewards if you can't meet the qualifications
Axos Bank Rewards Checking offers a robust 1.25% APY (as of June 2021); it's one of the reasons why it’s our top choice for best overall. You don't earn 1.25% APY right off the bat, however. It's a tiered structure, and you earn 0.4166% at every tier for the following:
- Receiving $1,000 in direct deposits in a month
- Making at least 10 $3 debit card transactions within a month
- Making an additional five $3 debit card transactions (15 total) within a month
One of the oldest online banks, Axos only requires a $50 minimum to open an account. You'll also get unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursement, unlimited check writing privileges, no monthly maintenance fees, and mobile banking access.
The Axos mobile app allows you to check your account balances, transfer funds between eligible accounts, pay bills, view account transaction history, and contact a customer service representative. It also comes with account protection and monitoring.
The online-only Axos Bank offers ATM fee reimbursement as well as a wide network of no-fee ATMs at approximately 91,000 convenient locations across the nation. You'll also pay no overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees with zero minimum monthly balance requirements. All deposit accounts are FDIC insured.
Read the full Axos Bank Review.
Best for Military Families and Veterans : USAA Classic Checking
USAA Classic Checking won our best free checking category for military families and veterans due to its ATM access network, easy-to-use mobile app, and customer service solely dedicated to military members.
No monthly service or overdraft fees
Can access more than 60,000 ATMs
Can get early direct deposit for active military accounts
Just $25 to open an account
No physical branches
Low APY of 0.01%
USAA, the only fully integrated financial services organization in the U.S., has served customers since 1922. Anyone who serves or received an honorable discharge from the U.S. military (plus eligible family members) can get a USAA membership.
Though you won't have to pay monthly service or overdraft fees, you'll need to have $25 to open an account and there are some fees:
- ATM service fee: First 10 transactions free, then $2 per withdrawal
- ATM surcharge rebate: Up to $15 per statement cycle
- Foreign transaction fee: 1% of the transaction amount
- Nonsufficient funds fee: $29
- Returned deposit item fee: $5
- Wire transfer fee: free for incoming, $20 for outgoing
USAA checking accounts also come with some limits on debit card and ATM transactions (per card, per calendar day):
- ATM cash withdrawal: $600
- Debit card cash advance: $1,000
- Debit card signature-based purchase: $3,000
- Debit card PIN-based purchase: $3,000
There are other fees associated with a USAA account as well, so make sure you review the agreement and disclosure before opening your checking account.
USAA's Classic Checking only offers a low APY of 0.01%, but its other perks and convenient access to more than 60,000 ATMs nationwide may make up for that. If you have to use another ATM, USAA refunds you up to $15 for those costs per month. Active military members can also arrange to get paid a day early if you set up direct deposit.
USAA's widespread corporate offices and financial centers and customer service options can help you manage your money. And with the USAA mobile app, you can also manage your insurance policies and more.
Best for Students : Chase Bank College Checking Account
With its Autosave option, coupled with no monthly service fees and a secure way to send money quickly, Chase Bank's College Checking account takes our top award for college students who can get an account with proof of student status.
No monthly service fees
$100 bonus for opening an account
No minimum deposit needed to open an account
$34 overdraft fee
No free checks
In addition to zero fees, Chase pays students $100 after making 10 qualifying transactions such as debit card purchases or direct deposits within 60 days of account opening. Students can also open an account without a minimum initial deposit.
While enrolled in college, Chase Chase College Checking waives your $6 monthly maintenance fee for up to five years. After college, you can have the fee waived by putting electronic deposits into your account. You can also waive the fee after college by keeping an average ending day balance of $5,000 or more in your checking account.
You must pay for checks with a Chase College Checking FDIC-insured account, but it comes with a VISA debit card. You'll also pay a $34 fee for overdrafts and $15 every five days when you have a negative balance. Using an ATM outside of the Chase network also costs $2.50 in fees in the U.S. and $5 internationally.
Chase banks exist nationwide in many regions and states and offer extensive ATM access—great for college students who leave for another region to go to school. Students can also manage their money, view accounts, pay bills and transfer or request money in minutes with Chase's mobile app.
Best for Seniors : Axos Bank Golden Checking
Axos Bank's Golden Checking account, which caters to those 55 and older, won our best for seniors category due to its discounts and perks for seniors.
No monthly service charge
No overdraft or nonsufficient fund fees
Free debit card
Requires $250 to open an account
Low APY at 0.10%
With Axos Bank’s Golden checking account, seniors can have an account with no fees and a high APY, along with peer-to-peer payments and high-tech biometric authentication for account protection and monitoring. The account's bill pay feature allows you to auto-pay bills directly from your account, and it comes with monthly domestic ATM fee reimbursements, free personal check options, and discounts to restaurants.
The FDIC-insured account takes just 15 minutes to activate. All you need is a valid ID and your social security number.
You'll need to watch out for a few additional fees, including:
- Excess transaction or withdrawal fee: $10
- Nonsufficient funds fee: $25
- Checks: $10
- Minimum balance to open an account: $250
The Axos mobile app allows you to check your account balances, transfer funds between eligible accounts, pay bills, view account transaction history, and contact customer service.
Axos Bank operates entirely online, without physical branches. However, customers can tap into a wide network of no-fee ATMs at over 90,000 locations in the U.S. If you prefer in-person help from a bank teller, Axos Bank might not be the right choice.
Best for Small Business : BlueVine Business Checking
BlueVine's business checking account offers unlimited transactions, live support, and no monthly fees, a $0 minimum deposit or balance, and no ATM fees at more than 38,000 MoneyPass locations nationwide, making it our choice as best for small businesses.
No hidden fees
1% APY on all balances up to $100,000
No savings account options
No physical branches
In addition to no hidden fees, you can earn interest on your BlueVine account balance at 1% APY. BlueVine Business Checking also lets you deposit cash and use checks, seamlessly moving between the two options on its mobile app. You also won't pay nonsufficient funds fees and can get two free checkbooks. All of these features streamline the checking account process for new business owners.
BlueVine does not require a minimum deposit to open an account, a perk for new small businesses just getting started. It does not charge any monthly fees or incoming wire fees. However, it does cost $4.95 per deposit at Green Dot retail locations, and outgoing wire transfers cost $15 per transfer.
You can get FDIC insurance for up to at least $250,000 on your checking account with BlueVine.
As an online-only business checking account, BlueVine does not offer physical branch access. However, it does provide access to a line of credit, term loan, and invoice factoring, catering to the needs of small business owners. You can keep track of it all through the BlueVine Business Banking App.
Best for Self-Employed : Lili Free Checking
We chose Lili as best for those who are self-employed because of its zero monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, no required opening deposit amount, and unlimited fee-free transactions.
Zero monthly fees
No minimum balance requirements
$0 deposit requirement
Limited to $6,000 in mobile check deposits
Must receive or transfer $200 per month to deposit checks
Lili's easy-to-use interface includes mobile check deposit, no monthly service charge, no minimum balance requirement, and fee-free ATM access, plus you won't need any money to open an account.
The Lili mobile app allows you to deposit your checks into your Lili account directly from the app. You can also deposit your cash at more than 90,000 retail locations. Its Tax Bucket savings feature lets you automatically set aside a percentage of your income for your taxes. You can also generate invoices through the app, manage your business' finance-related matters, and put together statements and reports.
If you overdraft, Lili requires you to submit sufficient funds from your linked Tax Bucket or external account to pay for it. Lili may suspend your account if you fail to do so.
Note that a Lili account comes with some spending and withdrawal limits. For instance, you may not withdraw more than $500 cash at an ATM or during a POS purchase. For purchases, you may not spend more than $3,000 on any calendar day or $15,000 on goods or services during any calendar month.
Lili doesn't have a monthly balance requirement, however, you can't earn interest on the account. Lili also offers fee-free ATM access at over 32,000 ATMs through the MoneyPass network.
There are many options for the best free checking accounts: Some free checking accounts offer no monthly fees, however, casting a wider net can uncover more perks such as high APY or no minimum deposit, which you’ll find with BlueVine Business Checking.
However, Axos Bank offers the best checking account on the market. Its high APY beats most savings and checking account interest rates and zero monthly maintenance fees, zero overdraft fees, and no balance requirements make it the best choice for those who use their debit cards frequently.
Compare the Best Free Checking Accounts
|Company||Minimum Deposit||APY||Fees||Monthly Balance Requirement||ATM Access (Nationwide/Select States)|
|Axos Bank Rewards Checking
|$50||Up to 1.25%||Excess transaction or withdrawal fee: $10 Nonsufficient funds fee: $25 Checks: $10 Minimum balance to open an account: $250||None||Wide network of no-fee ATMs at approximately 91,000 convenient locations across the nation|
|USAA Classic Checking
Best for Military Families and Veterans
|$25||0.01%||ATM service fee: First 10 transactions free, then $2 per withdrawal ATM surcharge rebate: up to $15 per statement cycle Foreign transaction fee: 1% of transaction amount ATM cash withdrawal: $600 Debit card cash advance: $1,000 Debit card signature-based purchase: $3,000 Debit card PIN-based purchase: $3,000 Nonsufficient funds fee: $29 Returned deposit item fee: $5||None||Access to more than 60,000 ATMs nationwide|
|Chase Bank College Checking Account
Best for Students
|$0||0%||Overdrafts: $34 Negative balance: $15 every five days ATM fees outside the network (domestic): $2.50 ATM fees internationally: $5||None||Nationwide banks with extensive ATM access|
|Axos Bank Golden Checking
Best for Seniors
|$250||0.10%||Excess transaction or withdrawal fee: $10 Nonsufficient funds fee: $25 Checks: $10||None||Wide network of no-fee ATMs at approximately 91,000 convenient locations across the nation|
|BlueVine Business Checking
Best for Small Business
|$0||1%||Cash deposits: $4.95 Outgoing wire transfers: $15||None||Fee-free access at MoneyPass ATMs with the BlueVine Business Debit Mastercard|
|Lili Free Checking
Best for Self-Employed
|$0||0%||None||None||Fee-free ATM access at over 32,000 ATMs through the MoneyPass network|
How to Choose the Best Free Checking Accounts
When you're researching the best free checking account, you may have specific requirements for your needs. Besides totally free checking, take a look at the following criteria before you make your decision:
- Hidden fees: Many banks and other financial institutions don't place their fees front and center. You may have to search for "truth in savings" disclosures on the financial institution's website to get a full picture of your costs and any hidden fees.
- ATM access: In the world of online banking, you don't always have access to a wide range of ATMs. However, with a checking account, you want to make sure you're not trapped without cash wherever you go. Check various financial institutions' ATM locations before selecting the best no-fee checking account for you.
- Mobile app ease of use: You should be able to flip easily between checking your savings account and your checking account on one financial institution's app. You may also want to look for a mobile app that offers other savings tools that can help you meet your goals.
- APY: Not all checking accounts offer APY, which is the amount of interest you earn over a single year. It also includes compound interest. The best free checking accounts offer a robust APY so you earn money by using your account.
- Free checks: Some financial institutions, such as Ally and Axos Bank, offer free checks. You probably won't make your free checking account decision based on this, but it might offer one piece of the puzzle to sway your decision.
- Overdraft protection: When you make transactions that exceed the amount in your bank account, that's an overdraft. Overdraft protection allows you to avoid overdraft fees when you don't have enough money in your account.
Free Checking Accounts vs. Traditional Checking Accounts
While free and traditional checking accounts have some similarities, there are a few differences. For example, traditional checking accounts usually offer the minimum: checks, a debit or ATM card, and online bill pay. You typically have access to a brick-and-mortar financial institution in connection with a traditional checking account, and they may come with fees or minimum balance requirements.
Free checking accounts are usually connected to an online-only bank. You rarely pay a monthly maintenance fee and few (if any) overdraft fees. Online banks typically charge less for miscellaneous fees because they don't have the same level of overhead that a traditional financial institution must pay for. There is also often no minimum balance requirement and a higher APY offered on the account.
Make sure you compare all fees and other costs before you make a final decision about which type of account to use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Free Checking Accounts Earn Interest?
Some free checking accounts earn interest. However, most offer lower interest rates than high-yield savings accounts and investment accounts. If you want to opt for a higher interest rate or savings yield, consider your short- and long-term goals and invest accordingly.
Are Free Checking Accounts Available Online?
You can find many online-only checking accounts available. Take a look at the pros and cons of each account so you can choose the right account for you. You may want to consider a free online checking account that offers no minimum balance requirements, no monthly fees, and earns interest. You may also want to check into the customer service experience at each financial institution before you make a decision.
Do Free Checking Accounts Save You Money?
Free checking accounts can save you money but check for potential fees. For example, a bank might not charge you a monthly fee, but it may charge you for not having enough money in your account, for outgoing wire transfers, overdrafts, ATM fees, and more.
Make sure you carefully read over and understand the full range of fees. Doing so will help you determine whether a free checking account will actually save you money.
To review free checking accounts, we compared dozens of fee-free accounts with few extraneous fees and low to no minimum deposit requirements. We also looked at checking accounts with additional perks and highly-rated mobile apps with state-of-the-art security features.
We also considered specific needs for college students, seniors, or small business owners. Lastly, we took a look at ATM availability, rate tiers, and other factors such as customer service to evaluate how each financial institution could best serve consumers.