An online checking account is an excellent choice for convenient, low-cost banking. With the dizzying number of options available, we’ve highlighted some of the best accounts that can help you manage your day-to-day finances online. These offerings keep fees to a minimum, they offer essential (and sometimes unique) features, and they protect your money with federally backed deposit insurance.
We surveyed more than 150 banks and credit unions with online checking accounts, and we’ve highlighted the following categories:
- Best Overall
- Best for Fees
- Best for Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
- Best for Rewards
- Best for ATM Access
- Best for Customer Service
- Best Bonus Offer
Best Online Checking Accounts
|Bank or Credit Union
||Why We Picked It||Monthly Fee||APY|
|Discover Bank||Best Overall, Best for ATM Access||None||0%|
|Ally Bank||Runner-Up||None||0.10% (under $15,000) to 0.50% (above $15,000)|
|nbkc Bank||Best for Fees||None||0.80%|
|Consumers Credit Union||Best for APY||None||Up to 4.09% (Capped at $10,000)|
|Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union||Best for Rewards||None||Up to 3.30% (Capped at $20,000)|
|Charles Schwab Bank||Best for Customer Service||None||0.03%|
|Chase Bank||Best Bonus Offer||$12, with waivers available||0%|
It’s hard to go wrong with Discover Bank’s Cashback Debit account. There’s no minimum initial deposit or ongoing balance requirement, and Discover charges no monthly fees in this account. Discover Bank keeps fees low overall, charging nothing for things like standard checks, expedited delivery of a replacement card, insufficient funds, and official bank checks.
If you’re a fan of rewards, Discover’s online checking account pays 1% cash back on qualifying debit card purchases up to $3,000 per month. If you maximize that reward, you can collect up to $360 per year.
Discover Bank’s live customer service line is available 24/7, so you can get help when you need it. Plus, with both the Allpoint and MoneyPass networks on board, more than 60,000 fee-free ATMs are available to customers nationwide. Finally, you can use the app for things like freezing your debit card and depositing paper checks. Given all of that, Discover is among the top three banks in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Direct Banking Satisfaction Study.
The Cashback Debit account does not pay interest, but it’s a checking account designed for everyday spending. If you want to earn interest on unused cash, look at Discover Bank’s online savings account, or browse our list of the best banks for savings accounts.
No fees for items other banks typically charge for
Unique debit card reward
No interest earnings
Ally Bank’s Interest Checking account is an easy-to-use account with no monthly maintenance charge. Ally Bank has been prominent in online banking for several years, giving the bank plenty of opportunity to enhance the offering. The checking account does not require any minimum deposit to open an account, you earn a small amount of interest on your balance, and standard checks are always free.
When you need help, Ally Bank has phone representatives available 24/7. Ally ranks well in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Direct Banking Satisfaction Study, and the bank’s mobile app also earned the top spot in our review of banking apps.
When it comes to ATM access, customers can use over 43,000 Allpoint ATMs fee-free. Ally Bank also rebates up to $10 in ATM charges you pay to other banks.
Excellent technology for a smooth user experience
Earn a small amount of interest
Basic account with no remarkable perks or rewards.
It’s not hard to find an online checking account with no monthly fees, but you might still pay charges for activity in your accounts. nbkc Bank keeps fees at a minimum and pays a competitive rate on your checking account balance.
At nbkc, you’ll find no monthly fee, no charge for returned (bounced) payments, no overdraft or insufficient funds fees, free stop payments, and free wire transfers. If you’re tired of getting nickel-and-dimed, this should get your attention. Plus, if you can’t find one of nbkc’s 32,000 free ATMs, the bank reimburses you for ATM fees that you pay to other banks (up to $12 per month). There’s no minimum deposit required, so this account is accessible to anybody.
If you prefer mobile banking, nbkc’s app allows you to deposit checks, set up alerts, and more.
Hard to pay fees in this account
Limited hours for customer service
Consumers Credit Union as of late July offered one of the highest rates currently available in a checking account. This is a “rewards” checking account, meaning you need to meet specific criteria to maximize your rate. But Consumers Credit Union has several reward tiers available, allowing you to earn a small amount of interest when you don’t meet all of the criteria—and earn the highest rate when you can check all the boxes. The rate applies to balances up to $10,000, and requirements include:
- 12 debit card purchases each month
- Electronic statements and communications
- Deposits of at least $500 per month, including mobile check deposits
- $1,000 or more of spending on your debit card
To open an account, you need to start with $5, but there’s no ongoing minimum balance requirement. There are no monthly fees, and anybody can join Consumers Credit Union. To become eligible, join the Consumers Cooperative Association with a $5 fee. As part of the CO-OP Shared Branch Networks, you have access to over 6,000 branches and 30,000 ATMs in the U.S.
Pays a remarkably high rate
Participates in CO-OP shared branching
Meeting monthly requirements may be a challenge
The Vertical Checking account at Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union is a rewards checking account. What makes it unique is that it pays a competitive rate on a relatively high balance—earn the maximum rate on up to $20,000. Many banks have lower caps. To earn the highest rate, you’ll need to complete the following:
- 15 monthly debit card purchases
- At least one direct deposit each month
- Enroll in electronic communications
- Log in to your account at least once per month
There’s no monthly fee or ongoing balance requirement in the Vertical Checking account, but you need to start with at least $25. If you’re not already eligible to join ETFCU as an employee, retiree, or relative of someone tied to the organizations in its field of membership, one way to join, for example, is to become a member of the Mater Dei Friends Alumni Association with a $5 donation. ETFCU offers access to almost 5,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide.
The ETFCU mobile app offers essential banking features like mobile deposit, and you can verify if you meet the monthly criteria required to earn the highest rate.
Up to $15 of ATM rebates per month
In-app rewards progress tracking
Relatively limited ATM network
Your checking account is the central hub of your day-to-day finances, so everything needs to work smoothly. When there are problems, they should be rare, and it must be easy to remedy whatever is wrong. With the top ranking in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Direct Banking Satisfaction Study, Charles Schwab Bank should be able to help you minimize service issues.
The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account has no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements. Also, there’s no ATM network to keep track of—Schwab provides unlimited ATM fee rebates. That applies to ATM fees inside the U.S. and worldwide, and Schwab does not charge a foreign transaction fee when you use your debit card abroad. Schwab’s app provides all of the features you’d expect, including mobile check deposit.
Generous ATM fee rebates
Excellent for global travel
Must also open a Schwab One brokerage account
While Chase Bank is a bricks-and-mortar bank, you can open and use the Total Checking account entirely online. Plus, you can get a $200 bonus if you meet certain criteria. While bigger bonuses might exist elsewhere, this offer is one of the most accessible offers nationwide.
The Total Checking account has a potential $12 monthly service fee. But you can get the fee waived by meeting one of the following criteria: direct deposit of at least $500 per month, $1,500 minimum daily balance, or at least $5,000 every day in qualifying Chase accounts. There is no minimum opening deposit required, but you’ll need to deposit funds to qualify for the bonus and avoid fees.
Chase Bank customers have access to 16,000 ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches. With the resources of a big bank, you can expect an online experience that mirrors the best online-only banks. With the mobile app, you can pay bills, deposit checks, lock your card, and more.
Broad brick-and-mortar footprint of branches available
Potential monthly fee
Benefits of Online Checking Accounts
Overall, choosing online banking, versus a bank with local or national branches, can deliver both positives and negatives:
- Open online or with an app—no branch visit required
- Many options with no monthly fees
- Select the features that matter most to you, regardless of your location
- Potential interest earnings and rewards that often beat national bank chains
- Extended customer service hours, at some banks
Drawbacks of Online Checking Accounts
- Potential outages and technical glitches (typically temporary)
- No in-person guidance or problem resolution
- Need to wait for mail transit when ordering official checks and money orders
- Cash deposits may be difficult or impossible
- Need to verify that you’re working with a legitimate institution
How Should You Choose an Account?
Your checking account is one of the financial accounts you’ll use most often, so it’s crucial to get the features you need. Look at how you spend and save money, and evaluate your current checking account to identify the things you like best (and least).
It doesn’t make sense to pay monthly fees in an online checking account. There are too many options with no monthly maintenance charges or easy-to-reach fee waivers. Also, consider how you use your account: Do you order official checks or overdraw your account occasionally? If so, look for banks and credit unions that can help you minimize costs as you use your account.
Choose a bank that can make your life easy. Every bank can make mistakes, but it’s best to avoid banks when the bad customer reviews outweigh the good ones. Plus, life occasionally brings surprises that require help from bank personnel. Review your options for customer service, such as live chat, secure messaging, and phone support. How easy is it to contact somebody, and is customer service available at times that are convenient for you?
Decide what’s most important in your next checking account, and verify that you can get what you need.
- ATM access: If you get cash or use ATMs regularly, research the ATM network to see if you can bank fee-free. Alternatively, look for banks with an ATM rebate schedule that prevents you from losing money to ATM fees each month.
- Interest earnings: Some online checking accounts pay interest on your balance. While that’s always nice, it probably shouldn’t be the primary factor in your decision. You can shift idle cash to a savings account to maximize your earnings, and doing so helps you avoid the temptation to spend all your cash.
- Rewards: Some people get enthusiastic about rewards, and, all other things being equal, it might make sense to choose a bank with rewards. But some rewards won’t make a substantial difference in your financial health ($360 per year from Discover isn’t going to make or break you). Other rewards, such as high interest rates, may require you to meet substantial hurdles—like using your debit card a minimum number of times each month.
- Other features: Most checking accounts allow you to deposit checks with a mobile device, but it’s critical to verify this if you ever receive checks. Likewise, you might decide that it’s important to have the ability to lock your debit card or use text messaging for quick account updates. Compare these details to find your ideal online bank after you narrow your list of candidates.
Additional Bank Offerings
As you compare checking accounts, take note of other offerings available at each bank. It might make life easy to have your checking account, savings account, and CDs at the same bank. That’s certainly not a requirement—it’s pretty easy to transfer funds from bank to bank online—but one-stop shopping helps minimize passwords and recordkeeping.
How We Chose the Best Accounts
We started with a universe of over 150 online checking accounts available to customers nationwide. From there, we focused on the best offerings. Low fees (or a somewhat attainable fee waiver) are a must, and we favored banks that are most likely to make your day-to-day banking experience satisfying.
Because a checking account is primarily an account used to make payments (as opposed to a high-yield account), interest paid on your balance is not a primary factor—except in those categories that focus on earnings. Instead, we selected banks that make it easy to pay bills, make purchases online and in person, and manage your account online.
Ultimately, the goal of this list is to highlight high-quality offerings that don’t include “gotchas” like surprise fees or teasers that deliver less than they promise.