Best Rewards Checking Accounts

Discover Cash Back Debit is the best rewards checking account

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Rewards checking accounts provide many benefits. Some give cash back on debit card purchases while others feature high annual percentage yields (APYs) or the amount an account can earn in compounding interest over a year. Some also offer sign-up bonuses and don't charge monthly fees. 

The best checking account rewards programs make it easy for customers to earn cash back, interest, and other bonuses. They don't charge monthly maintenance fees or have minimum balance requirements. They also provide quality customer support and comprehensive online banking options. Read on for our list of the best rewards checking accounts.

Best Rewards Checking Accounts of 2021

Best Overall : Discover Cashback Debit


Discover

Discover

  • Minimum Opening Deposit: $0
  • Rewards: Up to $360 cash back per year
  • Fees: No monthly service fees
Why We Chose It

Discover Cash Back Debit offers up to $360 a year in cash back on debit purchases and a host of fee-free services, earning it our top spot overall. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases

  • No monthly maintenance or insufficient funds fees

  • No minimum balance requirements

Cons
  • 0% APY

  • Only one branch location

  • No out-of-network ATM reimbursement

Overview

Discover Cash Back Debit offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month. There are no monthly maintenance or insufficient funds fees and no minimum balance or activity requirements. Unlike many of its competitors, Discover doesn't charge Cash Back Debit customers for checks or check reorders.

Discover has a network of 60,000 ATMs, which you can locate using the company's popular mobile app. However, Discover doesn't reimburse out-of-network ATM fees. If your debit card is lost or stolen, you can place a freeze on it, preventing fraudulent purchases or ATM transactions. You can also use Zelle to send and receive payments free of charge. 

Because there are no minimum balance requirements, you can sign up for a Discover Cash Back Debit account without making an initial deposit. Although Discover doesn't have branches like typical banks, customers can complete most banking tasks online. Discover's customer service representatives are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. In 2019, the company took third place in J.D. Power's Credit Card Satisfaction Study.

Read the full Discover Bank review.

Best for Low Minimum Balances : TD Convenience Checking


TD Bank

TD Bank

  • Minimum Opening Deposit: $0
  • Rewards: $150 sign-up bonus
  • Fees: $15 monthly fee, $35 overdraft fee, and $35 non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee
Why We Chose It

TD Bank Convenience Checking offers a sign-up bonus that's relatively easy for individuals with low balances to obtain and no minimum balance if you meet specific requirements. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • $150 sign-up bonus

  • Fee waivers for 17- to 23-year-olds

Cons
  • 0% APY

  • No out-of-network ATM reimbursements

Overview

As of May 2021, TD Bank was offering customers who sign up for its TD Convenience Checking account a $150 bonus. While other accounts offer larger sign-up bonuses, TD Convenience Checking's bonus requirements are easier to meet than most. To earn your bonus, you need to receive $500 in direct deposits within 60 days of opening an account. 

A TD Convenience Checking account is a good option for young adults with low balances. Although TD Bank has a $15 monthly maintenance fee, it waives this fee for individuals between the ages of 17 and 23. TD Bank also waives the fee for customers who maintain a minimum daily balance of just $100. 

Many rewards checking accounts have no minimum balance requirement. However, they often require customers to make several debit card purchases per month and maintain high balances to earn rewards. Individuals with low balances may find TD Convenience Checking's bonus requirements easier to meet.

TD Bank offers its TD Convenience Checking account customers several fee-free services, including free online banking transfers and the ability to send and receive money using Zelle. However, it charges for other services, such as check orders and paper statements. Customers can manage their accounts from a web browser or using TD Bank's mobile app. TD Bank also has 12,000 stores and 700 ATMs in 16 states across the eastern U.S.

Read the full TD Bank review.

Best for Low Monthly Fee : Axos Rewards Checking


Axos Bank

Axos Bank

  • Minimum Opening Deposit: $50
  • Rewards: Up to 1.25% APY
  • Fees: No monthly maintenance, overdraft, or insufficient funds fees
Why We Chose It

Axos Bank's Rewards Checking account offers a high APY and no monthly maintenance, overdraft, or insufficient funds fees. It's an excellent choice for those seeking a low- or no-fee rewards checking account.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • High APY

  • Unlimited ATM reimbursements

Cons
  • Requirements to qualify for 1.25% APY

  • Only two branches

Overview

Axos Bank's interest checking account features an APY that's well above the national average for savings accounts, which usually earn more interest than checking accounts. However, you'll need to meet several requirements to earn 1.25% APY.

Axos's interest rates are tiered, so your money earns progressively more interest as you meet the requirements. If you receive monthly direct deposits of $1,000 or more, you earn 0.42% APY. Use your Axos Visa Debit Card for a total of 10 qualifying purchases a month, and you earn an additional 0.42% APY. By completing five more transactions per month, you can earn a total APY of 1.25%. 

With an Axos Bank Rewards Checking account, you won't be charged overdraft or monthly maintenance fees. While Axos only has two branches, you can deposit checks, check your account balance, and more using Axos' highly-rated online app. Customer service is available 24-hours a day by phone, email, and virtual chat.

Read the full Axos Bank review.

Best Account Features : LendingClub Rewards Checking


LendingClub

LendingClub

  • Minimum Opening Deposit: $100
  • Rewards: Unlimited 1%+ cash back on qualifying transactions
  • Fees: No monthly maintenance fee; $25.00 per item NSF fee 
Why We Chose It

LendingClub is one of the few rewards checking accounts that offers both a high APY and cash back on debit card purchases, earning it our spot for the rewards checking account with the best features. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Unlimited 1%+ cash back on debit card purchases

  • 0.10% to 0.15% APY

  • No minimum balance requirement

Cons
  • Rewards only if you meet certain conditions

  • Few branches

Overview

Like Discover's Cash Back Debit account, a LendingClub Rewards Checking account provides 1% cash back on debit card purchases. However, unlike Discover, LendingClub doesn't cap the amount of interest you can earn, provided you meet certain requirements. 

To earn 1% cash back on online or signature-based debit card transactions, you'll need to maintain an average balance of $2,500 or more a month, or receive $2,500 in direct deposits per month. Until June 20, 2021, customers can earn an additional 0.50% cash back on purchases at retailers in select categories, including sporting goods stores, health and beauty shops, and pay-TV services.

LendingClub offers an APY of 0.10% on Rewards Checking accounts with at least $2,500 (as of May 2021). Accounts with $100,000 or more earn 0.15% interest. Few other rewards checking accounts offer both cash back and earned interest.

Account holders can use the LendingClub mobile app to do their banking online. Customer service is available by phone, email, and online chat every day of the week. Customers can also reach LendingClub representatives through social media. 

Best Online Banking Experience : Schwab High Yield Investor Checking


Charles Schwab Logo

Charles Schwab Logo

  • Minimum Opening Deposit: $0
  • Rewards: 0.03% APY
  • Fees: No monthly fee; $25 per item insufficient funds fee (max $100 per day)
Why We Chose It

Schwab's High Yield Investor Checking account features online tools to make saving and investing easier.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Linked to a Schwab One brokerage account

  • Extensive mobile app features

  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements worldwide

Cons
  • Lower APY than other accounts

  • Most useful for those who invest with Schwab

Overview

When you sign up for a High Yield Investor Checking account with Schwab, your account is automatically linked to a Schwab One brokerage account with no minimum balance. Transfers between the two accounts are free, and you can manage both using Schwab's highly-rated mobile app.

While Schwab's High Yield Investor Checking Account is best for investors, anyone can take advantage of the account's many benefits, including an above-average APY, no monthly fees, and no minimum balance requirement. The account is great for international travelers, as there are no foreign transaction fees and ATM fees are reimbursed worldwide. 

With Schwab's mobile app, you can view your account information, make deposits, pay bills, and transfer funds. You can also lock or unlock your card, add banking and transaction alerts, and let Schwab know about upcoming travel plans, all from the app.

Schwab's customer service boasts a 4.7 out of five-star rating on its website. Customer support is available by phone most hours of the day and 24/7 via online chat.

Read the full Charles Schwab Bank review.

Best for Second Chance Checking : Varo


Varo Money
  • Minimum Opening Deposit: $0
  • Rewards: 0.15% cash back on select purchases
  • Fees: No minimum balance or monthly maintenance fees 
Why We Chose It

Varo customers can earn rewards while improving their credit, making Varo's bank sccount the best second-chance rewards checking account available.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Doesn’t screen applicants based on banking history

  • Varo Believe Program helps build credit

  • No minimum balance requirement

Cons
  • Savings account required to earn interest

  • No branches

  • Cash deposits only through third-party retailers

Overview

Many banks deny applicants due to past financial behavior. If you've bounced checks, overdrawn your accounts, or failed to pay fees, a second-chance checking account like Varo's could help you restore your banking record. Unlike most banks, Varo does not use ChexSystems or any other consumer reporting agency to screen applicants. 

Varo Bank Account customers are eligible for low-cost cash advances and have access to 55,000 fee-free Allpoint ATMs nationwide. Through June 31, 2021, customers can also earn 15% cash back on select purchases and services. Customers who sign up for a bank account and savings account together can earn as much as 3.00% APY on their savings.

As a Varo bank account customer, you can participate in the Varo Believe Program. If you meet specific requirements, Varo will provide you with a line of credit and help you save funds to pay off your debt each month. Varo will then report your successful payments to the three major credit bureaus to help improve your credit score. 

Although Varo doesn't have physical branches, you can deposit, withdraw, or transfer money and make payments online using Varo's highly-rated mobile app. You do not need to make an initial deposit when opening an account.

Final Verdict

There are many checking account rewards programs with impressive benefits. Axos, LendingClub, Schwab, and Varo offer accounts with high APYs, and TD Bank offers new Convenience Checking account customers an attractive sign-up bonus. But overall, the best rewards checking account is Discover Cash Back Debit which lets you earn 1% cash back on debit card purchases of up to $3,000 per month. There is no minimum balance requirement to earn rewards, and customers do not need to complete a specific number of transactions to be eligible. Discover Cash Back Debit offers more fee-free services than many other checking accounts, and its customer service and mobile banking app are both highly rated. 

Compare the Best Rewards Checking Accounts

Company Rewards Minimum Opening Deposit Fees Minimum Daily Balance
Discover Cash Back Debit
Best Overall
Up to $360 cash back per year $0 No monthly maintenance or NSF fees $0
TD Convenience Checking 
Best for Low Minimum Balances 
$150 sign-up bonus  $0  $15 monthly fee; $35 overdraft fee; $35 NSF fee $0 for 17- to 23- year-olds; $100 for 24+ 
Axos Rewards Checking
Best for Low Monthly Fee 
Up to 1.25% APY  $50  No monthly maintenance, overdraft, or NSF fees  $0
LendingClub Rewards Checking
Best Account Features 
Unlimited 1%+ cash back on debit purchases;   0.10-0.15% APY  $100  No monthly fee; $25.00 per item NSF fee $0 
Schwab High Yield Investor Checking
Best Online Banking Experience 
0.03% APY  $0  No monthly fee; $25 per item NSF fee (max $100 per day)  $0 
Varo
Best for Second Chance Checking 
0.15% cash back on select purchases  $0  No minimum balance or maintenance fees  $0 

How to Choose the Best Rewards Checking Accounts

When choosing a rewards checking account, determine which type of reward will offer you the best financial return. If you expect to maintain a low balance, you may benefit most from an account that offers a sign-up bonus or cash back on debit card purchases. If you plan to keep several thousand dollars in your account, you may earn more by signing up for a high-interest checking account.

Don't choose a rewards checking account with requirements you aren't able to meet. Avoid accounts with monthly maintenance and other fees unless the bank will waive them for you. Finally, if you prefer to do your banking in person, consider choosing an account offered by a bank with branches in your region. 

Rewards Checking Accounts vs. Standard Checking Accounts

Rewards checking accounts differ from standard checking accounts in the amount of interest they earn, opportunities for cash back, and fees. 

Financial institutions offer standard checking accounts as a place for consumers to keep cash available for everyday purchases. They do not earn interest because consumers typically spend the money in these accounts quickly. Savings accounts, on the other hand, are interest-bearing accounts. The money you put into your savings account earns interest over time.

Like savings accounts, high yield checking accounts earn interest. Some offer higher APYs than most savings accounts. The catch is that account holders usually need to meet specific requirements to earn the advertised rate. However, not all rewards checking accounts earn interest. Instead, some offer cash back on debit card purchases, while others award bonuses to new customers.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, consumers pay an average of $9.87 a month, or $118 annually, in checking account fees. Some interest-bearing checking accounts charge higher-than-average fees. However, many rewards checking accounts do not charge monthly maintenance or insufficient funds fees.

Type of Account Interest  Cash Back Fees 
Rewards Checking Account High APYs if requirements are met Cash back for qualifying debit card purchases No monthly fee; other fees may apply
Standard Checking Account  Traditionally do not earn interest  No cash back  Monthly maintenance and other fees 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does a Rewards Checking Account Work?

Some rewards checking accounts award customers with cash back on qualifying debit card purchases. Others feature high APYs, rewarding customers with a return on their balance. Typically, account holders must meet specific requirements to earn rewards. These may include making a certain number of debit card purchases per month, maintaining a minimum balance, and signing up for online banking. 

Are Rewards Checking Accounts Worth It? 

A rewards checking account may not be the best option for everyone. For example, if the funds in your account are low, you may not qualify for the high APYs some rewards checking accounts offer to customers with high balances. Also, some cash back credit cards offer better financial returns than rewards checking accounts.

However, rewards checking accounts provide many benefits. If you make frequent debit card purchases, maintain a high daily balance, and are willing to meet other requirements, a rewards checking account could help you earn money on every dollar you spend or add to your account.

How Do You Qualify for a Rewards Checking Account? 

To sign up for a rewards checking account, you will typically need a social security number and a government-issued ID card. Some banking institutions use a consumer reporting agency, such as ChexSystems, to screen applicants. However, second-chance checking accounts, such as Varo's, do not.

Account holders are typically required to meet specific requirements to earn rewards. These may include maintaining a minimum daily balance, making a specific number of debit card purchases per month, and signing up for e-statements. 

Methodology

In developing our list, we reviewed 20 rewards checking accounts, looking for those that offer high APYs, cash back on purchases, sign-up bonuses, and other benefits. In ranking them, we considered the total dollar amount of the rewards on offer, reward requirements, and account fees.

We also reviewed what customers have to say about these accounts and chose accounts with high customer satisfaction rates and quality customer support services. Several of the institutions on our list have few physical branches, so we also considered the quality of their online banking interfaces and mobile apps.

Article Sources

  1. J.D. Power. "In Direct Bank Gold Rush, Top Performers Find Different Paths to Success, J.D. Power Finds." Accessed May 25, 2021.  

  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Data Point: Checking Account Overdraft (pg. 9)." Accessed May 25, 2021.  

  3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Should I Get a Checking Account that Pays Interest?" Accessed May 25, 2021.