Where to Find Checking Accounts With No Fees

Free Checking Is Not Dead

Young man writing check on counter of bank
••• Jason Dewey / Getty Images

Free checking used to be a given. Banks traditionally offered fee-free accounts as a way to get customers in the door. Sure, they lost a few bucks on those accounts, but they more than made up for it with other products and services. Now, it seems like checking accounts with no fees are drying up—or at least getting harder to qualify for.

Free checking still exists, and you just need to know where to look. You can typically get free accounts through:

  1. Online banks
  2. Local banks and credit unions
  3. Fee waivers at large and small banks

Online Banks

Internet bank accounts have consistently offered services over the years for free. These banks are continuing that tradition by offering checking accounts with no monthly fees. Some accounts even pay a small amount of interest on the cash you keep in your account. That doesn’t happen with most brick-and-mortar banking institutions. 

Online banks are especially attractive if you can’t qualify for fee waivers at traditional banks. Most online bank accounts are truly free (whether you have $1 or $10,000).

Ideas for online banks: If you need a suggestion for an internet checking account with no fees, start with the banks below or choose from our list of banks:

Tips for banking online: Working with an online bank may be different from what you’re used to. You can’t walk into a local branch to get a cashier’s check, and moving may take several days. However, it’s easy to do business with these banks. Just make sure you have an account at a brick-and-mortar institution (perhaps a savings account with no fees), and that that account is linked to your online bank account so you can transfer money back and forth electronically. To deposit money into your account, set up direct deposit with your employer, and use the bank’s remote check deposit tool, if available.

Small Banks and Credit Unions

If you’re not comfortable banking online, small banks and credit unions are another excellent option for checking accounts without fees. These institutions were not affected by the financial crisis in the same way that larger banks were, and they’re often willing to provide free checking as a way to build new relationships. To find out about these banks, it’s best to look through local publications and ask people in your community who they recommend. 

Here are several ways to use brick-and-mortar banks with free checking:

  1. Don’t ignore local banks and credit unions.
  2. Chase Bank is a national name with fee waivers available.
  3. Alliant Credit Union has free checking and participates in a national shared branch network.

To find a local bank, check the print or online version of local magazines, newspapers, and other publications. Also, keep an eye out as you travel around town.

New to credit unions? If you’ve never used a credit union before, you need to find one that you’re eligible to join as a “member.” Don’t worry—it’s not that hard to qualify. You may be able to join a credit union simply based on where you work, where you live, or other characteristics. Besides that, credit unions are similar to banks in terms of the products and services available. Just be sure to research any credit union’s offerings before you join to make sure they have what you need.

Credit unions are unique because some of them participate in a national shared branching system. If your credit union is part of that network, you can visit branches of other credit unions for deposits, loan payments, withdrawals, and more (for free).

Dodge Fees When Banks Charge Them

In some cases, it looks like banks charge fees for a checking account—but you can dodge the fee by qualifying for a waiver. To be eligible for fee-free checking, banks might require you to meet specific criteria. Many people can satisfy the requirement by setting up direct deposit with their employer, but you might also qualify with other types of transfers or by keeping a modest amount in that bank.

As you compare checking accounts, look for fee waivers or sections about “how to avoid the monthly fee,” where you can learn about the requirements.

Too Good to Last?

You may wonder if it’s worth switching banks to get a checking account with no fees. If free checking is going extinct, you’ll waste time doing the legwork for a benefit that won’t last. The truth is that checking is changing, but free accounts will be around for a while. 

Banks have plenty of ways to make money. For example, your bank may earn revenue every time you swipe your debit or credit card at a retailer. Plus, they typically lend out money in your checking account, earning interest on those funds from borrowers. So don’t worry—you’re not running your bank into the ground by using a free checking account.