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The best checking accounts have low fees, wide ATM availability and great digital experiences. MagnifyMoney, an independent service that reviews bank accounts and other financial products, compiled a list of the best available checking accounts for these and other features that matter most to customers. Using our distinct methodology, our selection for the best overall checking account is Alliant Credit Union High Rate Checking.
*with account activity requirements
Why we picked it: The Alliant High Rate Checking account is a great all-around checking account with most of the features a checking customer could want. The credit union pays interest on all balances, offers access to a wide ATM network (with $20 in ATM fee reimbursements each month) and has no overdraft fees, minimum balance requirements or maintenance fees. You’ll need to opt in for eStatements and receive one monthly electronic deposit in order to earn that 0.25% APY — and that rate applies to all balances.
As a credit union, Alliant requires you to apply for membership in order to be able to open an account, but anyone can join with a donation to Foster Care to Success (Alliant will pay the one-time $5 membership fee on your behalf). The High Rate Checking account is truly free to open, with no membership fees or minimum balance requirements.
Alliant has a user-friendly mobile application, but it does not have any physical branches. If you know you want in-person banking services, you’ll want to open an account with a different financial institution. But, if you don’t need to bank in person, Alliant High Rate Checking is a strong choice for a new checking account.
*with account activity requirements
Why we picked it: La Capitol FCU Choice Checking currently offers the highest interest rate for checking accounts, as long as members enroll in eStatements and make 15 non-ATM, debit card purchases during the statement period. For balances over $3,000 and up to but not exceeding $10,000, members who meet the monthly requirement will earn 2.00% APY. If qualification is not met, APY drops to 0.10% on the entire balance.
To waive the $8 monthly service charge, members must keep a $1,000 daily balance or make the 15 non-ATM debit card transactions. The $2 monthly service charge for paper statements is also waived when enrolled in eStatements.
La Capitol participates in the CO-OP Share Branching Network, which has 5,000 shared branches and serves more than 700 credit unions. Access their ATM and branch locator here. While this bank has a nationwide footprint, they encourage members to use the bank’s 24/7 online banking tools, including mobile remote deposit, Pay-a-Friend, CardSwap and a mobile banking app rated 4.6 stars.
To become a member of La Capitol Federal Credit Union, you must either be associated with a designated Baton Rouge community parish, attend one of the schools on their list, be related to an existing La Capitol FCU member, join the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement (ACHIEVE) or work for one of the credit union’s select employee groups.
Why we picked it: Among banks that offer cash back on debit card purchases, Quontic has the highest potential reward amount for its Cash Rewards Checking account. You can earn 1.50% on point of sale debit transactions, and your cash back reward is paid and deposited into the checking account at the beginning of each new statement cycle. Other notable rewards checking accounts tend to cap the rewards you can earn, but Quontic doesn’t.
Quontic is an online bank. While it does have broad ATM access (through a long list of partner retailers and ATM networks), there’s no in-person banking. Other options at Quontic include its High Interest Checking account (pays a solid interest rate with required account activity) and Bitcoin Rewards Checking account (works similarly to Cash Rewards Checking, but pays its rewards in cryptocurrency).
Why we picked it: While the Discover Checking account isn’t specifically for students, it has several features that appeal to younger consumers. There are no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, and even though Discover is an online-only bank, it has a decent number of in-network ATMs through the Allpoint and MoneyPass Networks and it allows accountholders to earn cash back on debit purchases — 1.0% on the first $3,000 spent each month.
Beyond those features, Discover integrates with Zelle for fast cash transfers and allows you to freeze lost debit cards from the mobile app. The Discover Checking account also doesn’t charge overdraft fees, which can be a big advantage for students on a tight budget. Discover’s mobile app is also highly rated and includes plenty of features related to managing your checking account.
Why we picked it: Axos Bank is an online financial services company with Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)-insured deposit accounts, including three checking accounts:
Few banks offer an ATM network as extensive as Axos Bank’s: there are over 90,000 in-network ATMs through numerous businesses and other banks, and Axos also offers unlimited ATM fee reimbursements for out-of-network ATM use. All three Axos checking accounts essentially offer free, unlimited use of any ATM.
Why we picked it: Navy Federal Credit Union has over 11 million members, a large network of physical branches and several financial services for its membership base, which includes active duty military members, veterans and their families. It’s the largest credit union in the United States, with over twice the assets as the next-biggest credit union. It’s a strong choice for anyone with a connection to the military — and you can’t join unless you have that connection.
Navy Federal Credit Union offers several checking accounts, including:
As long as you maintain an average daily balance of $1,500, the Flagship Checking account waives the monthly service fee of $10 and pays a solid interest rate of up to 0.45% APY. If you might not be able to reach that average daily balance of $1,500, there are other Navy Federal accounts that don’t require a minimum balance to avoid fees.
Read our Navy Federal Credit Union review.
Why we picked it: Ally Bank offers a solid all-around Interest Checking account: there are no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, the bank pays 0.25% APY on balances of $15,000 or more and 0.10% on balances under that amount and there’s overdraft coverage. While Ally doesn’t have physical branches, there are over 43,000 in-network ATMs and modest ATM reimbursements for Interest Checking.
The account truly stands out in how well it limits fees. There are no maintenance fees, overdraft fees, incoming wire transfers, expedited ACH transfers, checks or fees for low balances. While there are some standard fees (like those for outgoing wire transfers or returned deposit items), most customers won’t have to pay any fees with Ally.
One drawback to the Ally Interest Checking account is that there’s no way to deposit cash through the bank, so another low-fee account may be better if you know you’ll need to make cash deposits.
Read our Ally Bank review.
Every checking account provides the same basic service: it’s a place where you can store your money and access it whenever you need to. But no two checking accounts or financial institutions are exactly the same, and there can be some important differentiators when deciding which account is right for you. Here are some of the most important things to consider:
Checking accounts can sometimes include fees. Some financial institutions may have a monthly maintenance fee for their checking accounts — although there are often ways to waive that fee, usually by meeting a minimum average daily balance or monthly deposit requirement.
Beyond those fees, checking customers can run into other situations where they’re charged a fee. While some banks reimburse out-of-network ATM fees, not all do, and those transactions tend to cost a few dollars each. Likewise, while some banks provide overdraft protection in case you try to withdraw or spend more money than you have in the account, not all do — and those insufficient funds fees tend to be more expensive.
Beyond those, there are other fees for miscellaneous things: wire transfers, replacement cards, stop payment orders, returned deposit items, money orders, cashier’s checks, and some international transactions. Banks are legally required to publish fee schedules with all information on potential customer fees.
|Account||Category||APY||Minimum balance to open||Monthly fee|
|Alliant Credit Union High Interest Checking||Best overall||0.25% on all balances*||None||None|
|La Capitol FCU Choice Checking||Best for interest rates||4.25% on all balances up to $3,000||$50||$10 (can be waived)|
|Quontic Bank Cash Rewards||Best for cash rewards||None (1.5% cash back)||$100||None|
|Discover Checking||Best for students||None (1.0% cash back)||None||None|
|Axos Bank Essential Checking||Best for ATM use||None||None||None|
|Navy Federal Credit Union Flagship Checking||Best for military families||0.35% on balances under $10,000; 0.40% on balances $10,000 and over but under $25,000; 0.45% on balances of at least $25,000||None||$10 (can be waived)|
|Ally Bank Interest Checking||Best for low fees||0.10% on balances less than $15,000, 0.25% on balances of $15,000 or more||None||None|
Using information from DepositAccounts, financial institution websites and other sources, MagnifyMoney reviewed hundreds of accounts to compile a list of the best checking accounts for particular categories. All of these accounts must be nationally available and have deposit insurance through the Federal Deposit Insurance Committee (FDIC) or National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
While the relevant criteria for selection as best of a particular category holds the most weight, we also considered other features when selecting our accounts. We ranked higher those with:
A checking account is a deposit account offered by banks and credit unions that allows you to complete everyday transactions like debit card purchases, cash withdrawals and direct deposits.
Most financial institutions allow you to open a checking account online or in a physical branch by applying for one with any required documentation and potential funding for an account.
You’ll typically need some government-issued identification like a driver’s license or a passport, your Social Security number, a required opening deposit and any other documentation a financial institution asks for as part of the account opening process.
It depends on the account. Some accounts don’t require an opening deposit, but you’ll need to provide money to open a checking account if there is a required deposit.