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Updated on Wednesday, October 13, 2021
The best checking accounts can provide a competitive interest rate, ATM fee reimbursements and even cashback rewards. If your current account doesn’t offer any of these features, it may be time to switch.
Why trust us?
At MagnifyMoney, it’s our mission to inform our readers about the best financial opportunities out there. Our insights have been cited by top financial publications including MarketWatch, CNBC and the Wall Street Journal.
Our dedicated team of financial experts spent dozens of hours grading each checking account on its features, including fees, minimum balance requirements, ATM and branch network availability, APYs and customer satisfaction. We distilled our picks from a list that included hundreds of banks, credit unions and online institutions nationwide.
We ensure our list is updated every month as new banks are added to our database, and we update information as banks change their terms. Check out our best checking account picks for October 2021 and click on the links in the table below to read about why we picked each one.
Best checking accounts of October 2021
Best overall checking account: Paramount Bank Interest Checking
|Why we picked it: Paramount Bank offers a standout APY on its Interest Checking Account. Balances up to $99,999.99 earn 0.30% APY, while balances of $100,000.00 or more earn an APY of 0.10%, which is still above-average in the current rate environment.|
Beyond its impressive rates, Paramount’s Interest Checking is also notable for not charging ATM fees — plus, Paramount will refund up to 20 third-party ATM fees per month. The account comes with a free Visa Debit Card, and you can manage your account using the Paramount Bank app, as well as through a limited number of branch locations throughout the country.
What to watch out for: You’ll need to make a deposit of at least $100 to open the account. In addition, there’s a monthly fee, though it’s only $3 and is waivable by maintaining an account balance of just $1.
How we picked our best overall checking account: Our pick for best overall checking account had to have the characteristics that we favored for any checking account that made this list: a competitive APY, low or no minimum balance requirements and minimal monthly service fees or ATM fees (or ATM fee reimbursements). To be considered for the best overall checking account, however, an account had to check off these more specific, stringent requirements:
Best high-yield checking account: Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking
|Why we picked it: Consumers Credit Union has routinely offered sky-high rates, even in a plummeting rate environment, earning this account the title of best high-yield checking account.|
While this is a tiered rate account, the lower tiers — which can be earned with fewer requirements — still offer attractive rates that are well above those offered by other banks and credit unions.
You can earn up to 4.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you spend $1,000 or more in CCU credit card purchases each month, receive eDocuments, make at least 12 debit card purchases each month and have deposits (direct deposits mobile check, or ACH) of $4,500 or more monthly; you can earn 3.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you spend at least $500. If you do not meet the CCU credit card purchases requirement, you can still earn 2.09% APY.
What to watch out for: While balances between $10,000 and $25,000 — regardless of your tier — earn an APY of 0.20%, it’s worth noting that balances over $25,000 earn an APY of just 0.10%.
In addition, if you don’t meet the monthly activity requirements, which include a debit transaction minimum or credit card payments, you’ll earn an APY of just 0.01% and won’t receive ATM refunds. The account also has an overdraft fee of $35.
Best free checking account: Axos Bank Rewards Checking
|Why we picked it: We’ve crowned the Axos Bank Rewards Checking account as the best free checking account not only for its attractive features, but also for its consistency.|
The Axos Bank Rewards Checking account has consistently offered competitive APYs — even as earning rates drop at other banks. This account also offers all of the bells and whistles that the best standard checking accounts are known to include, like ATM fee reimbursements and no overdraft fees.
What to watch out for: The Axos Bank Rewards Checking account is a tiered, interest-earning variable rate account. So, in order to earn the 1.00% APY, you must meet the following requirements:
Realistically, the highest APY earned by most consumers will be 0.70% because of the direct deposits and debit card transactions. But Axos does incentivize using their other banking products with their Rewards Checking interest rates.
If you don’t meet those requirements, you’ll receive a reduced APY from what’s advertised. There’s also a $50 minimum balance required to open this account.
Best no-fee checking account: Discover Cashback Debit
|Why we picked it: The Discover Cashback Debit checking account has no monthly maintenance fees, no insufficient funds fees and access to over 60,000 ATMs.|
As the icing on the cake, this account offers 1% cash back on all debit card purchases, up to $3,000 per month. This is a unique perk among checking accounts, and if you prefer cash back to earning interest, this could be the account for you.
What to watch out for: There aren’t too many surprises with this account — just be aware that fees for non-Discover ATMs may apply.
Best checking account bonus: HSBC Premier Checking
|Why we picked it: HSBC is currently offering up to a $450 welcome bonus for those who open a new Premier Checking account by January 5, 2022. In order to earn the bonus, you must set up qualifying direct deposits into your Premier Checking account and make recurring deposits totaling at least $5,000 per month for three months. You also must be a new HSBC customer to take advantage of this offer, and fund your new account with new money.|
What to watch out for: The Premier Checking account earns 0.01% APY on balances of $5 or more. It also charges a hefty $50 monthly fee.
Best rewards checking account: Radius Bank Rewards Checking
|Why we picked it: Radius Bank’s Rewards Checking account features a robust rewards program that offers up to 1.00% cash back on debit card purchases, as well as a decent APY on the funds in your account. There’s a minimum $100 opening deposit required for this account.|
This account also stands out for its unlimited ATM fee rebates and early direct deposit feature, as well as having no fees.
What to watch out for: To earn the cash back, you must maintain a minimum balance of at least $2,500.
Best no-ATM fee checking account: TD Bank Beyond Checking
|Why we picked it: TD Bank’s Beyond Checking account is a great option for those who prioritize fee-free access to ATMs.|
With this account, not only do you receive fee-free ATM access to TD Bank’s network of ATMS, but if you maintain a minimum daily balance of at least $2,500, TD Bank will reimburse you for any fees incurred at out-of-network ATMs.
What to watch out for: Be aware of the low APY offered, and note that there’s also a $35 overdraft fee associated with this account. You can waive the $25 maintenance fee with $5,000 in direct deposits per statement cycle, a $2,500 minimum daily balance or $25,000 in combined balance across TD Bank accounts.
Best business checking account: Axos Bank Business Interest Checking
|Why we picked it: Axos Bank’s Business Interest Checking account stands out among other business checking account products for a myriad of reasons, most notably its surprisingly low fees.|
In addition, Axos Bank throws in a number of freebies with its Business Interest Checking account, from ATM fee reimbursements to free checks, making it our pick for the best business checking account.
What to watch out for: Transactions are $0.50 each after the first 50, and there’s a $100 minimum opening deposit required for this account. Balances of $50,000 or above are subject to lower APYs. The APY may be lower if the average daily minimum balance is less than $5,000.
Best checking account for students: Chase College Checking
|Why we picked it: The Chase College Checking account is a great option for students, as it waives its monthly service fee for those between the ages of 17 and 24 who have proof of a student status, for up to five years while in college.|
With widespread ATM access, the ability to pay friends with QuickPay or Zelle and a robust mobile app, this account checks all the boxes for college students.
What to watch out for: For this account, you’ll need to show proof of student status. There’s also a $2.50 non-Chase ATM fee and $34 overdraft fee associated with this account.
Best joint checking account – PNC Virtual Wallet
|Why we picked it. The PNC Virtual Wallet is a standout checking account that supports joint ownership. This account comes with a plethora of budgeting tools that can help couples manage their money more effectively, such as the ability to create budgets for different spending categories and set up alerts for certain account activities. This account also has $0 monthly maintenance fee if you have a minimum of $500 in monthly direct deposits, or if you maintain a monthly balance of $500 in the Spend + Reserve account — both of which are easier to achieve with two people owning the account, as opposed to one.|
What to watch out for: If you can’t meet the monthly qualifications to waive the monthly service fee, you’ll have to pay $7 per month. In addition, your balance doesn’t earn interest.
Other honorable mentions
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking: This account from investment firm Charles Schwab offers a few attractive perks like unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide, no monthly fees or minimums and no foreign transaction fees. The Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account falls flat with its paltry 0.03% APY on all balances over $0.01, which can’t quite compete with the best high-yield checking account, the Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account, which earns up to 4.09% APY.
Aspiration Spend and Save: The Aspiration Spend and Save cash management account is one of the most fee-friendly accounts out there, even allowing you to pay a monthly fee in an amount that you think is fair. Aspiration comes with the added bonus of access to over 55,000 ATMs and cash back rewards — especially at conscience-minded businesses. To earn the 1.00% APY you’ll have to open a Spend and Save Plus account and pay $7.99 per month or $5.99 per month if you pay annually. Only balances up to $10,000 will earn the competitive 1.00% APY. Balances over $10,000 will earn 0.10% APY.
Betterment Checking and Cash Reserve: Another cash management account, Betterment Checking and Cash Reserve maximizes your FDIC insurance up to $1 million and provides unlimited transfers in and out of your account. It also earns interest at 0.10% APY. A minimum deposit of $10 is required, but there is no minimum balance required to earn the attractive APY.
Chase Premier Plus Checking: A step up from Chase’s basic checking account, the Chase Premier Plus Checking account earns a paltry 0.01% APY (across all balances) and waives select fees, including on the first four non-Chase ATM transactions per month. However, its features don’t quite justify the $25 monthly service fee, which you can only waive by meeting certain requirements.
Chime: The mobile-first Chime account is great for individuals who have trouble with traditional checking accounts. It allows you to receive direct deposits up to a couple days early, grow savings automatically and even overdraw your account for free if you meet certain eligibility requirements. Chime also provides free access to over 60,000 ATMs, which you can access with the account’s linked debit card. Despite all these perks, Chime doesn’t earn any interest on account balances. However, Chime does stand out for having a robust, no-overdrafting policy.
TIAA Bank Yield Pledge Checking: Despite TIAA Bank’s Yield Pledge promise, which ensures their rate will always remain among the top 5% of competitive accounts, the Yield Pledge Checking account earns a pretty low APY of 0.10%. The minimum opening deposit is $100, but all balances are eligible to earn the 0.10% APY. Luckily, there’s no monthly service fee, nor are there fees for out-of-network ATM usage. Plus, you can get reimbursed for ATM surcharges. This made it a strong contender for our Best Overall Checking Account.
Varo Money: Pioneering fintech company Varo offers a pretty much fee-free, checking-like cash management account, which allows customers who meet certain requirements to overdraft up to $50 at no cost. Varo can get you your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit, and it also offers fee-free access at over 55,000 Allpoint® ATMs and provides a free Varo Visa® Debit Card, which you can lock in the app at any time. Though all of these perks are nice, the checking account doesn’t earn interest; you’ll have to open the Varo Savings Account for that.
Capital One 360 Checking: The Capital One 360 Checking account is easily accessible — via its debit card, mobile and online — and there’s no fee or minimum balance to worry about. You also get access to over 39,000 Capital One and Allpoint ATMs for free. However, its low 0.10% APY can’t quite keep up with its competitors. All balances are eligible to earn Capital One’s 0.10% APY.
Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking: Bank5 Connect’s High-Interest Checking account isn’t always so high-yield, as it earns 0.20% APY. There is a minimum deposit of $10 required to open and a minimum balance of $100 required to earn interest.Still, the account is relatively customer-friendly as it doesn’t charge any monthly maintenance fees and offers free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide in addition to up to $15 in surcharge reimbursements.
We look at hundreds of financial institutions and reviews to determine our picks for the best checking accounts. Specifically, we consider the following factors when making our selections:
- Checking account rates: We heavily weighted the APYs offered by each institution on their checking accounts, paying attention to both high interest rates and the consistency at which these rates were offered. Higher and more consistently competitive interest rates were prioritized.
- Minimum deposit and balance requirements: We also controlled for account accessibility by looking at minimum deposit and balance requirements, prioritizing banks and accounts that have low minimum requirements or none at all.
- Bank account fees: Because the best checking accounts are the ones that don’t cut into your hard-earned money, we favored checking accounts that don’t charge monthly service fees or ATM fees, as well as those that offer ATM-fee reimbursements. If accounts had the same APY and minimum requirements, we went with the account with lower fees.
- Special offers: As an added bonus to their checking accounts, some institutions offer cash bonus offers for new customers or even cash-back rewards for debit card usage. We made sure to include these special accounts and offers so you can get more from your account.
- Specialized accounts: Checking accounts aren’t one-size-fits-all — nor should they be. When we did our search, we also looked for specialized accounts with specific features made for certain groups, like students, business owners and joint account holders. Because different accounts are intended to serve different purposes, the features we prioritized for each account type may vary.
What should I look for in a checking account?
When shopping for a checking account, keep in mind that its main purpose is providing a convenient and safe place to stash the cash you use for your daily spending. With that in mind, factors such as safety, ease of use and minimal costs should be top-of-mind.
Here’s what to look out for specifically when you’re searching for a checking account that’s right for you:
An account that meets your needs
A great first step to finding the right checking account is understanding what you want from a checking account. Of course, you’ll want an account that’s easily accessible. But only you can decide whether that means prioritizing brick-and-mortar branches, mobile app access or worldwide ATMs. As debit cards are a big part of accessibility, you should also make sure you’re getting a debit card that’s protected.
If you’re a senior citizen, a student or perhaps a couple looking for joint account ownership, these are things to consider when making your checking account wishlist. As shown above, there are several specialized accounts out there that offer special deals and features for members of these groups.
Next, determine whether you want your checking account to earn interest or other rewards. Often these rewards only add to the checking account experience, rewarding you for owning the account rather than you paying to own it. Rewards on some accounts may also offset any fees you face.
If you don’t know where to start, it helps to check out high-yield checking accounts first. These accounts are most often free, easily accessible, provided by reputable institutions and, as an added bonus, can earn you money.
An account with few or zero fees
It’s a good idea to check for bank fees when shopping for a checking account. After all, why pay your bank fees for access to your own cash?
Thankfully, there are many checking accounts that charge little to no fees. Online banks, in particular, offer checking accounts with no fees, as they are able to save on the operational costs that burden brick-and-mortar banks. Some checking accounts even offer unlimited ATM reimbursements or a monthly allowance for reimbursable ATM surcharges.
Since many checking accounts offer little to no interest, it’s even more critical to opt for an account with minimal fees. Common checking account fees include:
- Maintenance fees
- Minimum balance fees
- ATM fees
- Overdraft fees
If your checking account has any monthly balance or spending requirements to waive the maintenance fee, make sure you stay within those limits to avoid any unnecessary fees.
An account that offers widespread ATM access
There’s nothing worse than needing cash in a pinch and not having a way to get it. Then, even when you find an ATM, it’s out of your bank’s network, so to add insult to injury, you’re charged a fee (or two) for using the ATM.
You can avoid this situation by finding a checking account that offers widespread ATM access. Often, this isn’t even brick-and-mortar banks, which may offer free access to a few thousand branded ATMs across the country. Online banks tend to go above and beyond, offering free access to tens of thousands of ATMs, often worldwide, through ATM networks like AllPoint and MoneyPass.
An account with FDIC Insurance or NCUA insurance
You want to make sure your money is protected no matter what. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance — and National Credit Union Administration insurance for credit unions — insures your money up to legal limits, which for an individual’s checking account would amount to $250,000. This means that up to $250,000 in your checking account will be recovered if your bank or credit union fails.
In the event of institution failure, you’ll either get a check for the amount that was in your checking account, or set up with a new account for the same amount at another insured institution.
An account that has overdraft protection
Overdraft protection is a crucial feature, especially if you’re often at risk of overextending your funds. This feature works in a few different ways, depending on the institution and the account. Often, a bank’s overdraft protection will link your checking and savings accounts, drawing on your savings account when you overdraft from your checking account. Other iterations may simply not allow you to overdraft the account at all.
Typically, you’ll have to enroll in overdraft protection. Some accounts charge an extra fee for overdraft protection, but many of the best no-fee checking accounts offer this feature at no cost.
An account that pairs with a high-yield savings account
You might want to pair your checking account with a high-yield savings account if you’d like to maintain your day-to-day spending, but also stash away a portion of your cash to earn a higher rate of return in longer-term savings. A high-yield savings account is also a great option for those who don’t want to be tempted with the ability to easily spend their savings on everyday needs.
If this sounds like the right setup for you, start by finding a checking account that fits your daily spending needs and is easily accessible and FDIC-insured. You can then track your spending and set up regular deposits into a separate, high-yield savings account for any excess cash you don’t spend. Keep in mind that not all savings accounts are created equal, so it’s worth shopping around for the best rates when it comes to your savings account, too.
FAQ: What should I know about checking accounts?
A checking account is a bank account for your day-to-day spending needs. They typically come with a debit card, which allows you to make purchases and provides quick and easy access to cash, making it a safer option than carrying cash. Many checking accounts are also offered with paper checks.
Unlike savings accounts, checking accounts typically have no transaction limits, making them the most liquid option for your money aside from holding large amounts of cash. Checking accounts are also FDIC-insured which adds peace of mind.
Checking accounts are used for your everyday spending needs and generally don’t carry interest (however high-interest checking accounts do exist); by contrast, savings accounts usually carry higher interest rates and are meant for you to save money over the long-run.
Keep in mind that savings accounts will typically restrict access to your cash to around six withdrawals per month while checking accounts allow you almost unrestricted access to any cash you hold in the account.
It’s a good idea to maintain a free or no-fee checking account for day-to-day use. Generally speaking, the best checking accounts allow unfettered access to cash and carry no monthly fees, ATM-fees, or other account surcharges.
It’s generally better to keep just enough in your checking account to cover your daily needs, meet any minimum balance requirements and avoid any possible overdraft charges.
Despite their everyday usefulness, checking accounts aren’t the best places to stash your cash long-term. Savings accounts usually offer higher interest rates, making them a better place to store cash.
There are many free checking account options out there. Some options — especially those offered by online banks — are free accounts that even offer extra features like interest and rewards. Keep in mind that many banks will still feature things like inactivity fees, minimum balance requirements or paper statement charges for their “free checking” accounts.
If you’re paying monthly maintenance fees, minimum balances fees or even third-party ATM fees, it’s worth it to do some research, as there are other accounts out there that will give you more bang for your buck and won’t nickel and dime you for it either. Shop around to find the best free checking account for you.
Yes, many checking accounts earn interest, although the amount offered is typically far less than rates offered by savings accounts or money market accounts.
If you’re looking for the best high-yield checking account, many smaller banks and credit unions offer Kasasa checking accounts, which are essentially free checking accounts that offer higher interest rates, so long as you meet a few monthly requirements.
Checking account interest is taxed if you earned $10 or more in interest in a year. For all your interest-earning deposit accounts, your bank should send you a copy of Form 1099-INT, which they will also send to the IRS. This form will help you report the interest income on your tax return. If you don’t receive this form from your institution, but still earned $10 or more in interest, you will still have to report the interest on your taxes.
If you were lucky enough to earn $1,500 or more in interest, you will have to detail the sources of that income on Schedule B of Form 1040.
Almost every checking account offered by major banking institutions is insured by the FDIC, which provides an account holder with up to $250,000 in federal deposit insurance in the event the underlying bank runs into trouble.
As with any other deposit account, it’s easy to find out whether your checking account has FDIC coverage. You can check to see if your financial institution has FDIC insurance by looking for the “Member FDIC” tag that often appears at the bottom of the bank’s marketing materials.
FDIC insurance covers deposits in checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs and money market accounts, up to $250,000 per ownership category per person within a single financial institution. Credit unions receive deposit insurance from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), up to $250,000 per owner, per insured credit union, per account category.
One checking account should suffice for most shoppers. However, there may be instances where you’d want to open multiple checking accounts to help keep your finances organized or separated for different purposes.
For example, many small business owners have their own business checking account to segregate their professional finances from their personal finances.
Some parents may even want to open separate student checking accounts to help teach their kids or budding college students financial responsibility and keep track of their finances.
Keep in mind that you can also open joint checking accounts, which make it easier for couples and those who share their lives to also share finances and track spending. With a joint account, two or more people share ownership, and can deposit and withdraw funds from the same checking account.
Every checking account will feature a routing number and an account number. These two numbers are associated with your bank account and serve as unique identifiers for your account.
The routing number associated with your checking account is a nine-digit string of numbers that identifies the institution that manages your checking account.
Your bank account number identifies your personal account and is the unique identifier that your bank uses to direct cash or wire transfers, track your balance, and rout payments as needed.
If you were rejected after trying to open a checking account, it’s probably because you have a rocky past with previous accounts. When you apply for new bank accounts, most institutions run your information through ChexSystems, which keeps a record of your banking history when institutions report it. This means any history of overdrafts, negative account balances, account closures and the like will be available for ChexSystems users to see.
If you were rejected from opening a new checking account, take a look at your ChexSystems report. It may help to figure out what bad marks on there you may be able to change. There may even be errors on the report that you can dispute and have removed.
A second-chance checking account is a type of checking account available to those who might not otherwise qualify for a traditional checking account due to their credit or ChexSystems history.
It may be worth exploring a second-chance checking account if your banking history might have been blemished by closing an account with a negative balance or outstanding fees.
Typically, second-chance checking accounts have lower spending limits, fewer features and may charge monthly maintenance fees. However they exist mainly to assist people who are determined to get their financial lives back on track. Once you’ve had the chance to rebuild your credit history, you may be able to trade back up for a standard checking account.
Deposit accounts, including checking and savings accounts, are not included in your credit report, since you’re not borrowing money from these kinds of accounts. So the way you use your checking account or even when you close a checking account doesn’t affect your credit.
If you overdraft your checking account and don’t pay back what you owe to your institution, however, that can land in your credit report if the institution sends it to collections. That’s because it’s become more about your debt, which is reported in credit reports, than simply your checking account.
Overdraft protection works a lot like it sounds: it protects you when you overdraft your account. Often, overdraft protection links your checking account to a savings account. Any time you overdraft your checking account, funds are automatically pulled from the savings account to cover the purchase.
Other institutions may offer overdraft protection that simply doesn’t allow you to overdraft the account. This prevents the transaction from going through, but also prevents you from facing an overdraft fee and recovering the extra cost.
Depending on the type of overdraft protection and the institution, overdraft protection can come at an extra fee, or it could be free.