The Best High Yield Checking Accounts in 2020

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Written By

Reviewed By

Updated on Friday, September 11, 2020

Checking accounts are like a pair of khakis slacks: You should have at least one, but shopping for them is a chore. You know you need a checking account—preferably one without fees—but most people think it’s not going to yield more than a token amount in interest.

These high yield checking accounts break this tired paradigm, featuring sky-high interest rates that can put even the best savings accounts to shame. In this article, we’ll help you make an informed decision about whether one of these high yield checking accounts are right for you and your financial goals.

How we picked the best high yield checking accounts

We followed a strict approach when selecting these accounts. We used the online rate finder for FDIC- or NCUA-insured rewards checking accounts on DepositAccounts.com, another LendingTree.com-owned site, to list the top 10 high yield checking accounts with the highest rates, assuming a deposit amount of $100.

Credit unions were only included if they allow membership to anyone (such as by making a donation to their chosen charity). Finally, we filtered out any high yield checking accounts that are not available nationwide, or that carry a health rating of below a B.

The Best High Yield Checking Accounts in 2020

La Capitol Federal Credit Union — Choice Checking

  • Minimum amount to open: $50
  • Requirements to earn the high APY: Make at least 15 debit purchases per month.
  • Monthly service fee: $8; waived if you either have a balance of at least $1,000 or make 15 non-ATM debit card transactions each month and use eStatements.
  • ATM fees: None
  • ATM refunds: Up to $25 in out-of-network surcharges (the money the ATM’s owner charges you) per month if you are signed up for eStatements

SEE DETAILS Secured

on La Capitol Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Consumers Credit Union (IL) — Free Rewards Checking

  • Minimum amount to open: $5
  • Requirements to earn the high APY: You must complete the following requirements each month: 1) complete at least 12 signature-based debit purchases, 2) receive at least one direct deposit, ACH debit, or pay one bill through their free bill payment system totaling $500 or more, 3) be signed up for eStatements and 4) spend $1,000 or more with a Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card each month.
  • Monthly service fee: No monthly service fee.
  • ATM fees: If you meet the requirements to earn the high APY, you won’t pay any ATM fees.
  • ATM refunds: You are eligible for refunds on all ATM fees as long as you meet the requirements to earn the highest APY.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Consumers Credit Union (IL)’s secure website

NCUA Insured

T-Mobile — T-Mobile Money Checking Account

  • Minimum amount to open: $0
  • Requirements to earn the high APY: You must 1) be enrolled in a qualifying T-Mobile wireless plan, 2) be registered for perks with your T-Mobile ID and 3) have a minimum of $200 in qualifying deposits.
  • Monthly service fee: None
  • ATM fees: None
  • ATM refunds: None

SEE DETAILS Secured

on T-Mobile Money’s secure website

Member FDIC

Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union — Vertical Checking

  • Minimum amount to open: $25
  • Requirements to earn the high APY: You must complete the following items each month: 1) have at least one direct deposit into your account, 2) be enrolled in e-statements, 3) use your debit card to make at least 15 purchases per month, and 4) log on mobile or online banking once.
  • Monthly service fee: None
  • ATM fees: None
  • ATM refunds: Up to $15 of out-of-network ATM fees per month.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Western Vista Federal Credit Union — Panorama Checking

  • Minimum amount to open: $0
  • Requirements to earn the highest APY: You must complete the following items each month: 1) have at least one direct deposit into your account, 2) be enrolled in e-statements and 3) have at least 10 debit card purchases of $5 or more posted in each statement cycle.
  • Monthly service fee: None
  • ATM fees: None
  • ATM refunds: Up to $25 of out-of-network ATM fees per month, with a maximum of $5 per transaction.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Western Vista Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Market USA Federal Credit Union — VIP Checking Platinum Tier

  • Minimum amount to open: $0
  • Requirements to earn the high APY: You must meet following requirements: 1) enroll in e-Statements, 2) make a monthly direct deposit of at least $250 3) make 12 visa debit card purchases per month that are a minimum of $5 each and 4) make three bill payments per month, of at least $20 each, using Market USA’s Bill Pay service.
  • Monthly service fee: None
  • ATM fees: Access to 30,000 surcharge-free CO-OP Network ATMs nationwide
  • ATM refunds: Eight free monthly transactions at STAR and PLUS ATMS, minimum direct deposit of $500 required and ATM surcharges may still apply

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Market USA Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Lake Michigan Credit Union — Max Checking Account

  • Minimum amount to open: None
  • Requirements to earn the highest APY: 1) Have monthly direct deposits 2) Enroll in eStatements 3) Use your debit card at least 10 times per month for purchases and 4) Log into home banking a minimum of 4 times per month. A $5 membership fee is also required
  • Monthly service fee: None
  • ATM fees: None
  • ATM refunds: Up to $10 per month for non-LCMU and non-Allpoint ATMs

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Lake Michigan Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Garden Savings Credit Union — Platinum Rate Rewards Checking Account

  • Minimum amount to open: None
  • Requirements to earn the highest APY: You must: 1) make 12 point-of-sale transactions per month, 2) make one ACH payment or have one direct deposit per month and 3) enroll in eStatements.
  • Monthly service fee: None
  • ATM fees: None at Garden Savings, Allpoint and CO-OP ATMs
  • ATM refunds: Up to $20 per month if all qualifiers are met

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Garden Savings Federal Credit Union’s secure website

MECU Credit Union — Reward Checking Account

  • Minimum amount to open: None
  • Requirements to earn the highest APY: You must: 1) make 12 debit card purchases per month, 2) make one ACH payment or bill pay or have one direct deposit per month and 3) enroll in eStatements.
  • Monthly service fee: None
  • ATM fees: None
  • ATM refunds: Up to $20 per month if all qualifiers are met

SEE DETAILS Secured

on MECU’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Andigo Credit Union — High Yield Checking Account

  • Minimum amount to open: None
  • Requirements to earn the highest APY: You must: 1) have direct deposits totaling $500 or more into your account per month and 2) use your debit card at least 15 times per month for purchases that post and clear before the last business day of the month.
  • Monthly service fee: None
  • ATM fees: None
  • ATM refunds: Up to $12 per month if you meet all requirements

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Andigo’s secure website

NCUA Insured

How are these banks able to offer such a high APY?

Did you notice that most of the institutions offering high yield checking accounts tend to be smaller names that you’ve probably never heard of? It turns out there’s a good reason for that, and it all has to do with the Dodd-Frank Act, a set of sweeping financial regulations passed by Congress in the wake of the Great Recession.

Back when the Dodd-Frank Act was passed in 2010, a tiny legislative nugget called the Durbin Amendment was included in the text. This amendment limited the swipe fees that big banks can charge merchants for each purchase that one of their customers makes using a debit card.

Suddenly, big banks (defined as institutions with at least $10 billion in assets) could only charge half as much per swipe as they had been doing, and swipe fees became a lot more lucrative for smaller banks and credit unions instead.

That’s why so many smaller institutions have strict rules requiring you to use your debit card each month. According to the Federal Reserve, in 2016 smaller banks earned anywhere from 18 to 65 cents for each debit card swipe, compared to a maximum of just 22 cents plus 0.05% of the purchase price for larger banks.

Say, for example, a smaller bank requires you to make 10 debit transactions per month, and earns 65 cents from each transaction. Your bank would then earn $6.50 from your spending that month.

That is where the high interest rates come from. It’s also why the high interest rates are generally capped to smaller balances, so that you don’t earn too much money and negate all the swipe fees that the bank earns.

Is it worth meeting requirements to go after the high APY?

Some of these high yield checking accounts have a lot of requirements.

If you prefer to use debit cards, chances are you’ll be able to easily meet the minimum debit swiping requirements for most of these accounts. On the other hand, if you’re a cash or credit card junkie, you may find yourself frequently worrying at the end of the month about whether or not you’ve met the minimum debit swiping requirements. In this case, a high yield checking account might not be right for you.

Another thing to consider is that many of these banks require you to make a signature-based debit transaction, rather than a PIN-based debit transaction for it to count. Unfortunately, this is slightly less secure than using the PIN-based payment method.

You’ll also need to avoid making a rush of charges at the end of the month to meet the spending requirements. That’s because banks and credit unions will usually only count a charge that has finished posting to your account towards meeting the monthly swiping requirement. It can take a few days for debit swipes to post to your account, so it’s better to get these charges in early to make sure they post to your account in time to count.

The good news is that checking accounts aren’t designed to hold significant amounts of cash. That’s what a savings account is for, and you can still earn pretty good interest rates with a high yield savings account (although still nowhere close to these high yield checking accounts).

If you’re going to keep a smaller deposit in your checking account anyways, why not earn as much as you can from it—especially if you know you’ll have an easy time meeting the requirements?

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Do you have a question?