The best checking accounts offer competitive rates, rewards and easy access to cash without any fees. If you’re looking for the best checking account for your banking needs, take a look at our top picks for April 2020.
Every month, MagnifyMoney’s elite team of financial experts review offers from over 12,000 banks and credit unions, highlighting the best checking accounts we can find. We analyze each account for the following features:
- Competitive interest rates
- No monthly account fee or minimum balance requirements
- No ATM fees and ATM-fee reimbursements
- Bonus and cash-back offers
- Special features for students and small businesses
Here are MagnifyMoney’s top picks for the best checking accounts in April 2020:
Summary of the Best Checking Accounts for April 2020
Best Overall Checking
Best High-Yield Checking
Consumer Credit Union Rewards Checking
Best Free Checking Account
Axos Bank Rewards Checking
Best No-Fee Checking
BBVA Free Checking
Best Checking Account Bonus
Best Rewards Checking Account
Discover Cashback Debit
Best No-ATM Fee Checking
TD Bank Beyond Checking
Best Business Checking Account
Axos Bank Business Interest Checking
Best Checking Account for Students
Chase College Checking
Best Joint Checking Account
Best Overall Checking Account – Simple
|Why we picked it: Through a partnership with BBVA, Simple offers a great checking account with attractive budgeting features and a competitive APY. This account is great for those looking for a traditional checking account without unnecessary fees and stocked with benefits like interest and free ATM access.|
What to watch out for: While you can earn a decent APY on the funds in your Protected Goals account, Simple doles out a dismal 0.01% APY on funds that are not in your Protected Goals account, a sub-account designed for money you set aside for savings. It’s also worth noting that fees may apply to ATMs outside of its Allpoint ATM network, and there is a Visa fee of up to 1% if the card is used internationally.
Best High Yield Checking Account – Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking
|Why we picked it: The 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.
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%.
Additionally, if you don’t meet the monthly activity requirements, you’ll earn an APY of just 0.01% and won’t receive ATM refunds. The account also has an overdraft fee of $30.
Best Free Checking Account – Axos Bank Rewards Checking
|Why we picked it: We have crowned the Axos Bank Rewards Checking account as the Best Free Checking account not only for its attractive features, but for its consistency, too.|
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 have been 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 1.25% APY, you must meet the following requirements:
If you don’t meet those requirements, you will receive a reduced APY from what is advertised. There is also a $50 minimum balance required to open this account.
Best No-Fee Checking Account – BBVA Free Checking
|Why we picked it: If you’re looking for a basic checking account that gets the job with no fees or frills, the BBVA Free Checking account is a product worth exploring.|
This checking account provides you with the basic checking necessities, with no monthly fees. Additionally, it gives you the ability to customize your account further for additional charges. For example, an extra fee of $2 a month will give you unlimited cashier’s checks.
What to watch out for: With the BBVA Free Checking account, there is a $25 minimum balance required to open an account and a potential overdraft fee of $38.
Best Checking Account Bonus – Wells Fargo Everyday Checking
|Why we picked it: Wells Fargo’s Everyday Checking account is currently offering an attractive bonus offer, expiring July 31, 2020. Upon opening a new Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account and depositing a minimum of $4,000 in qualifying direct deposits within 90 days of opening, you’ll receive a $400 bonus.|
This offer is only available to new Wells Fargo checking and savings customers in Denver, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Fla., Phoenix and Seattle. You also must not have received a bonus for opening a Wells Fargo consumer checking or savings account within the past 12 months.
What to watch out for: This account requires a $25 initial deposit to open. You should also be aware of the not-so-obvious fees associated with this account, which include a $2.50 fee for cash withdrawals at non-Wells Fargo ATMs in the U.S ($5 outside of the U.S.) and a $35 overdraft fee.
Best Rewards Checking Account – Discover Cashback Debit
|Why we picked it: The Discover Cashback Debit checking account is a standout account, with no fees and access to over 60,000 ATMs.|
What really earns this account the title of Best Rewards Checking account, though, is the fact that it 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 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. As the cherry on top, this account also doles out a little bit of interest.
What to watch out for: Be aware that the 0.05% APY is available only to accounts with a minimum daily balance of $50,000. Accounts with balances between $10,000 and $49,999 receive an APY of just 0.03%, while balances under $10,000 receive an APY of just 0.01%. There is also a $35 overdraft fee associated with this account.
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.|
Additionally, 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 is a $100 minimum opening deposit required for this account.
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. Also, there’s a $2.50 non-Chase ATM fee and $34 overdraft fee associated with this account.
Best Joint Checking Account – Ally Bank Interest Checking
|Why we picked it: Ally Bank’s Interest Checking account features minimal fees, variable interest and added perks like up to $10 in ATM fee reimbursements every month.|
All of Ally Bank’s banking products support joint ownership, and you are allowed up to four owners on the account without any additional fees, making this an easy pick for our Best Joint Checking account.
What to watch out for: There’s not much to watch out for with this account, just be aware of the $25 overdraft fee.
FAQs: 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.
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 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.
Almost every checking account offered by major banking institutions is insured by the FDIC, which provides an accountholder 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.
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.
What should I look for in a checking account?
When shopping for a checking account, keep in mind that their main purpose is to provide a convenient and safe place to stash the x 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. You want features like zero fees, a wide ATM network, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance and overdraft protection. Some checking accounts offer interest or other rewards — these accounts are your best bet.
Find an account with few or zero fees
There are many checking accounts that charge little to no fees. Online banks, in particular, offer checking accounts with zero 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
Even if you’re using a high-yield checking account, why pay your bank fees for access to your own cash? It’s a good idea to check for bank fees when shopping for a checking account. If your checking account has any monthly balance or spending requirements, make sure you stay within those limits to avoid any unnecessary fees.
Pair your checking account 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 stash away a portion of your cash to earn a higher rate of return in longer-term savings.
This 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 is what you’re looking for, start by finding a checking account that fits your daily spending needs, 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 the same, and it’s worth shopping around for the best rates when it comes to your savings account.
If you want your money to do more for you with less maintenance, online checking is the way to go.
Resist the urge to hoard cash in a checking account
With easy access, low fees and the safety of FDIC insurance, it can be tempting to use checking accounts as a place to hoard all of your cash. However, checking accounts generally offer much less interest than high-yield savings accounts which makes them a poor store of value.
Keep in mind that deposit accounts will typically pale in comparison to any returns you can reap from investing your extra money in the market. It’s a good idea to keep just enough in your checking account to cover your daily needs, meet any minimum balance requirements and avoid any possible overdraft charges. To get the most out of your money, consider storing any cash you don’t need in a separate high-yield savings account or CD.
There are two main reasons your money would be better off not sitting in checking:
#1 You could miss out on higher interest rates
Interest rates on checking accounts are generally pretty pitiful. Even when they seem high (perhaps 0.60% or even 1.00%), there can be a lot of hoops to jump through in order to secure that interest rate. Instead, consider putting your money into one of the nation’s best savings accounts,best money market accounts or CDs. Your money can easily earn 1.00% or more with those accounts.
#2 You don’t want to give fraudsters access to your life savings
Fraud is another reason you may want to keep a minimal amount in checking. Bank fraud is so prevalent you’ll likely get smacked by it at some point. For credit card users, it isn’t as worrisome because the money charged to a credit card isn’t coming directly out of your bank account and credit issuers commonly offer zero fraud liability protection. On the other hand, debit card fraud means a crook gains direct access to your account and can be draining your actual funds in real time. By not keeping a ton of money in checking, you can reduce the damage a thief can do.
If your card is stolen and you report it to your bank within two days, you can be responsible for up to $50 of unauthorized charges. Waiting longer than two days can make you responsible for up to $500 in unauthorized charges. Additionally, if you notice any unauthorized charges on your account statement, you have 60 days to tell your bank to avoid liability for following transfers. Even if your bank reimburses you for the funds, it’s still a hassle to spend days — even weeks — without having access to that money.
Other Options Besides Checking Accounts
Consider a cash management account
Cash management accounts are a relatively new type of money management account that has become increasingly popular. These accounts are a hybrid of both checking and savings accounts while offering features common to both.
Cash management accounts can offer the convenience and liquidity of checking accounts, plus the interest earnings of high-yield savings accounts. Some cash management accounts feature separate checking and savings accounts under one banner, with instant and unlimited transfers between the two. Others comprise a single account featuring both a competitive interest rate and unlimited liquidity.
Before you go running for the best of both worlds, it’s important to note that not all cash management accounts offer the same FDIC-insurance carried by checking or savings accounts offered by most major banks. This can subject you to some level of risk that you might not necessarily face with a typical FDIC-insured checking or savings account.
Consider hybrid savings/checking accounts
In today’s competitive savings rate atmosphere, some banks are offering the best of both a checking and savings account in the same product, like the Simple Checking Account + Protected Goals Account, our top pick above. These hybrid accounts offer the flexibility of a checking account by including a debit card and avoiding the six-transaction limit of savings accounts. Some accounts might also offer the ability to write checks through the account (however, Simple does not).
Even better, these hybrid accounts also offer the high-yield competitive rates of a savings account (think above 2%!). Opening this kind of account can prove to be a great addition to your savings profile, especially since most checking accounts tend to offer unremarkable rates. Simple goes even further by helping you save towards a specific Savings Goal instead of just earning a high interest rate — although saving at least $2,000 towards that goal enables that high rate.
Of course, money market accounts are already known as hybrid-like accounts with high interest rates. But without limiting your transfers and transactions to six per cycle, these new checking/savings hybrid accounts (or cash management accounts, as they might be called) are able to set themselves apart from money market accounts. Money market accounts also tend to require much higher balance limits and charge monthly service fees, unlike these new accounts we’re starting to see.