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Updated on Friday, January 1, 2021
The humble checking account may not offer rewards, cash back or many of the other perks offered by ritzy credit cards, but it remains the cornerstone of your financial life. Nobody likes paying monthly maintenance fees, so why not pick a free checking account that does away with them altogether?
Below, we’ve selected nine of the best free checking accounts by scouring our database for products meeting the following criteria:
- No monthly maintenance fee
- A low initial deposit amount (between $0-$50) needed to open the account
- No minimum balance requirement
- Minimal third-party ATM fees
- Available nationwide
10 bests free checking accounts of January 2021
Minimum needed to open
|Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking||$5||4.09% (applies to balances up to $10,000)|
|T-Mobile Money||$0||4.00%(applies to balances up to $3,000)|
|Evansville Teachers FCU Vertical Checking||$25||3.30% (applies to balances up to $20,000)|
|Western Vista FCU Panorama Checking||$25 in a Western Vista savings account||2.53% (applies to balances up to $15,000)|
|Lake Michigan Credit Union Max Checking||$0||3.00%(applies to balances up to $15,000)|
|Andigo Credit Union High Yield Checking||$0||2.09% (applies to balances up to $10,000)|
|One American Bank Kasasa Cash Account||$50||1.50%(applies to balances up to $10,000)|
|Axos Bank||$50||1.25% (applies to balances up to $150,000)|
Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking
The Consumers Credit Union provides an online-only Free Rewards Checking account to anyone in the nation who becomes a member. You can qualify for membership with a one-time $5 payment to Consumers Cooperative Association. Perks of the account, which charges no monthly maintenance fees and requires no minimum balance, include unlimited third-party ATM fee refunds.
However you do have to meet some requirements in order to get all of the benefits of the account (including the high APY). The APY for this account is divided into three tiers, with the lowest earning 2.09%, the middle 3.09% and the highest tier 4.09%. The requirements for each of these tiers are:
To earn 2.09%
- Receive eDocuments
- Make at least 6 debit card purchases a month
- Post direct deposits, mobile check deposits or ACH payments of at least $500 each month
To earn 3.09%
- Meet all the requirements of the previous tier
- Have a Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card and spend at least $500 a month on it
To earn 4.09%
- Meet all the requirements of the previous tier
- Spend at least $1,000 a month on your Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card
Keep in mind these high APYs only apply to balances up to $10,000. The portion of any balance between $10,000.01 and $25,000 earns 0.20% APY, and balances greater than $25,000 earn an APY of 0.10%.
Wireless carrier T-Mobile is venturing out into new territory with a financial product – a competitive one, too. T-Mobile Money is a checking account that pays a 4.00% APY on balances up to $3,000. Balances over $3,000 earn an APY of 1.00%. There are no monthly fees, overdraft fees, transfer fees, ATM fees or minimum balance requirements.
In order to receive the 4.00% APY, though, T-Mobile Money does require the following:
- Enroll in a qualifying T-Mobile wireless plan
- Register for Perks with your T-Mobile ID
- Make at least $200 in qualifying deposits to your checking account in the calendar month
Balances that do not meet these requirements, or balances over $3,000, will earn 1.00% APY.
Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union Vertical Checking
Don’t let the name of this credit union fool you—anyone can become a member by donating just $5 to the Mater Dei Friends and Alumni Association, which then allows you to open a Vertical Checking account with a minimum of $25.
This free checking account doesn’t charge a monthly service fee or require you to maintain a minimum balance, and in return gives you an APY of as high as 3.30% on balances up to $20,000, provided you fulfill the below requirements:
- Make at least 15 debit purchases each month
- Make at least one direct deposit into the account each month
- Login to your mobile or online banking at least once each month
- Opt in to receive eStatements
- In addition to the high APY, meeting these requirements entitles you to $15 a month for reimbursing third-party ATM fees.
In addition to the high APY, meeting these requirements entitles you to $15 a month for reimbursing third-party ATM fees.
Western Vista Federal Credit Union Panorama Checking Account
Western Vista Federal Credit Union is based in Wyoming, but anyone can become a member by making a small contribution to their charitable foundation and maintaining a savings account with a balance of at least $25 at all times. If you don’t live near any of their Wyoming branches, you can sign up over the phone.
The credit union’s Panorama checking account earns a high 2.53% APY on balances up to $15,000. To earn this APY you’ll need to:
- Make at least 10 debit card purchase transactions a month of at least $5 each
- Set up direct deposit
- Receive eStatements
You’ll also get $5 back in third-party ATM refunds — up to $25 per statement cycle — if you meet these qualifications.
Lake Michigan Credit Union Max Checking
Despite its name, the Lake Michigan Credit Union is open to anyone who makes a $5 donation to the ALS Foundation. That small donation can pay off tenfold with the credit union’s Max Checking account, which features a 3.00% APY on balances up to $15,000. The account also has no minimum balance requirements and no monthly fees.
In order to receive the 3.00% APY, you must:
- Direct deposit into your Max Checking account
- Have a minimum of 10 debit or credit card transactions posted per month
- Log into home banking 4 times per month
- Sign up for eStatements
The Lake Michigan Credit Union’s Max Checking account also offers up to $10 in monthly reimbursements for non-LMCU ATM fees.
Andigo Credit Union High Yield Checking
Another credit union with a competitive checking account is the Andigo Credit Union High Yield Checking account. With a handful of physical branches in Illinois and mobile banking services, Andigo Credit Union is open to anyone who makes a $15 donation to ConnectVETS.
Andigo’s High Yield Checking account features a 2.09% APY on balances up to $10,000, has no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements and $12 a month in ATM surcharge rebates. However, to take advantage of the 2.09% APY, you must:
- Have $500 or more in total direct deposit
- Make 15 or more debit card purchases per month
Accounts that do not meet those qualifications earn a 0.06% APY. Balances above $10,000 earn 0.10% APY.
One American Bank Kasasa Cash Account
This small community bank, based in Sioux Falls, SD, offers a nationally available Kasasa Cash checking account that earns a decent 1.50% APY on balances up to $10,000. You need a minimum of $50 to open the account, but after that all you need to do to earn the very competitive APY of 1.50% is:
- Make at least 12 debit card purchase transactions a month of at least $5.00 each
- Receive electronic bank statements, account notices and disclosures
- Log in to online banking at least one time a month
If you meet these qualifications, One American Bank also refunds up to $25 in third-party ATM funds per month.
Axos Rewards Checking
With a generous APY and no fees, online bank Axos offers a checking account that stands apart from the pack. Axos’ Rewards Checking account boasts an APY ranging from 0.4166% to 1.25%, depending on your direct deposits and how many monthly transactions you make with your debit card. The account has no maintenance fees and no monthly minimum balance requirements, however there is a required $50 to open an account.
Axos says it does not charge overdraft or NSF fees for customers of its Rewards Checking account. The bank also offers overdraft protection, and will transfer available funds from a linked account, up to a maximum of six times per month.
The Axos Rewards Checking account’s other standout features include:
- Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursement
- No overdraft or NSF fees plus overdraft protection
Another online-only account, Simple is owned and backed by regional bank BBVA and offers customers a checking account that’s intertwined with the app’s Protected Goals savings account, and additional budgeting tools. Simple doesn’t charge any fees, meaning users enjoy:
- No monthly maintenance fee
- No minimum balance needed
- No account closing fee
- No stop payment fees
- No debit card replacement fee
- No ATM fee if using Simple’s network, but users can be charged a fee by other banks if using a non-network ATM
One fee you do have to pay is a foreign transaction fee when using your Simple card internationally, which can be up to 1% of the transaction.
As a cash management product, the Simple Account automatically comes with a savings account feature. While the checking balance in a Simple Account earns a token 0.00% APY, Simple’s Protected Goals savings balances earn an APY of 0.50%.
SoFi may be better known for its personal loan products, but its SoFi Money cash management account offers a great free checking experience. This account earns 0.25% APY with no fees and no minimum balance requirements, but you will need to have deposits of $500 or more monthly. SoFi charges no fees when you use an ATM in the Allpoint network, which includes 55,000 ATMs. If you need physical checks, you can request them.
SoFi partners with multiple banks to hold your money in FDIC-insured accounts. This means that SoFi Money accounts are FDIC insured on balances up to $1.5 million in total, well above the standard $250,000 FDIC insurance level available with conventional accounts.