Today we’re checking out the best free checking accounts for consumers.
Depending on where you bank, what you do, or what you’re comfortable with, there is likely a free checking account that will work for you.
Too many people fall for the myth that banking is expensive and that the only options for a checking account involve fees, or maintaining outrageously high balances to keep the fees waived.
But today, we’re fighting this myth.
We’re going to show you our favorite options depending on your situation, as well as a full round-up of free checking account options that might work for you.
Note: Most of these banks require a credit score of 600 or higher to open a free checking account online. If you don’t have a great score, or don’t have a solid banking history, check out this list of second-chance checking accounts.
Best No-Fee Checking Accounts
Want to skip right to the answer of where you’re going to find the best no-monthly fee checking accounts? Here you go:
Promo: U.S. Bank Smartly™ Checking. Right now, you can open a U.S. Bank Smartly™ Checking account and earn a $300 bonus when you complete qualifying activities. Open an account here >>
Our Selections Of The Checking Account Options
We break down the best free bank account and checking account options below. This list includes mostly online checking options, but you may also find banks near you with free checking (or even credit unions). However, we find that most people prefer the convenience of solid online banking.
Note: The checking offers that appear on this site are from companies from which The College Investor receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The College Investor does not include all banking companies or all checking offers available in the marketplace.
1. Upgrade Rewards Checking
Upgrade Rewards Checking is a newer checking account that is delivering some solid options with no monthly fees.
You can earn 2% cash back on common everyday expenses like gas stations and restaurants, and 1% cash back on everything else. You can also pair it with their online savings account and earn a solid interest rate!
This account has no monthly maintenance fees, no ATM fees, and no transfer fees.
Read our Upgrade Review here.
Why I Like It: Cashback rewards on a no-monthly fee checking account!
Learn more about Upgrade Rewards Checking here.
Unlimited via Reimbursement
Current is a leading mobile banking app that has been endorsed by a huge range of personalities, including YouTuber Mr. Beast. It makes banking convenient and easy – it’s that simple.
Current offers a free solid checking account that you should consider. It has no minimum balance requirements, no overdraft fees, fee-free ATM withdrawals at over 40,000 ATMs, and you can earn up to 15x points for cash back!
Plus, you can get up to 4.00% APY on balances up to $6,000 by adding money to your Savings Pods and enabling the Interest feature.
Check out our Current Review here.
Why I Like It: Free mobile banking.
Learn more about Current Free Checking here.
4% APY on balances of up to $6,000
40,000 Fee-Free ATMs nationwide
3. Chime Free Checking
Chime was one of the original free mobile banking apps that revolutionized mobile banking. They started with a mobile-first mindset, and also wanted to keep fees as low as possible.
As such, they have a top notching free checking account if you’re okay with a mobile only platform. Chime has no physical locations, and all of their banking is done online – in the app.
Check out our Chime Review here.
Why I Like It: Free mobile banking.
Learn more about Chime Free Checking here.
4. Chase Total Checking®
The Chase Total Checking® isn’t truly free unless you meet the minimum monthly requirements to make it so, but we list it as our favorite checking account because it’s available nationwide online, has branches nearly everywhere, and is one of the most robust banking products out there currently. Plus, the minimum requirements are super easy to meet – check it out.
And right now, you can get up to a $200 bonus when you open an account and setup direct deposit! That’s awesome!
Chase Total Checking® has a $12 per month fee that’s easily waived if you simply do ONE of the following:
- Keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more in your account
- Have monthly direct deposits totaling $500 or more into your account
- Keep an average daily balance of $5,000 across qualifying Chase accounts
Read our full Chase Bank review here.
Why I Like It: A great account opening bonus, with one of the largest, most well known banks in the United States.
Learn more about Chase Total Checking® here.
$12 * (waived when requirements met)
Online Nationwide, except HI, AK, and PR
5. U.S. Bank Smartly™ Checking
The Bank Smartly™ Checking account is a solid basic checking account with all the features you need in a bank.
This account includes a U.S. Bank Visa Debit Card, mobile and online banking, mobile check deposit, online bill pay, and more! You also get access to fast payments with Zelle, and access to U.S. Bank Smart Rewards™ to reap additional benefits.
U.S. Bank Smartly™ Checking has a $6.95 per month maintenance fee that’s easily waived if you simply do ONE of the following:
- Are age 24 and under, 65 and over, or a member of the military, OR
- Have combined monthly direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more, OR
- Average account balance of $1,500 ore more, OR
- Hold an eligible U.S. Bank credit card, OR
- Qualify for one of the four Smart Rewards™ tiers (Primary, Plus, Premium, or Pinnacle).
And right now, you can earn $300 when you open a new eligible U.S. Bank Smartly™ Checking account and complete qualifying activities. Offer valid through December 19, 2022 and is subject to certain terms and limitations. Member FDIC.
To qualify, you must complete these steps within 60 days of opening your new U.S. Bank Smartly™ Checking account online:
- Enroll in online banking or the U.S. Bank Mobile App
- Complete two or more direct deposits of $5,000 within 60 days
Applicant must reside in AZ, AR, CA, CO, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, NC, ND, OH, OR, SD, TN, UT, WA, WI, WY to be eligible.
Read our full U.S. Bank review here.
Why I Like It: A solid basic checking account at a great major bank.
Learn more about U.S. Bank Smartly™ Checking account here.
U.S. Bank Smartly™ Checking
$6.95* (Waived When Requirements Met)
Fee-free at U.S. Bank and MoneyPass® Network ATMs
AZ, AR, CA, CO, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, NC, ND, OH, OR, SD, TN, UT, WA, WI, WY
Get a $300 bonus! At U.S. Bank National Association Member FDIC.
Varo is a modern app and online bank that is delivering awesome free checking with interest.
Varo has no minimum balance requirements, no monthly fees, and earns interest!
It includes a debit card and a solid mobile app experience!
Read our full Varo review here.
Why I Like It: A free checking account that can be combined that earns interest.
Learn more about Varo.
7. Axos Rewards Checking
Axos Bank calls themselves America’s most experienced digital bank. And their Rewards checking account hits every feature you’d expect from a top notch online bank.
Rewards Checking has no minimum balance requirements, no monthly fees, and no overdraft or insufficient fund fees. Plus, they offer unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements!
Axos Bank does require that you have good banking history to get approved.
What’s great about this account is that it’s monthly fee-free, but also pays interest. You can earn up to 1.25% APY right now! However, it’s tiered, so here’s what you need to know:
- Baseline: 0.40% APY when you receive monthly direct deposits totaling $1,500 or more. This is required to unlock the remaining tiers.
- Debit Card Spending or Personal Finance Manager: 0.30% APY when you use your Axos Visa Debit Card for a total of 10 transactions per month (min $3 transactions) or sign up for Personal Finance Manager in Online Banking.
- Managed Portfolios: 0.20% APY when you maintain an average daily balance of $2,500 in an Axos Invest Managed Portfolios Account.
- Self Directed Trading: 0.20% APY when you maintain an average daily balance of $2,500 in an Axos Invest Self Directed Trading Account.
- Loan Payment: 0.15% APY when you used your Rewards Checking account to make your full monthly Axos Bank consumer loan payment (mortgage, auto, and personal loans are eligible).
Bonus Offer: Use the promo code HOLIDAY when you apply for a Rewards Checking account by 12/31/22. Then have qualifying direct deposit(s) to earn up a $150 welcome bonus!
Read our full Axos Bank review here.
Why I Like It: A great free checking account with the ability to earn a high APY.
Learn more about Axos Rewards Checking here.
Unlimited via ATM fee reimbursement
GO2bank is a mobile bank that is working to take mobile banking to the next level. What we love about GO2bank is that they are really helping people access banking who may have never had a bank account before. GO2bank was created by Green Dot Corp, which many people may already be familiar with.
This account has a $5 monthly fee, but it’s easily waived if you receive an eligible direct deposit payment during the previous monthly statement period.
Plus, the perks are amazing. You can currently earn 2.50% APY (Annual Percentage Yield) on up to $5,000 in your savings account, paid quarterly¹. You can also earn up to 7% cash back when you purchase eGift Cards from the nearly 100 popular merchants in the GO2bank mobile app as well as 3% cash back on Amazon eGift Cards bought in the app².
Plus, they offer up to $200 in overdraft protection with opt-in and eligible direct deposit³.
Read our full GO2bank review here.
Why I Like It: A savings account that earns interest combined with a deposit account that has amazing overdraft protection.
Learn more about GO2bank here.
$5 (waived with qualifying direct deposit)
2.50% APY on first $5,000
9. Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking®
Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking® account is listed as a top account because it’s available nationwide online, has thousands of locations, and offers some solid options including ways to waive the monthly maintenance fee. Plus, the minimum requirements are easy to meet – check it out.
And right now you can get a $100 bonus offer when you open an account online. See offer page for more details. That’s awesome! Offer expires June 30, 2023.
Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking® has a $12 per month maintenance fee that may be waived when enrolled in Preferred Rewards, or have at least one qualifying direct deposit of $250 or more, or maintain a minimum daily balance of at least $1,500 each statement cycle.
Read our full Bank of America review here.
Why I Like It: A great account opening bonus, with one of the largest, most well known banks in the United States.
Learn more about Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking® here.
Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking®
$12 (waived when requirements met)
Get a $100 bonus offer! See offer page for details. At Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.
Juno is a crypto-friendly mobile bank that offers an incredibly compelling annual percentage yield (APY) so we wanted to include it here. While Juno is technically a checking account, it offers an amazing interest rate that will make savers want to take notice. According to Juno, you can earn 30x the national average for checking account APY.
Right now, you can earn up to 5.00% APY on balances up to $10,000.
They offer two different accounts:
- Basic Checking: Up to 5% APY on balances up to $5,000 and 3% on cash deposits from $10,001 up to $250,000.
- Metal Checking: Up to 5.00% APY on balances up to $10,000, but you need a minimum of $250 direct deposit to get started.
Their account has just a $0 minimum to open, and no monthly maintenance fees!
Read our full Juno Bank Review here.
Why I Like It: High interest rate on a checking account.
Open an Juno Account here >>
Other Great Banks That Offer Free Checking
These accounts are solid free checking account options that you may want to consider in your search!
Wealthfront Cash Account
Wealthfront (the popular robo-advisor) recently launched a high-interest checking account, the Wealthfront Cash Account. This account is a great way to earn interest on all of your money and get your paycheck up to two days early.
What’s great about the account is that it provides no account fee banking for all of your spending needs and also earns interest. It currently pays 3.30% APY and you can get started with just $1.
They are very mobile friendly, with 19,000 fee-free ATMs, mobile check deposits, and BillPay.
Read our full Wealthfront review here.
Why I Like It: Interest-bearing checking connected to a solid robo-advisor.
Open a Wealthfront Cash Account here.
Quontic High Interest Checking
Quontic Bank recently launched a High Interest Checking Account. This account is a great way to earn interest on your money, especially with the balance limits they offer. And even if you don’t meet the criteria, this is still a great free checking account!
This account currently has three tiers of interest:
- $0 to $150,000: 1.10% APY
- $150,001 to $1,000,000: 1.10% APY
- $1,000,001+: 1.10% APY
You do have to have a minimum balance of $100, and you must make 10 qualifying debit card point-of-sale transactions of $10.00 or more per statement cycle. If you fail to meet these minimums, you’ll get just 0.01% APY.
Read our full Quontic bank review here.
Why I Like It: You can earn the highest rate on a lot of your balance.
Open a Quontic Bank High Interest Checking Account here.
Quontic Bank High Interest Checking
90,000 Fee-Free ATMs nationwide
Aspiration Spend & Save
Aspiration Spend & Save is Aspiration’s cash management account. The great thing about this account is that they offer a variety of features for free. Furthermore, if you do upgrade to Aspiration Plus, you can get up to 3.00% APY on your money!
This account has only a $10 minimum to open, but after that you can pay what you want for a monthly fee (including $0), no minimum balance requirements, and no overdraft fees.
Earning the 3.00% APY does have some restrictions. To earn 3.00% APY interest on Aspiration Save Account balances up to and including $10,000.00 in any calendar month, customer must be enrolled in Aspiration Plus and spend $1,000 or more, monthly, with their Aspiration debit card. Balances over $10,000.00 will earn 0.10% APY. If the requirements are not met each month, the APY will be 0.25% on Save Account balances up to and including $10,000.00. Balances over $10,000.00 will earn 0.10% APY.
Check out our Aspiration Review here.
Why I Like It: Eco-friendly banking with potential to earn a solid APY.
Learn more about Aspiration here.
Unlimited via Reimbursement
Ally Bank Checking
Ally Bank is one of the most well-known internet only banks around, and they have a great free checking account that matches their brand.
They are known for solid customer service and great banking products. They have no monthly fee free checking, and a great mobile app that allows mobile check deposit.
Read out full Ally Bank review here.
Why I Like It: Well known free checking brand.
Learn more about Ally Bank Checking here.
43,000 Free ATMs, Up To $10 In Reimbursement/Mo
USAA Classic Checking
USAA Classic Checking is a great choice for free checking if you qualify to have a USAA Account. USAA limits membership to servicemembers and DOD employees and their families, so that could be a bar to entry for some.
If you do qualify for USAA, then their USAA Classic Checking is a great product, with no fee checking, free checks, online BillPay, and ATM free reimbursements.
Read our full USAA Bank review here. Also check out these great options for military checking accounts.
Why I Like It: Free checking, free checks, great mobile app for those that qualify for USAA.
Learn more about USAA Classic Checking here.
Up To 10 Free ATM Withdrawals
Nationwide for USAA Members
nbkc Bank Everything Account
nbkc Bank Everything Account is a great free checking account if you’re looking for a checking account that earns interest, has no minimum, and an easy to use mobile app.
They offer truly free checking, and even offer free checks and a network of free ATMs. They also have mobile check deposit, which they offer for free.
Check out our nbkc Bank review here.
Why I Like It: Free checking, free checks, and free mobile check deposit.
Open an nbkc Bank Everything Account here.
nbkc Bank Everything Account
Fighting The Myth Of Free Checking
We talked about it slightly above, but there is a long standing myth in America that checking accounts are expensive. As a result, too many people go without this tool, and end up using expensive tools like check cashing, money orders, and more.
According to a CFPB report, the average checking account charge $10-12 in monthly maintenance fees. That’s crazy! There is no reason than anyone should pay these fees when opening a checking account.
Furthermore, to waive these fees, many “big banks” require you to open other products with them (such as a savings account), or maintain a monthly minimum (say $5,000 at all times, or pay the fee), or they require you to have direct deposit setup.
Some banks even have a transaction requirement to waive the fee – for example, you must have 25 debit cards transactions per month, or you get charged a fee. All of these fees and requirements are wrong.
What You Need In A Checking Account
Students (and other people) typically maintain lower balances than older Americans. They also might not have a job yet (for direct deposit), or have other accounts at the bank.
As such, they have unique requirements that we wanted to share, so that you can see how we based our criteria for the best free checking account options.
In order to be one of the best free checking accounts, we put the following criteria in place:
- No Monthly Maintenance Fees: This is a big one. All of the accounts we consider must not charge a monthly maintenance fee, today, or ever. We hate gimmicks, and some banks waive the fee for a certain amount of time, and that’s still not okay with us.
- No Or Low Monthly Balance Required: You shouldn’t have to have huge amounts of money to waive fees or qualify for a free checking account. We only look for banks that don’t have a monthly minimum balance requirement or if they do, it’s incredibly low.
- No Direct Deposit Requirement: Many students don’t have jobs yet, so it can be hard or impossible to get direct deposit. As such, we don’t want banks to require direct deposit for free checking.
- Overdraft Options: Make sure your account offers overdraft options so that you don’t pay excess fees you don’t need to be. Some accounts will loan you the money, others simply won’t allow overdrafts. Make sure you know what your options are.
- Awesome Online Access: The best free checking accounts will also have awesome online access, a great app or mobile site, and be accessible anywhere.
- No ATM Fees: Most of us are on the move. You should be able to access your money for free, where ever you are.
How Do You Open A New Checking Account?
When you’re ready, it’s extremely easy to open a new checking account. While the process will vary, if you’re opening an account online, you simply click the link above and follow the directions. You simply need to fill out the personal information, including Name, Address, and SSN, and you’re set.
Some banks may need you to upload copies of your identification or other items. You can typically do this online.
When it comes time to fund your account, you can simply setup a transfer into the account.
If you’re opening an account at a brick and mortar bank, the same steps will apply, except you will need cash or a check to fund the account.
Common Checking Account Questions
Still on the fence about what type of checking account to open? We break down the most common checking account questions below:
Is Free Checking Real?
Yes! When we refer to free checking accounts, we are talking about accounts that don’t charge any type of monthly fee to use their service. In some rare cases, we might include a checking account that does have a monthly fee, but it can be easily waived.
What are common checking account fees?
Beyond the monthly fees, you may find checking accounts that charge for ATM withdrawals, ACH transfers, and more.
Do checking accounts pay interest?
Some do! There are interest-bearing checking accounts and non-interest bearing checking accounts. Some pay interest, but only if you maintain a certain balance level in the account. While this can be very helpful, you typically will earn a higher yield in a high yield savings account versus a checking account.
Do you have to pay for ATM withdrawals?
Most banks that advertise free checking don’t make you pay for ATM withdrawals. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t restrictions. For example, many banks either make you utilize their network of ATMs to remain free, or some banks even offer ATM fee reimbursement – where they will refund you a fee charged by an ATM. Banks that offer ATM fee reimbursement typically don’t operate their own network of ATMs.
Are there limits to how much you can have in a checking account?
While there are no limits to how much you can have in a checking account, your money is only insured up to the FDIC insurance deposit limits. As such, you should be mindful of holding more in the account than the insurance limits allow for your account type.
What’s the difference between a fee and service charge?
While many checking accounts are fee-free, most still have service charges. What’s the difference? A service charge is something you pay when you use a service beyond the basics of the account (such as a wire transfer). These services typically cost the bank a lot of money, and they are passing on the cost to you.
Do any banks offer a bonus for opening a checking account?
Yes! Some banks do offer opening account bonus offers if you meet the criteria. While you shouldn’t necessarily make your pick of a bank on a bonus offer, it can be a helpful motivating factor.
The College Investor is dedicated to helping you make informed decisions around complex financial topics like finding the best checking account. We do this by providing unbiased reviews of the top banks and checking accounts for our readers, and then we aggregate those choices into this list.
We have picked checking accounts based on our opinions of how easy they are to use, their costs and fees, any interest rates and bonuses provided, and a variety of other factors. We believe that our list accurately reflects the best free checking accounts in the marketplace for consumers.
Hopefully you can see that there are good options for free checking.
Here’s a recap of our picks for the top checking accounts:
- Upgrade Rewards Checking
- Chase Total Checking
- Fifth Third Momentum Banking
- Axos Rewards Checking
- Discover Cashback Debit
You don’t have to pay fees to have a checking account – you just need to open your account at a good bank.
Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC
¹2.50% APY as of 10/7/2022 and may change anytime. Interest is paid quarterly on the average daily balance up to a $5,000 balance.
²Active GO2bank account required to receive an eGift Card. eGift Card merchants subject to change.
³Opt-in required. $15 fee may apply to each eligible purchase transaction that brings your account negative. Balance must be brought to at least $0 within 24 hours of authorization of the first transaction that overdraws your account to avoid the fee.