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The December 2023 list of the best checking accounts


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Best Checking Accounts December 2023

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The national average checking account interest rate is 0.07% APY as of November 2023, according to data from the FDIC. While traditional banks tend to offer negligible interest rates on their checking accounts, you can earn up to 100x the national average with some online banks.

We’ve compared 157 checking accounts at 66 nationally available banks and credit unions to find some of the best options available. See below to learn more about why we picked each account, the pros and cons, and to access individual bank reviews.

Annual percentage yields (APYs) and account details are accurate as of December 1, 2023.

Best Overall Bank Checking Account

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Axos Bank Rewards Checking

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Learn More

On Axos Bank's Website. Use Promo Code "AXOS300" by 12/31/2023 for an up to $300 bonus. Terms apply.

Why We Picked It

This is the second year in a row that Axos’ tiered interest rate Rewards Checking account has been on our list. It pays up to 3.30% APY total. Balances above $50,000 do not earn interest—a very competitive rate among checking accounts. But you’ll have to jump through some hoops to earn the full APY. There are five rewards tiers, each of which increases your earning potential after you meet certain transaction or direct deposit qualifications within a statement cycle (see Details).

Beyond earning interest, account holders have access to surcharge-free ATM withdrawals at approximately 91,000 ATMs across the country, and the bank offers unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursement.

This account also offers helpful online and mobile features for day-to-day money management: You can manage your debit card, set up auto-pay for bills and pay friends and family, all from your account dashboard.

It’s easy to open and maintain an account. There’s a low $50 minimum deposit requirement and no minimum balance requirement.

As with other checking accounts at Axos, there are no overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees.

Read our full Axos Bank Review.

Pros & Cons

  • Competitive tiered interest rate structure
  • No monthly, overdraft or non-sufficient fund fees
  • Unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements
  • No interest earnings on balances over $50,000
  • Stringent monthly requirements to earn higher interest
  • No physical branches

Details

The Axos Rewards Checking account has interest tiers that allow an account holder to earn up to 3.30% APY total. Balances above $50,000 do not earn interest. These are the steps required to build the highest APY:

  • 0.40% APY: Receive monthly direct deposits totaling $1,500 or more. This must be met in order to be eligible to earn any interest during the statement cycle.
  • 0.30% APY: Sign up for Personal Finance Manager (PFM) “Account Aggregation” in Online Banking or use your Axos debit card for a total of 10 transactions per month (minimum $3 per transaction).
  • 1.00% APY: Maintain an average daily balance of $2,500 per month in an Axos Invest Managed Portfolios Account.
  • 1.00% APY: Maintain an average daily balance of $2,500 per month in an Axos Invest Self Directed Trading Account.
  • 0.60% APY: Use your Rewards Checking account to make your full monthly Axos consumer loan payment. Mortgage, personal and auto loans are eligible.

Best Overall Credit Union Checking Account

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PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking

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Annual Percentage Yield

0.15% to 0.35%

0.35% on balances of $20,000 and up to $50,000

Monthly Maintenance Fee

$10

waivable with monthly direct deposits of $500 or more or daily balance of $500 or more

Annual Percentage Yield

0.15% to 0.35%

0.35% on balances of $20,000 and up to $50,000

Monthly Maintenance Fee

$10

waivable with monthly direct deposits of $500 or more or daily balance of $500 or more

Why We Picked It

PenFed offers two checking accounts, one free and one dividend-earning. The Access America Checking account has a tiered dividend rate structure with easy-to-meet requirements. You’ll earn 0.15% APY when you maintain a monthly recurring direct deposit of $500 or more and maintain a daily balance of up to $19,999.99 and 0.35% APY on daily balances between $20,000 and $50,000. To waive the monthly service fee of $10, you’ll just need a daily balance or monthly direct deposit of$500.

PenFed has a surcharge-free ATM network that’s larger than what you’ll find at many banks and credit unions—you’ll have access to more than 85,000 ATMs.

Account holders can get access to direct deposits from their employer up to one day early. And there’s no charge for the first box of 50 checks.

The account can be accessed online, via PenFed’s highly rated mobile app or at one of the credit union’s branches. You can join PenFed Credit Union by making a $5 deposit into a savings account.

Read our full PenFed Credit Union Review.

Pros & Cons

  • Competitive tiered dividend rate structure
  • Highly rated mobile app
  • Large ATM network
  • Waivable monthly fee
  • Low minimum deposit requirement
  • Recurring direct deposit required to earn dividends (interest)
  • Monthly fee if you don’t meet requirements
  • $30 non-sufficient funds fee

Details

The yields earned on credit union accounts are referred to as dividends rather than interest. To make your Access America Checking account eligible for dividends, you must set up a minimum $500 recurring direct deposit. Eligible accounts earn 0.15% APY when you maintain a monthly recurring direct deposit of $500 or more and maintain a daily balance of up to $19,999.99 and 0.35% APY on daily balances between $20,000 and $50,000. Amounts over $50,000 don’t earn dividends. Dividends are compounded daily and paid monthly.

Best Checking Account for Cash Back

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Discover Cashback Debit Checking

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Annual Percentage Yield

N/A

Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month. See website for details.

Annual Percentage Yield

N/A

Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month. See website for details.

Why We Picked It

Discover Bank’s checking account offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month. See website for details. This means that you can earn rewards of up to $30 per month and offset some of your spending.

As with its other banking products, Discover keeps fees with this account to a minimum. There’s no monthly maintenance fee, non-sufficient funds fee or fee from Discover for using an out-of-network ATM. Official bank checks, outbound ACH transfers and online bill pay are complimentary as well.

Opening and maintaining an account is relatively easy—there’s no minimum deposit or minimum balance requirement.

As an account holder, you’ll have access to your cash at more than 60,000 surcharge-free ATMs throughout the nation. Discover also offers a well-rated mobile app for iOS and Android—useful for managing your money on the go.

Read our full Discover Bank Review.

Pros & Cons

  • Earn cash-back rewards for debit card purchases. See website for details.
  • No monthly maintenance, non-sufficient funds or ATM fees
  • No minimum deposit requirement to open
  • No interest earned
  • $3,000 threshold on cash-back qualifying purchases per month. See website for details.

Details

Some types of withdrawals and transactions are not eligible for cash-back rewards, including ATM transactions, money order purchases and peer-to-peer payments. There’s a $30 service charge per outgoing wire transfer from your account.

Why We Picked It

When you make purchases with your EverBank debit card, included with a Yield Pledge Checking account, you’ll get some perks: extended warranty protection, price protection and return protection.

EverBank (formerly TIAA Bank) also offers a Yield Pledge promise with this account, which guarantees that the interest rate you earn will be among the top 5% of competitive accounts (see Details).

EverBank charges no ATM fees with this account and automatically reimburses up to $15 each month for third-party ATM charges. If you maintain an average daily balance of $5,000 or more, ATM fee reimbursements are unlimited. Account holders have access to more than 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs.

Yield Pledge Checking accounts can be accessed online, via the bank’s highly rated mobile app or at one of its Florida branch locations.

Read our full TIAA Bank Review.

Pros & Cons

  • No minimum balance, monthly maintenance or NSF fees
  • Access to two different surcharge-free ATM networks, totaling more than 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs
  • Out-of-network ATM fees reimbursed up to $15 per for all account holders
  • Earn 0.45% APY
  • Though incoming wire transfers are free, outgoing domestic and international wire transfer fees range from $25 to $65
  • Must maintain a minimum daily balance of $5,000 to qualify for unlimited out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement
  • Yield is lower than that of many other interest-bearing checking accounts

Details

Fees applicable to the Yield Pledge Checking account include: stop payment ($25), official check ($10), outgoing domestic wire transfer ($25), outgoing international wire transfer ($30 to $65, depending on whether in U.S. dollars or requiring foreign currency, with or without currency exchange).

Interest on this account is compounded daily and credited monthly.

Best for Combined Checking and Savings

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nbkc bank Everything Account

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Why We Picked It

The Everything Account combines the features of both checking and savings into a single account. Customers get a debit card and access to more than 37,000 MoneyPass ATMs and can also set and track savings goals with nbkc’s tools. You also get a box of checks with your account.

The Everything Account does well in the category of fees—there are no overdraft fees, minimum balance fees, monthly maintenance fees or returned item fees.

Customers and noncustomers can quickly get in touch with customer service by using the bank’s live chat feature on its website. You can also contact the bank by phone or email.

nbkc includes a financial snapshot tool, allowing you to link all of your external accounts and get an overview of where your money goes each month.

In addition, you can earn 1.75% APY without having to meet any qualifications and with no minimum balance.

Read our full nbkc bank Review.

Pros & Cons

  • Serves as a single account for both checking and savings
  • No overdraft fees, monthly maintenance or returned item fees
  • Reimburses $12 per month for out-of-network ATM fees
  • No monthly qualifications needed to earn APY
  • Incoming and outgoing international wire transfers are $45 per transaction
  • Other banks and credit unions offer a higher yield on checking accounts

Details

Interest is compounded daily and credited monthly.

Best Checking Account for Earning Interest

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Quontic Bank High Interest Checking

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Why We Picked It

As a High Interest Checking account customer at Quontic, you can earn a very competitive APY of up to 1.10% on all balances, provided you’re able to meet the monthly qualifying transaction requirements (see Details). There’s no minimum balance requirement to earn this rate.

Checking customers get access to more than 90,000 surcharge-free ATMs. Quontic also offers robust online banking and gets solid mobile app ratings. In January 2022, Quontic eliminated overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees.

Read our full Quontic Bank Review.

Pros & Cons

  • No minimum balance required to earn interest
  • More than 90,000 surcharge-free ATMs
  • No overdraft or NSF fees
  • Earn a lower yield even if you do not meet the monthly activity requirements
  • Must meet monthly transaction qualifications to earn up to 1.10% on all balances APY
  • No out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement

Details

Interest is compounded daily and credited monthly. In order to meet the requirements to earn interest, customers must have a daily balance less than or equal to $1 million and make at least 10 qualifying debit card point of sale transactions of $10 or more, per statement cycle.

If the minimum qualifying activity requirements are met, then you’ll receive the up to 1.10% on all balances. If the minimum qualifying activity is not met, then 0.01% APY applies to all balances. Quontic may change the tiers that apply to this account at any time without notice.

Quontic does assess fees for some High Interest Checking activities, including: return deposited item ($10), stop payment ($20), account research ($20 per hour) and account reconciliation ($30 per hour). Quontic charges no fee for incoming wire transfers; however, correspondent bank fees apply. Outgoing wire transfers are assessed a fee of $20 domestic and $30 foreign, plus any fees from correspondent banks.

Why We Picked It

Citibank is a big bank, the fourth largest in the U.S. by assets. As such, it offers several checking account packages. Its Access Account Package stands out for its affordability and simplicity. This account, built for everyday banking needs, comes with no overdraft fees and 24/7 access to your account online or via the highly rated mobile app.

The $10 monthly service fee can be waived by making one qualifying direct deposit or bill payment per statement period or by maintaining a combined average monthly balance of $1,500 in eligible linked accounts.

There are no paper checks with this account. However, account holders can pay with their debit or ATM card, online bill pay or through online account access. It’s also possible to send money to friends and family through Zelle.

Citibank maintains more than 65,000 surcharge-free ATMs at Citibank locations and participating retail locations, including Target, CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens.

Read our full Citibank Review.

Pros & Cons

  • No overdraft fees
  • Highly rated mobile app
  • Simple and affordable
  • No paper checks
  • Doesn’t pay interest
  • No third-party ATM fee reimbursement

Details

The charge for using a non-Citibank ATM is $2.50 per withdrawal.

Best Checking Account for Early Access to Funds

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Varo Bank Account

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Why We Picked It

In 2020, Varo became the first U.S. consumer fintech company to receive a national bank charter, allowing it to offer FDIC insurance and expand its banking services.

Varo’s checking account, called the Varo Bank Account, allows you to get paid up to two days early with direct deposit, depending on when your employer submits your payment. The account also has few fees. There’s no monthly maintenance fee, no transfer fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Varo makes it fairly easy to get cash—it maintains more than 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs—but there’s a $2.50 cash withdrawal fee for out-of-network ATM transactions. Plus, account holders get a contactless Visa debit card, which comes with zero liability for unauthorized charges. You can earn up to 6% cash back on select brands when you use your Varo Visa debit card.

Varo allows the option to deposit cash at more than 90,000 retail locations using Green Dot Reload. The ability to deposit cash isn’t always as straightforward at other online banks.

Read our full Varo Bank Review.

Pros & Cons

  • Early direct deposit feature
  • Few fees
  • Contactless Visa debit card offers cash back
  • Deposit cash at more than 90,000 retail locations
  • $3.00 fee for third-party ATM transactions
  • Doesn’t pay interest

Details

Varo doesn’t charge for depositing cash with the Green Dot Reload program, but a $5.95 service fee applies.

Best Checking Account for Earning Dividends

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Connexus Credit Union Xtraordinary Checking

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Why We Picked It

Connexus Credit Union’s Xtraordinary checking account ranks well across the board in key areas, including fees, minimums, APY, customer service and digital banking. As a member, you can earn 1.75% APY on account balances of $25,000 or less and 0.25% on any amounts exceeding $25,000, provided you’re able to meet the account’s monthly requirements (see Details). The account comes with a debit card and access to features like online bill pay, mobile deposit and peer-to-peer payments.

There’s no minimum deposit requirement, but all members must open a regular savings account to get a checking account. The regular savings account requires a minimum deposit of $0.

You won’t be charged by Connexus for in-network or out-of-network ATM transactions, but the owner of an out-of-network ATM could charge a fee. Fortunately, Connexus reimburses up to $25 per month in ATM provider surcharges, provided you meet the account’s monthly requirements. It also won’t charge for overdraft transfers from linked accounts.

In addition to the regular group and geographic categories of membership, you can become a member by making a one-time $5 donation to the Connexus Association.

Read our full Connexus Credit Union Review.

Pros & Cons

  • Relatively easy requirements to earn high yields
  • No minimum deposit required to open
  • Monthly refunds for ATM provider surcharges
  • Must open a savings account to get a checking account
  • Only pays the higher APY on balances of $25,000 or less
  • Dividends compounded and credited monthly

Details

The yields earned on credit union accounts are referred to as dividends rather than interest. Dividends are compounded and credited monthly. For balances up to $25,000, Connexus requires that you sign up for electronic statements and make at least 15 debit card purchases per month or make monthly debit card purchases of at least $400 to earn 1.75% APY on account balances of $25,000 or less and 0.25% on any amounts exceeding $25,000 and $25 monthly ATM refunds. For accounts with balances greater than $25,000, yields accrue at 0.25% APY on the amounts over $25,000. If you do not meet the monthly requirements, your account will not earn dividends or ATM fee refunds that month.

Best Credit Union for Digital Banking

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Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

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Why We Picked It

Alliant Credit Union’s High-Rate Checking account stands out from the crowd with its digital banking tools. You can manage your account from the credit union’s top-rated website and mobile app. The app, available on iOS and Android, allows you to manage money, deposit checks, make payments and use budgeting tools.

This account doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee or require a minimum balance. There are more than 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs in Alliant’s network, and the bank will reimburse up to $20 per month in out-of-network ATM fees.

It is pretty easy to qualify for membership (see Details). Members get a contactless Visa debit card and a complimentary box of standard checks with this account.

Read our full Alliant Credit Union review.

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent digital experience for online and mobile banking
  • Few fees
  • Pays interest
  • Contactless Visa debit card and complimentary box of checks
  • Up to $20 per month in out-of-network ATM charge rebates
  • No physical credit union locations
  • Membership is required

Details

The yields earned on credit union accounts are referred to as dividends rather than interest. Dividends are compounded monthly and credited monthly. To earn the APY, you must opt-in to receive eStatements and have at least one monthly electronic deposit to your account. You can join Alliant Credit Union by becoming a member of Foster Care to Success (FC2S) for a $5 fee that is credited back to your account, once it’s set up.


Summary: Best Checking Accounts 2023

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Methodology

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To create this list, Forbes Advisor analyzed 157 checking accounts at 66 financial institutions, including a mix of traditional brick-and-mortar banks, online banks and credit unions. We ranked each account on 17 data points within the categories of fees, access, customer experience, digital experience, minimums and APY.

The following is the weighting assigned to each category:

  • Fees: 50%
  • Branch and ATM access: 15%
  • Customer experience: 10%
  • Digital experience: 10%
  • Minimums: 10%
  • APY: 5%

Specific characteristics taken into consideration within each category included monthly fee, ability to waive the monthly fee, overdraft fee, NSF fee, other fees, ATM network, branch access, Better Business Bureau rating, Trustpilot rating, live chat availability, mobile app ratings, online bill pay availability, online banking access, minimum deposit requirements and minimum balance requirements.

Checking accounts offering no or very low fees scored the highest, as did those offering low minimum requirements and high customer service and digital experience scores. To appear on this list, the checking account must be nationally available.


Complete Guide to Checking Accounts

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Current Highest Interest Rates on Checking Accounts

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The current highest average interest rate on a checking account recorded is 7.72% as of December 4th, 2023, according to Curinos. This high rate has remained unchanged since mid-September.

Pro Tip

The best high-yield checking accounts offer more than 3.00% APY or more on your money. Keep in mind, you may have to meet certain conditions to get the highest rates.


What Is a Checking Account?

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A checking account is a type of deposit account that allows you to deposit and withdraw money as you wish, providing easy access to your cash at any time. You can use a checking account to pay bills, make purchases and otherwise manage your daily financial transactions. These accounts can be opened at brick-and-mortar banks, online banks and credit unions. They’re designed for everyday use and to hold money for expenses in the near future.

How Does a Checking Account Work?

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Checking accounts are intended to hold money for short-term needs and everyday transactions. They typically come with a debit card you can use for purchases, payments and ATM withdrawals. Checking accounts are usually less restrictive than savings accounts when it comes to withdrawals, although your bank may limit the amount of money you can spend with your debit card or withdraw from an ATM each day.

Most checking accounts don’t earn interest, but more banks now offer interest-bearing checking accounts. Your bank may charge a monthly fee to maintain your checking account, or it may require you to keep a specific account of money in the account to waive the fee.

How Much Money Should You Keep in a Checking Account?

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Everyone’s financial situation is different, so there’s no set amount you should keep in your checking account. But as a general rule, it’s a good idea to keep at least one to two months’ worth of living expenses in your checking account to cover unexpected expenditures.

Track your monthly expenses to get an idea of how much to keep in your account each month. Adding an extra cushion of cash will help you stay prepared in the event of an emergency.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Open a Checking Account?

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In most cases, you need to be at least 18 years old to open a checking account on your own. However, many bank accounts permit those under 18 to be added as co-owners along with a parent or guardian. Most joint checking accounts require co-applicants to be at least 13 or 14 years old to qualify, but there are options for younger children too.

Teen checking accounts are the best choice for kids and teens. Many have even lower minimum age requirements than standard joint accounts, with some permitting users as young as six years old to apply. Often, these joint checking accounts offer additional safety features such as parental controls and debit card spending restrictions.


Types of Checking Accounts

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Several types of checking accounts exist to meet various banking needs, including a:

  • Traditional checking account: A traditional or standard checking account lets you perform basic spending functions—including writing checks—and comes with a debit card for purchases and ATM withdrawals.
  • Premium checking account: Premium checking accounts include upgraded banking features. Depending on the bank, you may need to meet higher deposit or balance requirements, or you may pay a monthly fee for access. Generally, premium accounts offer more attractive benefits as your balance grows.
  • Interest-bearing checking account: As the name suggests, some checking accounts earn interest. There are also a growing number of high-yield checking accounts to choose from. Banks that offer these accounts often require you to maintain a certain balance to accrue interest.
  • Rewards checking account: Rewards checking accounts let you earn incentives for spending, similar to a credit card. Generally, this means you’ll receive cash back with each debit card purchase.
  • Student checking account: Student checking accounts are geared toward teens and college students interested in opening their first checking account. These accounts often feature low or no fees and overdraft protection.
  • Second-chance checking account: Individuals with a poor banking history may qualify for a second-chance checking account. These accounts generally carry unavoidable monthly fees.
  • Business checking account: These accounts allow business owners to track expenses, simplify taxes and separate their personal and business finances. Business checking accounts can also help you establish a business credit history while providing access to merchant services like credit card processing.
  • Senior checking account: This type of account is designed for those age 55 and older and typically offers perks and benefits such as waived monthly fees, free checks and penalty-free emergency early withdrawals on CDs.

Checking Account Fees

VIDEO:

The best checking accounts charge minimal fees. When comparing checking accounts, it’s helpful to consider the following common checking account fees:

  • Monthly maintenance fees
  • Paper statement fees
  • Wire transfer fees
  • Out-of-network ATM fees
  • Foreign ATM fees
  • Foreign transaction fees
  • Overdraft fees
  • Returned item (NSF) fees
  • Cashier’s check, certified check and money order fees

Many banks waive monthly maintenance fees if you meet certain requirements. For example, you might need to maintain a minimum average balance or receive a certain number of direct deposits per month.

Online banks often charge no monthly fees and may even offer perks like overdraft protection and ATM fee reimbursements. With an online checking account, fees for things like wire transfers or foreign ATM transactions may also be lower than what you’d pay with a checking account at a traditional bank.


Checking Account Bonus Offers

VIDEO:

Checking account bonuses are free cash promotions some banks offer when you open an account and meet certain requirements, like setting up direct deposit or using your debit card to make a minimum number of purchases during the first 90 days.

Right now, there are several checking account bonus offers at online and traditional banks that can net you hundreds of dollars. The best bank bonuses have requirements that are easy to meet on accounts with low or no monthly fees.


Pros and Cons of Checking Accounts

VIDEO:

Checking accounts are the most common type of bank account used for everyday transactions. There are several benefits to using a checking account, but there are some disadvantages to consider.

Pros

VIDEO:
  • Checking accounts offer easy access to your money when you need it.
  • Direct deposit lets you receive paychecks directly into your account.
  • Checking accounts at banks and credit unions are insured for up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership type and per financial institution.

Cons

VIDEO:
  • Checking accounts may charge monthly fees or impose requirements to avoid fees.
  • Most checking accounts don’t earn interest.
  • Keeping too much money in your checking account could slow your efforts to save.

Do Checking Accounts Earn Interest?

VIDEO:

Generally, checking accounts don’t earn interest because they are meant to be used daily. However, those that do offer interest typically have lower APYs than savings accounts due to the liquidity of the account. Keep in mind that APYs can change at any time.

Interest-bearing checking accounts often have basic requirements you need to meet each statement cycle to earn the yield. These may include making a certain number of debit card transactions per month or maintaining a particular minimum balance in your account. Make sure you understand the terms of an interest-bearing account before opening one.


How To Choose a Checking Account

VIDEO:

There are many checking accounts on the market, and choosing an account isn’t always cut and dried. Here’s what to consider when shopping for a new checking account:

  • Fees. Because you’ll use a checking account for your day-to-day transactions, it’s important to keep fees to a minimum. Watch out for monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees and out-of-network ATM fees. Look at your banking habits to see which fees matter to you most, and then find a bank or credit union that keeps those fees low.
  • Minimums. Some banks and credit unions require that you make a certain minimum deposit amount to open a checking account. They may also require that you meet particular minimum balance requirements to earn the APY or avoid paying a fee. Before you open an account, make sure you can meet the bank or credit union’s requirements. Or, look for an account with no minimum requirements whatsoever.
  • APY. Not all checking accounts pay interest. But if you’re looking to earn interest on your cash, keep the APY in mind when shopping for an account.
  • Customer service. Regardless of whether you bank online or at a branch, it’s important to be able to get in touch with a customer service representative should a problem or question arise. It’s also important that they are helpful and responsive.
  • Digital experience. Especially if you often bank online or via mobile app, look for banks and credit unions with innovative online and mobile banking technology.
  • Safety. Make sure that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures your account at a bank. It provides up to $250,000 in insurance per depositor, per bank, for each account ownership category, in the event of a bank failure. Look for insurance from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) at credit unions.

It’s also important to consider your banking habits to see which checking account features are most valuable to you.

If you often tend to overdraft your account, look for a checking account that doesn’t charge overdraft fees. If you like being able to bank on the go, choose an account with a highly rated mobile app. Your behavior can help guide you toward the checking account that’s best for you.

Pro Tip

The best checking accounts have few fees, earn competitive interest rates and make it easy to access your money when you need it. You can find attractive checking accounts at banks, credit unions and online-only neobanks.


What Do You Need to Open a Checking Account?

VIDEO:

Many banks and credit unions let you open a checking account online. For others, you need to apply in person at a local branch. To verify your identity and confirm eligibility, your bank will ask you to provide personal information, including your:

  • Full name
  • Physical address
  • Driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID
  • Social Security number

If you’re approved for an account, you can usually fund it using cash, a check or a transfer from an external account. Though online checking accounts typically don’t support cash deposits.

How To Open a Checking Account Online

VIDEO:

Opening a checking account online is similar to opening one in person.

Once you find a checking account that’s right for you, fill out an application on the bank or credit union’s website and submit any required documents. After that, you should be able to fund your new checking account online.

If you’re opening a checking account at a bank that you already have an account with, making your initial deposit may be as simple as transferring money from your other account. If you’re opening a checking account at a new bank, you’ll need to link your existing account by providing your bank account and routing numbers. You can then transfer funds from your old account to your new one.

When opening checking accounts online, consider how much you’ll need to get started. You may need $25, $50, $100 or more to open a checking account at a traditional bank. Online banks, on the other hand, may require an opening deposit as low as $1 or, in some cases, $0.

How Many Checking Accounts Can I Have?

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There’s no limit to the number of checking accounts you can have. You can have multiple checking accounts at the same bank or different banks.

Whether it makes sense to have more than one checking account depends on how you manage your money. If you’re married, for instance, you might have one checking account in your name and a joint account you and your spouse use to pay shared bills. Someone who’s self-employed may have a personal checking account to cover their personal expenses and a separate checking account for business expenses.

When opening multiple checking accounts, consider the fees you’ll pay for each one. If you can find a free checking account option with no monthly maintenance fee, that might be ideal. Also, consider how you’ll keep track of your accounts. Using a budgeting or money management app that links to each of your accounts could be a simple way to review your balances in one place.


Checking vs. Savings Accounts

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Checking accounts are primarily used for everyday spending, while savings accounts are used for saving your money. Here are a few of the significant differences between the two:

  • Purpose. Checking accounts are for spending. Savings accounts are for saving.
  • Withdrawals. Checking accounts generally allow unlimited withdrawals. Savings accounts often limit you to six withdrawals per month.
  • Features. Checking accounts generally come equipped with debit cards, paper checks, overdraft protection and other services for spending. Aside from earning interest, some savings accounts may come with tools to help you reach savings goals.
  • Interest. Some checking accounts pay interest, but this isn’t the norm. Savings accounts generally do pay interest.

Most Americans Have Never Switched Checking Accounts

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According to a Forbes Advisor poll, more than half (52.0%) of banked Americans have never moved their checking account to a different institution. That’s surprising, considering how competitive the checking account landscape has become. Many of today’s best checking accounts let you accrue interest, earn cash back on purchases or receive early direct deposits, among other features.

Have You Ever Switched Checking Accounts

Of the Americans who had switched checking accounts at some point, 29.4% moved their money over 10 years ago, while 21.5% switched accounts between six and 10 years ago, and 23.8% switched between three and five years ago. Within the past 12 months, 9.2% of Americans changed their checking accounts.

When Americans Last Switched Checking Account

Methodology
This online survey of 1,000 Americans (18+) who have at least one bank (checking and/or savings) account was commissioned by Forbes Advisor and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected from November 9 to November 13, 2023. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 points with 95% confidence. This survey was overseen by the OnePoll research team, which is a member of the MRS and has corporate membership with the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).


Banks We Monitor

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Our research is based on information from the following financial institutions: Acorns, Albert, Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, Amalgamated Bank, American Express, Aspiration, Axos Bank, BancorpSouth Bank, Bank5 Connect, BankDirect, BankPurely, Betterment, Bank of America, Blue Federal Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, Chime®, CIBC, CIT Bank, Citibank, Citizens Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Copper, Dave, Discover, E*Trade Bank, Fidelity, First Internet Bank, First National Bank and Trust, FNBO Direct, GoBank, Golden Credit Union, Heritage Bank, HSBC, iGoBanking, Investors eAccess, LendingClub, Memory Bank, My eBanc, Navy Federal Credit Union, nbkc Bank, One, Paramount Bank, PenFed, PNC Bank, Quontic, Regions Bank, Redneck Bank, Rising Bank, SalemFiveDirect, Santander, SoFi, Step, TAB Bank, TD Bank, EverBank, Union Bank & Trust, USAA, U.S. Bank, Varo Bank, Wealthfront and Wells Fargo.


Recap: Best Checking Accounts

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  • Axos Bank Rewards Checking: Best Overall Bank Checking Account
  • PenFed Credit Union Access America Checking: Best Overall Credit Union Checking Account
  • Discover Cashback Debit Checking: Best Checking Account for Cash Back
  • EverBank Yield Pledge Checking: Best Checking Account for Purchase Protection
  • nbkc bank Everything Account: Best for Combined Checking and Savings
  • Quontic Bank High Interest Checking: Best Checking Account for Earning Interest
  • Citibank Access Account Package: Best for Big Bank Checking
  • Varo Bank Account: Best Checking Account for Early Access to Funds
  • Connexus Credit Union Xtraordinary Checking: Best Checking Account for Earning Dividends
  • Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking: Best Credit Union for Digital Banking

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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While there’s no one best bank for anyone, a couple of banks stand out for their flexibility and lack of fees. The Capital One 360 Checking Account has no monthly fee, offers 70,000 free ATMs and works with Zelle. And the Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® is great for travelers as it never charges foreign fees and offers unlimited ATM reimbursements around the globe.

Some checking accounts have no monthly maintenance fees and minimal service charges. You’re more likely to find free checking accounts at online banks, though some traditional banks also offer them. It’s important to keep in mind that “free” might mean no monthly fee, but other fees may apply.

Most financial institutions require you to be at least 18 years of age to open an individual checking account. Many banks offer custodial checking accounts you can jointly open with a parent or legal guardian if you’re under 18.

To attract new customers and new deposits, some banks offer bonus opportunities for opening a checking account. These promotions are generally offered for finite periods but are often renewed. The best way to take advantage of one of these offers is to keep an eye on the best bank bonuses.

Your checking account and routing numbers are located at the bottom of your checks. Many banks let you view your account information—including your account number—in the bank’s mobile app or on its website.

The exact steps to close a bank account depend on your financial institution. Some allow you to close an account online, while others make you submit a written request or visit a branch. Before closing a checking account, transfer any remaining funds to another bank account—minus any outstanding transactions.

Banks and other financial institutions set overdraft limits in case you spend beyond your balance. There’s no set limit on how much you can overdraft. Many banks offer overdraft protection—often for an additional fee—or they offer a grace period to deposit sufficient funds and cover outstanding charges before a fee is assessed.

Some banks and credit unions offer a service called overdraft protection. This allows customers to overdraw their checking accounts, but it’s generally for a fee. Having overdraft protection allows transactions to clear when you don’t have enough funds in your account.

Yes, checking accounts are safe places to stash your money. Make sure the checking account you choose is insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) at a bank or the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) at a credit union.

Checking accounts can be FDIC-insured or NCUA-insured, depending on if your account is at a bank or credit union. Whichever it may be, both organizations insure your deposits up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank or credit union, for each account ownership category in the event of a bank or credit union failure.

Sources


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