Best Free Checking Accounts in U.S.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find truly free checking accounts. At many banks, you’re now required to pay a monthly maintenance fee for the privilege of keeping your checking account open. Such fees can range from a few dollars to $20 or more, depending on the bank and other associated perks. To avoid these fees, you may need to maintain a high minimum daily balance, make regular deposits of a certain size or frequency, or execute a minimum number of transactions in a statement period.

Fortunately, it’s still possible to find free checking accounts. You just have to know where to look. Many online banks offer legitimately free, FDIC-insured (up to $250,000 per account) accounts with few restrictions and plenty of sweeteners. Some even pay noticeable interest.

If you’re looking for a checking account that won’t eat away at your deposits, take a closer look at these options available to customers throughout the United States.

Best Free Checking Accounts

1. EverBank Yield Pledge Checking

Yield Always in Top 5% of U.S. Checking Accounts; Many ATM Fees Waived

everbank logoEverBank is a full-service online bank with a very attractive checking option: the Yield Pledge Checking Account. The “pledge” is that the account’s yield will always be in the top 5% of all U.S. checking accounts, as measured by the Bankrate BRM Index (released monthly). So far, EverBank has held up this bargain.

Other advantages include a robust mobile app and an overdraft line of credit that may be cheaper than a traditional overdraft fee. Drawbacks include a minimum balance requirement for reimbursement of out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees, as well as a relatively high opening deposit requirement.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: EverBank requires a minimum opening deposit of $1,500, but you don’t have to maintain a minimum daily balance once the account is open.
  • Account Opening Bonus: For balances less than $100,000, EverBank pays an annual interest rate of 1.40% for your first six months, compared to a prevailing annual rate between 0.30% and 0.61%. For the second six months, rates drop to around 0.90%. After 12 months, Yield Pledge Checking’s prevailing rates take effect.
  • Yield: EverBank promises that Yield Pledge Checking’s yield is always in the top 5% of U.S. checking accounts. This account pays annual interest on a tiered scale: 0.30% for balances less than $9,999, 0.41% for balances between $10,000 and $24,999, 0.46% between $25,000 and $49,999, 0.56% between $50,000 and $99,999, and 0.61% for balances greater than $100,000.
  • Rewards and Incentives: EverBank never charges a fee to withdraw money from an ATM in the U.S. Additionally, if you keep at least $5,000 in your account, you are reimbursed for other banks’ ATM fees.
  • Mobile Features: ATM finder, bill pay, check deposit (with photo), and send money to friends (People Pay). The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: EverBank doesn’t charge a flat overdraft fee. To avoid fees completely, you can link another EverBank account (savings or money market) to your checking account. If you attempt a transaction without sufficient funds in your checking account, EverBank automatically pulls money from one of those accounts. Each overdraft transfer counts toward your monthly limit of six outgoing transfers from your savings or money market account – a limit that’s common to all online banks on this list. If you’d prefer not to open or link another EverBank account, you can opt in to an overdraft line of credit, which essentially charges a variable interest rate on negative balances. This rate is based on the prime rate plus 5.9%.
  • Possible Fees: Replacement debit card ($10), domestic wires ($25), and stop payment ($30).

See our EverBank Review for more information.

2. Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account

Very Attractive Yields, Even on Low Balances

bank5connect logoIf you’re looking for an attractive yield with a reasonable minimum balance requirement, it’s hard to do better than the Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account. Bank5 Connect also has reasonable overdraft fees and a generous reimbursement policy for third-party ATM fees. A sub-par mobile app counts against it.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s a $10 minimum opening balance and no daily minimum balance requirement. However, to earn interest you need to keep a daily balance of at least $100.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: All Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account balances greater than $100 yield 0.76%. This is significantly higher than many competitors.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Bank5 Connect never charges a fee for withdrawing money at U.S. ATMs. If you withdraw from other banks’ ATMs, Bank5 Connect reimburses those surcharges up to a total of $15 per month. Your first order of personal checks (five books), all wire transfers, and cashiers checks are also free.
  • Mobile Features: Check deposit and bill pay. The account is Android and iPhone compatible, though the mobile app is not as user-friendly as other options.
  • Overdraft Options: If you have a savings account with Bank5 Connect, you can opt in to an overdraft transfer program that automatically pulls money from it to cover a checking account overdraft. If you don’t have another account with Bank5 Connect, you can opt in to overdraft protection, which levies a flat fee of $15 per overdraft.
  • Possible Fees: Returned deposit ($5.71), stop payment ($15), and levies and garnishments, which is when a government entity pulls funds from your bank account to cover back taxes, judgments, or other legal obligations ($25 per item).

3. Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking

Tiered Yields up to 1.25%

bank of internet usa logoThough the Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking account doesn’t automatically pay interest, you can earn a yield of up to 1.25% on your funds by meeting certain qualifications. These include using your debit card 10 times per month and accepting a monthly direct deposit of at least $1,000.

On the other hand, there’s no overdraft service unless you open another account with BoI. And, though the bank advertises free checks with a new checking account, you actually need to request them when you open the account (and checks might not be the first thing on your mind at that time).

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: You need $100 to open a Rewards Checking account, but there’s no minimum daily balance requirement once it’s open.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: Rewards Checking accounts come with a base yield of 0%. However, you can earn interest on balances of any amount in several ways. If you only receive a $1,000 direct deposit or use your card at least 10 times (but less than 15) in a given month, your annual interest rate for that month is 0.4166%. If you use your card at least 15 times, it’s 0.8333%. If you both receive a $1,000 deposit and use your card at least 10 times, your rate for that month is also 0.8333%. If you receive a $1,000 deposit and use your card at least 15 times, you earn 1.25%.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Bank of Internet USA offers unlimited reimbursements for all U.S. ATM fees. You also get your first 50 checks free with a Rewards Checking account if you ask for them at account opening.
  • Mobile Features: Check deposits, bill pay, send money to friends (Popmoney), and FinanceWorks (a budgeting tool from Quicken). The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: Bank of Internet USA offers free overdraft transfers from a linked internal savings or money market account. If you don’t opt in to this service, any transaction that would result in an overdraft fails.
  • Possible Fees: Debit card replacement ($10), cashiers checks ($10), and stop payment ($35).

4. Ally Bank Interest Checking

No Minimums; No ATM Fees, Ever

ally bank logoAlly Bank is one of the original online banks, and its Interest Checking account remains immensely popular. There are no minimums of any kind here. Ally also reimburses all third-party ATM fees, without exclusion. Low overdraft fees (just $9 per transaction) sweeten the deal further.

Drawbacks include low yields on modest balances and a surcharge on all international transactions.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s no minimum deposit to open an account, and no minimum daily balance.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account yields 0.10% annually on balances less than $15,000, and 0.60% annually on balances greater than that amount.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Ally Bank never charges ATM fees and provides unlimited reimbursements for all third-party ATM fees or surcharges at the end of each month.
  • Mobile Features: Mobile check deposit (Ally eCheck Deposit), ATM finder, send money to a friend (Popmoney), bill pay, and internal and external transfers. The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: Ally lets you opt in to a free overdraft transfer service that pulls funds from your savings or money market account to cover negative balances. You can also opt in to an overdraft protection program that charges a one-time fee of $9 per overdraft transaction. If you don’t elect either program, you won’t be able to make transactions that would result in an overdraft.
  • Possible Fees: Stop payment ($15), outgoing wires ($20), and international transactions (1% of transaction total).

See our Ally Bank Review for more information.

5. Capital One 360 Checking

No Minimum Balances; $50 Account Opening Bonus

capital one 360 logo360 Checking from Capital One 360 comes with an attractive yield, especially for larger balances. When you open a new account, it automatically pays you a bonus without requiring you to jump through hoops – a rarity among banks, traditional or online.

360 Checking’s mobile app is among the best in the business, with intuitive mobile check deposit, an interactive ATM finder, seamless person-to-person money transfers, and text alerts for a wide range of account functions. Drawbacks include high fees for replacement debit cards, high minimum balance requirements for the best annual yields, and no out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s no minimum deposit or balance required for this account.
  • Account Opening Bonus: The 360 Checking Account comes with an opening bonus of $50, regardless of the opening deposit amount. However, Capital One reserves the right to discontinue it at any time.
  • Yield: Capital One 360 Checking yields 0.20% annually on balances up to $49,999, 0.75% on balances between $50,000 and $99,999, and 0.80% greater than $100,000.
  • Rewards and Incentives: In addition to the $50 account opening bonus, you get access to about 40,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide – 38,000 in the Allpoint network, and 2,000 Capital One-branded machines. All new accounts come with a free checkbook as well. Out of this network, your ATM fees aren’t reimbursed.
  • Mobile Features: Check deposit (using the CheckMate app), ATM finder, send money to friends (using Person2Person), bill pay, and text alerts for balances and bills due. The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: You can opt in to an overdraft line of credit that accrues daily interest. Capital One 360 doesn’t say how this rate is calculated, but it sits near 11.5% annually.
  • Possible Fees: Replacement debit card ($25), NSF or non-sufficient funds check ($9), and stop payment ($25).

See our Capital One 360 Review for more information.

6. eOne Checking by Salem Five Direct

No Minimum Opening Deposit or Balance Requirements

salem five direct logoThis account from Salem Five Direct offers a decent yield across the board, and does not require a minimum opening deposit or daily balance. It also reimburses all third-party ATM fees without limit – a powerful sweetener for a bank that has few branded ATMs of its own. However, the annual yield is a bit low, and the mobile platform isn’t user-friendly.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There are no minimum opening deposit or balance requirements.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: All balances held in Salem Five Direct’s eOne Checking account yield 0.25% annually.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Salem Five Direct reimburses all ATM fees charged by other financial institutions. Your first order of checks (five books) is also free.
  • Mobile Features: Bill pay and mobile check deposit. The account is Android and iPhone compatible, though the platform feels outdated.
  • Overdraft Options: You can opt in to an overdraft protection program that charges a one-time fee of $25 per overdraft transaction. Under this program, Salem Five Direct doesn’t charge for overdrafts of less than $5. However, if you don’t opt in, any transaction that would result in an overdraft fails.
  • Possible Fees: Stop payment ($30), paper statements ($2.95 per statement), and returned deposits ($5.71).

7. TIAA Direct Interest Checking

Direct Deposit Bonus of Up to $100

tiaa direct logoTIAA Direct is an online bank that’s affiliated with TIAA-CREF, a large financial company that markets insurance and investment products to employees of nonprofits. However, TIAA Direct’s banking products, including its Interest Checking account, are open to all residents of the United States – not just nonprofit employees. It boasts a juicy account opening bonus – up to $100 – that’s relatively easy to obtain.

Its yield isn’t as impressive as EverBank’s or Bank5 Connect’s, but little perks such as free replacement debit cards sweeten the deal. The fact that it has no out-of-network reimbursements and hefty daily overdraft fees are significant drawbacks.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: TIAA Direct requires a $25 opening deposit, but you don’t have to maintain a minimum balance once the account is open.
  • Account Bonus: You need to call TIAA to take advantage of this offer. For both new and existing accounts, the bank pays a cash bonus of $50 when you set up and receive a direct deposit of at least $250 within 60 days of calling TIAA. If you receive at least two additional direct deposits of at least $250 within 120 days of calling TIAA, the bank pays an additional $50 bonus, for a total cash bonus of $100.
  • Yield: This account’s annual yield is 0.05% for balances less than $1,500, 0.10% for balances between $1,500 and $24,999, and 0.15% for balances greater than $25,000.
  • Rewards and Incentives: TIAA Direct has a network of 23,000 fee-free ATMs (MoneyPass and SUM-branded). Out of this network, the bank doesn’t reimburse ATM fees. Your first book of checks and reordered debit cards are free.
  • Mobile Features: ATM locator, bill pay, real-time transfers (external and internal), and balance updates. The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: TIAA Direct offers two opt-in overdraft plans. The first is a free overdraft transfer program that automatically transfers funds from a linked TIAA savings or money market account to an overdrawn checking account. The second levies a $25 charge for each checking account transaction (using your debit card) that results in an overdraft, up to a maximum of $75 per day. This second option may be the only one available if you don’t have a linked account.
  • Possible Fees: NSF or non-sufficient funds checks ($25 for each, $75 single-day maximum), cashiers checks ($5), paper statements ($5), and stop payment ($25).

8. Independent Bank Free Rewards Checking

Potential for Very High Checking Yields

independent bank logoIndependent Bank is a Texas-based institution that offers banking products to customers across the U.S. Though its Free Rewards Checking account comes with a relatively low baseline interest rate, it has the potential to yield up to 1.50% annually when used properly. If you satisfy certain conditions, the Free Rewards Checking account pays better than many 24-month CDs. These conditions are that you make at least 12 debit card purchases per month, sign up for electronic statements, and have at least one monthly direct deposit or debit.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: You need to make a minimum opening deposit of $100, but there’s no minimum balance requirement thereafter.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account has a baseline annual yield of 0.05% on all balances. However, you can dramatically boost your account’s annual yield – to 1.50% on balances up to $15,000 – by meeting three qualifications: signing up for electronic statements, initiating at least one direct deposit or debit per month, and making at least 12 debit card transactions per month. If you meet the qualifications, only balances below $15,000 are eligible to yield 1.50% annually.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Independent Bank never charges a fee to use ATMs. It also offers unlimited reimbursements for all ATM fees levied by other institutions. If you open a REALSaver account (yielding 0.50% annually), sign up for electronic statements, initiate a monthly direct deposit, and make at least 12 monthly debit card transactions, Independent Bank automatically deposits your ATM reimbursements into that account.
  • Mobile Features: Bill pay, ATM finder, check deposit, and text alerts. The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: Independent Bank allows you to tie in a checking or money market account and make fee-free transfers to cover your checking account’s overdraft transactions. You can also opt in to an overdraft protection program that charges a one-time fee of $27 per overdraft transaction. If you don’t opt in to either program, you can’t make transactions that would result in a negative balance.
  • Possible Fees. Stop payment ($25), NSF or non-sufficient funds checks ($27), and outgoing wire transfers ($20).

9. UFB Direct Airline Rewards Checking

One Airline Mile for Every $2 Spent 

ufb direct logoUFB Direct is affiliated with Bank of Internet USA, but administers a separate checking account that focuses on cash back and airline rewards. For every $2 you spend with your debit card, you earn one American AAdvantage mile. Though exact redemption values vary based on route popularity and other factors, 12,500 is often enough to cover the cost of a round trip between any North American destinations.

A free overdraft transfer program is nice too. The biggest downside is the lack of an annual yield.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s a minimum opening deposit of $100, but no minimum balance thereafter.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account doesn’t pay interest.
  • Rewards and Incentives: UFB Direct’s biggest draw is an airline rewards program that earns a baseline of one American AAdvantage mile for every $2 spent by debit card, and an additional one-time bonus of 1,000 miles for scheduling a monthly direct deposit totaling at least $1,000. To be eligible, you need to sign up for an American AAdvantage rewards account before opening your UFB Direct Airline Rewards Checking account. You can earn a maximum of 120,000 miles in a calendar year. UFB Direct also offers unlimited fee reimbursements on all U.S. ATM withdrawals.
  • Mobile Features: Bill pay, check deposit, FinanceWorks, send money to a friend (Popmoney), and email and text alerts for balances and transactions. The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: This account comes with a free overdraft transfer program. When you link another UFB Direct account, the bank automatically pulls funds to cover overdrafts from your Airline Rewards Checking account. If you don’t link an account and you try to make a transaction that would result in an overdraft, the transaction fails.
  • Possible Fees: Debit card replacement ($10), stop payment ($35), and cashiers checks ($10).

10. FNBO Direct Online Checking Account

Competitive Yields on All Checking Account Balances

fnbo direct logoThe FNBO Direct Online Checking account is a straightforward product that pays an attractive yield on all balances, has a negligible minimum opening deposit, and never requires a minimum balance. Despite its no-frills appearance, this account has a nice mobile platform that lets you send money directly to friends and family at no charge.

FNBO does have some drawbacks: It doesn’t reimburse out-of-network ATM fees, and charges hefty daily overdraft fees.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s a minimum opening deposit amount of $1 and no minimum balance requirement.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account yields 0.65% annually on all balances.
  • Rewards and Incentives: FNBO Direct doesn’t charge its own ATM withdrawal fees. However, it never reimburses ATM withdrawal fees charged by other banks.
  • Mobile Features: Bill pay and send money to a friend (Popmoney). The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: You can opt in to an overdraft protection program that charges a one-time fee of $33 per transaction, up to a daily maximum overdraft charge of $132. That’s equivalent to four overdraft transactions per day. FNBO Direct waives this fee for one overdraft per calendar year. If you don’t opt in, you can’t make transactions that would result in an overdraft.
  • Possible Fees: Outgoing wires ($15) and cashiers checks ($10).

See our FNBO Direct Review for more information.

11. First Internet Bank of Indiana Free Checking

Low Minimum Opening Deposit; No Minimum Balance Requirement

first internet bank logoDespite its parochial name, a First Internet Bank of Indiana account is available to anyone with a U.S. address. It doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement and has a negligible minimum opening deposit.

Its biggest drawbacks include no yield, a fee of about $5 per month for bill pay, and no reimbursement for other banks’ ATM fees.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: You can open an account with a $25 deposit. There’s no minimum balance requirement after that.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account doesn’t pay interest.
  • Rewards and Incentives: First Internet Bank of Indiana doesn’t charge its own ATM fees. However, it never reimburses those of other banks, which is problematic because its own ATM network is small. You get 50 checks free with your account opening.
  • Mobile Features: Enrollment in FinanceWorks and bill pay (optional, costs $4.95 per month). The account is Android and iPhone compatible.
  • Overdraft Options: You can opt in to an overdraft protection plan that charges a one-time fee of $30 for each overdraft transaction. Otherwise, transactions that would result in an overdraft fail.
  • Possible Fees: Optional bill pay ($4.95 per month), paper statements ($3), replacement debit card ($5), and cashiers checks ($5).

Final Word

If you cling to the quaint notion that you shouldn’t have to pay for a basic checking account, any one of these options should suit you. However, before you settle on a choice, do your homework. Be especially vigilant for any signs of systemic problems, such as data security issues or a pattern of customer service complaints, at your chosen bank. After all, you don’t want to stop being an educated consumer just because a product or service is free.

What’s your favorite free checking account?

 

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