11 Best Free Checking Accounts for 2020

11 Best Free Checking Accounts for 2020

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  • Post last modified:May 26, 2020
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Money is tight for many of us nowadays. That’s why I thought I would give you a list of the best free checking accounts.

There is no shortage of checking accounts out there, especially with the advent of online banking. Many of them are good, but only a handful of them are deserving of this list.

1. Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

The Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account is an online-only checking account with a number of perks.

There are no account minimums or monthly fees for this account. There are also no foreign transaction fees plus no ATM fees – even on ATMs in other countries.

It has an APY that’s high for checking accounts at 0.03%. The account also comes with a brokerage account, allowing you to seamlessly invest after-tax dollars.

There are a few downsides, such as a limited number of branches, plus you cannot deposit cash (even at a branch location).

The Good

  • No account minimums or monthly fees
  • No ATM fees, ever
  • High APY for checking

The Bad

  • Limited number of branches
  • No cash deposit option

2. NBKC Bank Personal Checking

National Bank of Kansas City (NBKC) is a (mostly) online bank as it only has braches in Kansas an Missouri. That said, the NBKC Personal Checking Account may not be as popular as some of the other accounts on this list, but it probably should be.

That’s because, simply put, it has just about everything you could ask for in a free checking account. It requires a $5 deposit to open, but beyond that, you’ll see zeroes across the board.

And by that, we mean no monthly fees, no minimum balance, no overdraft/NSF…the list goes on.

You will pay a fee for withdrawing cash out-of-network, but you get access to 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs. If you do incur ATM fees, you’ll also be re-reimbursed for up to $12 each month.

You also get a “crazy-good” interest rate money in your account (0.75% at the time of writing). Overall, this account is an amazing value.

The Good

  • $5 deposit to open
  • No monthly or overdraft fees
  • Great APY on your account balance

The Bad

  • No branches outside Kansas and Missouri

3. BBVA Free Checking

BBVA is a branch that operates in select states while offering online options for everyone else. Its free checking account has some unique features that make it intriguing.

You’ll need $25 to open an account; after that, there are no monthly fees. There is a $3/month fee for paper statements which is waived for online statements.

What’s unique about BBVA Free Checking is that you can add individual features to your account, each with their own monthly fee:

  • No additional fees for out-of-network ATMs: $5
  • Unlimited standard checks plus 50% off check styles: $2
  • Unlimited cashier’s checks: $2
  • 3×5 safe deposit box: $3

You’ll also pay no fees at 64,000 AllPoint® ATMs. The “pay for what you need” approach is innovative and makes this account a great value.

On the downside, in addition having branches in just eight states, you won’t earn interest on checking account balances.

The Good

  • No monthly fees for a basic account
  • Access to AllPoint ATM network
  • Customizable features

The Bad

  • Branches only in select states
  • No interest on checking account balances

4. Chase Total Checking

Of the accounts on this list, Chase Total Checking is what you probably want to go with if you need a physical branch nearby. With over 5,000 branches, most people will have one within a stone’s throw.

That said, be sure to check Chase’s branch locator as some metro areas still don’t have branches. Chase has over 16,000 of its own ATMs, too.

As for the checking account, it is only free if you meet one of the following:

  • Direct deposit totaling $500 or more
  • Balance at the beginning of each day of $1,500 or more
  • Average beginning day balance of $5,000 or more in any combination of this account and linked qualifying deposits

If you don’t meet any of these requirements, you will incur a $12/month fee.

There is also a $34/month overdraft fee. As you can see, while this account may give you access to physical branches, its fee structure still looks like that of a traditional bank.

The Good

  • Huge number of branch locations
  • Generous network of in-network ATMs

The Bad

  • Not free if you don’t meet any of the requirements to waive the monthly fee
  • $34 overdraft fee

5. Varo Online Checking Account

Varo’s Online Checking Account is competitive when compared with other online checking accounts. It has most of the features we’re come to expect from this approach to banking.

These include no monthly fees, no fee overdraft, and no foreign transaction fees. There is also no minimum balance, and you have access to AllPoint ATMs.

Another nice feature Varo has is early direct deposit. If your direct deposit is normally delayed, Varo will deliver it up to two days early.

Upon closer investigation of the no fee overdraft feature, there are actually no fees when you overdraw by up to $50. It appears there is a fee beyond that point.

You also incur a fee of $2.50 for out-of-network withdrawals (as of Feb. 19, 2020).

The Good

  • No monthly fees
  • No fee overdraft
  • No minimum balance
  • Access to AllPoint ATM network

The Bad

  • No physical branches
  • Fee charged for out-of-network withdrawals

6. Ally Bank Free Checking

Ally is an online bank that has garnered a lot of interest in part because it was one of the first banks to offer inflation-rivaling APY. However, Ally also offers a free Online Checking Account.

While the APY on its checking account balances isn’t the best on this list, it’s still better than what brick-and-mortar banks have offered in the past. You do get a higher APY if your balance is at least $15,000.

It does have some fees, too, such as $25 for overdraft and $7.50 for returned deposit items.

On the plus side, it has no monthly fees and no minimum opening deposit. As well, you get access to the AllPoint network, so finding an ATM should be easy. If you can’t find an ATM, you’ll get reimbursed up to $10 per month for fees.

As this is an online bank, you won’t find any physical branches.

The Good

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum opening deposit
  • Access to AllPoint ATMs
  • Up to $10 reimbursed for ATM fees per month

The Bad

  • Other checking accounts have higher APY
  • No physical branches
  • Overdraft fees are charged (unless you have an Ally savings or money market account from which to draw money)

7. Chime Online Banking

Like most online checking accounts, Chime has no monthly fees and no minimum deposit required to open. It also has no foreign transaction fees or debit card replacement fees.

Chime has early direct deposit as well, which is a nice feature. Plus, it uses MoneyPass and Visa® Plus Alliance ATMs to give you access to over 38,000 ATMs.

Chime has a low APY for its checking account, but its Automatic Savings account does have a competitive APY

The Good

  • No minimum deposit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Access to large network of ATMs

The Bad

  • No branch locations
  • Low APY for online checking

8. Discover Checking Account

Despite all the similarities in online checking accounts, Discover’s checking account does have a couple of unique features.

The first of those features is something you might expect from a company known for its credit cards: cashback debit. While cashback is normally reserved for credit cards, you get 1% back on up to $3,000 of debit card purchases every month.

And, of course, there are no monthly fees. You also have access to AllPoint and MoneyPass ATMs — over 60,000 of them.

Ordering checks and debit card replacements are free, too.

The Good

  • 1% cashback on debit purchases up to $3,000
  • No monthly fees
  • Access to AllPoint & MoneyPass ATMs

The Bad

  • No physical bank branches

9. Capital One 360 Checking

Capital One 360 Checking has no fees for both online and mobile banking. That means no minimums and no monthly fees.

You also have access to AllPoint’s ATM network.

While there is no option for no-fee overdraft, you can automatically move money from savings or opt for transactions to be auto-declined. Failing that, you have a full business day before you are charged a $35 fee.

Capital One does have some branches – 755 at the time of writing. Lastly, it does have a better-than-average APY on all balances.

The Good

  • No account minimums
  • No monthly fees
  • Decent APY on all account balances

The Bad

  • Other banks offer access to multiple ATM networks

10. Simple Online Banking

Simple is one of a growing number of companies taking a mobile-first approach. When you visit their website, you’ll immediately see a description of its mobile apps.

In addition to the features many online banks have, such as mobile check deposit and a Visa debit card, Simple has features that make it stand out.

For example, its apps give access to PayPal, Square, and Venmo.

It also has built in budgeting tools to manage your expenses, plus set goals for yourself.

And, like many other online checking accounts, there are no monthly fees and no minimum balances either to open or maintain your account.

As far as ATMs is concerned, you’ll have access to all BBVA ATMs. And there are no fees for using out-of-network ATMs

The only downside to this account is that the APY is a measly 0.01%.

The Good

  • No minimum deposit or balances
  • No monthly fees
  • No fee for using out-of network ATMs
  • Budgeting tools and goal setting included

The Bad

  • APY on balances is just 0.01%

11. Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking

Bank5 Connect is an online-only bank. Although it calls this a high-interest checking account, there are banks that have higher interest rates.

That said, it’s far from the lowest interest rate on this list. It does have a $100 minimum deposit to open. Many banks have no minimum deposit, though $100 is still manageable.

There are no monthly fees and no fees to use SUM® Network ATMs.

Bill pay and checks are also free, plus you can send money to family and friends via PayPal for free.

Overall, Bank5 Connect has a decent checking account that’s worth a look.

The Good

  • Decent APY on account balances
  • No monthly fees
  • No fee to use its ATM network

The Bad

  • Online only – no branches
  • $100 minimum balance to open

Best Free Checking Accounts: Conclusion

These days, there are dozens of checking accounts available, and deciding which one is best can be tough.

In general, making a choice comes down to what is most important to you: low or no fees, high APY, having brick-and-mortar branches nearby, etc.

Once you determine that, the choice gets a whole lot easier.

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