Did you hear about how Bank of America was going to start charging a monthly fee if an account didn't have maintain a $1,500 minimum balance or have a monthly direct deposit of $250 or more?
Personally, I don't understand the moral outrage (actually I do, it's to sell pageviews because it's popular to slam banks). They're a business. They're not a charity. Either they charge a fee and the banking product is profitable or they stop offering it.
Which is better for the consumer? I think it's having a choice. If you don't like it, switch banks.
There are a lot of banks out there and a lot of them will not charge you any fees. They have large ATM footprints, powerful apps, and
The best free checking and savings accounts are going to be online banks. They have lower costs, in part because they don't have to maintain a massive network of physical locations, so they don't have to charge as much for banking services. A quick peek at interest rates will tell you a lot – most brick and mortar banks will give you nothing for your deposits.
Discover Cashback Debit
Discover Bank has a great checking account that offers cashback debit – you can get 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in purchases each and every month. Add that up and it's $360 in cash back per year just to use your debit card, a reward that is extremely rare.
This is on top of Discover's history of being a very affordable, low fee bank. There is no monthly maintenance fee, 60,000+ no fee ATMs, no fees for ATM use at other ATMs (though other banks may still charge a fee), free standard checks, free online bill pay, and free debit card replacement.
Discover also has a First Fee Forgiveness Program so that the first eligible fee (Insufficient Funds and Stop Payment, but not Wire Transfer fees) that is charged to your account will be automatically waived.
Why we like it: The debit card pays you 1% cash back – you literally cannot find it anywhere else. Debit cards rarely give you cash back and this account gives you 1% on up to $3,000 each month – an annual total of $360 – and it's automatically deposited into your Discover savings account.
Ally Bank Checking
I use Ally Bank. I've been using them for years because they're one of the best online banks out there. Ally Bank has an entire suite of deposit products that are best in class, with high interest rates and low fees.
The checking account has no maintenance fees and no minimum balance. You get free ATM access via the Allpoint ATM network but if you find yourself using another bank's ATM, Ally will reimburse you $10 in ATM fees every statement cycle (this is the fee the other banks charge, Ally doesn't charge you). Finally, there is a fully featured mobile app with mobile check deposit. If you prefer to deposit via mail, you can do that too.
Why we like it: It's everything you want in a checking account PLUS it pays you interest. The rate is far higher than any brick and mortar bank out of the water and almost every other online bank too. It's also part of Ally Bank's other deposit products, like certificates of deposit and savings accounts, which are also best in class as well.
Chase Total Checking
Chase Total Checking is the only checking product on this page that will pay you money to sign up for it. Chase will give you $200 if you open a new account, deposit $25, and set up a direct deposit within 60 days. If you do all this, you'll get $200 in 10 business days.
There is a $12 monthly service fee that gets waived if you have a monthly direct deposit of at least $500 or keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500 OR have $5,000+ in any combination of Chase savings, checking, and other accounts. Whew!
Why we like it: $200. The account doesn't offer interest, which is common from a major bank, but it does give you $200 and a massive geographic footprint.
Available in: AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KY, LA, MI, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, TX, UT, WA, WI, WV.
Learn more about Chase Bank
(Offer expires 10/15/2018)
Chime Spending Account
Chime offers a lightweight mobile bank account with an automatic savings angle. (they also used to have a rewards program but that was discontinued)
With the Spending Account, there are no monthly fees, no minimum balance or overdraft fees plus you can use any of the 30,000+ free MoneyPass ATMs. Another nice perk is their early direct deposit service that gives you access to your paycheck up to 2 days early – one of the first I've seen.
The only knock against them is the interest rate… it's negligible (rare for an online bank but considering the perks, it makes sense).
Why we like it: Getting access to your paycheck two days early is a nice perk. They have an Automatic Savings service that rounds up your purchases, which is a trend in microsaving apps, but the interest rate is a bummer.
One nice thing is that they'll give you $5 just to open an account!
While not a household name, NBKC Bank is making a name for itself with a personal account that offers a 0.90% APY on all balances. It's an online only bank, the interest rate is one of the best on this list (without strings), and it has no minimum or maintenance fee. There is also a fully featured mobile app with mobile deposit, a must nowadays.
They leverage the 32,000+ MoneyPass ATMs so you can use them for free but they will also reimburse you $12 for ATM fees other banks charge you when you use their ATMs. All in all, it's a solid online bank with a decent interest rate.
Why we like it: It's a good interest rate. As of this writing, Ally Bank's checking account only offers 0.10% on balances under $15,000 and a mere 0.60% on balances that are above $15,000. 0.90% APY in interest plus all the other perks, it's a solid alternative.
Bank of Internet Rewards Checking
Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking (which is rebranding to Axos Bank soon) is a rewards checking product that offers an interest rate as high as 1.25% APY if you meet some of the reward checking account requirements. If you can meet them, 1.25% APY is one of the highest in the nation for a checking account.
The rewards program is tiered, which means you get the higher interest rate when you meet more of these conditions:
- Receive monthly direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more: Earn +0.4166%
- Use your Bank of Internet USA Visa® Debit Card at least 10 times (minimum $3): Earn +0.4166%
- Use your Bank of Internet USA Visa® Debit Card 5 more times (minimum $3): Earn +0.4166%
If you use your debit card 10 times, you will earn 0.4166% APY on your account. If you use it 2 more times, you still only earn 0.4166%. If you used it 5 more times, for a total of 15, then you earn 0.8332% APY. Finally, receive monthly direct deposits of at least a thousand bucks and get the full 1.25% APY.
There is no minimum balance, no maintenance or service fees, as well as unlimited ATM reimbursements when you use another ank's ATM. There is a fully featured mobile app with mobile deposit, bill pay, etc.
Why we like it: Rewards checking accounts, like those powered by Kasasa banking, are great because they offer higher interest rates often for things you're already doing. If you are making 15 transactions a month and get $1,000+ in direct deposits, why not take the higher interest? (unlimited ATM fee reimbursement is nice too!)