Finding the Top Checking Account in 2018
The best checking accounts are those that do not cost much to maintain, give you easy access to your money, make it simple to fund your account and also allow you to earn interest on your money.
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How We Determine the Best Checking Accounts
SmartAsset analyzed more than 20 checking accounts to determine which is best. We considered how each account stacked up for their fees, deposit minimums, APYs and overall customer service. The best accounts come from banks that score well on all those measures. We then broke down the best checking accounts by category.
Best Checking Account: Capital One 360 Checking
The Capital One 360 checking account is the best overall checking account. The 360 account is the only one we looked at with no fees, no minimums, branch access, cash-friendliness, a suite of banking products and a high-yield interest rate.
You can open a Capital One account with $0. There are also no monthly fees. Your first checkbook is even free. Capital One also grants you access to a network of 39,000 free ATMs, as well as 840 branches where you can withdraw and deposit cash for free. Capital One’s highly rated mobile app also makes it easy to check your balances and transfer money wherever you may be.
Where the Capital One 360 account goes above and beyond is that you can also earn interest on the money in your account. For balances under $50,000, you get a 0.20% APY, while balances over $50,000 get 0.75% and those over $100,000 get 1.00%, which is higher than even some savings accounts. Also, linking your savings account to your checking account can help prevent overdrafts as well.
Interest Earnings With Capital One 360 Checking*:
|Amount||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
*Assuming rates and balances stay constant.
You can spend your money as you please, while also letting it grow a bit. If savings is something you desire however, Capital One also has what we rated the best CD rates and one of the best savings accounts. For those interested in seeing other free checking options, we've ranked the best free checking accounts for 2018.
Runner-Up: Ally Bank Interest Checking (more below)
Best Checking Account Bonus: Chase Total Checking
If you are new to Chase, you can qualify for a $200 bonus by opening a Total Checking account, depositing at least $25 and making a direct deposit from a qualified entity within 60 days. It is the highest bonus available for checking accounts.
If you have less than $33,000 to deposit, the Chase bonus actually means earning more over a 3-year period than you would at Capital One. Remember though, Chase checking has no interest, so you won’t earn anything beyond the bonus.
Depositing $30,000 in Each Account*:
|Bank||Earnings After 1 Year||Earnings After 2 Years||Earnings After 3 Years|
|Chase Total Checking||$200||$200||$200|
|Capital One 360||$60||$120||$180|
*Assuming rates and balance stay constant
Chase checking is also a great option if you want a traditional banking experience. Chase has 5,682 branches in 33 states and a network of 16,000 ATMs. Total Checking makes it easy to access your money and move it around without paying hefty fees. There is a $12 monthly fee which you can waive if you keep $1,500 in your account every month or deposit at least $500.This may be harder for college students and young professionals. If you cannot meet those requirements, we wouldn’t recommend going with Chase.
For those who can meet the minimum, Chase customer service is also stellar. Problems are usually resolved quickly and without issue. Chase’s mobile app is also highly regarded. It is currently rated 4.5 stars from over 48,000 reviews on the Apple App Store. Such a great app helps make it easy to manage your funds.
Runner-Up: Wells Fargo Everyday Checking
Best Checking Account for No ATM Fees: TIAA Bank Yield Pledge
TIAA Bank reimburses you for all ATM fees, which is great since the bank has only a small network of ATMs. The downside is that you need to have at least $5,000 in your account to qualify for that perk. If you are confident you can meet that threshold, the TIAA Bank Yield Pledge is a good option for you.
You get a 1.21% introductory APY with TIAA Bank, combining the high interest of a savings account with the freedom of a checking account. After one year, the APY will drop to somewhere between 0.20% to 0.71%. The exact rate will depend on how much is in your account. The smaller APY is still among the highest you can get for a checking account, however. In fact, for the first two years accounts with less than $100,000 will earn more at TIAA Bank than at Capital One or Chase.
Earnings After Two Years*
|Amount||TIAA Bank||Capital One||Chase^*|
*Assuming rates and balance stay constant.
^This reflects the bonus for opening an account.
As we allude to above, the main issue with TIAA Bank's checking account is that it can be costly to maintain. You need at least $5,000 to open the account, which for young professionals or those just starting to save, can be a tough threshold to meet.
Runner-Up: The Bank of the Internet USA Rewards Checking (more below)
Best Checking Account for College Students: Ally Bank Interest Checking
College students usually have low balances and busy lives, so they need an account that can match those circumstances. The Ally Bank Interest Checking, while not exactly made for students, according to our research is best for them. With an Ally Checking account, students can keep $0 in the account without worrying about fees. They can also link an Ally savings account with their checking account to prevent any overdrafts.
Ally will also reimburse you up to $10 per month for out-of-network ATM usage. This can be crucial on certain campuses where there may only be one type of ATM available to the students. Your account also comes with a small incentive to save your money, as all accounts under $15,000 have a 0.10% APY.
Finally, the entirely online/mobile platform should be a plus for college students. The bank’s app makes it easy for students to track their funds and monitor their spending. The app currently is rated 4+ stars on the Apple App store with more than 2,000 reviews. Ally is also great for students with parents out of the country as the account lets you accept incoming international wire transfers at no extra charge.
Top Checking Account for Young Professionals: Ally Bank Interest Checking
Ally Bank’s checking account is also great for young professionals a few years out of school who have saved at least $15,000. You need to maintain $15,000 in your account to qualify for the 0.60% APY. A comparable APY requires $50,000 at Capital One 360. If you fall in between having $15,000 and $49,999, as many young professionals will, you will earn more at Ally Bank than Capital One. Young professionals may also feel more comfortable using the entirely online platform with Ally Bank.
Best Checking Account for Small Business: Chase Total Business Checking
We determined Chase Total Business checking is the best because of how easy it is to find a Chase branch or ATM. Chase, like most business checking accounts, offers $5,000 worth of free cash deposits, a small account fee that can be waived with a certain balance and 100 free transactions per month. Like other banks, Chase also has premium business checking accounts that can scale with the size of your business.
What distinguishes Chase as the best is that it has over 5,600 branches across the country. Chase offers the most coverage, which is vital for businesses that manage cash transactions. BBVA Compass, who we consider to be the second best small business checking account only has about 700 branches localized to a handful of states. We recommend Chase as the best for small business, but if you live in an area where BBVA Compass ends up being the most convenient, they will also be a great option.
Whether it's small business checking, lending or services you're in search of, our list of the best banks for small business will surely help you find what you need.
Runner-Up: BBVA Compass ClearConnect for Business
Best High-Yield Checking Account: Bank of the Internet USA Rewards Checking
The BOI checking account is your best bet if your goal is to grow money in your checking account. The account comes with the potential to earn upwards of 1.25% APY if you meet three qualifications. The first is to have at least a $1,000 direct deposit every month. You earn an additional 0.42% if you make at least 10 transactions per month and another 0.42% for 15 transactions per month, bringing you to the 1.25% APY. You can end up earning more with a BOI checking account than with any other that we analyzed.
The Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking reimburses you for every domestic ATM fee. The account itself is also one of the best overall. There are no maintenance or minimum balance thresholds to meet. You also do not need a minimum deposit.
Earnings After 3 Years^:
|Account||Bank of the Internet*||TIAA Bank||Capital One|
*Assuming rates and balance stay constant and you meet requirements.
^Assuming you meet all requirements.
The biggest issue with the BOI Rewards Checking account is that it is not as easy to make cash deposits. The bank itself claims this account is best for “debit card users who fund their account through direct deposits.” BOI does not have any branches, so your only option for depositing cash is through Green Dot® Reload @ the Register, which you can find at participating convenience stores like Duane Reade. We found that shouldn’t be an issue for those living in cities, but can be an issue for those in areas where there are far fewer participating locations. Going with Capital One or Chase is likely the better option for people in suburbs where there are many branches for those banks, but not many Green Dot® locations.
Best Places to Save
SmartAsset’s interactive map highlights the places in the country where people have the opportunity to save money. Zoom between states and the national map to see the best places to save.
Where you live can have a big impact on how easy it is to save money based on several regional factors. Our study aims to find the most suitable places for people to save based on median household income, average living expenses and income tax burden.
First, we calculated the average cost of living in each county for a household with two adults (one working). We then created a purchasing power index for each county. This reflects the counties with the highest ratio of household income to cost of living.
To better compare income tax burdens across counties, we applied relevant deductions and exemptions before calculating federal, state and local income taxes for a family making $50,000 annual income in each location. Next, we created an effective tax rate index for each county, which reflects the counties with the lowest ratio of income taxes to the assumed $50,000 annual income.
Finally, we calculated the weighted average of the indices to yield an overall best places to save score. We used a three-fourths weighting for purchasing power and a one-fourth weighting for tax rates. We indexed the final number so higher values reflect places that are better to save.