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2018's Best Free Checking Accounts

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by Chris Thompson Updated

Finding the Best Free Checking Account in 2018

Free checking accounts make it extremely easy to utilize your funds on a daily basis without paying a monthly fee. Though you typically sacrifice high annual percentage yield (APY) for this level of accessibility, some of the accounts on this list break that norm.

Bank APY Minimum Deposit Highlights
Bank of Internet USA Bank of Internet USA logo Read More 1.25% $0
  • Best Overall Free Checking Account
  • Highest APY on this list
Radius Bank Radius Bank logo Read More 0.85% $10
  • Runner-up for Best Overall Free Checking Account
  • Most inclusive ATM fee reimbursement program
Simple Bank Simple Bank logo Read More 0.01% $0
  • Best Online/Mobile Experience
  • Very little account fees
Varo Bank Varo Bank logo Read More 0% $0
  • Best Checking Account for Young Professionals
  • No minimum deposit to open
TIAA Bank TIAA Bank logo Read More 1.21% $5000
  • Best High-Yield Free Checking Account
  • Consistently high APY
Charles Schwab Bank Charles Schwab Bank logo Read More 0.20% $0
  • Best Checking Account for Investors
  • Connect with your Schwab brokerage account

How We Determine the Best Free Checking Accounts

By heavily focusing on the APY, ATM network size, overdraft fee penalties and minimum opening deposit of each offer, SmartAsset narrowed down the free checking account options out there to the 22 top ones. We then determined which institutions had the top customer service. Combining these two steps led us to this list of the best free checking accounts in 2018.

If you're interested in saving money, consider opening up a CIT Savings Account. Earn over 8 times the national average with a 2.25% APY on balances of at least $25,000 OR monthly deposits of $100 or more with an initial $100 minimum deposit.

Best Overall Free Checking Account: Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking

Bank of Internet USA

As the highest-rated account in our study, the Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking account offers you incredible customer service. Money magazine concurs with our ranking, as it named Bank of Internet USA the best online bank for the past two years. But aside from these distinctions, the account also features the highest-earning APY on this list at 1.25%.

You won’t have to worry about a minimum balance if you’re looking to open an account, nor are there any insufficient funds fees if you overcharge your account. When it comes to ATM withdrawals and deposits, Bank of Internet USA affords all account holders unlimited reimbursements for all domestic ATM charges. Best of all, you’ll see your refund sent to your account by the next business day.

New to banking with an online-only institution? Bank of Internet USA has a 24/7 personal banking hotline ready to answer any questions you might have about your account, ATM charges or anything else. The first-rate Bank of Internet USA mobile app and website also have everything you need to manage your account, including mobile check deposit, online bill pay and more.

Runner-up for Best Overall Free Checking Account: Radius Bank Radius Hybrid Checking

Radius Bank

Radius Bank’s Radius Hybrid Checking is a great free account that gives you a solid APY if you have a high enough balance. There are three tiers available:

Balance APY 
$0.01 - $2,499.99 0.00%
$2,500 - $99,999.99 1.00%
$100,000+ 1.20%

Any account with less than $2,500 in it is subject to a 0% APY. The 1.00% and 1.20% APYs are attractice for customers with substantial balances. The bank also includes an extremely forgiving ATM fee reimbursement policy. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you use an international or domestic ATM, as both are included under Radius Bank’s ATM fee rebate program. There are foreign exhcange fees that apply, though. You can make an unlimited number of free online transfers, not only between your other Radius Bank accounts, but also to your accounts at outside financial institutions.

You are required to make a deposit of at least $100 to open a Radius Hybrid account. If you’re an account holder, Radius gives you a debit card that you can use anywhere that accepts Mastercard. You’ll also be able to add your card to your Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Android Pay account.

Customer experience remains the lone weakness of Radius Bank, though. Its mobile app and website aren’t quite on par with the offerings from some of the other top checking accounts in our study. There are no branches to visit either, so the bank’s customer service phone line is your best option for any issues or concerns you might have.

Best Online/Mobile Experience: Simple Bank Checking

Simple Bank

The ease of Simple’s mobile app and website interface is the principal factor that gives it such a beneficial and practical online banking experience. The bank has included in these tools the ability to deposit your checks on the go, set up direct deposit, link outside accounts and even make instant money transfers between two Simple accounts. However, if your friends don’t use Simple, you can also send money to anyone with Venmo, Paypal or Square.

Simple is partnered with the Allpoint® ATM network, affording you access to more than 55,000 ATMs around the country. While you Simple won't charge you a fee if you swipe your debit card at an out-of-network ATM, you may see one from the ATM operator. Unfortunately, Simple doesn’t reimburse these fees, so be wary of where you go for cash.

When it comes to the rest of the bank’s fee structure, there’s really nothing else to worry about. With Simple, you will not be charged fees for overdrafts, ingoing and outgoing transfers, debit card replacements or account closures.

Best for Young Professionals: Varo Bank Checking

Varo Bank

Varo Bank’s checking account is tailor-made for you if you’re starting to earn a significant amount of money in your early professional career. Anyone experienced with mobile devices will likely find Varo’s app and financial management tools user-friendly. You can even take care of mobile check deposits and online bill pay through the app,

You’re automatically included in the Early Direct Deposit program if you connect your paycheck deposits to your account. Varo claims that this unique offering could help you gain access to your money up to two days earlier than normal. Instead of waiting around for the typical processing times, when Varo receives your paycheck notification from the Federal Reserve, it will immediately send the funds to your available balance. Furthermore, you can take advantage of Varo’s Forecast system, which is meant to help you plan ahead for your monthly bills.

Though there is no specific amount of funding you’ll need to open one of these accounts, you also will not earn any interest on your money. Varo has managed to eliminate all overdraft, foreign transaction and debit card replacement fees, keeping what you make in your wallet.

Best High-Yield Free Checking Account: TIAA Bank Yield Pledge® Checking


The introductory 1.21% APY is what will likely jump out to you immediately about the TIAA Bank Yield Pledge® Checking account. The interest possibilities of this account go even further, though, as TIAA Bank has pledged to keep its interest yield within the top 5% of the market at all times. Though the initial APY lasts just a year, your rate will remain extremely competitive in the long haul because of the above commitment. Any prospective account holders who manage to keep high balances in the account will see even stronger benefits as well.

These accounts also feature low fees, so the interest you’re accruing won’t be meaninglessly stolen away. Most importantly, though, there are no ATM fees at in-network ATMs, and any fees you incur outside of that network will be refunded to you at the conclusion of each month, as long as your balance stays above $5,000.

Best for Investors: Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking®

Charles Schwab Bank

Making money is the ultimate prize for any investor. The Charles Schwab High Yield Investor checking account makes that goal just a bit easier for Schwab investment clients. Through this benefit, you’ll be able to merge your new checking account with your Schwab One® brokerage account. This allows you to transfer funds quickly and easily between the two accounts and helps you avoid the processing time of a wire transfer from another account.

Aside from these perks, your account will also have a 0.20% APY and low fee schedule. These nearly nonexistent fees are headlined by an unlimited out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement program, granting you access to use any ATM wherever you want. Feel free to open an account with whatever money you have available, as you incur no charge for having a low balance.

All accounts receive a Schwab Bank Visa® Platinum Debit Card and free checks. If you want to speed up your payments, you can also incorporate your Schwab debit card into your virtual wallet, either with Apple, Microsoft or Samsung.

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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.

Rank County Median Household Income Cost of Living Purchasing Power Estimated Tax Rate

Methodology 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.

Sources: US Census Bureau 2016 5-Year American Community Survey, MIT Living Wage Study