Finding the Best Free Checking Account in 2019
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.
|Axos Bank Read More||1.25%||$0|| |
|Radius Bank Read More||1.20%||$100|| |
|Simple Bank Read More||2.02%||$0|| |
|Varo Bank Read More||0%||$0|| |
|TIAA Bank Read More||1.21%||$5000|| |
|Charles Schwab Bank Read More||0.40%||$0|| |
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 2019.
Best Overall Free Checking Account: Axos Rewards Checking Account
As the highest-rated account in our study, the Axos Bank Rewards Checking account offers you great customer service. The account also features the highest-earning APY on this list at 1.25%, though there are three stipulations to receive this rate. If you reach all three, you’ll receive the full 1.25% APY. These requirements go as follows:
- If you have monthly direct deposits totaling at least $1,000, you earn 0.4166% APY
- If you use your Axos Bank Visa debit card at least:
- 10 times per month (minimum $3 per transaction), you earn 0.4166% APY
- 5 more transactions, totaling 15 times per month (minimum $3 per transaction), you earn 0.4166% APY
The more conditions you meet, the more you earn. 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, Axos Bank affords all account holders unlimited reimbursements for all domestic ATM charges.
New to banking with an online-only institution? Axos Bank has a 24/7 personal banking hotline ready to answer any questions you might have about your account, ATM charges or anything else. If you’re unable to call, the bank also provides a speedy online chat service.
Runner-up for Best Overall Free Checking Account: Radius Bank Radius Hybrid Checking
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:
Any account with less than $2,500 in it is subject to a 0% APY. The 1.00% and 1.20% APYs are attractive 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.
|$0.01 - $2,499.99||0.00%|
|$2,500 - $99,999.99||1.00%|
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
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’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, which is only available on balances up to $250K for first time Yield Pledge Checking account holders, 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 states your yield will be in the top 5% of Competitive Accounts because they review competitor bank rates each week and adjust theirs when needed. 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. For those of you with at least $5,000 in your account, reimbursement is unlimited; otherwise, its up to $15 per month.
Best for Investors: Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking®
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 0.40% 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.