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October 2021's Best Free Checking Accounts

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We maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments. This post contains links from our advertisers, and we may receive compensation when you click these links. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone. | Advertiser Disclosure
We maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments. This post contains links from our advertisers, and we may receive compensation when you click these links. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone. | Advertiser Disclosure

Finding the Best Free Checking Accounts

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
Charles Schwab Bank Charles Schwab Bank logo Read More 0.03% $0
  • Unlimited ATM fee rebates
  • Connect with your Schwab brokerage account
Axos Bank Axos Bank logo Read More 1.00% $50
  • Great APY and no fees
  • Strong customer experience
nbkc Bank nbkc Bank logo Read More 0.15% $0
  • High APY at an online bank
  • Ample ATM access
Varo Bank Varo Bank logo Read More 0% $0
  • Easy-to-manage account
  • No minimum deposit to open
Chime Chime logo Read More 0% $0
  • Virtually fee-free
  • Great online banking experience
LendingClub Banking LendingClub Banking logo Read More 0.10% $100
  • Earn cash back and interest
  • Inclusive ATM fee reimbursement program
Wealthfront Wealthfront logo Read More 0.10% $1
  • Basic, no-frills checking account
  • Low minimum
E*TRADE Bank E*TRADE Bank logo Read More 0% $0
  • Great account to pair with an investment account
  • Limited fees
Nationwide Bank Nationwide Bank logo Read More 0.90% $50
  • Great tiered APY
  • Solid ATM access
TIAA Bank TIAA Bank logo Read More 0.10% $100
  • Can earn unlimited ATM fee reimbursements
  • Consistently high APY

How We Determine the Best Free Checking Accounts

By heavily focusing on the APY, ATM network size, overdraft fee and minimum opening deposit of each offer, SmartAsset narrowed down the free checking account options out there to around 25 options. We then determined which institutions have the strongest customer service. Combining these two steps led us to this list of the best free checking accounts on the market right now.

Schwab High Yield Investor Checking®

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 0.03% 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.

Axos Rewards 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 one of the highest-earning APYs on this list at 1.00%, though there are stipulations to receive this rate. If you meet all of the criteria, you’ll receive the full 1.00% APY. These requirements go as follows:

  • First, you'll need to receive at least $1,500 in direct deposits monthly to unlock a 0.40% APY and the rest of the APY tiers Axos uses.

Then, you can add the following tiers.

  • 0.30% - Use your Debit Card for a total of 10 transactions per month (minimum of $3 per transaction) or sign up for Personal Finance Manager “Account Aggregation”
  • 0.10% - Maintain an average daily balance of $2,500 per month in an Axos Invest Managed Portfolios Account
  • 0.10% - Maintain an average daily balance of $2,500 per month in an Axos Invest Self Directed Trading Account
  • 0.10% - Use your account to make a full monthly Axos Bank consumer loan payment

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.

nbkc Everything Account

Everything Account

This nbkc account is unlike many other bank accounts on the market. While most banks split up their savings and checking products, nbkc combines the two into a single product called the Everything Account. With this account, you’ll earn a 0.15% APY on all balances. In addition, you don’t need to meet any requirements to receive this rate. So by combining your checking and savings needs into a single account, you can earn interest, manage your money and track your spending all at once.

There are almost no fees attached to the nbkc Everything Account. In fact, you won’t pay any monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, minimum balance fees or foreign transaction fees.

Account holders have free access to the MoneyPass ATM network, which boasts 34,000 ATMs around the U.S. nbkc will also reimburse you for up to $12 in out-of-network ATM fees every month. Beyond this, you’ll receive a free Mastercard debit card.

Varo Bank Checking

Varo Bank Account

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 its 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 money you’ll need to open one of these accounts, you also will not earn any interest on your balance. Varo has managed to eliminate all monthly, overdraft, foreign transaction and debit card replacement fees, keeping what you make in your wallet.

Chime Spending Account

Chime Spending Account

Chime’s checking account is technically called the Chime Spending Account, and you’ll get the range of features offered by most other checking accounts. The account prides itself on being almost entirely fee-free, with no overdraft fees, monthly service fees, transfer fees or foreign transaction fees. You can also receive your paycheck up to two days early when you set up direct deposit through your Chime account.

The Chime Spending Account also gives you access to a network of 60,000 ATMs around the country, all of which can be used for free. Another benefit of the entirely online Chime Spending Account is you’ll have access to a variety of financial management tools that can help you stay on top of your spending.

Where the Chime Spending Account falls a little short is its APY. In fact, it doesn’t offer one at all. However, all you’ll need to do is open a Chime Savings Account to earn an interest rate. Aside from that, this account requires no minimum to open, making it accessible for just about anyone.

LendingClub Bank Rewards Checking

LendingClub Rewards Checking

LendingClub Bank's Rewards Checking is a great free account that gives you a solid APY if you have a high enough balance. More specifically, any account with less than $2,500 in it is subject to a 0% APY. But once you surpass that minimum, you can earn interest according to the following rates:

  • 0% APY: balances of $0.01 to $2,499.99
  • 0.10% APY: balances of $2,500 to $99,999.99
  • 0.15% APY: balances of $100,000 and up

This account’s earnings potential doesn’t end with the above interest rates, though. LendingClub Bank offers Rewards Checking account holders up to 1% unlimited cash back on online and signature-based transactions when they use their LendingClub Bank debit card.

LendingClub 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 LendingClub Bank's ATM fee rebate program. There are foreign exchange fees that apply, though. You can make an unlimited number of free online transfers, not only between your other LendingClub 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 LendingClub Bank Rewards account. If you’re an account holder, LendingClub Bank 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.

Wealthfront Cash Account

Wealthfront Cash Account

Wealthfront may be commonly known as a robo-advisor service, but it does more than just that. Wealthfront’s checking account, called the Cash Account, is a great option for anyone looking to both earn interest and avoid monthly fees. More specifically, account holders will earn a 0.10% APY on all balances. This is a mediocre checking rate given today’s economic environment, though you don’t have to meet any requirements to earn it.

You only need $1 to open a Wealthfront Cash Account, and it has no monthly services fees, no transfer fees, no overdraft fees and more. Wealthfront is also partnered with Green Dot Bank, granting account holders access to a network of 19,000 fee-free ATMs. 

Another perk of the Wealthfront Cash Account is its increased FDIC insurance, which stands out in comparison to most competitors. While other banks typically offer up to $250,000 of FDIC insurance, Wealthfront offers up to $1 million. Other perks of this account include the ability to receive your paycheck early if you enroll in direct deposit and 24/7 customer service.

E*TRADE Checking Account

E*TRADE Checking Account

When you think of E*TRADE, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t checking accounts and banking, but rather investing and the stock market. However, E*TRADE Bank’s Checking account is loaded with features, so you won’t want to ignore it when it comes to picking out an account for yourself.

First, this account is nearly devoid of all fees. For example, you won’t pay any monthly maintenance fees, you’ll get your first book of checks free and you can use your debit card as many times as you want without incurring excess transaction fees. The one fee to watch out for, though, is a $25 insufficient funds fee. 

There is no minimum to open an E*TRADE Bank Checking account. What’s more, you’ll have access to a huge network of ATMs around the U.S. While you won’t earn an APY, it’s important to remember that this isn’t uncommon for checking accounts. You can easily manage your money online and through the E*TRADE mobile app. You’ll also have access to financial management tools and customer service that can help you through any bumps in the road.

Nationwide Bank Advantage Checking Account

Nationwide Bank Advantage Checking Account

Nationwide Bank’s banking services are provided by Axos Bank, which has a checking account listed here already. However, Nationwide Bank’s Advantage Checking account does boast some different features and APYs, so it still earns a spot on our list.

With the Nationwide Bank Advantage Checking account, you can earn up to a 0.90% APY, which is a great rate, especially when it comes to checking accounts. However, you do need to meet certain requirements to earn this APY. More specifically, you’ll earn a 0.45% APY if you have more than $1,000 in direct deposits each month. You’ll then earn an additional 0.45% APY if you make 10 or more purchases of $3 or more with your debit card per month.

When it comes to fees, the Nationwide Bank Advantage Checking account also stands out. You won’t pay any monthly maintenance fees, overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees. You also have access to great account security, free mobile check deposit, mobile banking and online bill pay. Nationwide also gives customers the ability to use a network of over 91,000 fee-free ATMs around the country. You can open an account with as little as $50.

TIAA Bank Yield Pledge® Checking

Yield Pledge Checking

The long-term interest possibilities of the TIAA Bank Yield Pledge® Checking account are quite strong, as TIAA states your yield will be in the top 5% of competitive accounts based on the bank's own research. So, at least in theory, your rate will remain extremely competitive over the long haul because of that commitment. As of now, the account's rate stands at a 0.10% APY.

This account also features 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 customers with at least $5,000 in their account, reimbursement at out-of-network ATMs is unlimited. Otherwise, it's capped at $15 per month.

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