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2018's Best Rewards Checking Accounts

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by Chris Thompson Updated

Finding the Best Rewards Checking Account in 2018

Earning rewards with your credit card is normal, but doing so with your bank account is much less common. If you’re interested in this perk, a rewards checking account will earn you benefits, without taking away your accessibility like a savings account typically does.

Bank APY Minimum Deposit Highlights
Discover Bank Discover Bank logo Read More 0% $0
  • Best Overall Cash Back Checking Account
  • Desirable cash back rate
Bank of Internet USA Bank of Internet USA logo Read More 0% $0
  • Runner-up for Best Overall Cash Back Checking Account
  • Full ATM fee reimbursement
One American Bank One American Bank logo Read More 3.50% $50
  • Best High Yield Rewards Checking Account
  • High APY
UFB Direct UFB Direct logo Read More 0% $100
  • Best Mileage Rewards Checking Account
  • Earn miles for swiping your debit card
Chase Bank Chase Bank logo Read More 0% $25
  • Best Rewards Checking Account Signup Bonus
  • Huge ATM network

How We Determine the Best Rewards Checking Accounts

SmartAsset compared more than 15 of the most popular rewards checking accounts for this study. The elements we used to score them include annual percentage yield (APY), monthly rewards bonuses, overall rewards potential, monthly fees, customer service quality and minimum account size.

Best Overall Cash Back Checking Account: Discover Cashback Checking

Discover Bank

The Discover Cashback checking account received a nearly perfect grade in our study of the best rewards checking accounts. With Discover, you’ll earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases a month. That means you can earn a max of $30 cash back each and every month, for a grand total of $360 a year. You can utilize these rewards at any time, either through your online or mobile account.

There are no monthly fees to remain an account holder. Discover also offers a large fee-free ATM network that features more than 60,000 ATMs throughout the U.S., as well as a free debit card to use at those locations.

This Discover account finishes near the top of our study not only in rewards potential, but also in customer experience/service. Although this is a branchless offering, you’ll have a 24/7 customer hotline, a high quality website and a highly-rated iOS and Android mobile app you can use to manage your funds. Cash-back credit cards are another major focus for Discover, so supplementing your Cashback account should be fairly easy.

Runner-up for Best Overall Cash Back Checking Account: Bank of Internet USA CashBack Checking

Bank of Internet USA

At Bank of Internet USA, you’ll find that the CashBack checking account offers the same 1% cash back rate that the Discover account does. However, in order to keep earning at that pace, you must maintain an account balance of at least $1,500. If not, you’re at risk of earning just 0.50% cash back. Either way, the most cash back you can earn in a single month is $2,000, which should leave you plenty of room.

As an account holder, you can boost the above cash-back earnings by utilizing Bank of Internet’s USA Cash Back Purchase Rewards system. Through this, you can shop at certain stores and retailers that are partnered with the bank to earn rewards at specific bonus rates. You can find this program for free either through your online or mobile banking account.

Because Bank of Internet USA is an online-only financial institution, it’s vital that its mobile app and website be good enough to manage all your account activity. But if you need to visit an ATM for cash, you’ll be reimbursed for any fees that you incur.

Best High Yield Rewards Checking Account: One American Bank Kasasa Cash Checking

One American Bank

The 3.50% APY of the One American Bank Kasasa Cash checking account is a large interest rate that’s hardly ever seen attached even to a savings account. It doesn’t come without its caveats, though, as that rate will only apply to up to $10,000 of your overall account balance. Any amount past that threshold will receive a 0.25% APY that, while low, is still better than most of its counterparts.

One American Bank is a regional bank based in South Dakota, but that doesn’t have to stop you from opening an account if you don’t live in that area. As a matter of fact, the bank provides fee-free ATM usage at MoneyPass ATMs, a large ATM chain. But if you need to use an ATM that’s out-of-network, the bank offers up to $25 a month in fee reimbursements. All cardholders will receive a free Visa® debit card to use for these transactions.

There are a few other requirements you’ll have to fulfill with this bank to make sure you receive all the benefits it has to offer:

  • At least 12 debit card purchases of $5 and up that post to your account within the month
  • Enroll in and log on to your online banking account
  • Enroll to receive e-statements

Runner-up: Independent Bank Free Rewards Checking

Best Mileage Rewards Checking Account: UFB Direct Airline Rewards Checking

UFB Direct

You might think that earning airline miles is something that can only be done with a credit card. But the UFB Direct Airline Rewards checking account actually allows you to earn airline miles. For every $3 you spend with your UFB Direct Visa®debit card, a mile will be credited to your rewards account. Currently only American Airlines has become a part of this program, though the bank claims to be hard at work recruiting other airlines as well. Of course, this isn’t the only way you can earn rewards.

UFB Direct’s Cash Rewards Program can supplement your mileage with cash back if you simply shop online or in stores with included retailers and brands. To get in on this offer, just sign up through your online/mobile banking account and use your debit card to pay for your purchases.

You can keep an Airline Rewards checking account open regardless of the amount of funds you have at your disposal, and there’s no monthly maintenance fee. You will need $100 to deposit when you start your account, though.

The bank also supplements your account with a couple free programs to help you manage your assets more easily. These offerings include Popmoney® (a free person-to-person transfer service) and FinanceWorks™ powered by Quicken (a tool that allows you to formulate a budget).

Best Rewards Checking Account Signup Bonus: Chase Total Checking®

Chase Bank

The Chase Total Checking® account is not a traditional rewards account in that it gives consistent cash or points-based rewards. Instead, new account holders are offered a substantial $200 cash-back sign-up bonus when they open a new account and immediately set up direct deposit thereafter. This is more than half of what you could earn with a Discover Cashback checking account over a full year, and that’s only if you manage to spend the maximum $3,000 a month with your debit card.

Chase Bank is also the only financial institution on this list that has a multitude of branches and in-house ATMs across the U.S. In fact, Chase boasts 5,100 branches and about 16,000 ATMs nationwide that you can use fee-free as often as you’d like. Though the bank does offer mobile check deposit through its app, it does also have Chase DepositFriendly ATMs. Depositing at these ATMs can speed up a check’s processing time so you get your money even more quickly.

The Chase Total Checking® account does take at least $25 to open, and there’s a $12 monthly service fee if you don’t meet at least one of the following account requirements:

  • Having $500 or more in direct deposits sent to your account during the month
  • Having an opening daily balance of at least $1,500
  • Having an opening average daily balance of at least $5,000 across any combination of this account and linked deposits or investments
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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.

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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