The Best Checking Accounts in May 2019

Having the right checking account is the first step towards financial stability. We analyzed checking account features, fees, and rewards at dozens of banks to help you find the best place for your money in 2019.

Whether you're looking for the latest and greatest in digital banking features or simply seeking a reliable bank near you, our team did the research on dozens of financial companies to figure out which checking account options make the most sense for your needs.

Best Bank for a Checking Account: Chase

For most people that want a standard banking experience, Chase Total Checking is the best account due to its accessibility, affordability and ongoing sign-up promotion. If you prefer to have a big network of branches and ATMs, with consistent updates to technology and security practices, a bank like Chase may have the checking account you need. If you're new to Chase, you can earn a bonus of up to $350 by meeting certain deposit requirements.

Sign-Up Bonus$200
Monthly Fee$12.00
Balance to Waive$1,500
Opening Minimum$0.00

Chase has long been one of the largest banks in the country, and it's worked on maintaining its dominance with new offerings that appeal to tech-savvy users of checking accounts. Free access to features like person-to-person payments, credit score monitoring, and JP Morgan's You Invest program fill out the bank's bid to be a one-stop shop for financial services in the digital era. Chase's app experience is generally reliable and robust, even when compared to newer fintech startups that specialize in app-based account features.

Moreover, Chase's deep pockets allow it to offer strong bonus incentives for first-time customers. The bank offers $200 to first-time customers for opening a Total Checking account and another $150 if you also open a standard savings account. In terms of ongoing fees, Chase Total Checking closely mirrors accounts at other major banks. The monthly maintenance fee of 12 is waived with a daily minimum balance of $1,500 or if you receive at least $500 in direct deposits during the month.

Best Online Checking Account: Ally Bank

Ally Bank delivers the best combination of benefits we think an online bank should offer: low fees, competitive interest rates and a flexible suite of app-based banking features. Beyond that, Ally's proven record of customer satisfaction sets it apart from the ever-growing field of digital bank startups.

APY0.10% - 0.60%
Monthly Fee$0.00
Opening Minimum$0.00
ATM Fee$0.00

Several of the checking options we examined offer fees and rates comparable to Ally Bank's Interest Checking account, but only Ally earned full marks for "Best and Good Practices" in a 2015 Pew report on consumer banks—an impressive feat considering this bank operates entirely without physical locations or face-to-face customer service. Like most online-only banks, Ally operates robust mobile and online tools that allow you to manage accounts without visiting a branch location. Instead of in-person bank service, Ally Bank provides customer service through online channels and a 24/7 phone line.

Ally Interest Checking comes with no monthly fees, no ATM fees, no fees for overdraft protection and reduced fees on several other services. As a partner of Allpoint, a third-party ATM operator, Ally Bank provides customers access to 55,000 ATMs in the United States and worldwide.

Best Free Checking Account: Simple Bank

Simple Bank is our choice as the best and closest thing to a truly free checking account. Plenty of online checking accounts promise zero monthly fees, but almost all banks continue to charge incidental fees for things like overdrafts and out-of-network ATM withdrawals. Simple eliminates nearly all such charges while delivering a streamlined branchless experience through its excellent mobile app.

Monthly Fee$0.00
Balance to Waive Fee$0
Opening Minimum$0.00
ATM Fee$0.00

The schedule of fees at Simple is just that: a clean list of zeroes where traditional banks attach dozens of stacking charges. While Simple users can still be charged by other vendors when using a debit card abroad or accessing a non-Simple ATM, Simple itself doesn't add to those costs with fees of its own.

Despite the low cost, the Simple Account's features are surprisingly robust. The app is well equipped to serve as the hub of any user's daily finances, starting with an Activity feed and a Safe-to-Spend feature that lets you know how much more you can afford to spend after accounting for any scheduled transfers. Simple also goes a step further than most checking accounts by enabling you to create Goals for saving and automate transfers to those Goals.

Best Rewards Checking Account: Redneck Bank

If you're looking for a stronger interest rate on your balance, Redneck Rewards Checking may be the best choice for you. While we did see a at least one other checking account with higher rates, Axos Rewards Checking is the best rate you can earn without having to meet any monthly activity requirements.

APY2.75% on balances up to $10,000.00
Monthly Fee$0.00
Opening Minimum$500.00
Domestic ATM RebatesUp to $25 monthly

The 2.75% you can earn with Redneck Bank's checking account is nearly unmatched, although that rate is only good on balances up to $10,000.00. Additional amounts will earn just 0.50% APY. Even with this limit, the account is unique because Redneck Bank doesn't require account holders to meet a set of activity requirements in order to earn the full interest every month. This is a common demand you'll see with rewards checking accounts offered by other banks.

While Redneck Bank's interesting take on marketing may give pause to some users, we can guarantee that this is a legitimate FDIC-insured bank offering. Redneck Bank is the Internet Banking Division of All America Bank, a regional institution in Oklahoma that offers an identical rewards checking option for those who prefer more conventional branding.

Best Student Checking Account: Santander Student Value Checking

If you set aside the issue of service areas, Santander Bank's Student Value Checking account is the best choice for students living away from home.

Monthly Fee$0.00
Opening Minimum$10.00
Incoming Wire Fee$0.00
ATM Fee$2.00

Santander's student account is unique for allowing free incoming wire transfers, which means you won't pay extra to receive money from parents or family—even if they live abroad or bank with a different institution. There's also no monthly maintenance fee, and you can avoid the $3 paper statement fee by choosing to receive online statements.

The ATM fee for using non-network machines is a lower-than-average $2, but this figure may be important given that Santander Bank's physical branches are mostly limited to the Tri-State area, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. While it's possible to do most of your banking through Santander's mobile services, you'll need cash from time to time, so if Santander is not in your area and you want to avoid the ATM fees, you should start by looking at banks that are locally available.

Best Checking Account for Travel Abroad: Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

Schwab's online-only checking account is highly beneficial for those who need to use ATMs and debit cards frequently, whether at home or abroad.

Monthly Fee$0.00
Opening Minimum$0.00
International Debit Fee0%
ATM Fee Rebatesunlimited

The Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account should be a top consideration for frequent travelers: not only do account holders get free withdrawals from Schwab ATMs, but they also receive unlimited rebates on withdrawal fees at non-network ATMs, domestic and international. In addition, there are no fees on international debit card transactions. As an added benefit, the account bears interest at a rate of 0.20% APY.

One shortcoming of this account is that it does not permit incoming or outgoing international wire transfers. However, such transfers actually have little relevance to most travelers, who tend to rely on ATMs and debit cards. In the event you need emergency funds, anybody back home can transfer money into your account on a domestic basis, just as they normally would.

Finally, opening a High Yield Investor Checking account requires opening a Schwab brokerage account at the same time. While this account costs no monthly fees and requires no minimum amount to open, you should keep in mind that investment accounts are subject to losses from market movement, and are therefore not covered by the FDIC deposit insurance that protects your checking and savings accounts.

Finding Other Checking Accounts

If you haven't found the kind of checking account that suits your financial habits or situation, there are many more options out there which may fit the bill. For instance, if you place a high value on banks that emphasize face-to-face interaction and investment in your local community, you may want to look at a small neighborhood bank that has time to personalize its customer service. You may even consider joining a credit union, which is organized differently from a standard bank but which provides the same kinds of banking services and products.

In the end, you should narrow your focus down to a few key factors that can guide your decision. If you only have a little in the bank and depend on each new paycheck to replenish your balance, you may want to prioritize finding an easy monthly fee waiver. If you travel often, you may be worried about international transaction fees. Our comparison tool for checking accounts can also help you start your search effectively.

Chris Moon

Chris is a Senior Research Analyst at ValuePenguin who has covered deposit accounts and home loans since 2016. He has contributed insights and opinions to the New York Times and many other publications.

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.