Best Free Checking Accounts of 2018
These days, free checking accounts are usually found at online-only banks. Most brick-and-mortar banks charge account maintenance fees which can only be avoided by meeting a minimum monthly deposit. It's rare to find a brick-and-mortar checking account with no monthly fee at all—so we've compiled a list of the most effective free checking options.
Best Free Checking with Interest
A surprising number of free checking options can earn interest on your balance. While interest-bearing checking accounts at brick-and-mortar banks tend to require more monthly fees and higher minimum balances, we found several strong online-only options for people seeking to maximize their deposit interest.
Highest Checking Interest Rate: Redneck Bank Rewards Checking
If you use your debit card at least 10 times a month, Redneck Rewards Checking can deliver 2.25% APY on all balances up to $10,000. The account also requires you to opt into paperless statements, but all in all Redneck Bank makes it very easy to earn a rate far beyond what you can expect of a premium brick-and-mortar checking account. However, failing to meet the debit spend requirement drops you to 0.50% APY for the month, making it important to keep up with the 10-transaction requirement.
Although this account also limits the strong rate to your first $10,000 in the account, Redneck Rewards Checking is still an excellent choice considering that it has no monthly fee. Meeting the debit requirement also unlocks $25 in monthly ATM rebates, making cash withdrawals free as well. For those surprised by Redneck Bank's unusual name, this online bank is the Internet banking division of the Oklahoma-based All America Bank.
Redneck Rewards Checking – Key Figures
- APY: 2.25% on up to $10,000
- Monthly APY Requirements: 10 debit card purchases & paperless statements
- Minimum to Open: $50
- Monthly Fee: $0
Highest Rate with No Requirements: Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking
If you'd rather earn interest without the hassle of complicated activity requirements, the Bank5 Connect High-Interest Account gives you a flat 0.76% APY on balances of at least $100. This beats the rate you'll find on a majority of checking accounts and even compares well with current savings account interest rates. As usual with an online bank, Bank5 Connect does not charge monthly fees, but you will need at least $10 to open an account. The account won't come with any ATM usage fees, either, and the bank will reimburse up to $15 in third-party ATM operator fees each month.
It's important to note that while Bank5 Connect is an online-only bank, it's different from most in that it offers not only a checking option, but savings accounts and certificates of deposit as well. This makes the Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account useful to people interested in consolidating their bank accounts at a single institution. Such banks are somewhat more difficult to find online, as many institutions choose to limit their offerings to a single account type.
Best Free Online Checking Account: Capital One 360 Checking
If you'd rather have a free checking account that you can access at a physical location, Capital One 360 Checking might be preferable to Ally Bank. Even though Capital One's 360 accounts are primarily meant to be managed online, account-holders retain the option to make deposits and withdrawals at any of Capital One's 760 physical branch offices. In terms of interest, the account earns at least 0.20% APY on any balance, up to a maximum of 1.00% if you reach $100,000.
Aside from providing physical branches, Capital One also departs from standard online banking practices with a unique overdraft policy. The bank gives you the option of borrowing from an overdraft line of credit, which charges interest on the amount you overspend. The current rate of 11.50% APR translates into a fee of about 3 cents per $100 of overdrafts. Although you'll want to pay these charges off as quickly as possible, they're still far lower than the typical bank overdraft fee of $35 per item.
Best Free Business Checking Accounts
In our research of business checking accounts, we found two free options that present different advantages based on whether your business receives most of its revenue from cash deposits or electronic transactions. Keep in mind that although these business checking accounts don't charge any monthly fees, they will charge you fees based on the deposits and transactions you make.
Best for Cash-Heavy Businesses: Wells Fargo Business Choice
The Wells Fargo Business Choice Account is not technically free, but the $14 fee is relatively simple to avoid. Out of the six possible options to waive the fee, the simplest are to keep $7,500 in the account or to make at least ten business debit purchases or payments in a month. The bank will also waive fees if you sign up for Wells Fargo Merchant Services or Payroll Services. If you need such services to run your business, it may be beneficial to stick with one bank like Wells Fargo, so that you can qualify to waive maintenance fees you would otherwise pay to separate banks.
As one of the largest banks in the US, Wells Fargo operates tens of thousands of ATMs and branch locations around the country, so you'll probably have no problems finding a convenient place to take your cash deposits. The cash deposit fee isn't much lower than the average for business checking accounts, and the free cash deposit limit is actually somewhat lower than most other accounts, but this is expected for an option that's essentially free. If your cash deposits exceed $7,500 each month, you may want to pay a monthly fee and open a business checking account with higher limits.
Best for Cashless Businesses: BofI Federal Bank Basic Business Checking
If your business is mostly done through debits, checks and electronic transfers, BofI Federal Bank offers a free business checking option that offers a competitive transaction fee and relatively low opening minimum of $1,000. Transactions made to your BofI Basic Business Checking Account will cost you $0.30 per transaction, and your first 200 transactions each month will be free. This is somewhat less than the average transaction fee on a business checking account, but your costs will vary significantly based on how many electronic transactions you process in an average month.
One major drawback of this account is the fact that cash deposits can only be made at BofI ATMs, which you may not have easy access to depending on your location. If you find yourself making regular cash deposits as part of your operations, consider finding local brick-and-mortar banks that you can visit directly. Many such banks offer waivers on their monthly fees, so you'll still have options that are technically free so long as you can meet the waiver requirements.
Best Free Checking with No Opening Deposit: Ally Interest Checking
You won't need to meet a minimum opening deposit requirement with Ally Interest Checking, a free online checking account that also happens to earn at least 0.10% APY on any balance level. Depositing $15,000 or more will increase the interest rate to 0.60%, but even if that's not a realistic option for you, Ally Bank is a solid choice among banks that don't require any money up front. Many online banks lack a checking account option like Ally's, so this bank may be even better if you want to keep your checking and savings accounts together in one place.
Instead of branch locations, Ally Bank operates one of the only 24/7 customer support lines among retail banks, allowing customers to speak with a representative at any time. As with any online bank, Ally's website gives you a way to manage your accounts from home or on your mobile device whenever you need. Finally, Ally Interest Checking comes with no monthly fees, no fees for overdraft transfers and up to $10 in reimbursements for third-party ATM surcharges.
Best Free Checking Account with No ATM Fees: Schwab High Yield Investor Checking
Schwab's online-only checking account is not only free of monthly fees, but also pays 0.20% APY with no minimum balance required. This account comes with unlimited ATM reimbursements, a rare feature that should prove highly beneficial for those who access ATMs frequently at home or abroad. In addition, there are no fees on international debit card transactions. This makes Schwab an extremely low-cost banking option, although its lack of physical locations is a definite drawback.
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.
Summary of Best Free Checking Accounts
This table compares the APYs, fees and minimum requirements of the best free checking accounts.
|Best For...||Account Name||Monthly Fees||Opening Balance|
|Free High Interest Checking||Redneck Bank Rewards Checking||$0||$50|
|APY with No Activity Requirements||Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking||$0||$10|
|Free Online Checking||Capital One 360 Checking||$0||$0|
|Checking for Cash Businesses||Wells Fargo Basic Business Choice||$14||$25|
|Checking for Cashless Business||BofI Federal Bank Basic Business Checking||$0||$1,000|
|No Opening Deposit||Ally Interest Checking||$0||$0|
|No Minimum Balance||Schwab High Yield Investor Checking||$0||$0|
Finding Other Free Checking Accounts
As you shop for free checking, you'll soon find that the strongest deals involve online-only accounts. Online-only banks have much lower operating costs than traditional banks, which maintain large networks of physical locations staffed by thousands of employees. If you feel comfortable with meeting a minimum balance or making regular direct deposits, you may want to expand your search to include standard accounts that let you avoid their monthly fees through fee waivers. We provide a more general overview of good checking options here.