Best Rewards Checking Accounts 2020

Best Rewards Checking Accounts 2020

While most credit card reward programs use the same points-based system to reward spending, checking account rewards work in a few different ways. Some accounts earn more APY when you meet certain monthly requirements, while others give you cash back on your debit card purchases. We searched for the best rewards checking accounts and analyzed their strengths and drawbacks.

Best for Cash Back Rewards: Discover Cashback Checking

Consider this if you want to maximize cash back on your debit card purchases.
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Discover Cashback Checking is our recommendation for people who want to earn cash back on their debit purchases. Banking with Discover grants you 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in monthly debit purchases, a rare benefit for a checking account. Discover Cashback Checking doesn't come with any interest on your balance, but it's still a good deal if your monthly debit purchases are greater than your usual checking account balance.

As an example, assume that you spend about $1,000 in debit card purchases this month. With Discover Cashback Checking, you'd earn $10 in cash back rewards. Discover Cashback Checking makes sense if you want a cash back option that isn't a credit card, but other banks will let you earn just as much for saving money rather than spending it.

Best Rewards Interest Rate: LMCU Max Checking

LMCU Max Checking

Consider this if you're interested in joining a credit union to boost your interest rate.
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As a not-for-profit credit union, LMCU is able to offer 3.00% APY on checking account balances of up to $15,000, a rate far higher than even online-only banks can offer on their best checking accounts. Not all credit unions open their membership to all comers, but anybody who donates $5 to the ALS Association qualifies for membership at Lake Michigan Credit Union. As with rewards checking accounts at banks, LMCU places some monthly activity requirements on the top rate:

  • One direct deposit to any LMCU account
  • Minimum of 10 posted debit card purchases per month
  • Minimum of 4 logins to home banking per month
  • Sign up to receive eStatements/eNotices

Credit unions refer to account-holders as members rather than as customers, which helps explain why their average fees and rates tend to be more consumer-friendly than those you'll find at banks. However, credit unions have their own disadvantages. LMCU, for instance, only operates branch locations in Michigan. Most people considering the Max Checking account will need to rely on LMCU's online banking and its partnership with Allpoint, a nationwide network of ATMs. The credit union also provides up to $15 in monthly reimbursements for non-network ATM fees, but we recommend looking elsewhere if you find it difficult to bank without any access to in-branch services.

Best Bank Rewards Rate: Axos Rewards Checking

Axos Rewards Checking

Consider this if you want a regular bank that rewards checking account activity.
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We've found that Axos Bank™ provides one of the highest rewards interest rates for an online bank. Axos Rewards Checking earns a monthly maximum of 1.25% APY, based on how many of its activity requirements you meet each month. Every month, you earn 0.4166% APY for each one of the following activity requirements:

  • Receive monthly direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more
  • Use Rewards Checking Visa® Debit Card at least 10 times per month for everyday purchases (min $3 per transaction)
  • Use Rewards Checking Visa® Debit Card at least 15 times per month for everyday purchases (min $3 per transaction)

From a cost perspective, earning the top rate with Rewards Checking requires a total of $12,000 or more in annual direct deposits and monthly debit spending of $45 or more. These figures may seem reasonable to a lot of consumers, but it's important to note that the activity rule means at least one debit purchase every two or three days. If you're mostly a cash or credit card spender, earning strong interest with this checking account may require some conscious adjustment. You'll also want to think about the opportunity cost of replacing your reward-earning credit card purchases with debit card activity.

Summary of Best Rewards Checking Accounts

We've gathered all the important features of the rewards checking options discussed above. While our selections charge no monthly fee and require no minimum, you may find other rewards checking accounts that do include a service charge or daily minimum balance.

Best For...Account NameRewardsMonthly Limits/Requirements
Debit CashbackDiscover Cashback Checking$0.10 cash back per debitLimit of $10 cash back
Best Credit Union Rewards RateLMCU Max Checking3.00% APYRequires 1 direct deposit, 10 debits, 4 logins to online banking and eStatements
Best Bank Rewards RateAxos Rewards Checking1.25% APYRequires $1,000 direct deposits and 15 debit purchases

Other Ways to Earn Rewards with Banks

It's difficult to find many strong candidates in the rewards checking category, so you should prioritize the kind of account you want by selecting a single benefit to shop for. Most rewards checking accounts bring you a higher rate based on activity requirements like those at LMCU or Axos Bank. For people shopping interest rates, we recommend looking for local banks and credit unions that partner with newer financial startups like Kasasa. These Internet-oriented companies deliver high interest rates and rewards programs in a local, community-friendly platform.

Kasasa Partners in Major States

CaliforniaLA Financial FCU3% cash back, up to $6 monthly
BAC Community Bank2.00% APY on up to $10,000
TexasCherokee County FCU2% cash back, up to $6 monthly
Incommons Bank3% cash back, up to $4.50 monthly
FloridaCoastline FCU2.5% cash back, up to $7.50 monthly
Magnify Credit Union3.00% APY on up to $10,000
New YorkXcel FCU3% cash back, up to $7.50 monthly
Alden State Bank1% cash back, up to $10 monthly

Kasasa partners offer Kasasa Cash® and Kasasa Cashback® checking accounts. The first earns interest on your balance, while the other earns cash back on your debit spending. Generally, the company's rates and limits compare very favorably to generic banking and credit union options. However, because its rewards rates and maximums vary depending on the partner institution, you may find better options in your local area that aren't associated with Kasasa. Credit unions in particular tend to offer excellent deals for those that qualify as members.

Earning Rewards With Credit Cards or Prepaid Debit

If you want to find a strong spending option for cash back on purchases, consider looking for other payment methods, like credit or prepaid debit. Most credit cards have far better terms on their rewards earning and redemptions than debit cards do. Prepaid debit cards sometimes offer cash back rewards as well. For example, the Amex Serve cards earn unlimited 1% cash back on all your spending. While prepaid debit cards don't build your personal credit score like credit cards do, they can be useful alternatives if you're having trouble finding a trustworthy bank account.

Chris Moon

Chris is a Product Manager for ValuePenguin with years of experience in addressing critical questions about mortgages and homeowners insurance. He spends his time evaluating insurance providers and policy features to understand where consumers might find the most cost-effective coverage. Chris has contributed insights to the New York Times and many other publications.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.