Best Rewards Checking Accounts of 2021

Best Rewards Checking Accounts of 2021

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.

Rewards programs aren’t just for credit cards: Your checking account and debit card can earn you money, too. Some accounts have a cashback debit card, while others earn a higher APY with monthly requirements — and some even offer both.

We searched for the best rewards checking accounts in a number of categories, so you can find a rewards checking account — whether you’re after cash back, a high interest rate, unique rewards, a whole rewards program or a sign-up bonus.

Why trust us

At ValuePenguin, we believe that everyone should have access to the best accounts, no matter how much money they have. To determine which ones we think are the best, we looked at dozens of rewards accounts from banks both big and small, as well as cash management accounts.

To determine our list, we focused on accounts that are accessible to customers nationwide, excluding rewards checking accounts from geographically exclusive credit unions. We also prioritized accounts with low to no minimum deposit and balance requirements, which makes opening an account easier. Lastly, we favored accounts with zero to low fees, so your rewards can stay yours.

Best rewards checking accounts in 2020

Category
Account
Best rewards checking account overallRadius Bank Rewards Checking
Best cash back checking accountDiscover Cashback Checking
Best rewards checking account interest rateAxos Bank Rewards Checking
Best unique rewards programAspiration Spend & Save
Best checking account rewards programBank of America BankAmeriDeals
Best checking account sign-up bonusHSBC Premier Checking
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Best rewards checking account overall: Radius Bank Rewards Checking

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  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Rewards: Up to 1.5% cash back + 0% to 0.15% APY
  • Minimum deposit: $100

Radius Bank Rewards Checking earns the top overall spot thanks to its two-pronged approach to rewards: It has both a debit card that earns cash back and earned interest. You can earn unlimited 1% cash back on signature-based and online debit card purchases, with an additional 0.50% cash back on select merchant categories through Dec. 30, 2020. Radius Bank is pretty generous with its bonus categories, which include book stores, grocery stores, charitable organizations, medical services, restaurants and more.

Note that the Radius Bank Debit Card Rewards Program requires you to either keep an average balance of at least $2,500 in a calendar month or receive direct deposits that total at least $2,500 in a month to earn cashback rewards.

And it seems that $2,500 is Radius Bank’s magic number, because you also need at least that much to earn interest, which you can start earning at 0.10% for balances of at least $2,500. The rate increases to 0.15% for balances of $100,000 and over.

Your Radius Bank debit card also gets you free access to MoneyPass and SUM ATMs all over the country. Radius Bank still won’t charge you to use an ATM outside of those networks, and will even reimburse you for third-party surcharges you might face.

To cap it off, Radius Bank will also deposit your paycheck up to two days earlier than usual by giving you access to your direct deposit funds as soon as it can, rather than waiting like most other institutions do.


Best cashback checking account: Discover Cashback Debit

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  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Rewards: 1% cash back up to $3,000/month
  • Minimum deposit: $0

The Discover Cashback Debit account earns 1% cash back on debit card purchases. Note, however, that non-purchase transactions you make with your debit card, like peer-to-peer payments or those done at ATMs, are not eligible for cashback rewards, nor are purchases of money orders or similar cash equivalents.

Your debit card cashback rewards are limited to $3,000 per month, though they will never expire as long as you keep your account active and in good standing.

You also rarely have to worry about checking account fees with Discover Cashback Debit. It doesn’t charge fees for monthly service, replacement debit cards, standard checks, deposited items returned, insufficient funds and more. The only charge to worry about is a service charge for outgoing wires.

The debit card may be used for free withdrawals at any Allpoint or MoneyPass ATM. Discover also won’t charge you for using an ATM outside of those networks, although the ATM owner might charge its own fee.


Best rewards checking account interest rate: Axos Bank Rewards Checking

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  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Rewards: Up to 1.25% APY
  • Minimum deposit: $50

With its Rewards Checking account, Axos Bank rewards you for meeting certain transaction requirements with a very competitive APY of up to 1.25%. To start, you can earn a 0.4166% APY by receiving monthly direct deposits totaling at least $1,000. Tack on another 0.4166% APY by using your Axos Visa Debit Card for a total of 10 transactions per month. Earn the last 0.4166% APY — to total 1.25% APY — by using your debit card five more times (each transaction must be at least $3). All balances of up to $150,000 earn interest.

Luckily, the interest you earn is yours to keep, as Axos Bank is light on the fees. It doesn’t charge for monthly maintenance, overdrafts or non-sufficient funds. The account also has the added bonus of offering unlimited reimbursements for domestic ATM fees, and you can also avoid ATM surcharges by using an ATM within Axos Bank’s network.


Best unique rewards program: Aspiration Spend & Save

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  • Monthly fee: You choose, or $15 with Aspiration Plus
  • Rewards: 0.50% cash back at select merchants + 3% to 5% cash back (10% cash back with Aspiration Plus) on Conscience Coalition purchases + 1.00% APY on Save with Aspiration Plus
  • Minimum deposit: $10

Aspiration’s motto is "Do Well. Do Good," and its Spend debit card rewards program certainly reflects that. For starters, you can earn 0.50% cash back on debit card purchases at merchants with a high Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) score, which tracks sustainable impact (Aspiration will even give you your own AIM score in the app). This includes big brands like Aetna, Apple, Google and Target.

You can earn an additional 3% to 5% cash back on Conscience Coalition purchases when you use Aspiration with Pay What Is Fair, which allows you to pay a monthly fee that you think is reasonable — even if that’s $0. These cashback rewards are boosted up to 10% if you pay for Aspiration Plus, which is $15 per month, or $12.50 per month if you pay annually. The Conscience Coalition is made up of socially responsible companies like Causebox, Known Supply, TOMS and more.

Aspiration Plus users also benefit from a 1.00% APY on Save balances, carbon offsets based on gas purchases and one reimbursement per month of an out-of-network ATM fee. All Aspiration users have free access to Allpoint ATMs.


Best checking account rewards program: Bank of America BankAmeriDeals

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  • Monthly fee: Depends on account
  • Rewards: Up to 20% cash back
  • Minimum deposit: Depends on account

Bank of America’s BankAmeriDeals is an online banking rewards program that isn’t limited to just one checking account. Instead, Bank of America checking account customers are automatically enrolled in BankAmeriDeals when they sign up for online and mobile banking — plus, there’s no extra fee or minimum balance requirement to use it.

BankAmeriDeals offers the chance to earn cashback rewards on rotating merchant deals. You can see the available rewards opportunities once you’re logged into your account either on desktop or in the Bank of America mobile app. Deals range from clothing retailers and cable services to food products and home goods. Once you select your deal of choice, you just need to make the purchase (as long as it’s $3 or more) with your eligible Bank of America debit or credit card to earn cash back.

Cashback rewards tend to range from 5% to as much as 20%, but can also be in the form of set dollar amounts. When you make a BankAmeriDeals purchase, you also earn a figurative coin. When you collect four coins, you can earn another cash reward.


Best checking account sign-up bonus: HSBC Premier Checking

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  • Monthly fee: $50 (waivable)
  • Rewards: $450 sign-up bonus with $5,000 in monthly direct deposits
  • Minimum deposit: $0 when in branch, up to $1 online (dependent on location and account holder status)

HSBC offers a one-time $450 bonus offer for new customers opening a Premier checking account. To snag this bonus, you must make monthly direct deposits into the account that total at least $5,000 for three consecutive calendar months, starting in the second full month after you open the account. These direct deposits must come from a third party, like your employer or the government.

You have until Jan. 7, 2021 to take advantage of this offer via this online offer page. You must also be a new HSBC customer, meaning you cannot have had an HSBC deposit or investment account since Sept. 30, 2017.

Keeping up the $5,000 monthly direct deposits is one way to keep yourself at the HSBC Premier relationship level, which allows you to waive the $50 monthly Premier fee. You can also maintain Premier eligibility by keeping either a minimum combined balance of $75,000 in combined consumer and qualifying commercial deposit and investment accounts or by having an HSBC U.S. residential mortgage loan with an original loan amount of at least $500,000. The Premier checking account earns 0.01% APY on balances of $5 or more.


How do rewards checking accounts work?

As the name suggests, rewards checking accounts usually reward you for meeting some kind of requirement with an extra perk, such as cash back, an increased interest rate, merchant discounts, a one-time cash bonus or some combination of these items. The hoops you have to jump through to earn those perks vary by account, although it may be as simple as making a debit card purchase.

Here are some of the common reward checking account requirements that you may have to meet in order to earn rewards:

  • Making debit card purchases: Several rewards accounts merely require you to make a purchase to earn cashback rewards on that amount. Others may make their requirements more specific, limiting rewards to signature-based transactions or select companies only. Other accounts may require you to make a certain number of debit card transactions to qualify for rewards.
  • Receiving direct deposits: Some rewards may be contingent on the direct deposits you receive into the account. Often, banks set a minimum amount you must receive from direct deposits in a month. Banks may also accept only payroll or government benefits as qualifying deposits, so it’s important to check their rules.
  • Enrolling in eStatements: Banking is increasingly moving online, and nowadays some banks will reward you for enrolling in eStatements or online banking. Typically, these services are free for you, not to mention conveniently accessed and better for the environment, so it doesn’t hurt to sign up if you’d like to snag some rewards.
  • Maintaining a minimum balance: Rewards eligibility may also depend on your balance, especially if the reward is a higher APY. In these accounts, higher balances typically earn higher interest rates. However, there are some accounts out there that reward lower balances.

Once you meet those requirements, the rewards are yours — although not always immediately. Cashback rewards may take a business day or more to post to your account. After that, you can redeem them, usually for account credit or perhaps a more tangible reward, like a gift card.

If you’re earning interest on your balance, the account may accrue and compound interest daily or monthly, depending on the account. Meanwhile, one-time cash bonuses often post to your account 30 to 90 days after you complete the requirements, at which point you can use the money however you want.

Lauren Perez

Lauren is a Deposits and Investing Writer for ValuePenguin, with years of experience chasing the best savings account rates out there. She also covers deposits and investing for MagnifyMoney and DepositAccounts. Lauren’s work has been covered by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, MSN, Univision, Acorns and more. Lauren graduated from the University of Rochester, where she majored in English. Prior to joining LendingTree, she was a writer at SmartAsset.

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.