If you’re a recent college graduate, you’ve likely worked hard for years to set yourself up for the right career — and now it’s time to officially join the working world, armed with the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired. Whether you’ve begun your first job or are still searching, a key to achieving career-long success is good money management.

As you handle bills and living expenses, your checking account will serve as an important financial hub. The right checking account for you is one that suits your personal needs well, and many account seekers look for features such as digital banking options, plentiful ATMs and lack of fees.

Here you’ll find a list of top checking accounts for recent college graduates, as well as some expert advice on managing your personal finances at this exciting time when you embark on your career.

Best checking accounts for recent college graduates

When you’re starting your career and becoming established financially, it helps to not be plagued by a checking account that charges monthly fees or requires a set minimum balance. You might also be looking for a robust mobile banking app or a wide network of fee-free ATMs. Here are five accounts that fit the bill nicely.

Ally Bank Spending Account

If you’re seeking a checking account that’s not bogged down by fees or balance requirements, the Spending Account from Ally Bank may be right for you. This interest-bearing account also comes with access to plenty of in-network ATMs and some reimbursement of fees charged by ATM owners.

  • No fees: There are no monthly service fees or charges for overdrafts, incoming domestic wire transfers or cashier’s checks.
  • Interest: The account has a tiered interest rate structure, with a higher yield for balances of $15,000 or greater.
  • Large ATM network: You’ll have fee-free access to more than 43,000 ATMs, and surcharges from ATM owners are reimbursed up to $10 per statement cycle.
  • Early direct deposit: You can receive direct deposit of your paycheck up to two days earlier than standard direct deposit.

What to watch out for:

  • Cash deposits are not accepted.
  • Ally doesn’t offer any branches.

Bank of America SafeBalance account

The SafeBalance checking account from Bank of America can be a convenient option for those who want an account that won’t charge overdraft fees, while providing access to plenty of branches and a robust mobile app.

  • No overdraft fees: The account doesn’t charge fees for overdrafts.
  • Large branch network: Bank of America maintains more than 3,700 branches in 39 states.
  • Highly rated mobile app: In addition to bill pay and money transfer capabilities, the well-rated app comes with virtual financial assistant Erica and access to your FICO score.
  • Maintenance fees may be easy to avoid: You won’t be charged a monthly fee if you’re less than 25 years old — or if you maintain a $500 minimum balance or are a Preferred Rewards program member.

What to watch out for:

  • The monthly service fee may be difficult to avoid if you’re 25 or older, keep a balance under $500 or you aren’t signed up for the rewards program.
  • While Bank of America offers 15,000 ATMs, other banks offer more robust ATM networks.
  • Check-writing is not included with this account.

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

It’s easy to become a member of Alliant Credit Union; one way is to join Foster Care to Success (FC2S), for which Alliant will pay your $5 membership fee. The online-only credit union offers an interest-bearing checking account and fees are few and far between.

  • No service fees: You won’t be charged a monthly maintenance fee.
  • Plentiful fee-free ATM access: Members have access to 80,000 in-network ATMs and $20 in monthly rebates for surcharges from ATM owners.
  • Free checks: Your first box of checks is free, when ordered within 12 months of account opening.
  • No overdraft fees: Overdraft fees aren’t charged, and members may opt in for overdraft protection.

What to watch out for:

  • A $25 minimum opening deposit is required.
  • Alliant doesn’t maintain branches.

Capital One 360 Checking

The Capital One 360 Checking account bears a small amount of interest, without subjecting you to monthly fees. You’ll have access to a wide network of no-fee ATMs. The highly rated mobile app enables real-time alerts, and you use it to lock and unlock your debit card.

  • Large ATM network: You’ll have free access to more than 70,000 Capital One, MoneyPass and Allpoint ATMs.
  • Interest: The account earns some interest on all balances.
  • Early direct deposit: You can receive your paycheck’s direct deposit up to two days early.
  • In-store cash deposits: You can add cash to your checking account at any CVS, Walgreens or Duane Reade by Walgreens store location.

What to watch out for:

  • Capital One charges $30 for outgoing domestic wire transfers, which is more than some banks charge for this service.
  • Capital One maintains branches but only in a handful of states.

Charles Schwab Investor Checking

By enabling you to keep your banking and investing accounts in one place, the federally insured Investor Checking account from Charles Schwab can be convenient for new grads who are looking to start investing. It also comes in handy for travelers, providing free use of ATMs globally, while charging no foreign transaction fees.

  • Connected savings and brokerage accounts: It’s easy to transfer cash between your brokerage and checking accounts.
  • Interest: The account earns some interest, without requiring any minimum balance.
  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursement: Charles Schwab fees reimburses all fees for use of ATMs around the globe.
  • Guaranteed security: Under the bank’s Security Guarantee, it states it will cover losses on your account due to unauthorized activity. All Schwab banking products are included in the guarantee.

What to watch out for:

  • The Investor Checking account is available only as a linked account with a Schwab One brokerage account. (There’s no requirement to fund the brokerage account.)
  • There’s no way to deposit cash into the account.
  • Branches only provide services for investing and not for banking.

How to pick a checking account after graduation

As a new graduate, you’re likely on the verge of some major life changes, which can include getting a place of your own and buying a new vehicle. You may use your checking account to cover expenses such as rent, auto insurance and student loan payments — as well as utilities, groceries and other living expenses.

You’ll want a checking account that best meets your unique financial needs. Some account features that may be useful to you now — and even as your career and your personal finance situation progress — include:

  • No minimum balance requirements
  • No monthly service fee (or one that’s easy to avoid)
  • Access to plenty of no-fee ATMs
  • Bank branch access
  • A user-friendly mobile app
  • Fraud and identity theft protection features
  • Online money-management tools
  • No overdraft fees
  • Early direct deposit

“Look for a free checking account — one with no monthly fee or balance requirements,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate chief financial analyst. “Plenty of free accounts are available. Be sure to comparison-shop among local banks, credit unions and online banks. Many other accounts will waive fees and balance requirements if you have direct deposit of your paycheck. If you ever make cash withdrawals from an ATM, be sure that you have free access to a broad network of ATMs.”

Checking account management tips for new college grads

As the hub of your personal finances, your checking account will be used for bills, loan repayment and discretionary spending, as well as for transferring leftover money to savings or investments.

First and foremost, it’s important to create a budget in which you account for the money that comes into and leaves your checking account each month. Line items will include rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, credit card and loan payments, discretionary spending and saving.

Having a budget and monitoring your finances closely helps ensure you spend within your means and pay your bills on time, and that you contribute some money to savings each month. Knowing how much money you can save enables you to set up savings goals and the dates you plan to meet them. For instance, if you want to buy a car, you can calculate how much to save each month by the time you want to make the purchase.

In addition to a checking account, another must-have is a high-yield savings account. This account can be a source of money you’d tap into in case of a financial emergency. It can also be a place where you’re saving for a down payment on a house, a vacation or other goals.

“In addition to a free checking account, open a high-yield online savings account and have a direct deposit from your paycheck,” McBride says. “This will help you build up that much-needed emergency fund and it will happen automatically.”

Bottom line

As you finish college and begin your career, starting off on the right foot financially is highly important. A big part of this process is making sure you have the right checking account to meet your money needs. The right account can make money management quicker and easier, and it can even help you increase your savings.