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7 banks that offer free checking accounts

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Banks often charge monthly fees just to maintain your checking account. Some charge penalties if your account dips below the required minimum balance, or they may charge fees for using competing banks’ ATMs. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to sign up for a free checking account that can save you a few bucks.

With a number of free checking accounts to choose from, it’s not hard to find a no-fee option. Here’s a look at a few banks that offer free checking accounts.

1. Ally: Interest Checking Account

Ally Bank offers an Interest Checking Account with no minimum opening deposit or monthly maintenance fee. The account also pays a bit of interest (0.1 percent annual percentage yield) on balances under $15,000 and a bit more (0.25 percent APY) on accounts that carry a daily balance of $15,000 or more.

Interest Checking Account also offers perks such as f ree standard checks and access to Allpoint ATMs, plus great mobile app ratings.

  • Minimum deposit and balance requirements: $0
  • Yield: up to 0.25 percent APY ($15,000 minimum daily balance required, otherwise APY is 0.1 percent.)
  • Branches: None
  • Mobile app scores: Apple App Store, 4.7 stars; Google Play, 3.8 stars
  • ATMs: More than 43,000 Allpoint surcharge-free ATMs, plus up to $10 reimbursement per statement for fees charged at other ATMs in the U.S.
  • Offers and incentives: Free standard checks, no-fee cashier’s checks and incoming wire transfers.

As an online bank, Ally has no branches to visit if you have a concern that requires in-person assistance.

2. Capital One: 360 Checking Account

Capital One charges no fees to open or use a 360 Checking account — not even for foreign country debit card transactions — and mobile banking is streamlined and easy to use.

  • Minimum deposit and balance requirements: $0
  • Yield: 0.1 percent APY
  • Branches: Located in seven Eastern and two Southern states
  • Mobile app scores: Apple App Store, 4.9 stars; Google Play, 4.7 stars
  • ATMs: More than 70,000 Capital One, MoneyPass and Allpoint ATMs

Charges may apply for cashier’s checks, check orders (after the first set, which is free) or stop payments on checks.

3. Discover Bank: Cashback Debit account

Discover Bank’s Cashback Debit account imposes no fees or minimum balance requirements, and it also offers 1 percent cash back on up to $3,000 in debit-card purchases each month.

  • Minimum deposit and balance requirements: $0
  • Yield: None
  • Branches: One, located in Delaware
  • Mobile app scores: Apple App Store, 4.9 stars; Google Play, 4.7 stars
  • ATMs: More than 60,000 no-fee ATMs in the U.S.
  • Offers and incentives: 1 percent cash back on up to $3,000 in monthly debit card transactions, no stop payment fees, free standard checks and official bank checks

This account pays cash back for transactions, but it earns no interest.

4. Heritage Bank: eCentive Account

Midwest-based Heritage Bank perhaps doesn’t come with the cache or brand recognition of the big banks. But it does offer a generous 1.02 APY percent on qualifying balances up to $25,000 on its free eCentive checking account.

Balances over that amount, however, receive a lower 0.14 percent APY. Also, to qualify for the higher APY on balances under $25,000, account holders must make at least $500 in debit card payments or purchases each month, have at least one monthly direct deposit or automatic payment (ACH) and sign up for paperless statements. A $30 fee applies if the account is closed within six months of opening.

  • Minimum deposit and balance requirements: $100 to open, no minimum balance
  • Yield: 1.02 percent on account balances up to $25,000
  • Branches: Located in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota
  • Mobile app scores: Apple App Store, of 1.4 stars; Google Play, 4.5 stars
  • ATMs: In Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota

5. NBKC: Everything Account

Based in the Kansas City metro area, NBKC Bank offers an Everything Account that yields 0.15 percent. There are no minimum balance, overdraft or maintenance fees, nor fees on returned items, stop payments, cashier’s checks and other services. Plus, the online bank reimburses up to $12 a month for other banks’ ATM fees.

  • Minimum deposit: Zero
  • Balance requirement: 1 cent to earn interest
  • Yield: 0.15 APY
  • Branches: Five in the Kansas City area
  • Mobile app: Apple App Store, 4.4 stars; Google Play, 4.1 stars
  • ATMs: More than 37,000 MoneyPass ATMs

Incoming wire transfers are free, but a $5 fee applies to outgoing wire transfers.

Big bank alternatives

You might consider a big bank if you prefer a well-known financial institution that offers plenty of branches and ATMs. While these commonly charge a monthly checking account fee, it can often be waived easily by meeting set requirements.

6. Chase Total Checking

A Chase Total Checking account requires no minimum opening deposit, and the $12 monthly service fee is relatively easy to avoid.

  • Minimum opening deposit: Zero
  • Balance requirement: $1,500 in order to avoid a $12 monthly service fee; alternatively, the service fee can be avoided by receiving monthly minimum electronic deposits of $500
  • Yield: None
  • Branches: More than 4,700 branch locations
  • Mobile app: Apple App 4.8 stars; Google Play 4.3 stars
  • ATMs: More than 16,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Offers and incentives: Text banking allows you to check your account balance easily by sending a text message

7. Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking

The Bank of America Advantage Plus Banking is a checking account that requires a low opening deposit and a monthly fee that can be waived in several ways.

  • Minimum opening deposit: $100
  • Balance requirement: A minimum $1,500 to avoid a $12 monthly service fee; the fee can also be avoided by receiving a monthly direct deposit of at least $250 or enrolling in Preferred Rewards
  • Yield: None
  • Branches: About 4,200 locations
  • Mobile app: Apple App Store, 4.8 stars; Google Play, 4.6 stars
  • ATMs: 16,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Offers and incentives: The mobile app offers a virtual banking assistant called Erica. An overdraft protection option called Balance Connection allows you to link up to five eligible backup accounts.

Bottom line

There’s no point in paying for a checking account when a number of banks offer free checking. Online-only banks often charge no checking account fees and require no minimum deposit. Big banks may charge a monthly fee, but it’s generally easy to waive by meeting simple requirements.

Free checking is a smart choice, but it only works if your banking needs are met. Before choosing a checking account, consider whether you need access to ATMs, a checkbook, branches and 24/7 account information. Some banks even pay interest on their free checking accounts, which can be icing on the cake. Just be sure to pay attention to the fine print.

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Written by
Karen Bennett
Consumer banking reporter
Karen Bennett is a consumer banking reporter at Bankrate. She uses her finance writing background to help readers learn more about savings and checking accounts, CDs, and other financial matters.
Edited by
Wealth editor