Best available rates across different account types for Wednesday, December 01, 2021
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Best checking accounts December 2021
The best checking accounts usually don’t have a monthly service fee or they offer an easy way for you to avoid it. They also might reward you with interest, cash back or a sign-up bonus.
Checking accounts are important for paying your bills and other expenses. They don’t typically have transaction limits to keep track of, unlike some savings accounts and money market accounts. Here are Bankrate's picks for the best checking accounts:
The following accounts can be found at most banks and credit unions. Theyâre federally insured for up to $250,000 and offer a safe place to put your money while earning interest.
Certificate of Deposit (CD)
CDs are best for individuals looking for a guaranteed rate of return thatâs typically higher than a savings account. In exchange for a higher rate, funds are tied up for a set period of time and early withdrawal penalties may apply.
Checking accounts are best for individuals who want to keep their money safe while still having easy, day-to-day access to their funds. ATM and other transactional fees may apply.
Savings / Money Market Accounts (MMA)
Savings and MMAs are good options for individuals looking to save for shorter-term goals. Theyâre a safe way to separate your savings from everyday cash, but may require larger minimum balances and have transfer limitations.
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We regularly survey widely available financial institutions, made up of the biggest banks and credit unions, as well as a number of popular online banks. To find the best checking accounts, our editorial team analyzes various factors, such as: fees, minimum balance requirements and annual percentage yield (APY) offered. All of the checking accounts below are insured by the FDIC at banks or the NCUA at credit unions.
The Bankrate guide to checking accounts
Our financial experts have put together a quick guide on choosing the best checking account. Be sure to read the information below so you can make a financially sound decision.
Here is additional information that will help you find the right bank account for you:
Pros: The 1.02 percent APY on the eCentive checking account applies to qualifying balances up to $25,000. To earn the APY, you will need to make at least 10 debit card transactions per month (excluding ATM transactions), have at least one direct deposit or automatic payment per month and receive monthly eStatements.
There are no monthly service charges and no minimum balance requirements. Customers can access information via the bank's app, the mobile browser or through text inquiries and alerts. Online banking customers can also make person-to-person payments using Popmoney. The bank refunds up to $25 a month in ATM fees. The bank's "hybrid" ATMs also let customers interact with live video tellers during certain hours.
Cons: Not making at least 10 debit card transactions per month means you'll earn only 0.05 percent APY. You'll also be charged $4 per month to have paper statements mailed to you. But you can avoid this by signing up for eStatements
Heritage Bank has locations in just seven cities across Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota. Overdrafts and non-sufficient funds cost $33 per paid item; $36 per returned item. If you close the account within six months of opening it, you'll pay a $30 exit fee. Qualifying balances of $25,000.01 and greater earn only 0.14 percent APY.
Best checking accounts for members of the military and veterans
Balance to open: $0 (for both checking accounts)
Flagship Checking: This account earns up to 0.45 percent APY. Even its lowest APY tier at 0.35 percent APY, for balances from $1,500 to $9,999, is competitive. You’ll have out-of-network ATM fees up to $10 per statement cycle reimbursed if you have a direct deposit going to this account.
Free Active Duty Checking: This account might be a good choice for active duty military members. Retired military or reservists are also eligible for this account. Opening this account will get you up to $20 per statement cycle of out-of-network ATM fees reimbursed.
Customers will earn 0.05 percent APY with this account and get free traditional checks. You’ll also be able to receive your direct deposit one business day earlier than usual with this account.
Flagship Checking: You’ll need to maintain at least $1,500 in order to earn interest. To get the top APY, you’ll need at least $25,000 in this account. A direct deposit is needed to receive ATM surcharge rebates.
Free Active Duty Checking: You’ll need to have a qualifying direct deposit from the military going into this account. Otherwise, the account will convert to a Free EveryDay Checking account if the military direct deposit is discontinued for more than 90 days.
Customers with this account are eligible for free checks personalized only with their name.
Best checking account for mobile app and high-yield rate
Balance to open: $0
Pros: There are no monthly maintenance fees on the Interest Checking account. The rate is tiered based on your account balance and interest compounds daily. Ally's mobile app lets you access your account 24/7 to check balances, find ATMs, pay bills and conduct other banking business. On the app, you can also establish card controls and send money to people you know through Zelle.
Ally provides generous ATM access. Thanks to its partnership with the Allpoint ATM network, you can use 43,000-plus ATMs nationwide for free. Ally also reimburses up to $10 per statement cycle for out-of-network ATM fees charged by other banks.
Cons: You must maintain a $15,000 balance to earn the highest APY. Customers must fund the account within 30 days or it will be closed. Overdrafts can be avoided by enrolling in overdraft protection and linking to an Ally savings or money market account. Watch out for some fees, such as $20 for outgoing domestic wires and $25 per hour for account research.
Pros: There are no fees for overdrafts, returned items, stop payments, cashier's checks and other services. Although you don't need an opening deposit immediately, you’ll have to deposit at least $5 into the account within the first 60 days to keep it open. But you’ll only need a penny in the account to earn interest.
You can set up recurring bill payments online, and your smartphone can be used to make mobile check deposits. Customers can access 34,000 MoneyPass ATMs for free across the country. The bank reimburses up to $12 a month for ATM fees that other banks may charge. Outgoing domestic wires cost $5.
Cons: International wires, whether sending or receiving them, cost $45.
Best checking account for unlimited ATM fee rebates
Balance to open: $100
Pros: Rewards Checking customers earn 1 percent cash back on signature-based purchases each month. The Rewards Checking account only requires a $100 opening deposit and there are no monthly maintenance fees. Rewards Checking customers are eligible for unlimited ATM fee rebates. The LendingClub mobile app enables users to manage their accounts, make payments and transfers, plus it offers tools to create budgets, view spending and track trends. You can add your LendingClub debit card to Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay.
LendingClub also offers the Essential Checking account. This account is for customers looking to rebuild their banking record.
Cons: You must maintain an average daily balance of $2,500 to earn interest on Rewards Checking and get the 1 percent cash back on signature-based purchases. Customers can sidestep the balance requirement with a direct deposit of at least $2,500 each month.
Among the fees: $25 for non-sufficient funds, $25 for a returned item (like a check), $25 for a stop payment, $20 for a domestic outgoing wire, $10 for an incoming wire, and $40 for international outgoing wires. If you are overdrawn for more than five days, there is a daily fee of $5 for up to 30 days.
Pros: The checking account is very accessible: While no minimum balance is required, an account is not considered opened until it's funded with at least a penny. The 360 Checking is free of monthly maintenance fees and the first 50 checks are free.
Capital One's mobile app lets you manage accounts, make deposits using your smartphone and receive account alerts. The online bank also supports branches and cafe-style locations.
Cons: Fees are charged for services such as cashier's checks ($10-$20), stop payment on a paper check ($25) and outgoing domestic wire transfers ($30). Capital One also charges for non-sufficient funds ($9) and overdraft fees (up to $35 per transaction) unless you link your checking account to a savings or money market account. In 2019, Capital One had a major data breach in which accounts and applications, mostly credit card applications, of more than 100 million customers in the U.S. and Canada were exposed. The bank said it fixed the breach and offered free credit monitoring and identity protection to affected customers.
Checking account customers must agree to go paperless and accept all communications via electronic delivery.
Pros: TIAA guarantees that its yields will be in the top 5 percent among its competitors.
There is no monthly fee, regardless of balance. Customers get benefits with the debit card, including extended warranty protection on eligible purchases of up to one year; 60-day price protection with reimbursement for the difference between the purchase price and advertised price on eligible items, up to $250; and up to $250 for buyer's remorse or dissatisfaction within 90 days of purchase if the merchant won't accept the return. TIAA Bank’s digital services let you track and manage your accounts, pay bills, transfer money and send money to people you know through Zelle. Its nationwide network of 80,000 ATMs are fee-free. If you use an out-of-network ATM, you'll be fully reimbursed for ATM fees if you maintain an average daily balance of $5,000. Otherwise, the bank reimburses up to $15 a month.
Cons: There are fees for non-sufficient funds ($30), returned deposited items ($10), stop payments ($25), expedited overnight bill payments ($14.95), cashier's checks ($10) and others.
Pros:Chase offers several sign-up bonuses. A $225 cash promotion is available through Jan. 19, 2022, for new Chase checking customers who sign up for Chase Total Checking with direct deposit from an employer or the government for at least six months. Direct deposit must be set up within 90 days of opening the account to receive the bonus.
New customers who are college students ages 17-24 can also get $100 by opening a Chase College Checking account through Jan. 19, 2022. The bonus isn’t available to existing Chase checking customers or to people who had an account within 90 days or closed an account with a negative balance within the last 3 years. You’ll need to make at least 10 qualifying transactions within the first 60 days of opening the Chase College Checking account. In addition, existing Chase customers can earn a $50 bonus for each friend they refer who opens a qualifying checking account. There is a $500 cap on the referral offer. Chase customers have access to more than 4,700 branches nationwide,16,000 ATMs, and highly rated digital banking tools.
Cons: Customers earn a paltry 0.01 percent APY on most accounts. The only exception pertains to "relationship rates" for Chase Premier Savings customers who link that account to a Premier Plus or Sapphire checking account and meet certain transaction requirements. The relationship rates are tiered based on account balance and they are also meager, ranging from 0.02 percent APY for balances up to $49,999 and 0.05 percent APY for balances over $250,000. The more elite checking accounts require high minimum balances to avoid a $25 monthly fee. For instance, Chase Premier Plus Checking requires an average daily balance of $15,000 among linked Chase accounts or a Chase first mortgage enrolled in automatic payments. Total Checking account, you need a balance of $1,500 at the beginning of the day, a monthly direct deposit of at least $500 or a daily balance of $5,000 among other Chase accounts. Total Checking customers pay fees for out-of-network ATM transactions and are penalized $34 for overdrafts, though Chase is lenient with occasional offenders.
Pros: Known mostly for its cash-back credit card rewards, Discover extends the rewards to its online checking accounts. Discover's Cashback Debit account offers 1 percent cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month, or potentially $30 a month. These funds can be automatically deposited into a Discover Online Savings account, currently earning a competitive APY. No minimum balance is required to open the checking account, but it must be funded within 45 days or the bank may close it.
Discover Financial Services claims "No. Fees. Period." Customers pay no fees for returned checks, overdrafts, stop payment orders, non-sufficient funds, new checks or expedited delivery for debit card replacements. Customer service reps are available 24/7. Customers have access to more than 60,000 no-fee ATMs in the U.S. A mobile app that enables you to make deposits or freeze your debit card if you misplace it can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.
Cons: Discover has only one full-service brick and mortar office, and it's in Delaware. So you’ll need to use the website, mobile app or the customer service phone number to bank and have your questions answered.
Checking account interest rate requirements
Before you choose an interest-bearing checking account, pay attention to the requirements you must meet to earn the highest yield. You may need to set up direct deposit, enroll in eStatements and/or make a certain number of debit card purchases each month.
If you can't meet the criteria to qualify for one of the best checking account rates, consider opening a high-yield savings account, money market account, or CD instead.
What is a checking account?
A checking account is a financial tool that offers everyday access to your money. These accounts typically come with personal checks and a debit card.
In recent years banks have expanded their checking account services to include online and mobile banking. With checking accounts, there's no limit to how often you can access your money. Unlike savings accounts, you can withdraw, transfer, write checks and make debit card charges as often as you'd like.
Virtually all banks and credit unions offer checking accounts. To clear checks and transfer funds, banks use Automated Clearing House, or ACH, a nationwide network operated by the two national ACH operators – the Reserve Banks and the Electronic Payments Network.
Checking accounts are typically easy to set up with a small deposit. If they earn interest at all, it tends to be less than savings and money market accounts. But checking accounts offer the same level of safety. Like savings and money market accounts, checking accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) or by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, depending on whether your account is at a bank or credit union.
Why sign up for a checking account?
Because of their accessibility and safety, checking accounts make for a good financial hub — a versatile account that can be used to pay bills, make purchases and receive deposits.
Checking accounts can simplify your financial life. For example, you can set up your checking account to receive automatic deposits from your employer and make automatic withdrawals to pay your bills. Mobile apps enable you to make payments, transfer money and review your transaction history on the go.
What to look for in a checking account
Some banks will pay you hundreds of dollars to get you to open a checking account, but these bonuses usually come with strings attached. For instance, Chase will pay $225 to new customers who open a Chase Total Checking account by Jan. 19, 2022, but they must set up direct deposit of a paycheck, pension or Social Security benefit and keep the account open for at least six months. Bankrate can help you find the best bank account sign-up bonuses.
Some banks will offer cash-back rewards, but these can require a sizable minimum balance. One notable exception is Discover Bank, which doesn't impose balance requirements and pays out 1 percent cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.
Bankrate's 2021 checking account and ATM fee study found that 48 percent of non-interest bearing accounts don't charge monthly service fees and don't impose balance requirements. The majority of non-interest accounts will waive fees under certain conditions, such as direct deposit. Challenger banks, a term used to denote upstart banks like Chime and Current, also offer no-fee accounts.
Potential obstacles to opening a checking account:
Checking accounts typically have some general requirements. And if you don't meet them, it can be difficult to open an account.
It's typically difficult to get a checking account under age 18. That said, opening a joint account or a custodial account can be an option for minors.
Most banks and credit unions require two forms of identification to open an account — a Social Security card, passport, state ID or driver's license.
The minimum deposit to open a checking account is typically around $25 or more, although there are some accounts that allow for less.
You'll need to provide proof of address when opening an account. Utility bills, lease agreements and insurance cards can work well for this.
Minimum balance to open: Otherwise known as an opening deposit, this is the minimum amount of money required to open a checking account. This minimum is often $25 or more. However, it's possible to find some accounts that require no minimum to open.
Minimum balance to avoid fees: Many checking accounts require that you keep a minimum balance in the account in order to avoid the monthly maintenance fee. This minimum requirement can range anywhere from $250 to more than $1,500. Often, as long as you maintain the monthly minimum, the bank will often waive the fee.
Monthly fees: Checking accounts frequently charge a monthly fee for "maintenance." These fees can add up to $100 or more per year. In order to get the fee waived, you may need to meet the bank's minimum balance requirement, enroll in direct deposit or even open a savings account.
ATM fees: Banks normally charge for using your checking account's debit card at non-network ATMs to withdraw money. These fees generally range anywhere from $2 to $5 (or more at international ATMs). But there are some banks that don't charge for non-network ATM use, and some will even reimburse you for non-network ATM fees.
How does a checking account differ from a savings account?
Checking accounts are for everyday use: paying bills, buying groceries, debit card transactions.
Savings accounts are for stashing cash for emergencies, large purchases and longer-term goals.
Offer unlimited withdrawals.
Are limited to six withdrawals per month. There are some exceptions.
Offer several methods for spending the money, including debit cards, paper checks, mobile apps and third-party payment services, such as Zelle.
They are less flexible. Many accounts don't come with check-writing. Some do come with an ATM card, but not all of them.
Often do not pay interest and if they do, the yield is paltry.
Are more likely to be interest-bearing and the yields are better
Calculate potential savings with a high-yield savings account
High-yield savings accounts are used for emergency funds and storing savings for future events. They pay a yield that’s higher than average, allowing savers to reach their financial goals faster. Money that’s earmarked for saving should be in a high-yield savings account earning interest, rather than sitting in a checking account that doesn’t earn anything.
Use this free savings calculator to estimate your investment growth over time. With this growth calculator, you can set a goal and figure out how much you need to save each month to hit the mark.
Keep in mind that savings yields are generally variable. Also taking withdrawals out of savings can affect your savings projections.
Checking account FAQs
Is it safe to open a bank account online?
As long as you’re communicating with a bank that’s encrypting your data, it should be safe to open a bank online. Look out for an https web address on the site.
Benefits of opening a checking account online
Online checking accounts can offer several advantages over accounts at traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
Online banks have low overhead costs, which means they are able to return those savings to their customers in the form of higher rates and reduced fees.
In some cases, online banks offer a wider selection of digital features than traditional banks to help you manage your money on the fly.
Can you open a bank account online without a deposit?
At some banks, you’re able to open a bank account online without making an initial deposit. Make sure the bank doesn’t require a minimum balance to avoid paying a maintenance fee. It’s possible that you could incur a monthly service fee by not opening the account with enough money. So check with your bank to see its policy.
Are checking accounts free?
"Free" checking accounts don't charge you a monthly fee or have a minimum balance requirement to open the account. Many financial institutions waive the monthly maintenance fee to generate business, but other fees may be imposed, such as for non-sufficient funds (NSF), account inactivity and wire transfers, to name a few.
You can find free checking accounts. Bankrate's 2020 checking and ATM survey found that 47 percent of checking accounts at larger banks are free. They are far more common at community banks and credit unions. But it's still wise to watch for fees. Banks and credit unions offering free checking accounts will still charge for things like overdrafts, which can easily cost $30 or more.
Which banks offer the best free checking accounts?
Right now, a couple of the top free checking accounts include Ally Bank’s Interest Checking Account and Capital One’s 360 Checking Account.
Checking accounts with no fees
Few banks charge no fees whatsoever, but there are some that come close. If you are looking for a checking account that doesn't charge fees, take heart: Several banks in our best checking accounts list above charge no fees or very few fees.
Discover, for example, charges no fees on its Cashback Debit checking account. Nbkc Bank (National Bank of Kansas City), a community bank, features a long list of fees it does not charge: There is no fee for overdrafts, stop payments, cashier's checks and other services. Ally is another fee-friendly financial institution, although it does charge fees for wire transfers and account overdrafts.
Many banks don't charge a monthly checking account maintenance fee, but other services come with a cost. So, when it comes to fees, consider your banking habits and which fees you might be vulnerable to. If you use out-of-network ATMs, for example, look for an institution that doesn't penalize you for those transactions or reimburses you for ATM fees. Read the fine print of the checking account details and the institution's fee schedule to avoid surprises.
Can checking accounts earn interest?
Checking accounts haven't traditionally paid interest, but many banks and credit unions now offer high-yield checking account options.
These accounts earn interest that compounds at least once per year. However, they often come with some caveats. For instance, you may have to maintain a minimum or maximum balance, and use your debit card a certain number of times per month in order to earn the interest rate.
In addition, high-yield checking accounts typically pay a lower rate than savings accounts.
How are checking accounts insured?
Checking accounts, like savings and money market accounts, at Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) banks are insured up to at least $250,000. The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), administered by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) at its credit unions, insures individual accounts up to $250,000.
Money that’s within FDIC insurance limits and guidelines is safe even if an FDIC bank fails.
Use the FDIC’s Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE) or the Share Insurance Estimator to calculate your coverage. Confirming coverage with the FDIC or NCUA and your bank is always the best practice.
FDIC-insured online banks are every bit as safe as brick-and-mortar banks up to that limit. Plus, digital banks often don’t charge monthly service fees and pay higher yields. The FDIC’s BankFind tool makes it easy to confirm an online bank is FDIC-insured since it allows you to search by web address.
How is interest taxed on a checking account?
Interest earned on savings and checking accounts are taxable at ordinary income tax rates, which range from 10 percent to 37 percent.
How many checking accounts can I have?
While there is no limit to the number of checking accounts you can have, it's generally not practical to have more than one per person, and perhaps as many as three in a household if a couple would like to have a joint account plus individual accounts. In addition, a separate account for business helps to track business income and expenses separately from everyday household expenditures.
How do I get a checking account bonus?
Tempted to sign up for a new checking account to score a bonus? It might be a good idea for you. Read the fine print, however. The exact requirements to earn a bonus will vary based on the bank and you may need to meet a minimum balance or threshold of transactions to qualify for the bonus.
You can explore your best options for checking account bonuses with Bankrate.
What is overdraft protection?
Banks provide this service to cover purchases that you can’t pay for due to a too-low account balance. But signing up for overdraft protection may not be a great idea. Sure, you won't have to pay a NSF fee and the bank will cover the funds, sparing you the embarrassment of watching your debit card be declined. But you'll get hit with a fee, commonly around $33.58 per item overdrawn, according to Bankrate's 2021 checking account and ATM fee study.
Some banks may refund the fee for infrequent offenders, and others simply decline the transaction. But rather than opting into overdraft protection, see if you can link another account, such as a savings account to your checking account so funds can be automatically transferred as needed. Or inquire about an overdraft line of credit with a low interest rate if one is available. With an overdraft line of credit, however, you’ll usually pay a high annual percentage rate (APR) and it may have an annual fee.
What do all the checking account numbers mean?
Along the bottom of your checks are three sets of numbers. The first nine digits, between symbols resembling colons, are the routing numbers. They identify the financial institution associated with an account and are often prominently displayed on the institution's web page. You need these numbers to set up direct deposits or automatic payments.
To the right of the routing numbers is the account number, which is unique for each account holder.
The last set of numbers reflects the check number, which you'll also find on the top right-hand corner of a check.
Will a checking account build or hurt your credit?
The short answer is no, a checking account won't hurt your credit, with a couple of exceptions. Banks might check your credit report when you open a checking account, but this is considered a "soft inquiry," which will not affect your credit score. If you sign up for overdraft protection, however, this results in a "hard inquiry," which might dock your score by five points or so. That's because overdraft protection is considered a line of credit, much like a credit card.
The credit bureaus may ignore your banking behavior, but it is being closely monitored by such companies as ChexSystems, a national consumer reporting agency that provides banks with reports about any blemishes on an account applicant's banking history. A record of bounced checks, unpaid fees and other slip-ups can make it difficult to get approved. But some banks offer second-chance checking accounts for those who need a fresh start. These accounts can help you rebuild your banking history, but often don't come with all of the perks of a regular checking account.
What is a second-chance checking account?
Second-chance bank accounts offer a “second-chance” for people with troubles banking histories to open an account. They are low-risk accounts that provide restrictions and terms for the account holder, such as fees that can’t be waived. Your banking history is tracked by a federally authorized agency called ChexSystems. It records things such as bounced checks and unpaid fees. If you were denied for a standard checking or savings account, the bank likely reviewed your ChexSystems report and considered your application a risk. And in this case, a second-chance bank account may be your best option.
Choosing a second-chance checking account
Second-chance checking accounts allow you to continue banking, even if your banking history needs some work. The benefits of a second-chance checking account include FDIC insurance on your deposits and access to more traditional banking methods such as ATMs and cash-free debit transactions. Sometimes, banks will let you work your way up to less-restrictive accounts once a good history has been demonstrated with your second-chance checking account.
For those seeking a second-chance checking account, look for terms that will benefit your financial future, such as reasonable fees. Here are a few examples of second-chance checking accounts and their requirements.
Minimum requirements to open
Chime Credit Builder
Peoples Bank Cash Solutions Second Chance Checking
LendingClub Bank Essential Checking
Woodforest National Bank Second Chance Checking
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia
How to regain control of your finances and reduce your monthly bank fees
You should be able to easily find a free non-interest checking account. Almost half (47 percent) of these accounts were free, according to Bankrate’s 2020 checking account and ATM fee study. If you often use an ATM, you should look for a bank with ATMs near you or for a bank with a large ATM network or for a bank that reimburses out-of-network ATM fees.
A mobile banking app can give you easy access to your account so you can quickly check your balance and recent transactions to help avoid bank fees. The app may also offer additional budgeting features to help keep you more informed about your money patterns.
Note: The annual percentage yields (APYs) shown are as of Nov. 18, 2021. Bankrate's editorial team updates this information regularly, typically biweekly. APYs may have changed since they were last updated and Bankrate's editorial team may occasionally update these APYs after that update. The APYs for some products may vary by region.
*You’ll qualify for this APY if you make 10 or more debit card payments and/or purchases that post to your account each month, have at least one direct deposit or ACH payment each month and receive electronic statements. APY is only on balances of 1 cent to $25,000.
**0.35% APY for balances of zero to $9,999; 0.40% APY for balances of $10,000 to $24,999; and 0.45% APY on balances of $25,000 or more.
***0.10 percent APY on balances of $2,500-$99,999.99. 0.15 percent APY on balances of $100,000 and up.
****$25 fee can be waived each monthly statement period either with an average beginning day balance of $15,000 or a linked qualifying Chase first mortgage enrolled in automatic payments from your Chase account.
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