Best Checking Accounts of April 2020

Monday, April 06, 2020

Best checking accounts 2020

Here are Bankrates picks for the best checking accounts

Best Checking Accounts for April 2020

Bank Checking Accounts Monthly Fee APY Minimum balance to open Balance to avoid fees
Heritage Bank eCentive Checking $0 3.03%* $100 $0
Simple Individual Checking $0 1.75% $0 $0
TIAA Bank Yield Pledge Checking $0 1.01%** $100 $0
nbkc bank Personal Account $0 0.75% $5 $0
Capital One 360 Checking $0 0.20% $0 $0
Radius Bank Rewards Checking $0 0.10% - 0.15%*** $100 $0
Ally Interest Checking $0 0.10% - 0.50% $0 $0
Chase Premier Plus Checking $25**** 0.01% Varies by location Varies by account type
HSBC Premier Checking $50 0.01% $1 $75,000*****
Discover Cashback Debit Checking $0 0% $0 $0

Note: The APYs (Annual Percentage Yield) shown are as of March 23, 2020. The rates 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 each month and receive eStatements each month.

** Intro APY

*** 0.10 percent APY on balances of $2,500-$99,999.99. 0.25 percent APY on balances of $100,0000 and up.

****$25 fee can be waived with one of the following each monthly statement period: (1) An average beginning day balance of $15,000 or (2) a linked qualifying Chase first mortgage enrolled in automatic payments from your Chase account

***** Recurring direct deposits totaling at least $5,000 and an HSBC U.S. residential mortgage (with an original loan amount of at least $500,000) can also waive the monthly fee.

Bankrate's Methodology

Bankrate regularly surveys approximately 4,800 banks and credit unions in all 50 states to provide you with one of the most comprehensive comparisons of rates. All of the checking accounts below are insured by the FDIC at banks or the NCUA at credit unions.

Bankrate's guide to checking accounts

The experts at Bankrate 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.

Banks with best checking accounts for April 2020

Best overall rate: Heritage Bank eCentive checking account, 3.03% APY

  • Balance to open: $100
  • Balance to avoid fees: $0
  • High yield savings account: 0.33% APY for Heritage Direct Savings account

Overview: Based in Spicer, Minnesota, Heritage Bank offers several savings and checking account options. To earn the 0.33 percent APY, online and mobile banking customers in Heritage Direct Savings must maintain a $1,000 minimum balance or pay a $17 monthly fee. The Jumbo Deposit account pays up to 1.01 percent APY for a minimum balance of $230,000. Legacy Checking requires a $1,000 minimum balance for a lackluster 0.04 percent APY. The most exciting offering is its eCentive checking and debit card account attracting customers nationwide which requires a minimum $100 opening balance. The 3.03 percent APY applies to balances up to $25,000 if certain criteria are met: Customers must make at least 10 debit card payments or purchases excluding ATM transactions; get at least one direct deposit, and receive monthly eStatements.

Perks: Even if you don't execute 10 transactions per month with eCentive, you'll still earn interest, though only 0.05 percent APY, and there are no monthly service charges and no minimum balance requirements. If you fail to enroll for monthly eStatements, you'll be charged $4 per month for paper statements sent via U.S. Mail. With the sophisticated mobile app, you can do free online banking, use the ePay online bill pay feature and conduct all your mobile banking business, showing transactions going back 18 months. Heritage Bank customers can access info via the bank's app, the mobile browser or just simply through text inquiries to the bank and by signing up for text alerts. Online banking customers can send money to anyone using the bank's "Popmoney" service.

What to watch for: Heritage Bank has "hybrid" ATM locations in just seven cities – across Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota. These proprietary ATMs enable customers to interact with live video tellers 12 hours a day during the week, though routine transactions can be conducted 24/7. To compensate for the small ATM network, charges for ATM fees charged by other ATM owners are refunded, up to $25 a month. The community bank is employee-owned, which enhances available perks but doesn't avoid all fees. Overdrafts and non-sufficient funds cost $33 per paid item; $36 per returned item. And if you close the account within six months of opening it, you'll have to pay a $30 exit fee.

Best for mobile app: Simple Individual Checking, 1.75% APY

  • Balance to open: $0
  • Balance to avoid fees: $0
  • High yield savings account: No high yield savings account available

Overview: Founded in 2009 by two guys who wanted to simplify the fee-ridden, complex banking system, Simple offers customers branchless, online banking using a Visa Debit Card and a mobile app. The app enables you to make direct deposits, link to external accounts, deposit checks with a smartphone photo, instantly transfer money to other Simple customers, use third-party payment services like Square and Venmo, and block your card online if it's lost or stolen. Simple charges only one fee: A book of 25 checks costs $5. If you use an ATM outside of its Allpoint network of 40,000 ATMs, the ATM owner may charge you a fee, but Simple will not. Simple doesn't offer bill pay, but you can use the account and routing numbers to set up payments at the websites of your creditors or by sending a check.

Perks: The app offers a set of budgeting tools that enables you to split your money into a few basic categories: expenses, regular goals, safe-to-spend and protected goals. The money in the last category goes into a separate checking account that earns 1.75% APY. If a transaction exceeds the available balance, it will be declined and there will be no overdraft or interest fees. The customer is required to replenish the account out of negative territory.

What to watch for: Be on the lookout for fraud by checking your app more often than a regular checking account. In the event of fraud, if you processed your card as credit, you won't pay out as long as you notify Simple within two business days, after which you could be on the hook for up to $500. With debit transactions, you'll owe as much as $50, but it must be reported within two days. These protections don't apply to ATMs or transactions processed outside the Visa network. With a regular checking account, your liability is limited to $50 if you report the loss within two business days, but you get until 60 days after you receive your statement to report fraud before your liability goes up to $500.

Best for high intro APY: TIAA Bank Yield Pledge Checking, 1.01% APY (1-year intro APY)

  • Balance to open: $100
  • Balance to avoid fees: $0
  • High yield savings account: 1.75% APY intro APY for Yield Pledge Money Market

Overview: A Fortune 100 company, TIAA Bank offers low minimum checking and savings accounts as well as high-yield checking and money market accounts sporting the yields shown above for first-time clients in addition to other banking products. The Yield Pledge Money Market comes with an introductory one-year rate of 1.75 percent APY, while the Yield Pledge Checking's intro rate is 1.01 percent APY. Long-time checking customers then get a rate currently ranging from 0.25 percent APY to 0.55 percent APY, depending on their account balance size. TIAA's yield pledge guarantees that its yields will be among the top five percent among its competition. While $100 is required to open the High Yield Pledge checking account, no monthly fee is assessed regardless of balance. TIAA's Basic Checking account requires a $25 minimum deposit and charges no monthly fee if you maintain a daily balance of $25 ($5 fee is imposed otherwise except to New York residents).

Perks: Besides the higher-than-average yields, customers get certain purchase benefits. These include extended warranty protection of up to a year; 60-day price protection – reimbursement for the difference between the purchase price and advertised price of eligible items, up to $250; and return protection worth up to $250 for buyer's remorse or dissatisfaction if the merchant won't accept the return. TIAA also offers digital access, including online banking and mobile banking services. These digital services enables you to track and manage your accounts, make mobile check deposits, pay bills from anywhere, transfer money and send money with Zelle. Its nationwide network of 80,000 ATMs are fee-free, but if you use another institution's ATM, you'll be fully reimbursed if you maintain an average daily balance of $5,000; up to $15 a month reimbursement otherwise.

What to watch for: While TIAA won't nickel and dime you with ATM fees, you can get hit with fees for non-sufficient funds ($30), returned deposited item fee ($10), stop payment fee ($25), expedited overnight bill payment ($14.95), cashier's check ($10) and uncollected item fee ($30). You can avoid NSF fees by enrolling in overdraft protection, linking another account or line of credit to your checking account.

Best for no/low fees: nbkc bank Personal Account, 0.75% APY

  • Balance to open: $5
  • Balance to avoid fees: $0
  • High yield savings account: 1.01% APY for Personal Money Market Savings

Overview: The nbkc bank checking account is called a Personal Account. It comes with a debit card and a starter book of checks and no fees, not even for the starter checks. Its Personal Money Market account currently offers a 1.01 percent APY for balances up to $1 million. While $5 is the minimum opening deposit for both the Personal and Personal Money Market accounts, you only need a penny in either account to earn interest. The bank offers banking on multiple devices. Online banking can be accessed via Apple Touch ID and Android's fingerprint API. Bill Pay enables you to set up recurring payments online, and your smartphone can be used to deposit checks with mobile deposit.

Perks: The bank charges nothing for online banking, returned electronic or paper items, overdrafts or NSFs, Bill Pay, eStatements, Cashier's checks, stop payments or for incoming domestic wires. Customers get access to 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs for free in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and up to $12 in monthly refunds for ATM fees other banks may charge.

What to watch for: Outgoing domestic wires cost $5, and fees for international wires, whether sending or receiving, cost $45 per wire.

Best for unlimited ATM fee rebates: Radius Bank Rewards Checking, 0.15% APY

  • Balance to open: $100
  • Balance to avoid fees: $0
  • High yield savings account: 0.15% - 0.25% APY for Radius High-Yield Savings

Overview: Radius Bank's High-Yield Savings account pays 0.15 percent APY for balances above $2,500 and climbs to 0.25 percent APY on balances of $25,000 and up. The Boston-based bank offers three types of checking accounts. Rewards Checking earns 0.10 percent APY on balances of $2,500 to $99,999; 0.15 percent APY for $100,000-plus. Customers also earn 1.00 percent cash back on signature-based purchases each month. Philanthropic types might go for Radius Bank's Superhero Checking, where customers earn 0.05 percent APY on balances of $2,500-plus, and their interest is matched by Radius and donated to the March of Dimes. Superhero also offers 1 percent cash back on purchases, with the proceeds going to the charity. Both accounts require a $100 opening balance, but charge no monthly maintenance fees regardless of balance thereafter. A third account, Essential Checking, is for customers who want to rebuild their banking history. Minimum opening deposit is $10, and customers pay a $9 monthly maintenance fee. Customers in all three account types must enroll in free online banking and receive eStatements.

Perks: Customers in the Rewards and Superhero Checking accounts get a free first order of checks and have access to unlimited ATM fee rebates. The Radius Mobile app enables users to manage their accounts remotely with the usual payments and transfer features of bank apps, plus it offers tools to create budgets, view spending and track trends. You can also add your Radius debit card to Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay if you like to shop with your phone.

What to watch for: For many folks, keeping an average daily balance of $2,500 to earn interest is a tall order, but that amount is also required to be eligible for the 1 percent cash back rewards on signature-based purchases that are processed like a credit card. (The merchant ultimately determines the nature of the transaction.) Customers can sidestep this balance requirement if they make a direct deposit of at least $2,500 to their account each month. Fees include $25 per item for non-sufficient funds, $25 each for returned items, $25 for stop payments, $20 for domestic outgoing wires and $10 for incoming wires, and $40 for international outgoing wires, among others. A daily overdraft fee of $5 applies after five days and can be levied for up to 30 days if the account remains in the red.

Best for no fees: Capital One 360 Checking, 0.20% to 0.75% APY

  • Balance to open: $0
  • Balance to avoid fees: $0
  • High yield savings account: 1.50% APY for 360 Performance Savings

Overview: Capital One bills itself as "banking reimagined," advertising café-style lobbies and touting "no fees, no minimums, no gotchas." The Fortune 500 company offers a wide variety of financial products and caters to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. Checking account customers must agree to go paperless and accept all communications via electronic delivery. While no minimum balance is required, an account is not considered opened until it's funded with at least a penny.

Perks: Its checking account is free of monthly maintenance fees and your first checkbook with 50 checks is complimentary. The interest you earn depends on your account balance. Less than $50,000 gets 0.20 percent APY; $50,000 to $99,999 earns 0.20 percent APY, and anything above $100,000 gets 0.20 percent APY. Interest is compounded and credited monthly. Capital One's mobile app helps you manage accounts, make deposits via photos of checks from your smartphone, and get instant alerts about account activity.

What to watch for: Fees do apply for such things as cashier's checks ($20), a stop payment on a paper check ($25), outgoing domestic wire transfers ($30), non-sufficient funds fee ($9) and overdraft fees of up to $35 per transaction unless you link your checking account to a savings or money market account. There's also the matter of Capital One's data breach last March in which the records of nearly 106 million customers and applicants in the U.S. and Canada were exposed. While the bank said it fixed the leak and is offering free credit monitoring and identity protection to affected customers, such cyber threats keep all financial services companies on alert.

Best for high yield rate: Ally Interest Checking account, 0.10% to 0.50% APY

  • Balance to open: $0
  • Balance to avoid fees: $0
  • High yield savings account: 1.50% APY for Online Savings

Overview: This FDIC-insured online bank offers a relatively robust APY in its savings and checking accounts. A minimum daily balance of $15,000 or more gets you the higher 0.50 percent APY in checking. While you can't deposit cash, you can access it from its network of Allpoint ATMs for free. Deposit funds by transferring money from Ally or another financial institution, mailing a check, doing a wire transfer or using a smartphone to take a photo of a check and deposit it via Ally eCheck. Voice commands via Amazon's Alexa also effectively transfers funds. You can also send money to nearly anyone with a bank account from your account using Zelle, a digital payment app.

Perks: Ally's mobile app enables you to access your account 24/7 from anywhere to check balances, find ATMs, pay bills and conduct other banking business. If an Allpoint ATM isn't handy, Ally reimburses up to $10 a month for fees charged by other ATMs nationwide. Its interest-bearing checking account is compounded daily.

What to watch for: While Ally requires no money to open an account, customers must fund it within 30 days or it will be closed. And though Ally charges no fees for monthly maintenance, standard or expedited ACH transfers or incoming wires (domestic or international), some fees do exist. For example: customers pay $20 for outgoing domestic wires; paid or returned overdraft items cost $25 a day (though Ally is lenient with a first offense). Overdraft fees can be circumvented by enrolling in an overdraft transfer service linked to an Ally savings or money market account.

Best for sign-up bonuses: Chase Premier Plus & Sapphire Checking, 0.01% APY

  • Balance to open: varies according to location
  • Balance to avoid fees: varies with type of account
  • High yield savings account: 0.02% to 0.05% APY for Chase Premier Savings

Overview: With nearly 5,000 branches nationwide, Chase offers three types of checking accounts with different terms. The more elite ones require high minimum balances to avoid $25 monthly fees. For instance, Chase Premier Plus Checking requires an average $15,000 balance among linked accounts or a qualifying mortgage enrolled in automatic payments. Chase Sapphire Checking requires a $75,000 balance spread among linked accounts. The $12 monthly service fee for the "most popular" Chase Total Checking can be avoided with a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more or a minimum balance of $1,500 in the account or $5,000 spread among other Chase accounts.

Perks: A special $200 cash promotion is available to new Chase Total Checking customers who set up direct deposit from an employer or the government for at least six months. An additional $150 Chase Savings account promotion is available after 90 days to those who deposit $10,000 in new money. Customers have access to Chase Online Banking and Online Bill Pay, Chase Mobile Banking, and 16,000 ATMs nationwide. Many fees are waived for Premier Plus Checking and Sapphire Checking customers, such as certain ATM fees and printed checks. Sapphire customers also get concierge services such as early ticket sales and special seating for sports and entertainment events. No fees are imposed for foreign exchange rate adjustments and wire transfers, whether incoming or outgoing.

What to watch for: Customers get a paltry 0.01 percent APY for most types of 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 upon account balance size, and are also meager, ranging from 0.02 percent APY for balances up to $49,999 and 0.05 percent APY for balances above $249,999 up to $10 million plus. Not a great place to stash your cash! Many fees are waived for those in the elite checking accounts, but many are imposed for Total Checking customers, including for ATM transactions outside the Chase network. Overdraft fees are steep -- $34 for each item up to three per day, though Chase is lenient with occasional offenders.

Best for online experience: HSBC Premier Checking, 0.01% APY

  • Balance to open: $1 to open account online
  • Balance to avoid fees: $75,000
  • High yield savings account: 1.70% APY for Direct Savings

Overview: HSBC offers several types of savings and checking accounts. None of its checking account options offers interest. Its Premier Checking account requires a $75,000 minimum balance combined in checking, savings, certificates of deposit (CDs) or in an HSBC Direct savings account, which can only be opened online and offers a 1.70 percent APY regardless of balance. The $50 monthly maintenance fee for the Premier Checking account can also be waived if it receives third-party monthly direct deposits of $5,000 or if you take out an HSBC U.S. residential mortgage loan of at least $500,000. At the other end of the spectrum, HSBC's Basic Banking account doesn't require a minimum balance, but does charge a $3 monthly maintenance fee and $0.35 per check or withdrawal after eight such transactions.

Perks: HSBC Premier Checking perks include unlimited rebates on ATM third-party surcharges and access to preferential mortgage rates. A couple of other checking account options that require lower minimum deposits or monthly direct deposits might be easier to maintain to avoid monthly fees. For instance, the Choice Checking account requires a minimum balance of at least $1,500 in the account or in a CD or the HSBC Direct savings account. The $15 monthly fee can otherwise also be avoided by arranging for monthly direct deposits from a third party.

What to watch for: In order to earn the APY you need to have $5 or more in your HSBC Premier checking account. Accounts with less than $5 in them don’t earn interest. If you don't do online banking at HSBC Direct, this is a low-reward place to stash your money. The highest savings rate is 0.15 percent APY in exchange for tying up a boatload ($100,000 minimum) of your money. Smaller deposits get lower APYs, starting from 0.01 percent APY for balances of less than $25,000. Its CD rates are likewise lackluster compared to the competition. In addition, fees apply when you opt for overdraft protection, except for Premier customers.

Best for cashback: Discover Cashback Debit, 0% APY

  • Balance to open: $0
  • Balance to avoid fees: $0
  • High yield savings account: 1.50% APY for Online Savings account

Overview: Known mostly for its cash-back credit card rewards, for which it consistently receives the highest ranking in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power, Discover extends this program to its online checking accounts. Its Cashback Debit cards offer 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 1.50 percent APY. No minimum balance is required to open the account, but it must be funded within 45 days.

Perks: 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. Outbound wire transfers cost $30, but this can be avoided if funds are going to one of your accounts by doing an online transfer instead. 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.

What to watch for: Discover doesn't have the usual brick-and-mortar presence of other banks. It has just one branch in Greenwood, Delaware, so you have to be comfortable banking with an online firm. Customers can get paper statements showing all debit card and check transactions, or they can opt to go paperless. Customer service reps are available 24/7 to answer any questions or concerns.

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.

While savings account rates have increased in recent months, interest-bearing checking account rates have largely remained stagnant. Still, the best checking account rates are more than two times higher than the best savings account rates.

If you can't meet the criteria to qualify for one of the best checking account rates, consider opening a high-yield CD instead.

What to know about checking accounts

What is a checking account?

A checking account is a type of financial tool that offers everyday access to your money. These accounts typically come with personal checks and a debit card. And, there's no limit to how often you can use your money. You can withdraw, transfer, write checks, make debit card charges and deposit money as often as you'd like.

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 Clearinghouse Services, or ACS, a nationwide network operated by the two national ACH operators – the Reserve Banks and the Electronic Payments Network. The accounts are typically quick to set up with a small deposit. However, they tend to have lower rates than savings and money market accounts — if they pay interest at all.

That said, checking accounts offer the same amount of safety.

Checking accounts, like savings and money market accounts, are insured up to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) at banks and up to the same amount at credit unions by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA).

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.

These accounts can help 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 should I look for in a checking account?

A checking account offers easy access to your money and makes paying bills a breeze. But you don't want your money to be whittled down with bank fees.

When shopping for a checking account, look for:

  • No or low fees
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Free access to ATMs
  • Online and mobile access

Earning interest is another account perk that you might want to add to the list. While some banks offer interest-bearing checking accounts, customers often have to meet certain requirements 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. Some banks that offer attractive interest rates, however, require a high average daily balance to qualify. You might be better off putting your money in a high-yield savings or money market account. Be sure to read all the terms pertaining to a checking account before signing up.

Benefits of opening a checking account online

Checking accounts are great for daily use in general, but the online variety have several benefits over accounts from traditional brick-and-mortar banks.

Specifically, when you open a checking account at an online bank, your money is available anywhere there's an internet connection and at any time — online banks are open 24 hours per day and seven days per week. Some online banks even offer round-the-clock customer service.

Online banks also have low overhead costs, which means they are able to return those savings to their customers in the form of higher rates.

Are checking accounts free?

This depends on the bank or credit union where you set up your 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.

Free checking accounts aren't yet totally a thing of the past, but they can be a challenging to find. In fact, only 38 percent of checking accounts at larger banks are now free, according to the most recent Bankrate Checking Survey.

They are more common at community banks and credit unions — 84 percent of credit unions offer free checking, according to another Bankrate survey.

"Free" checking accounts don't require a monthly fee or minimum balance requirement to open an account.

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 add up to $30 or more.

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, are insured at banks up to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and up to the same amount at credit unions by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

Are checking account deposits safe?

Even if your bank or credit union goes belly-up, your deposits up to the $250,000 FDIC/NCUA limit are safe. Some institutions provide additional insurance coverage exceeding that amount. FDIC-insured online banks, too, are every bit as safe as brick-and-mortar banks up to that limit. Plus, digital banks often feature better terms and lower fees since they don't have the overhead and operational costs associated with multiple branches.

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.

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 $35 per item overdrawn. Some banks waive 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.

What do all the checking account numbers mean?

Routing Number

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.

Account Number

To the right of the routing numbers is the account number, which is unique for each account holder.

Check number

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 fresh start checking account

Fresh start checking is for those who have been turned down for a checking account because of banking mistakes. If your name has been put on a list by the consumer reporting agency ChexSystems, these types of checking accounts can be a great option.

Often found at community banks and credit unions, fresh start accounts can help you rebuild your banking history. But they don't come with all of the services of a regular checking account.

Fresh start accounts generally have a monthly fee that can't be waived attached to them. And they may come with additional requirements, depending on the institution with the account.

The upside to these accounts is that if you're able to demonstrate solid money management skills over several months, the bank may allow you to upgrade and open a regular checking account.

Checking vs. Savings accounts

Both checking and savings accounts can be found at banks, credit unions and community banks. The relatively recent adoption of online and mobile banking allows seamless transfers from one account to another. But these accounts differ in some important ways.

How does a checking account differ from a savings account?

  • Checking accounts are for everyday transactions, while savings accounts are better for stashing cash.
  • Checking accounts have no limit on the number of times you can withdraw cash each month, while savings accounts are limited to six withdrawals per month.
  • Checking accounts offer various ways to make payments, such as using a debit card, paper checks, mobile apps and such services as Zelle. Savings accounts are more difficult to spend since most don't have check-writing privileges, though those with ATM access do generally offer unlimited ATM withdrawals.
  • Checking accounts often do not pay interest. Savings accounts offer variable interest rates.

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.

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.

Additional checking account features


Some banks will pay you hundreds of dollars to switch allegiance and open a checking account with them, but these bonuses come with strings attached. For instance, Chase will pay $200 to new customers of its Chase Total Checking if they set up direct deposit of a paycheck, pension check or government Social Security check and keep the account open for at least six months.


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.

No fees

Bankrate's recent survey found that 41 percent of non-interest bearing accounts don't charge monthly service fees and impose no balance requirements. The majority of non-interest accounts will waive fees under certain conditions, such as direct deposit. However, just 8 percent of checking accounts that pay interest have no minimum balance requirements and impose no monthly fee.

Checking accounts that are truly free

While many banks don't charge a monthly fee, other services come with a cost. Few banks charge no fees whatsoever, but there are some who come close. NBKC Bank, for instance, doesn't charge fees for non-sufficient funds, overdrafts, returned items, cashier's checks, stop payments and incoming domestic wires, though it does charge for outgoing domestic wires and international wires.

Here are some potential limitations on getting 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.

  • Age:

    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.

  • Identification:

    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.

  • Minimum deposit:

    The minimum deposit to open a checking account is typically around $25 or more, although there are some accounts that allow for less.

  • Address:

    You'll need to provide proof of address when opening an account. Utility bills, lease agreements and insurance cards can work well for this.

What to know about minimums and fees

It's important to be aware of minimums and fees when opening a checking account. Here's an explanation of the different types of minimum requirements and fees you may face:

  • 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 don't charge for non-network ATM use, and some will even reimburse you for non-network ATM fees.

Checking Account Details Glossary

  • Minimum Balance to Open

  • Monthly Fees

  • Overdraft/Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) Fees

  • Minimum Balance to Avoid Fees

  • Fees to Use Another Bank's ATM