Consumers looking for a new checking account may find that online banks offer features that aren’t available at the bank down the street.
Brick-and-mortar banks may offer these checking account features, too, but they may come at a cost: maintaining a high minimum balance. Online checking accounts, meanwhile, typically have no or low minimum balance requirements.
Here are Bankrate’s picks for the best online checking accounts.
Bankrate’s picks for top online checking accounts
- Ally Bank: Best online checking overall
- Chime: Best online checking for beginners
- Charles Schwab: Best online checking for travelers
- Navy Federal Credit Union: Best online checking for teens
- LendingClub Bank: Best online checking for cash back
- Discover Bank: Best checking/savings combo
A closer look at the top online checking accounts
Ally Bank: Best online checking overall
Ally Bank’s Interest Checking Account earns a little bit of interest, has a highly rated app, and offers free standard and official checks, as well as free domestic and international wire transfers, features some banks charge fees for. Interest Checking customers have access to more than 43,000 Allpoint ATMs. But for those times when you’re not able to use one of those ATMs, Ally Bank reimburses up to $10 worth of fees charged at out-of-network ATMs per statement cycle. At Ally Bank, you also have the ability to chat with customer service online and access a 24/7 toll-free number.
What to watch: You’ll need at least $15,000 to earn the top-tier APY. Savers looking for a higher yield on their money, especially if it’s earmarked for saving, should consider high-yield savings accounts or money market accounts.
Chime: Best online checking for beginners
Chime’s chief attraction for novice banking consumers is that it waives fees on overdrafts. Based on transaction history, Chime allows account holders to overdraw their accounts for up to $20 at first and then potentially up to $200 over time. The service requires a qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more each month.
According to Bankrate’s 2022 checking account and ATM fee study, the average overdraft fee is $29.80.
Chime customers also have access to direct deposits up to two days early, which can help beginners on tight budgets more easily meet monthly expenses. Chime also has a network of more than 60,000 fee-free ATMs.
What to watch: Chime is a challenger bank, a term used to describe technology companies that act as banks. Chime’s banking services are provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank. Both banks are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC).
Charles Schwab: Best online checking for travelers
Charles Schwab Bank’s High Yield Investor Checking account gives you unlimited worldwide ATM fee reimbursement. The account charges no monthly fee and has no minimum balance requirement. Schwab also doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee when making overseas purchases. You’ll also earn a little bit of interest on your balance.
What to watch: The Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account requires new account holders to also open a Schwab One brokerage account.
Navy Federal Credit Union: Best online checking for teens
Navy Federal Credit Union’s Free Campus Checking account gives members who are full-time students an account they can use through high school and college. With this account, members ages 14-24 pay no monthly service fees and have no minimum balance requirement. ATM fees of up to $10 a month are reimbursed each statement cycle, giving students the ability to access any ATM for free (as long as it doesn’t exceed the reimbursement amount). The Free Campus Checking account also earns a bit of interest.
What to watch: You’ll have to qualify for Navy Federal Credit Union membership to get this account. Membership is open to all Department of Defense and Coast Guard Active Duty, civilian, contract personnel, veterans and their families. The account offers interest, but you can still earn a higher yield in a savings account. Checking accounts that offer competitive annual percentage yields (APY) and no minimum balance requirement are easily found elsewhere, though they may not be called student savings accounts.
LendingClub Bank: Best online checking for cash back
LendingClub Bank’s Rewards checking account helps you earn 1 percent cash back on everyday purchases without incurring a monthly fee. The account also earns a little bit of interest, and offers access to thousands of free ATMs around the globe. Only $25 is needed to open the account. You also can get your direct deposit up to two days early with this account.
What to watch: Keeping an average balance of at least $2,500 or having at least $2,500 in direct deposits each month are two ways to ensure eligibility for the 1 percent cash back program.
Though this checking account earns interest, at least $100,000 is required to earn the top-tier APY. And $2,500 is required to earn any interest.
Discover Bank: Best online cash back checking/savings combo
The Discover Bank Checking Account helps you earn 1 percent cash back on up to $3,000 worth of debit-card purchases made each month. Both standard and official bank checks are free. Discover Bank earned Bankrate’s 2022 best free checking account award.
On the savings side, a Discover Bank Online Savings Account pays a competitive APY.
Neither account charges a monthly fee.
What to watch: Other savings accounts pay higher yields than Discover’s Online Savings Account.
Pros and cons of online checking accounts
- Typically offer 24/7 account access
- Almost all banks will let you mobile deposit checks
- Some banks provide transaction alerts, including a warning that you’re about to overdraw your account
- Many online checking accounts let you view bank statements and search transactions online
- An online bank without branches won’t be able to help you with in-person banking, including withdrawals
- Online banks lack some features, such as safe-deposit boxes, that are available at some branches
- With no branches or onsite ATMs, online banks can be less convenient if you need cash immediately
How to choose the best online bank
As with any purchase, researching and comparing online banks can help you make the best decision. Some things to consider are:
- How you’ll be able to access your money: Does it come with a debit or ATM card to withdraw money from an ATM?
- Does it come with free checks or is there a fee for checks?
- Does it have branches? Or is it an online-only bank?
- Does the debit card earn rewards or cash back?
- Is the app or website easy to use and reliable?
- How can you transfer money to other accounts or people?
Look out for any fees, too. Bankrate’s 2022 checking account and ATM fee study found the monthly service fees for interest-bearing accounts is $16.19 and the monthly fee on non-interest checking accounts was $5.44. Even one fee can be costly, which is why finding an online bank that doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement or maintenance fee can be a good choice to save money. Brick-and-mortar banks may have direct deposit requirements on some accounts to avoid a monthly maintenance fee.
Online checking account FAQs
These financial institutions are featured in our research: Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, Amerant Bank, America First Credit Union, American Express National Bank, Axos Bank, Bank 5 Connect, Bank of America, Bank of the West, Barclays, Bask Bank, BB&T, BECU (Boeing Employees Credit Union), Bethpage Federal Credit Union, BMO Harris Bank, Bread Savings (formerly Comenity Direct), BrioDirect, Capital One Bank, Chase Bank, CIBC USA, CIT Bank, Citibank, Citizens Access, Citizens Bank (Rhode Island), Comerica Bank, Customers Bank, Delta Community Credit Union, Discover Bank, E-Trade Bank, Emigrant Direct, Fifth Third Bank, First Citizens Bank, First Internet Bank, First Technology Federal Credit Union, FNBO Direct, Golden 1 Credit Union, Huntington National Bank, Investors Bank, Investors eAccess, KeyBank, LegacyTexas Bank, Limelight Bank, Live Oak Bank, Marcus by Goldman Sachs, M&T Bank, MySavingsDirect, Navy Federal Credit Union, NBKC Bank, PenFed Credit Union, PNC Bank, Popular Direct, Purepoint Financial, Quontic Bank, Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, Regions Bank, Salem Five Direct, Sallie Mae Bank, Santander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, State Employees’ Credit Union, Suncoast Credit Union, Suntrust Bank, Synchrony Bank, TD Bank, TIAA Bank, UFB Direct, Union Bank (California), U.S. Bank, USAA Bank, Vio Bank, VyStar Credit Union, Wells Fargo and Zions Bank.