Consumers looking for a new checking account may find that online banks offer features that aren’t available at the bank down the street. The best online checking accounts pay some interest, reimburse at least some ATM fees, belong to a large ATM network and provide free checks. They also offer a highly rated mobile app, convenient customer service hours and websites that are easy to navigate.
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.
If you’re looking for a better deal, here are Bankrate’s picks for the best online checking accounts.
Best Online Checking Overall: Ally Bank
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 on this checking account. 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.
Best Online Checking for Beginners: Chime
Chime’s chief attraction for novice banking consumers is that it waives overdraft fees up to $200, which can save you money should you accidentally overdraw your checking account. According to Bankrate’s 2021 checking account and ATM fee study, the average overdraft fee was $33.58.
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).
Best Online Checking for Travel: Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab Bank’s High Yield Investor Checking account gives you unlimited worldwide ATM fee reimbursement. The account doesn’t charge a monthly fee, and it has no minimum balance requirement. Schwab also doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee when making overseas purchases.
What to watch: As with many banking policies, Schwab Bank can change or discontinue its fee-waiver policy at any time. So, routinely review your banking disclosures and check the Schwab website to confirm the policy still exists. The Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account requires new account holders to also open a Schwab One brokerage account.
Best Online Checking for Teens: Navy Federal Credit Union
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.
Best Online Checking for Cash Back: LendingClub Bank
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. The account also has access to free ATMs around the globe.
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 make ensure eligibility for the 1 percent cash back program.
Though this checking account earns interest, online banks usually offer higher APYs on high-yield savings or money market accounts, regardless of balance.
Best Online Cash Back Checking/Savings Combo: Discover Bank
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.
What to know about online banks
Here is everything you need to know about banking with online banks.
Are online banks trustworthy?
Make sure you’re banking with a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) bank or a National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) credit union. They are government-backed organizations. The FDIC insures both brick-and-mortar and online banks.
In some cases, an online bank may be a division of a traditional bank or the funds might be held under the FDIC insurance of a brick-and-mortar bank. Here are some examples:
- Bank5 Connect is a division of BankFive.
- BrioDirect is an online subsidiary of Sterling National Bank.
- Citizens Access is a division of Citizens Bank.
- Investors eAccess is a unit of Investors Bank.
Do online banks offer debit cards?
Online banks usually offer debit cards for their checking accounts but might not offer debit cards or ATM cards for savings accounts or money market accounts.
You can usually use debit cards to make purchases and withdraw money at an ATM. With a money market account or possibly a savings account, a debit card may only be able to withdraw money from an ATM.
What are some things I should consider when choosing 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 2021 checking account and ATM fee study found the monthly service fees for interest-bearing accounts was $16.35 and the monthly fee on noninterest checking accounts was $5.08. 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.
How do I get cash with an online bank?
Many online checking accounts feature debit or ATM cards for accessing money at an ATM. Knowing your bank’s ATM network, if it has one, can also save you money; in-network ATMs typically don’t charge a fee.
Summary of our top online checking accounts
- Ally Bank: Best online checking overall.
- Chime: Best online checking for beginners.
- Charles Schwab: Best online checking for travel.
- Navy Federal Credit Union: Best online checking for teens.
- LendingClub Bank: Best online checking for cash back.
- Discover Bank: Best checking/savings combo.