Best Checking Account Rates 2019

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Here are the best checking accounts of 2019

Best Checking Accounts for September 2019

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.

Earning the highest checking account yield

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.

Virtually all banks and credit unions offer checking accounts. 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, an account that can be used to pay bills, make purchases and receive deposits.

Indeed, 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.

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.

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 does a checking account differ from a savings account

Both checking and savings accounts can be found at banks, credit unions and community banks, but they differ in some important ways.

Here are some of the biggest differences:

  • Checking accounts are for everyday use, 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 access to a debit card and paper checks, while savings accounts typically only offer branch ATM access.
  • Checking accounts typically do not pay interest. Savings accounts offer variable interest rates.

Are checking accounts free

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.

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.

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.

Recap: Best Checking Accounts

Bank Checking Accounts APY Balance to open Balance to avoid fees
Heritage Bank 3.33% $5,000 $0
Simple 2.02% $0 $0
TIAA Bank 1.21% $5,000 $0
Radius Bank 1.20% $100 $0
NBKC Bank 1.01% $5 $0
Discover Bank 0.00% $0 $0

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

Checking Resources

How safe is your bank?

Use Bankrate's Safe & Sound ratings to check the financial health of a bank or credit union before you open an account.