Checking accounts are a household budgeting staple, simplifying payments for bills and other necessities whether they’re made online or with paper checks.
Consumers usually keep their checking accounts for a long time. The average U.S. checking customer has been with their bank for about 14 years, according to a 2021 Bankrate survey.
The best checking accounts either don’t have monthly fees or have certain requirements that allow you to avoid these maintenance fees. Many of the best checking accounts also have ways to avoid out-of-network ATM fees, or even to get free checks.
Types of checking accounts
These are some of the most widely available types of checking accounts offered at banks and credit unions.
- Traditional checking account
- Premium checking account
- Student checking account
- Senior checking account
- Interest-bearing account
- Business checking account
- Checkless checking
- Rewards checking account
- Private bank checking
- Second-chance checking
Traditional checking account
These normally offer checks, a debit or ATM card and online bill pay options. Often you can waive a monthly maintenance fee by maintaining a minimum balance, while some traditional checking accounts don’t charge such a fee at all.
These accounts may also offer overdraft protection to cover payments beyond your account’s available balance, though such services often come with a fee.
Premium checking account
This account typically offers perks that you’d otherwise have to pay for. Some advantages this type of account may offer include a free safe deposit box, free personal checks, free official checks, free money orders and fees waived on some or all out-of-network ATMs. You’ll usually need to maintain a higher minimum balance on a premium account.
Student checking account
These are usually for students age 18-23. Student checking accounts might not have maintenance fees for those who qualify. They may also offer overdraft forgiveness, ATM fee reimbursement, free checks or other perks. These accounts can be a great way for students to begin managing their money, using their own debit card for purchases or cash withdrawals.
It’s important to note that while a student checking account might be a great fit for some people, if it doesn’t reimburse ATM fees, there may be a better option for you. A bank that allows you to use out-of-network ATMs without incurring a fee should be considered — even if the checking account doesn’t have “student” in its name.
Senior checking account
These accounts are typically for people age 55 or 60 and older and offer perks for qualifying customers, such as free checks.
However, don’t just look at the account name and assume it’s the right account for you without shopping around. You may find a better deal with an account that isn’t marketed to seniors.
These checking accounts help you earn interest. Some of these may have specific requirements to earn a certain APY, such as having a minimum direct deposit or a minimum number of debit card transactions.
There may also be limitations on how much of your balance earns a certain APY. Some interest-checking accounts have higher APYs than savings accounts or money market accounts at online banks. However, online savings accounts and money market accounts are more likely to give you the same APY for balances above a certain level. Though they may have account maximums too.
Other interest-checking accounts will only give you a fraction of the yield you can get on a top-yielding savings account. These may be around the average savings account yield of 0.1 percent APY or even lower.
Business checking account
This type of checking account can help a business run. For instance, a business may have one checking account for payroll and another for operating expenses. It also could have other accounts for specific purposes.
Business checking accounts may charge customers extra for transactions surpassing a certain number. If your business has a lot of cash deposits, consider these charges carefully when comparing business checking accounts.
These accounts don’t offer checks, so you’ll need to rely on using a debit card to make transactions. This type of account might not have overdraft fees. If you can’t remember the last time you’ve written a check, this might be a desirable banking option for you.
Earning points or cash back is possible with this type of checking account when you make purchases with your debit card. Make sure you look at the fine print to see if you need to meet certain requirements to earn cash back.
Private bank checking
You’ll usually need to have a certain amount of money deposited at a bank to be eligible for this type of checking account. Investments and lending relationships may be considered.
This type of account may give you higher debit card limits, free wire transfers, higher Zelle limits or the ability to withdraw more in a day from an ATM. You may also work with a dedicated representative who handles your account.
Those denied a standard checking account due to a history of excessive overdrafts or unpaid negative balances should consider second-chance checking. These accounts help you start over and maintain good standing with a bank.
Second-chance checking accounts typically do not offer all of the services as standard accounts. Monthly service fees might be mandatory, and overdraft protection might not be an option. The bank may eventually allow you to convert to a regular checking account if you’ve kept this one in good standing for a certain period of time.
How to choose the right checking account
Whatever your situation, chances are there’s a checking account that aligns well with your needs. When choosing a checking account, determine which factors are important to you. For some people, fees (and how to avoid them) are a top priority. Other things to be considered are the availability of branches and ATMS and whether a minimum balance is required.
These factors can be more important to consider than whether the account offers a sign-up bonus or earns interest.