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Let me guess…

You want checking accounts with the lowest withdrawal fees, good customer support, accessibility to free ATMs, and the whole nine yards.

The problem finding these types of checking accounts isn't easy.

So, what are the top checking accounts for 2021, and how can you pick one for yourself?

Don't worry I've got you covered. πŸ‘Œ

This post will guide you through the top checking accounts, their desirable features, and their pros and cons. 

The aim is to help you choose the best checking account to make your daily life fuss-free and give you a smooth financial experience along with cash bonuses. 

So buckle up to know all about the top checking accounts, their positive and negative features, their monthly service fee, and much more. 

Let's go! 

1. NBKC Bank Everything Account

The NBKC everything account promises its customers smooth and flawless money management to spend, save, track and earn all with one account. 

They charge zero account fees, which means no minimum balance fees, overdraft fees, maintenance fees, or foreign transaction fees.

Pros βœ…Cons ❌
Effortless mobile banking available 24/7 from everywhere.There can be a delay in a transaction in the first 30 days of opening an account. 
34000 free ATMs available. Reimbursement is available for using other ATMs, which is $12 annually. You Pay to make Wire transfers, which are up to $45/wire for international wires. 
You can define your saving goals, which become virtual piggy banks. You can quickly transfer and withdraw money from your checking accounts to your goal. It also tracks your progress. Wire transfers are approved after at least three months of a vigilant review of the new account.
You can link all your external accounts and see a snapshot of your complete financial activity. Budgeting is also made possible with tracking. 
Unbreachable security.

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 0.25% 

2. Wealthfront Cash Account

wealthfront-cash-account

Wealthfront Cash Account is our second pick for you, especially if you have colossal sums of money and want to earn a large interest on it. 

Yes, you heard it right. You can keep sums as large as 1 Million dollars covered by FDIC insurance in your checking account. However, it is only a wise option if you use your cash frequently. 

You can get started with absolutely no account fee, and the APY is 0.35% which is a remarkable interest rate compared to most of its competitors. 

You can opt for electronic transfers and debit cards to use your Cash account. 

Let's have a look at some things we liked and disliked about this checking account. 

Pros βœ…Cons ❌
You can set up direct deposit with your Cash account while allows you to get paid early, at least by two days.Joint accounts are not offered.
No account or monthly fee is applied.Payment by check is not offered.
No withdrawal overdraft or debit card overdraft fee applied.

Wealthfront Cash account also gives you an option to automate your money transfers and allocation across different accounts, helping you earn more and faster. 

Their effortless mobile app makes deposits and transfers fast and smooth.

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 0.35%

3. Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking

consumers-credit-union-rewards-checking

Consumer Credit Union offers its clients checking accounts among an array of other products. However, it is the Reward checking account that provides interest. 

The reward checking account requires a minimum initial deposit of $5 to maintain membership and is divided into three tiers based on balance, and corresponding APY applied. 

The highest tier offers 4.09% APY on a balance of $10,000 or above. However, certain requirements need to be fulfilled first. 

Similarly, the middle tier pays 3.09% APY after meeting the requirements, and the lowest tier pays 2.09% APY by meeting only the basic requirements.

Basic Requirements: 

  • 12 debit card purchases per month are required
  • ACH deposits, mobile check deposits, or direct deposits should reach at least $500 each month
  • Enrollment in eDocuments is a must.

Let's have a look at some pros and cons.

Pros βœ…Cons ❌
High APYs for Reward checking.Requirements need to be fulfilled to earn APY.
Access to over 30,000 ATMs and 5000 shared credit union branches.The savings account has a negligible interest rate.
Nationwide availability for a low membership.Higher minimums for money market accounts.

A fast-running and glitch-free mobile app are also available to make online banking simple. 

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 4.09%

4. Varo Online Checking

varo-online-checking

If you have not been comfortable with online banking, Varo is here to change your view.

It is the first mobile-centered, FDIC-insured national bank of the U.S.

Varo bank believes in giving plenty of opportunities to its customers to take charge of their money and make everyday banking hassle-free and time-efficient.

The Varo checking account is free to open, with no requirement to keep your account's minimum balance. 

To sign up, all you need is a social security number and I.D number issued by the government. 

Varo ensures you get paid early with direct deposit and offers 2.8% APY, one of the best rates available.

However, there are two requirements:

  • You must make five debit purchases each month.
  • You must receive payroll or government direct deposits of at least $1,000 per month.
Pros βœ…Cons ❌
High APY after meeting requirements.Customer service is not available all the time.
No minimum balance requirement.Both parties should be Varo customers for Varo to Varo transfers.
Extensive ATM network and Detailed Mobile App.APY only applies after meeting requirements.

55,000 Allpoint ATMs are provided for Varo customers where they can withdraw cash without a fee.

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 0.4%

5. Paramount Bank Interest Checking

paramount-bank-interest-checking

Paramount bank offers a high-interest checking account to its customers with 0.85% APY. This is one of the best rates available on all balances.

The account, however, can be open after a deposit of a minimum of $100. But this is all it takes to enjoy a rate of 0.85% on all your balance. This is irrespective of the number of transactions you make per month. 

There is no monthly fee, and you only have to maintain a balance of $1 to keep earning a 0.85% APY.

The bank is available nationwide, with a wide network of ATMs at your service 24/7. 

The bank offers several other amazing features as well; a well-maintained bank app, low-to-no fee, 24/7 account access, and free visa debit card are to name a few. 

Let's summarize its pros and cons for a clear picture:

Pros βœ…Cons ❌
No monthly fee.Customer service experience is average. 
Flawless bank app.
Highly competitive interest rate.

A convenience fee charged by a third-party ATM is automatically refunded up to 20 convenience fees per month. 

This is not all.

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 0.85%

6. Chime Checking

chime-checking

Chime is an online-only bank that partners with two other banks to provide services to its clients.

It is FDIC insured; you are putting your money in safe hands. 

Among many others, checking and saving accounts is one of its most desirable products.

What makes it so desirable is that there are no hidden bank fees, no maintenance requirement, no monthly and foreign exchange fees.  

It also gives an option to grow your savings automatically and reach your savings goal timely. 

There are over 38,000 free ATMs available, and 30,000 cashback locations are allotted. 

Let's differentiate its Pros and Cons.

Pros βœ…Cons ❌
There is no overdraft or monthly fee.Depositing cash may cost you some amount.
With direct deposit, you can get your pay up to two days earlier.
Wide ATM network at your disposal.

Chime's mobile app aims to make banking straightforward and effortless for you. 

They have been putting extra effort into ensuring the safety and security of accounts after some fraud cases have been reported. All transactions are notified you with real-time alerts. 

The Visa Zero Liability protects chime debit cards offered to its clients. It means that any unauthorized charges will not harm the cardholders. 

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 0.50%

7. Radius Rewards Checking

radius-rewards-checking

Next in line, we have Radius Rewards Checking, which allows you to earn up to 1.5% cashback with no monthly or hidden fees. Three specific categories are defined for this; Dining out, Health, and Subscription services.

For all other categories, you can earn 1% cashback. 

Opening a radius checking account requires $100, after which there is no minimum maintenance or monthly fee. 

On average, a Radius customer earned $52 each month in cashback, ATM rebates, or interest. 

It has won NerdWallet’s best of awards for Best bank or credit union online experience and has attracted a far greater number of customers since.

They provide one of the most extensive ATMs networks available worldwide and generously rebate ATM fees charged by other banks. 

Not just this, their APYs are only of the biggest offered by the banks. On balances of $2,500–$99,999.99, you can earn 0.10% APY, which increases to 0.15% at $100,000 and above. 

Let's have a look at some pros and cons.

Pros βœ…Cons ❌
Guaranteed perks of cashback.Savings interest is not as competitive as other banks.
ATM fee reimbursements are assured and unlimited.If you are overdrawn for over five days, you will be charged $5 for 30 days. 
No monthly fee or minimum balance requirement.

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 0.15%

8. Axos Rewards Checking

axos-rewards-checking

Axos bank is another prominent name in the world of online or internet banking. 

It was initially known as the Bank of Internet USA and is FDIC insured to eliminate any ambiguity concerning its legitimacy. 

Two of its widely used products are high yielding savings and checking accounts associated with no monthly fees. 

Since it is an online platform, Axos has maintained a strong online presence with its online-only customer service 24/7, secure online chats, and phone lines. 

Clients of Axos bank enjoy unlimited ATM fee reimbursements and 1.25% APY, which is a very hefty interest rate. However, to receive this APY, there are certain requirements first. 

You need to make at least 15 debit card transactions in a month and receive a minimum of $1000 in direct deposits. 

Here is a bird's eye view of its pros and cons:

Pros βœ…Cons ❌
No monthly fee is applied.Stringent requirements for APY.
Highly competitive APY offered.Only two branches currently available.
Amazing rewards and ATM fee reimbursement options are given. CD rates are low as compared to other online banks. 

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 1.25%

9. Bank5 Interest Checking

bank5-interest-checking

Bank5 interest checking account is the last on our list. 

The APY it offers is 0.2%, but you need at least a $100 minimum balance to earn this interest. There are no monthly or maintenance fees, so what you make is what you keep, if not more. 

You only need $10 to open an account with Bank5, and the entire process is straightforward. 

The only downside of this bank is that it does not have bank5 branded ATMs, but since it is a part of the SUM network, you can access several ATMs nationwide without being charged.

Any ATM charges are frequently reimbursed. 

It also gives you plenty of options to deposit money in your checking accounts by direct deposit, phone call, mobile app, and even mail. 

Free monthly e-statements keep you updated with all your account activity so that you can point out anything suspicious and also keep track of all your transactions and, ultimately, your financial goals. 

Pros βœ…Cons ❌
It allows you to make free external transfers.APY does not apply for a balance of less than $100.
There is no maintenance fee applied.
With a bank5 visa debit card, you can earn cashback at several popular stores and restaurants. 

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 0.2%

10. Alliant Checking Account

alliant-checking-account

Alliant checking account is a reasonably excellent account, providing all the basics of a standard bank; however, you can not expect many rewards and bonuses. 

Alliant Bank is FDIC insured and has earned the trust of many clients. 

Its APY of 0.25% is fair too but not as good as other online banks, but the good thing is that there's no minimum balance requirement to avail this interest rate, unlike many others.

With a widespread network of ATMs, you can easily find one near you wherever you go. If you cannot find one, the bank will reimburse up to $20 for transactions from other ATMs. 

Alternatively, you can also confidently rely on its mobile app for Android and IOS for your money management. 

Let's skim through its pros and cons:

Pros βœ…Cons ❌
No maintenance or ATM withdrawal fee is charged.Alliant bank does not offer fancy rewards.
Several ways offered to deposit your money in the checking account, like ACH transfer, mail, phone, and wire transfer. APY is only applied after a certain set of requirements.
Several withdrawal options are available as well. To join, the applicant must become a member of the credit union. 
Nationwide ATMs are available.The overdraft fee is $28, unlike others which are mostly free. 

Monthly Service Fee: None

APY: 0.25%

How Do Checking and Saving Accounts Work?

A checking account is an account you hold for your daily transactions, paying bills, doing groceries, and shopping. You can access it through a debit card, paper checks, and even online in most cases.

The best part?

There is usually no limit to the number of times you can make transactions from your checking account and withdrawing cash from ATMs (although there can be a certain daily limit).

On the other hand, a savings account is designed for a long-term saving goal, and your access to it is not as direct as a checking account.

Bummer I know, but you're supposed to be saving money anyways! πŸ’°

It's smart to have a checking and savings account with the same bank so that you can easily move cash between the two in case of emergency or to ensure a direct monthly deposit to your savings. 

But, if you're picky like me have a two or three banks to make it easier to save!

To make frequent withdrawals from your savings account, you may have to move money to your checking account first. 

Savings accounts usually hold higher interest rates than checking accounts, but it may vary from bank to bank. However, both accounts may charge you a certain amount for not maintaining a specific amount!

What Are Common Checking Account Fees?

A checking account can have many fees associated with it; common ones include a monthly fee, ATM fee, and an overdraft fee. 

However, not all checking accounts charge all these so chose ones that are free or charge low fees.

Monthly Service Fee

This is a kind of maintenance fee to keep your account up and running.

Some banks charge up to a $15 monthly fee. However, nowadays most banks don't charge this fee or give you options to avoid it.

ATM Fee

Most banks want you to use their ATMs, so there is no fee charged.

But, when you use ATMs that are not affiliated with your bank, you might have to pay two kinds of fees; One from the ATM operator and another from your bank.

If you ever get fees like this make sure you hit up your bank and ask for a refund.

The best way to avoid this fee is to stick to the ATMs of your bank. 

Overdraft Fee

An overdraft fee is charged when you spend more than the amount in your account, resulting in a negative-sum. Most banks charge up to a $35 overdraft fee.

The key to avoiding this fee is to always keep a positive balance in your account. 

On the bright side, most banks have also introduced an overdraft protection policy that links your two accounts to transfer money when required automatically. There is a fee involved, but it is usually less than an overdraft fee and is a one-time affair. 

How to Determine the Best Checking Account For You?

There are various types of checking accounts offered by traditional banks, credit unions, and online banks.

But how can you determine what are the best checking accounts?

When looking for the most suitable checking account, judge an account on the following criteria: 

No Minimum Balance Fee

Many banks do not charge a minimum balance fee and continuously hunt for these. Nobody wants an extra dent in their budget. 

Most banks, however, charge a maintenance fee when the account balance falls below the minimum range. Linking up regular deposits can fix this up. 

Cashback Rewards

Most online checking accounts give you the privilege of cash back rewards on spending through debit cards.

Some banks have even defined the areas where you can specifically earn rewards in cashback, for example, some restaurants or stores, etc. 

Choosing a checking account with cashback rewards is exciting, fun and budget-friendly.

Sign-up Bonuses 

Banks will often offer you sign-up bonuses to entice you to open an account with them.

You can get as much as $200 on opening an account at some banks!

There are certain requirements to be met first, but they are not too strict. This can be an awesome way to make some extra money during the weekend!

Branch and ATM Accessibility

If you regularly dine out, go shopping, and do groceries using your checking account, this feature must be considered. 

Having easy access to your bank's ATM will save you from the unnecessary ATM fee.

Consider having at least one well known bank that has many nearby ATMs.

The last thing you want to happen is to be stranded somewhere with no access to your cash!

Interest Rate

High interest rates are a great feature to have in a checking account.

However, do your homework well because most banks offering an interest-bearing checking account will have several other fees charged from you.

You might gain a tiny bit of interest each month but may have higher fees!

The truth is, an interest checking account is mainly enticing when you have a lot of cash.

Which One is Better; Credit Union Vs. Banks?

When you consider opening a checking account, traditional or online banks are not your only options.

There are Credit Unions you can choose from as well. 

While both banks and Credit Unions offer almost some financial products, a credit union is a non-profit institution, set up as a corporative and owned by its members. 

It provides membership to individuals with shared interests and loyalties and often receives subsidies from the organizations it is linked with. Banks are bound to make profits for their stakeholders. 

Let's see their Pros and Cons.

BANKS
Pros βœ…Cons ❌
More ATMs and Branches available.Several types of fees may apply.
Higher convenience and better technology.Low APY on savings.
The number of products offered is higher.Interest rates are usually high on loans.
Accounts are FDIC insured.
CREDIT UNIONS
Pros βœ…Cons ❌
Interest rates are low on loans.Have to be eligible to become a member.
High APY on saving vehicles. Fewer branches and ATMs are available.
Less and low fees.The number of products offered is less.
Accounts are NCUA insured.Access to financial technology may be limited.

While the banks and credit unions may provide the same products and services, they are not identical. 

For someone looking for easy accessibility, convenience, a wide range of products, and mobile banking, a bank might be a better choice.

Alternatively, a Credit Union is a wise option for someone seeking high APYs and lower interest rates on loans and more helpful and resourceful customer service. 

Which One is Better; Online Vs. Traditional Banks?

Nowadays, you now have the option to choose between online and traditional banks. 

Online banks have gained tremendous popularity in recent years.

While the number of products and services they offer are quite similar to traditional banks, both are not without their differences. 

Let's have a look at their pros and cons for better decision-making. 

ONLINE BANKS
Pros βœ…Cons ❌
Higher interest rates on checking accounts of up to 0.9% to 1%.Navigating through websites is difficult for everyone.
Low-to-no fees.Less personalized customer service.
24/7 accessibility. eDeposits can be a hassle sometimes.
FDIC insured to cover losses up to $250,000.
TRADITIONAL BANKS
Pros βœ…Cons ❌
They usually have an extensive ATM network and several branches.Opening an account can take some time, and physical presence.
Personalized customer service.Comparatively low APY.
Cash deposits are easier.Not accessible 24/7.
A wide array of financial products.Various fees are charged.

Whether you choose to go with online banking or traditional banking depends on your priorities. 

If you want convenience, and time is essential to you, online banking might be a better option.

It also allows you to open a free account and always gives you a bird's-eye view of your finances and provides some of the best free checking account offers.

Traditional banking is best when you are not apt with mobile technology and require a more personalized experience. 

Many traditional banks are now offering their services online, so it is possible to have a taste of both and see what works best for you. 

Who said you can't have your cake and eat it too?

Hurdles to Overcome When Opening a Checking Account

Once you have chosen a Bank or Credit Union to open your checking account, you may face some hurdles.

Some of these hurdles include:

Age

age

A person 18 or above is considered a major and can easily have his account open with no guardian.

However, for someone under 18, a natural guardian must open and operate the account until they reach the majority. 

Identification

As a prerequisite to opening a checking account, you must prove your identity.

This means taking along some paperwork or personal information documents such as state I.D., social security card, passport, or birth certificate. 

Minimum Deposit Balance

minimum-deposit-balance

Most banks require you to make a certain minimum deposit to open the account. The amount varies from bank to bank and also depends upon the type of account you are specifying. 

For most accounts, the average deposit amount is $25, but it may vary. 

Address Verification

Most banks require you to verify your identity and address while opening a checking account.

The trick is to always have access to an official document containing your address and name nearby.

How Many Checking Accounts Should You Have?

Whether to have one or multiple checking accounts depends on your financial goals and needs.

One is enough, but there are reasons you can have one checking account.

You can link your checking account with your savings and money market account to make transfers smooth. 

There is no limit to the number of checking accounts you can have both at traditional and online banks, as well as at Credit Unions. 

Let's explore the reasons best suited to having one or multiple checking accounts. 

When Should You Have Multiple Checking Accounts?

  • When you intend to keep colossal sums of money in your checking account and don't want to cross the FDIC coverage limit.
  • You want to keep deposit and withdrawal transactions separate.
  • When you want to keep track of your transactions separately.
  • If you are interested in getting new perks associated with new checking accounts.
  • You'd When you want to organize and track your money in different categories, like personal and business.

While these are also the benefits of keeping multiple checking accounts, it comes with an inevitable downfall.

Multiple accounts can challenge maintaining and track closely.

You may also find it difficult to maintain a minimum balance requirement in your accounts if you do not keep an enormous sum in your checking accounts. 

Also, the monthly fee can be an extra burden on your budget when it adds up from all accounts. 

The wisest option is to have at least two checking accounts, one for saving and the other for daily transactions, and link them up for easy transfers in case of emergency and automated saving.

It is always a good idea to divide your salary into two portions to keep one in savings and the other in your checking account for day-to-day use and clear out bills.

I personally have my money in three different banks and use YNAB to avoid my head from spinning when I track my budget.

How We Chose Banks On This List

The list of top checking accounts mentioned above and their sequence was determined carefully after following a rigorous comparison. 

I've compared 27 banks in terms of:

  • Fees
  • Minimum requirements 
  • APY
  • Customer experience
  • Availability  

Banks we compared: Axos, Consumers Credit Union, Conne Xus, NBKC, Heritage Bank, Bank5 Connect, Capital One, Quontic, Alliant, Charles Schwab, Discover, Chime, Radius, Varo, Service Credit Union, Chase, Monfi, Citi, Bank of America, BB&T, Wells Fargo, PNC, Blue Vine, Novo, Ally, Wealthfront.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the highest interest checking accounts?

Consumer Credit Union rewards checking account offers one of the highest interest rates. The highest tier provides 4.09% APY on a balance of $10,000 or above. 

Next in line is, Axos checking account offering 1.25% APY on all balances after meeting certain requirements. 

Service credit union and Conne Xus are also offering high interest. 

Do checking accounts earn interest?

Traditionally, checking accounts are not meant to keep a balance for the long term to earn interest.

Savings accounts are interest-bearing accounts with interest percentages varying from bank to bank.

However, many banks are offering interest checking accounts as well. Most of them are mentioned above. 

Are checking accounts FDIC insured?

FDIC insurance covers all deposits which are received at an insured bank, including checking accounts. 

For checking accounts, the standard insurance amount specified by FDIC is $250,000 per depositor. All banks carry FDIC insurance for their clients to create a secure environment to entrust their money. 

Will a checking account build or hurt your credit?

Your checking account rarely shows up on your credit report and rarely harms your credit score. However, it is always wise to prevent your balance from going on the negative side to keep your account healthy. 

A checking account does not have a tremendous impact on your credit score, either negatively or positively. 

What do the checking account numbers mean?

The checking account number is given in a group of three numbers at the bottom of the check. The first group is called the routing number and signifies your financial institution's name; the second is your account number, and the third presents your check number. 

Usually, the checking account number will be 10-12 digits long. 

What is overdraft protection, and how does it work?

Overdraft protection is a feature offered by bank accounts to protect you from overdraft fees or a non-sufficient funds fee (NFS). 

An overdraft fee is charged when your account's balance falls below zero, charging you an overdraft fee. 

The clients who choose the option of overdraft protection can link their checking account with their credit card, or savings account to avoid an overdraft fee when you plan to withdraw more fees than your checking account holds. 

It is an automated process that saves you from the trouble of facing unnecessary charges. 

You can also avail of overdraft protection for a savings account, and the client may be charged a specific monthly fee for subscribing to this protection feature. 

Are checking accounts free?

Most checking accounts are not free. There is a monthly maintenance fee tied with them.

However, there are free checking accounts, as well. Offered mainly by Online-only banks, but they rarely pay interest on your amount.

Reward checking accounts pay higher interest as compared to savings. 

It is essential to understand why most checking accounts are not free, and for those which are, how does the bank make a profit?

Banks make money by borrowing money from the depositors on account of a certain specific interest rate. They lend this money as loans to the borrowers at a typically higher interest rate than the one they are payingβ€”the difference results in a profit for the bank. 

Is it safe to open a checking account online?

Online banks and even traditional banks and Credit unions offering online banking have provided utmost safety and security to their clients because their entire business depends on it. 

All checking accounts at FDIC-insured banks are protected for amounts up to $250,000.

They have taken up top standard security software and encryption measures to make the account and the client's entire data highly protected and confidential. 

For more details on safety and security, all banks welcome their clients on their respective helplines and in-person visit. 

These features make online accounts safe and convenient to use. 

Author

Founded Financially Well Off back in 2018 with the intent of making finance relatable. Quality content. Quality Advice. For people looking to be financially well off.

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