Some people don’t bank online because they want to keep a checking account with a local bank branch. The problem is, some brick-and-mortar checking accounts come with hefty fees.
When the fees don’t justify the benefits, it’s time to switch. The best online-only checking accounts don’t charge fees. And, mobile deposit and free ATM access make online banking easy.
If you’re like most people, you rarely walk into a bank anymore. With direct deposit, you no longer have to deposit a check each month. If you do receive a paper check, you can deposit it using a mobile app. When you need to pay a bill, you probably use online bill pay. And, the online bank will send a free check when a paper check is required.
You still need a local bank to make cash deposits. Otherwise, online checking accounts can handle most of your banking needs.
The Best Online Checking Accounts
You’ll notice there are many free online checking accounts. To choose one, focus on what bank benefits you want. Some of these benefits include:
- Free ATM access
- Interest earned on deposits
- Debit card purchase rewards
- Overdraft protection
- Paper checks
Every online bank offers different benefits. For example, some online banks don’t offer paper checks. But, they will mail a check for free when digital payment isn’t possible.
One of the more interesting online checking accounts is Chime. As a new member, you will receive a Visa debit card that you can use for free at 38,000 MoneyPass ATMs. But if you use a non-network ATM, Chime charges $2.50. So, make sure an in-network ATM is nearby before you join.
Chime also charges $0 for all of these fees:
- Overdraft fees
- Monthly account fee
- Foreign transaction fees
There isn’t a minimum account balance to keep your Chime checking account open, either.
There are several tradeoffs to these benefits, however. For example, you won’t get a paper checkbook. But, Chime will mail a check to someone else for you.
Also, Chime’s checking accounts don’t earn any interest. This isn’t uncommon for online banks. But, some online banks do pay interest so it’s something to ponder when you’re choosing.
No Delay on Some Direct Deposit Paychecks
One cool Chime feature is that the day your employer sends payment to Chime, you can access your money. Some banks hold your direct deposit for up to two days. This is because the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system transfers the money from your employer’s bank to Chime.
But some employers work with Chime to ensure you experience no delay. That means you could be getting your paycheck up to two days earlier than you would at other banks.
Transfer Up to 10% of Each Paycheck to Savings
Are you familiar with the adage to “pay yourself first?” Chime makes that easy with this feature.
Each paycheck, Chime can transfer 10% of your income to a Chime savings account. Ten percent is a nice rule of thumb for the least you should save each month. By transferring the cash when it arrives, you never notice it’s gone.
Round Up Savings
If you like micro-savings apps like Digit, you will like this tool. With each purchase you make on your Chime debit card, Chime can round up the amount to the next dollar. So, if you spend $3.75, Chime transfers $0.25 to your savings account.
This way, you can still save money when you spend money.
- $0 account fees, overdraft fees and foreign transaction fees on debit purchases
- No minimum balance required
- Receive your paycheck up to two days early
- Mobile deposit and online bill pay
- Savings account only earns 0.01% APY
- You don’t get a paper checkbook
- $2.50 fee for non-network ATMs
Tip: CIT Bank offers high-yield interest rate of up to 2.30% on its savings account.
Now, Acorns offers an online checking account with a debit card. It calls this product Acorns Spend.
Acorns Spend makes it easy to invest. You will pay $3 a month. But, you also have access to the regular Acorns Core investing app and the Acorns Later IRA retirement account. Acorns won’t invest your checking account balance. But, you can have Acorns invest your spare change each year.
So, let’s assume you already pay $1 a month for Acorns Core. If so, you pay $2 more for the Acorns checking account. And if you use the Acorns Later IRA, you only pay $1 more per month.
Paying a monthly service fee is a downside. As a tradeoff, you get unlimited free ATM access. This benefit alone pays the monthly $3 fee if you regularly pay ATM fees now.
With Acorns Spend, you can enjoy these online banking benefits:
- Direct deposit
- Mobile check deposit
- Check sending
- Bank-to-bank transfers
- Unlimited free ATM access
You can also use Acorns to create spending strategies. This tool helps you live within your means by letting you create savings goals and track spending.
- Unlimited free ATM access
- Access to the entire Acorns micro-investing platform
- Debit card included
- Can send checks through Acorns app
- $3 monthly fee
- Fewer features than some other online checking accounts
Simple lives up to its name.
Like Chime, you can open an account for $0 and won’t pay any fees. The one exception is any fees you are charged by a non-network ATM. But there are 40,000 fee-free ATMs you can use.
The best reason to join Simple is when you have at least $2,000 in a “Protected Goals” account, that balance earns 2.02% APY. Usually, you earn more with an online money market account than with a checking account. That isn’t always the case with Simple. Right now, any bank interest rate above 2% APY is the “gold standard.”
Simple also offers some nice tools to help you budget.
Simple doesn’t charge an overdraft fee. But, overspending still stinks if you forget you have a bill to pay that you haven’t planned for.
Simple’s Safe-to-Spend tool helps you avoid spending more than you have in your account. Simple compares your normal expenses to your current account balance. The difference is your “safe-to-spend” amount.
So, if you need to make an unplanned purchase, you can spend up to this amount and shouldn’t overdraft.
Track Spending in Real Time
A good money habit is to review your purchases at least once a month. Then, compare them to your monthly spending plan.
If you wait too long, you forget why you made certain purchases. To prevent this, Simple lets you take in-app notes when you pay. You can also add photos and hashtags to purchases, too.
You can also track spending history by merchant as well. And, Simple has some useful charts you might enjoy.
One classic debate is if couples should have separate or joint accounts. With Simple, you can have both.
When you both have Simple accounts, you can set savings goals and build a budget together. But for those surprise purchases, you can make certain transactions private. This way, transactions for date nights, birthdays and holiday gifts can still be kept secret.
- Earn up to 2.02% APY on deposits (impressive for a checking account)
- Safe-to-Spend prevents account overdrafts
- No account fees or in-network ATM fees
- Non-network ATM fees
- 1% foreign transaction fee for debit card purchases made overseas
- No paper checks
4. Bank5 Connect
With a Bank5 Connect High Interest Checking Account, you enjoy these benefits:
- $15 monthly ATM fee credit
- 0.75% APY on all balances greater than $100
- UChoose debit card rewards
- Free first order of basic checks
It’s free to open a Bank5 Connect account. The minimum initial deposit is $10, but try to find another $90 to deposit so you can start earning interest.
You also have free online bill pay and mobile banking.
Bank5 Connect is one of the most well-rounded banks on this list. You don’t need a high account balance to earn a good interest rate. And, you get free ATM access and debit card rewards.
In addition to free bill pay and paper checks, cashier’s checks are free, too. These checks usually cost $10 to $15 at most banks.
You will pay a $15 insufficient funds fee, but overdraft transfers are free.
- Competitive interest rate with minimum account balance of $100
- $15 monthly ATM fee credits
- Debit card purchase rewards
- Must have $100 account balance to earn interest
- Must deposit $10 to open an account
5. Radius Bank
If you want a full-service online checking account, consider Radius Bank. Your deposits earn interest at Radius.
And, you have free access to paper checks if you need them. After all, there are still times when you need to write a check.
Although Radius has four checking account options, three are fee-free:
- Hybrid Checking
- Radius Checking
- Superhero Checking
With these three accounts, you only need $100 to open an account. And, you won’t pay any monthly account fees.
All three accounts offer a free debit card. And, (if you desire) a box of free checks. Plus, you never have to pay ATM fees. And, you can also enjoy mobile deposit and online bill pay.
Which checking account option is better for you depends on the features. Below is a summary of each checking account’s interest rates and rewards.
Keep in mind that while interest you earn is taxable, cash back rewards are not. That may influence which type of account you choose.
To earn checking account interest, create a Hybrid Checking account.
For account balances of $2,500 to $99,999.99, you earn 1.00% APY. Balances greater than $100,000 earn 1.20% APY.
As a tradeoff, you won’t earn cash back rewards on debit card purchases.
On in-person debit card purchases, you get 1% back each month.
For account balances greater than $1,000, you earn 0.01% APY. With this low interest rate, you should only keep enough cash in the account to cover your purchases. Then, put the extra cash in a high-yield savings account.
The two ways you earn with a Superhero Checking account include:
- 0.50% APY on balances of $2,500 or more
- 1% back on total debit card purchases
The unique thing about this account is that Radius matches your interest earnings and donates that amount to charity every month. It also donates 1% of your total debit card purchases to charity. Right now, that charity is the March of Dimes.
- Three different free checking account types
- Only need $100 to open an account
- First box of paper checks is free
- Must have high account balance to earn the best interest rate
This next option is a rewards-earning online checking account. Discover Cashback Debit pays you 1% back on debit card purchases. This bonus applies to the first $3,000 in monthly debit card purchases. Each month, you can earn up to $30 in cash back rewards.
Also, Discover doesn’t have any account fees or balance requirements. You also have access to 60,000 fee-free ATMs in the U.S. And, you have free online bill pay and paper checks.
Even official bank checks (cashier’s checks) are free. These checks usually cost $10 to $15 at most banks.
Another nifty perk is that Discover waives your first fee each calendar year. So, you might be able to save $30 on an overdraft fee. Or, $15 on a stop payment fee.
- 1% back on first $3,000 in monthly debit card purchases
- First fee forgiveness each calendar year
- 60,000+ free ATMs in the U.S.
- $30 overdraft fee (maximum of one charge per day)
7. Ally Bank
Ally Bank pays interest on your account balance, up to 0.60% APY. And, Ally reimburses your first $10 in ATM fees each month.
You earn 0.10% on account balances less than $15,000. Then, when your balance goes over $15,000, you’ll earn 0.60% APY.
There are also 43,000 fee-free Allpoint ATMs you can use. For non-network ATMs, Ally reimburses your first $10 in fees each month. So if you regularly use ATMs that charge a $4 fee, that means two free withdrawals each month.
One downside is that if you overdraft, Ally charges a $25 insufficient funds fee once a day.
However, Ally makes it easy to send money to friends. With Zelle, you can quickly send money to any U.S. bank account. You only need an email address or U.S. mobile number.
- First $10 in monthly ATM fees are waived
- Quickly send money to friends and family with Zelle
- All account deposits earn interest daily
- Fewer fee-free ATMs than other online banks
- No paper checks
Tip: Invest with Ally Invest for an award-winning trading platform
8. Capital One 360
For the online-only arm of Capital One, open a 360 Checking account. You won’t pay any account fees and you won’t have to maintain a minimum balance.
With 360 Checking, you can’t visit a Capital One branch for help. But, you can stop by a Capital One Cafe if you need help. You have mobile deposit and online bill pay with 360 Checking, plus online support.
If you still need paper checks, your first book is free. And, you can use online bill pay or your debit card to pay bills, too.
Your entire account balance also earns interest. Capital One currently uses a three-tier model:
- $0 to $49,999.99 earns 0.20% APY
- $50,000 to $99,999.99 earns 0.75% APY
- $100,000+ earns 1% APY
These interest rates are better than nothing. But, you can earn more on your extra cash in a good online savings provider like Aspiration Bank.
Three Free Overdraft Protection Benefits
Capital One offers three free overdraft protection tools:
- Auto-Decline: Capital One declines the transaction when you try to pay but don’t have enough funds in your account
- Free Savings Transfer: You can transfer from another Capital One account
- Next Day Grace: Transfer money within one business day to avoid the $35 overdraft fee
If your check bounces, Capital One still charges a $9 non-sufficient funds fee. But, at least you save $35 in overdraft fees. For online banks, $35 is high for an overdraft fee.
A fourth overdraft protection option is a line of credit. You want to avoid this option since it’s like a credit card balance. Each day, your outstanding balance accrues interest that you must repay.
- Flexible overdraft protection options
- 39,000+ free Capital One and Allpoint ATMs
- Account balance earns interest
- High overdraft fee of $35 per day
- No fee credits for non-network ATMs
Its fee-free checking account is known as a “Cash Management Account.” It comes with these free perks:
- Debit card
- Unlimited U.S. ATM withdrawals
- Paper checks
- Online bill pay
If you invest with Fidelity, you can easily move money from your checking account to your brokerage accounts. If you invest with a different broker, it can take three days to transfer funds.
To prevent overdraft fees, Fidelity lets you set a target balance. For example, let’s say your target balance is $500. If your balance dips to $450, they transfer $50 from a linked account. Fidelity calls this their Cash Manager Tool.
You can also deposit checks with mobile deposit. And, you can schedule automatic investments and withdrawals, too.
- Unlimited fee-free ATMs in the U.S.
- Free overdraft protection (Cash Manager)
- You still pay for foreign ATM fees
10. Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab is great for unlimited ATM fee refunds. Many global travelers like Schwab’s online checking. The main reason is that it waives foreign ATM fees.
And, your entire account balance earns 0.35% APY. This interest rate is higher than many online checking account rates. And, you don’t have to keep a high account balance.
You can also get paper checks, and you enjoy online bill pay and mobile deposit.
One of the biggest cons is that you must have a Schwab brokerage account. You see, Schwab is another online broker at heart. Your brokerage account must have a $1,000 starting balance.
If you don’t want to invest with Charles Schwab, avoid this online bank.
- No ATM fees anywhere in the world
- Deposits earn interest
- Paper checks
- Must also have a Schwab One brokerage account
USAA may be a good option for military service members, veterans, and their loved ones.
There are two free online checking options with USAA. Like Radius, you must decide if you want to earn cash rewards or interest. Remember, interest you earn is taxable, but cash back rewards are not. You’ll also need to decide if you want USAA to refund non-network ATM fees.
USAA reimburses partner ATM fees up to 10 times monthly. But, these ATMs are mostly near military bases and large cities. There are 60,000 free ATMs, but their list might be different than other banks.
For both checking account types, you need an initial deposit of $25. After that, you don’t have to maintain a minimum balance.
Like other banks, you can also send instant payment to friends with Zelle.
USAA Classic Checking
Open this checking account for these two reasons:
- Non-network ATM fee refunds (up to $15 per month)
- Earn interest on account balances of $1,000 or more
The current interest rate is a very low 0.01% APY. So, go with this account solely for the non-network ATM refunds.
USAA Cashback Rewards Checking
For each debit card purchase, you get 10 cents back. If your cash rewards exceed your non-network ATM fees, choose this option.
Keep in mind, your first 10 in-network ATM withdrawals are free each month.
- Free ATM Access at 60,000 ATMs
- Classic Checking members get $15 in non-network ATM credit monthly
- Rewards Checking members earn $0.10 back for each debit card purchase
- Must have a military connection to be a USAA member
- Minimum initial deposit of $25
12. Axos Bank
Axos Bank offers five different online checking accounts. Two accounts are for seniors (age 55+) and teens between ages 13 and 17. The other three standard accounts are open to all members.
All five accounts are free to open and don’t charge monthly maintenance fees. And, none of them require minimum balances. Below is a brief summary of the two best standard accounts.
The Rewards Checking account gives you three ways to earn up to 1.25% interest. If you only complete one or two tasks, you earn the interest rate for those tasks.
- Receive monthly direct deposits of at least $1,000: earn 0.4166% APY
- Use debit card 10 times monthly: earn 0.4166% APY
- Use debit card 15 times monthly: earn 0.4166% APY
For each debit card transaction, the minimum purchase amount is $3. By making at least fifteen in-person purchases, you earn 0.8332% APY for the month. And if you have at least $1,000 in direct deposits, you earn 1.25% interest for the month.
You also have unlimited domestic ATM withdrawals. And, you won’t pay any overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees, either.
You can get 1% back on all signature-based debit card transactions — that is, any time you make an in-person purchase with your card. This can be a better option than rewards checking if you earn more in purchase rewards. And again, remember the tax implications of interest earned (taxable) vs. cash back (not taxable).
Like the Rewards Checking option, you have free domestic ATM withdrawals.
- Two ways to earn checking rewards
- Zero account fees or account minimums
- Free unlimited domestic ATM access
- No overdraft or non-sufficient fund fees
- Golden Age and Teen Checking accounts don’t have unlimited free ATM access
If you tire of bank fees, switch to an online checking account. You’ll get all the benefits of a brick-and-mortar bank account, except possibly paper checks. You can also earn debit card rewards or bank interest.
What do you prefer to earn? Cash rewards or higher interest rates? Let us know on social media!
Related: Best Savings Accounts
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