The Best Free Checking Accounts

Don’t Pay for Checks If You Don’t Have To

The Best Free Checking Accounts
October 13, 2015

We hear ads for free or no-fee checking all the time, but are these accounts really free? There are four different account components to consider.

  • Maintenance Fees – These are monthly fees that the bank charges you simply to maintain your checking account. Some banks list maintenance fees but allow them to be waived under certain conditions such as maintaining a minimum average daily balance.
  • Minimum Deposit – The minimum amount of money that you must deposit to open an account. You may be required to maintain a different balance amount to receive other perks or benefits.

  • Overdraft Fees – The fees incurred when you attempt to withdraw more money than you have in the account.
  • ATM Fees – The transaction fees you are charged to use an ATM. Keep in mind that any bank can only control their component of the ATM fees. If you use a different bank's ATM, they may still apply charges even though your bank does not.

Most people think of the monthly maintenance fees when evaluating free checking, but it's important to look over all four aspects — as well as any limitations or conditions that apply.

Here are our choices based on recent information. It is possible that rates and policies have changed by the time you read this article, so verify fees with each bank before signing up.

  • Simple Checking – Simple is a partner of the Bancorp Bank focusing on the Internet market. They offer a truly free checking account with $0 in all four fee categories and provide a corresponding debit card. The few fees they have relate to items like paper copies of your monthly statement or an inactivity fee for six months of inactivity (both of those are $5 monthly).
  • Capital One 360 Checking – A checking account with $0 in all four categories and minimal limitations. You don't pay any overdraft fees but do need to pay interest on any overdraft amount. They do charge a stop payment fee of $25.00 but have benefits such as no foreign transaction fees and free online bill paying options. Interest is tiered depending on the account balance.
  • Bank of Internet Rewards Checking – If you can handle a $100 initial deposit, there are no monthly fees or overdraft fees, and all domestic ATM charges are refunded. Features include a VISA debit card with cash-back purchase rewards by maintaining a large enough minimum daily balance.

You may prefer other checking accounts based on features that are important to you. For example, Internet banks offer most of the better checking account deals. That means that there may not be a physical branch near you — or any branches at all. If you have concerns about customer service or just have to speak to a live person, you may prefer trading fees for convenience.

You may be able to find other regional banks or credit unions that can offer free checking, and their offer may be as good, or even better, than the top choices listed above. All you have to do is compare all four of the fee categories of checking accounts and their rules and limitations, and you will be able to make the best choice for your banking needs.


Photo ©iStock.com/fluxfoto

  Conversation   |   27 Comments

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Sara | 10.13.15 @ 13:52
There is a lot of good information here. I for one always was told to stay away from credit unions... However, ours has been wonderful.
Erin | 10.13.15 @ 13:55
I haven't heard of a couple of those programs. I'm not sure I would like to go with a big bank like these. I've been fairly satisfied with our credit union.
Christina | 10.13.15 @ 14:00
Thank you for the information. Will be checking out some of these.
Angie | 10.13.15 @ 14:03
Our local banks offer free checking if your paycheck is direct deposited into the account - that works for me!
Nancy | 10.13.15 @ 14:04
I have a great checking account with a lot of perks. I will show these to my daughter. Thank tou.
Shannon | 10.13.15 @ 14:06
Very useful information, you should always shop around for the best account!
Zanna | 10.13.15 @ 14:16
I'm going to look at these options closely. Maybe it's time to change banks.
Jonathan | 10.13.15 @ 14:19
The main thing for me is free checking and not killing you with unnecessary fees!
George Middleton | 10.13.15 @ 14:19
Will be looking more into this. Good information
Alec | 10.13.15 @ 14:19
There's no reason to pay a fee when it can be worked around, as shown in this article. This is a great list for anyone who has been paying fees. Even if they don't like the ones listed, it'll show them that other options exist!
Christina | 10.13.15 @ 14:21
So glad my checking account is free as long as I have a direct deposit each month!
Sarah | 10.13.15 @ 14:22
Good information. Very helpful.
Carla Truett | 10.13.15 @ 14:24
I've bookmarked this page in case we change banks. Right now our credit union is good but if we start to see fees, we will change over. thank you.
Elaine | 10.13.15 @ 14:24
I love my credit union. Hubs has had an account there since he was a child and never had an issue. Great tips!
Jennifer Sears | 10.13.15 @ 14:32
This information is very useful as we've been thinking about switching our bank.
Daniel Dohlstrom | 10.13.15 @ 14:33
In the market for a new account this is a great source of information and options
Rindy | 10.13.15 @ 14:41
I always use free checking, this is great information for anyone looking to get their first account.
Beverly | 10.13.15 @ 14:43
We always look for no fee accounts when opening a new account and have a wonderful relationship with our current bank.
Steffanie | 10.13.15 @ 14:44
Great information. We have free checking with our local bank and we love it.
Kathryn | 10.13.15 @ 14:44
We currently bank with our credit union and it's great! It's probably the best way we could of gone. :)
Crystal | 10.13.15 @ 14:46
There's also one available through American Express that is quite good. Great list!
Jackie | 10.13.15 @ 14:48
I have a checking account with a credit union and get no checking fees along with a good interest rate on my savings account.
Irene | 10.13.15 @ 14:48
I've never even wanted to be bothered balancing a check book, I pay by cash or credit card and through my paypal account online
Andrea | 10.13.15 @ 14:53
Love my bank. But worth looking into for the kids .
Kyle | 10.13.15 @ 14:55
This was great. I really need to start looking into a better option for myself.
Britt | 10.13.15 @ 14:56
This is a good article. I've been needing to look into alternatives myself.
Jo Ann | 10.13.15 @ 15:00
My bank currently charges me $8.00 per month and yes I called them and starting next month they will be waiving the fee. Great news for me because it does add up especially when on a fixed income!!
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