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Best checking accounts of 2021

Our top six picks for high rates, minimal fees, ATM access and more.

Best high-yield checking account: Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking

4.09%

APY

  • No monthly fees
  • No balance requirements
  • ATM fee reimbursements
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This article was reviewed by Marguerita Cheng, a member of the Finder Editorial Review Board and award-winning advocate for ethical financial planning for over 20 years.

The best checking accounts offer convenience, rewards and low fees. But finding a checking account that fits your lifestyle comes down to identifying which features matter the most to you. To bring you the cream of the crop, we assessed more than 165 checking accounts and compared factors such as fees, interest rates, ATM access, account minimums and unique features.

What’s changed in 2021?

We added Ally Bank Interest Checking as the best free checking account because it has no monthly fees, a $0 opening deposit, and 24/7 customer support. We added BlueVine Business Checking as the best checking account for businesses because it earns 1% interest, comes with unlimited transactions and has no monthly fees.

We also added Discover Bank as the best cash back checking account because it has a great ATM network and no fees, and offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in purchases each month.

6 best checking accounts

Here’s a quick snapshot of the six best checking accounts:

Checking accountFinder ratingBest forAPYLearn more
Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking

★★★★★

Best high-yield checking accountUp to 4.09%Go to site
BlueVine Business Checking

★★★★★

Best checking account for businessesUp to 1%Read review
Capital One 360 Checking

★★★★★

Best checking account for college students0.1%Read review
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

★★★★★

Best checking account for international travel0.03%Read review
Ally Bank Interest Checking

★★★★★

Best free checking account0.15%Read review
Discover Cashback Debit

★★★★★

Best checking account for cash back0%Read review

Closer look at the best checking accounts

Take a deeper dive into the six best checking accounts by exploring their pros and cons here:

Best high-yield checking account

Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking

Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking logo
Finder Rating: 4 / 5

★★★★★

Apply now
at Consumers Credit Union (IL)'s secure site
Up to 4.09%
APY
None
Fees
$5
Min. opening deposit
  • Up to 4.09% APY. To access this account's highest APY tier, you'll need to meet several account criteria.
  • No maintenance fees. There are no monthly fees associated with this account.
  • Large ATM network. Consumers Credit Union lets you use your debit card with a sprawling, nationwide network of more than 30,000 ATMs.
  • Membership required. You'll need to become a member of Consumers Credit Union and maintain a minimum of $5 in a Membership Share or Savings to apply.
  • Requirements for account perks. To access account perks like ATM fee reimbursements and high-interest rates, you'll need to meet a number of monthly criteria.
  • Low APY for balances over $10,000.The account offers a high APY, but the rate dwindles to a meager 0.2% on balances over $10,000.
APY 4.09%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? Yes
Insufficient funds fee $30
ATM transaction fee $0
Wire transfer fee $10
Overdraft fee $30

If you’re after an interest-bearing account with less stringent requirements, compare your high-yield checking account options with additional providers.

Best checking account for businesses

BlueVine Business Checking

Up to 1%
APY
None
Fees
None
Min. opening deposit
  • Earns interest. Bluevine Business Checking earns 1% APY on balances up to $100,000 — a rate higher than most savings accounts.
  • Accepts cash deposits. While most online bank accounts don't accept cash at all, this one lets you deposit cash at any 90,000 Green Dot location.
  • Software integrations. Connect your Bluevine account to QuickBooks Online, Wave, Freshbooks, PayPal, Stripe and more for seamless cash management.
  • Fee for cash deposits. Expect to pay $4.95 each time you deposit cash through Green Dot.
  • No savings account options. This is the only account offered by Bluevine. You won't find any other banking products.
APY 1%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? Yes
Insufficient funds fee $0
ATM transaction fee $0
Overdraft fee $0

If you’re looking to make more than 100 transactions a month, compare the best business banking options currently on the market.

Best checking account for college students

Capital One 360 Checking

0.1%
APY
None
Fees
None
Min. opening deposit
  • Early paydays. If you get paid via direct deposit, funds could arrive in your account up to two days early.
  • Earns interest. Unlike most no-fee checking accounts, this one earns 0.1% APY.
  • Overdraft protection. There are four ways to protect your account from overdraft charges: auto-decline, next-day grace period, a free transfer from your savings or an overdraft line of credit.
  • Limited branch access. Capital One primarily operates online, but it has a few branch locations spread throughout the US.
  • Credit checks. Expect a hard pull on your credit if you choose an overdraft line of credit as your overdraft protection option.
  • Other fees. Watch out for fees for overnight check deliveries, overnight card replacements, stop payment requests and more.
APY 0.1%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? No
Insufficient funds fee $9
ATM transaction fee $0
Paper statement fee $5
Wire transfer fee $40
Foreign transaction fee 0%
Overdraft fee $35

If you’re looking to grow your money with an interest-bearing account, you may want to compare the best checking accounts for students.

Best checking account for international travel

Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

0.03%
APY
None
Fees
$0.01
Min. opening deposit
  • APY. Earn 0.03% APY on your total balance, a rate on par with the national average.
  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements. Charles Schwab Bank automatically reimburses ATM fees for cash withdrawals — both in the US and internationally.
  • No foreign transaction fee. When you use your debit card to withdraw foreign currency from an ATM, your account is only charged for the US dollar equivalent of the transaction.
  • Hard credit check. Charles Schwab will perform a hard credit check when you apply for this account.
  • No international wire transfers. You can only send wire transfers within the US from a Charles Schwab Bank account.
  • No physical branches. There are no physical locations and all applications and account support are by phone, email and live chat.
APY 0.03%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? Yes
ATM transaction fee $0
Paper statement fee $0
Foreign transaction fee 0%
Overdraft fee $0

If you don’t want an account that may affect your credit score, compare the best international travel account options.

Best free checking account

Ally Bank Interest Checking

Up to 0.15%
APY
None
Fees
None
Min. opening deposit
  • No monthly fees. This checking account has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements to start.
  • Variable interest rates. You'll earn 0.1% on balances up to $14,999 and 0.15% on balances of $15,000 or more.
  • 24/7 customer service. Ally Bank offers 'round the clock customer support so you can get help anytime you need it.
  • No branch locations. Ally has 24/7 customer service, but there aren't any branch locations for in-person support.
  • No cash deposits. As with most online banks, Ally doesn't accept cash deposits. The only way around this is to get a money order and mail it in.
APY 0.15%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? Yes
ATM transaction fee $0
Foreign transaction fee 1%
Overdraft fee $25

If you’re looking for a checking account with more branch locations, compare your free checking account options with other providers.

Best checking account for cash back

Discover Cashback Debit

N/A
APY
None
Fees
None
Min. opening deposit
  • No fees. Discover Bank doesn't charge any monthly service fees or fees for replacement cards.
  • 1% cash back. You'll earn 1% cash back at any brick-and-mortar retailer and many online retailers.
  • ATM network. You can use your debit card to withdraw cash for free at more than 60,000 ATMs.
  • Cash back is capped. The most cash back you can earn is $30 a month.
  • No rewards on bills. You won't earn cash back on bills or recurring charges to your card.
  • Only one branch. Discover only has one branch, which is in Delaware.
APY 0%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? Yes
Insufficient funds fee $0
ATM transaction fee $0
Wire transfer fee $30
Overdraft fee $0
Accout closure fee $0

How to find the best checking account for you

When you’re shopping around, look for checking accounts that have the following features:
  • Minimal fees. Monthly maintenance and overdraft fees are known to eat into your bank account balance. Look for accounts that have little to no fees or ones that waive fees when you meet certain direct deposit or minimum balance requirements.
  • Low minimum deposit requirements. Some checking accounts have high minimum deposit requirements, while others let you open an account with as little as $0. Factor in how much money you have on hand when you’re shopping around for accounts.
  • Large ATM network. Checking accounts are designed for everyday spending, and the best ones make it easy to access your money everywhere you go. Look for bank accounts that have large ATM networks with no ATM network fees. Some banks will even reimburse fees you pay for using non-network ATMs.
  • Features that fit your priorities. Checking account features vary widely, so consider what you want your account to do for you. If you want it to make you money, look for one that earns interest. If you want to stay on top of spending, look for one that comes with budgeting tools.
  • Earns rewards. There are several checking accounts that pay interest or offer cashback rewards. And while you’ll generally earn more interest with a savings account and get more cashback with a credit card, some checking accounts do pay solid rewards and APY.
  • Keeps your money safe. A critical feature to consider when looking for the best checking account is whether it’s backed by an FDIC-insured bank. Banks that are FDIC insured keep your money is safe up to $250,000, even if the bank fails.
  • Good customer service. Look to see if the institution is strictly online or if you have the option of calling or visiting a local branch. If you prefer to talk to a teller about your financial decisions, you may want to consider a financial institution that has a physical presence.

3 experts on what makes the best checking account

We asked three experts to share their take on which features make a checking account “the best.” Here’s what they had to say:

Financial advice – Ricardo Flores – November 2020

profile pic

Ricardo Flores
Financial Advisor at The Product Analyst

Here’s my guide to clients on what makes a good checking account:

  1. Low fees. Always take a close look at the fees and whether it’s a reasonable spending. Avoid checking accounts with too much charge and those that don’t allow you to waive fees. Keep in mind that you’re choosing a checking account for convenience, and having to spend so much on fees, isn’t strategic for spending wisely.
  2. Accessibility. It’s best to find a checking account with a bank that offers a mobile app or online banking. Also check whether that bank has nearby ATMs for when you need cash. Consider your bank’s accessibility as this is a handy criteria for when errors or glitches happen. You wouldn’t want to travel miles just to fix a bank error.

Financial advice – Ben Premo – November 2020

profile pic

Ben Premo
Founder & CEO of TrueFees

There are a number of things that make a good checking account: high interest, digital features and low-cost. All checking accounts serve the same general purpose — to help manage your money while keeping it safe. In my opinion the best accounts are free of monthly fees and do not require a minimum balance.

Financial advice – Andrew Thake – November 2020

profile pic

Andrew Thake
Mortgage Broker at andrewthake.com

When evaluating what makes the “best” checking account, there are a few features that need to be considered based on your needs and other basic banking requirements.

First, you’ll want to verify what fees your financial institution charges you. Many banks will charge you a monthly fee if your balance is below a certain amount, so be sure to check the minimum balance requirements and how much they would charge if you would consider opening an account.

Then there are the ATM fees when accessing your money at an ATM that is not part of your bank. There are also overdraft fees. Many banks charge an overdraft fee once you’ve exceeded your limit. This is something else to be cautious about and understand your financial institution’s policy regarding this.

Finally, an essential feature that needs to be highly considered is whether the financial institution offers high-interest rates. However, most banks that have high rates will have a high minimum balance fee.

Therefore, if you would like, you can have your money split across several bank accounts. This can allow you to save in one account with high-interest rates while having regular access to your money with the other where the minimum monthly balance fee is low.

3 checking account alternatives

If you’re thinking a checking account may not be right for you, here are a few alternatives to consider:
  1. Money market accounts. A money market account is like a checking account. It comes with a debit card and check-writing privileges. But it has features that encourage you to save — such as a higher interest rate and a limit on monthly withdrawals.
  2. Digital bank accounts. Most digital banks offer all-in-one accounts designed for saving and spending. They also come with modern budgeting tools to help you track and manage your money.
  3. Prepaid debit cards. Similar to a second-chance checking account, many prepaid cards support direct deposit and ATM withdrawals and may be a good option if you can’t open a regular checking account. But they usually come with hefty fees.

Bottom line

There are thousands of providers offering checking accounts across the US. Knowing how to compare checking accounts with multiple providers can help you narrow your options and find the account that best fits your lifestyle.

Compare other checking accounts

Name Product APY Minimum deposit to open ATMs Out-of-network ATM fee
Chime Spending account
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5: ★★★★★
Chime Spending account
N/A
$0
60,000+ fee-free ATMs
$2.50
Get rid of fees with this financial app offering consumer-friendly accounts. Chime can also help you save easily and access your paycheck faster.
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
Finder Rating: 3.8 / 5: ★★★★★
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
Up to 1.00%
$10
55,000 free in-network ATMs
$0
Deposits are fossil fuel-free and insured by the FDIC. Enjoy a spend and save combo account with unlimited cash back rewards and a $100 bonus when you spend $1,000 in your first 60 days.
Chase Secure Banking℠
Chase Secure Banking℠
N/A
$0
Access to 16,000 ATMs and more than 4,700 branches nationwide
$2.50
Chase Secure Banking offers no overdraft services and $100 signup bonus to new Chase customers
Current
Finder Rating: 3.8 / 5: ★★★★★
Current
N/A
$0
over 55,000 free in-network ATMs
$0
Current connects your money to friends, family, brands, and experiences that matter.
Chase Total Checking®
Finder Rating: 3 / 5: ★★★★★
Chase Total Checking®
N/A
$0
Access to 16,000 ATMs and more than 4,700 branches nationwide
$2.50
Chase Total Checking is easy to use and gives you access to 16,000 ATMs and more than 4,700 branches. It offers a $225 signup bonus to new Chase customers
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