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Checking account ratings methodology

How we rate checking accounts

A checking account is a core component of money management: It’s where your paycheck is likely deposited and where your bills are paid from. Our editorial team objectively compares and ranks these instrumental accounts to provide you an overall rating of how useful each can be to your overall money management strategy.

Our ratings are designed to help you compare the overall performance of a checking account or related spending-focused app and debit card — and not just the numbers.

You may have noticed that our checking account pages, tables and reviews come with scores. They’re there to help you figure out how good a company and its products are, at a single glance. But they wouldn’t be fair, and we wouldn’t be transparent, if we didn’t tell you how we came up with them.

We publish two types of scores:

  • Finder’s expert score. Our experts rate the features of a checking account, how much it costs and what it offers to users.
  • User reviews. We ask you to tell us about your experience as a customer of the brands we cover. You can submit a comment directly through the relevant review, and each year we gather more user reviews through a customer survey. We show the results of this survey in an annual league table, and use it to determine our annual customer satisfaction awards, too.

Finder’s expert scores

We analyze and weigh evenly seven distinct factors of checking: monthly fees, the ease at which monthly fees can be waived, the breadth of ATM networks, ATM fees, overdraft fees, features and customer service. But we rate APY and requirements to earn APY separately because interest isn’t a common checking account feature. We only consider this factor when rating interest-bearing checking accounts. For those that don’t earn interest, we don’t weigh an APY rating.

Our ratings are designed to provide you with a starting point. But what’s good for one person might not be best for your needs. Read our comprehensive reviews before signing up for a checking account, app or debit card.

Our ratings

We rate saving accounts using a system of one to five stars.

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

How we rate monthly fees

Monthly maintenance fees on checking or spending accounts are becoming a sticking point within the industry, so our first two ratings scores focus on how easy it is to avoid paying a regular fee.

We reserve excellent ratings for accounts that forgo monthly fees. And the higher the potential fees on a checking account or the harder it is to get that fee waived, the lower its score.

Monthly fees can add up quickly, eating into your hard-earned income. While many banks offer to waive monthly fees on checking accounts, the balance some of them require you to keep up in order to avoid paying can be steep. And it often doesn’t earn you much interest, if at all. That money would grow more more quickly stored away in a savings account. We rate monthly fees based on this scale:

★★★★★ — $0/month

★★★★☆ — $1 to $5/month

★★★☆☆ — $6 to $10/month

★★☆☆☆ — $11 to $25/month

★☆☆☆☆ — $26+/month

How we rate ATM access and fees

Behind avoiding fees, accessing your money is often high on the list of important checking features. We reserve excellent ratings for accounts with banks that offer or partner with others to offer free access to the largest number of ATMs. Those with small networks or limited affiliations with ATM networks earn lower ratings.

ATM fees can also be a drain or hinder access to your money, so accounts with free ATM access, fee rebates or low ATM transaction fees fare better in our ratings.

★★★★★ — 50,000 or more ATMs

★★★★☆ — 35,000 to 49,999 ATMs

★★★☆☆ — 15,000 to 34,999 ATMs

★★☆☆☆ — 5,000 to 14,999 ATMs

★☆☆☆☆ — Fewer than 5,000 ATMs

How we rate overdraft fees

Checking accounts are designed for the constant inflow and outflow of money, but it means that your balance may run low before payday. We understand that banks need to protect themselves from losing money, but we also recognize that overdraft fees are a major source of pain for account holders. Many fees are excessive, given the advancements in technology and alternatives available to help you cover temporary shortages. For our ratings, the higher the fee, the lower the score.

★★★★★ — $0

★★★★☆ — $1 to $32

★★★☆☆ — $33 to $35

★★☆☆☆ — $36 to $38

★☆☆☆☆ — $39+

How we rate features

Checking accounts give you easy access to your money. But some offer features that set them apart from other accounts. For instance, some may offer rewards, automations, budgeting tools, cryptocurrencies and/or ATM reimbursements. We rate these accounts based on the number of features available.

★★★★★ — 5 or more features

★★★★☆ — 3 to 4 features

★★★☆☆ — 2 features

★★☆☆☆ — 1 feature

★☆☆☆☆ — No features

How we rate APYs

Since most checking accounts don’t earn interest we don’t consider this factor when rating APY. However, if it’s an interest-bearing checking account, we rate and weight them based on the following interest rates.

★★★★★ — 1%+ APY

★★★★☆ — 0.11% to 0.99% APY

★★★☆☆ — 0.04% to 0.10% APY

★★☆☆☆ — 0.01% to 0.09% APY

★☆☆☆☆ — We don’t issue ratings on this metric

How we rate requirements to earn interest

Although there are some checking accounts that earn interest, some make you jump through hoops to earn it. For instance, some may require you to maintain a specific minimum daily or monthly balance, make a certain number of deposits and/or complete a certain number of transactions with your debit card. For interest-bearing checking accounts we rate, we consider the following ratings based on account restrictions to earn interest.

★★★★★ — No APY requirements / Paid out on a daily/monthly basis

★★★★☆ — Easy APY requirements (e.g., keeping a low minimum balance or direct deposits)

★★★☆☆ — APY Interest paid out on a quarterly basis

★★☆☆☆ — Requires a high balance or high amount of transactions each month

★☆☆☆☆ — Difficult requirements / Paid out on an annual basis

How we rate customer support

We base our customer review rating based on how many options you have to reach a rep. When weighing options, we consider how you can communicate with the bank about your account. Higher ratings go to banks that offer phone support beyond traditional business hours, along with email, live chat and social media options.

★★★★★ — 5 or more options

★★★★☆ — 4 options

★★★☆☆ — 3 options

★★☆☆☆ — 2 options

★☆☆☆☆ — 1 option

Your reviews and our customer survey

You can see review stars at the top of our review pages, if they’ve received more than 10. These are from consumers just like you who use our site and want to review the products and providers they use. We include responses we’ve received in our annual customer satisfaction surveys. We also show the results of each survey in a league table in guides and in our awards pages.

In December 2022, we ran a customer satisfaction survey on checking accounts. We received 2,944 responses from customers who told us how happy (or not) they were with their checking account provider. We’ve turned their answers into a star rating of between 1 and 5 and we show this in our annual league table of bank account providers.

★★★★★ – Excellent

★★★★★ – Good

★★★★★ – Average

★★★★★ – Subpar

★★★★★ – Poor

Customer satisfaction score methodology

The survey asked respondents how satisfied they are with their checking account on a scale from 1 to 5, and whether they would recommend it to a friend. We turned the answers into an overall star rating that takes into account:

  • How many people would recommend the account vs. how many people wouldn’t. If you say you’d recommend your bank to a friend this forms 50% of our customer satisfaction rating.
  • How many people rated a provider five out of five. This counts for 25% of our customer satisfaction rating.
  • The average score each checking account provider got. This tells us if a bank offers quite a solid service even though it doesn’t have loads of top ratings — or if it’s just not that great. This parameter forms the last 25% of our overall customer satisfaction score.

More guides on Finder

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2 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    JanetDecember 15, 2019

    I’m trying to get my account number and routing number for my job I have my card I had to change my phone and my email and password and now I can’t get my account number and routing number do I need a new account number and routing number

      Default Gravatar
      nikkiangcoDecember 17, 2019

      Hi Janet,

      Thanks for your comment and I hope you are doing well.

      Sorry to hear you are having trouble getting your account and routing number. Even if you change your personal details, you will still have the same unique identification numbers of your card. It would be best to contact your bank directly for further assistance.

      Hope this helps and feel free to reach out to us again for further assistance.


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