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Banks charge fees for a number of things — not meeting minimum balance requirements, using out-of-network ATMs, monthly maintenance fees and more. Finding a checking account that doesn’t charge you fees can be tricky, but they do exist. But if you can’t find a free checking account, many banks will waive fees if certain conditions are met. Compare free checking accounts and check out these tips to save on bank fees.
Jump to a checking account…
Axos Bank Rewards Checking account
Best for high interest
Discover Cashback Debit account
Best for cash back
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account
Best for travel
Capital One 360 Checking account
Best for overdraft protection
Simple Online Checking account
Best for budgeting
Ally Bank Interest Checking account
How we chose the best free checking accounts
The best checking accounts are the ones that don’t charge obnoxious monthly fees that eat into your balance and help you reach your goals — whether it’s earning interest, getting cash back, or not paying international ATM fees. For our research, we evaluated several factors including ATM access, interest, fees, balance requirements and account features to bring you our top six picks.
What’s changed in 2020
For 2020, we focused on free checking accounts that strike a balance between minimal fees and reaching your spending goals. Most of those accounts were offered by online-only banks that offered the best features along with minimal fees.
Compare free checking accounts
How do free checking accounts work?
A truly free checking account will waive the monthly fee no matter how much you deposit into the account. Here’s how some popular checking accounts compare on monthly fees.
|Bank account||Monthly fee|
|Ally Bank||No monthly fee.|
|Bank of America Core Checking||$12, avoidable if you make at least one qualifying Direct Deposit of $250 or more or maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more, or meet other conditions.|
|BBVA Free Checking||No monthly fee.|
|Capital One 360 Checking||No monthly account fee or ATM fee.|
|Chase Premier Plus Checking||$25, avoidable if an average beginning day balance of $15,000 or more in any combination of this account and linked qualifying deposits Footnote/investments or have a linked qualifying Chase first mortgage enrolled in automatic payments Footnote from your Chase account.|
|Chase Total Checking||$12, avoidable if Direct deposits totaling $500 or more made to this account or a balance at the beginning of each day of $1,500 or more in this account or an average beginning day balance of $5,000 or more in any combination of this account and linked qualifying deposits/investments.|
|Citibank Simple Checking||$12, avoidable if you make one direct deposit per month and one bill payment per month, or maintain a $1,500 or higher monthly balance.|
|HSBC Basic Banking||$3, Regardless of balance, $0.35 for each check/withdrawal slip over 8, You may make an unlimited number of deposits without any additional charge.|
|US Bank Easy Checking||$6.95, avoidable if Combined monthly direct deposits totaling $1,000+ or an average account balance of $1,500+|
|Wells Fargo Everyday Checking||$10, avoidable if you make 10 monthly purchases/payments, make two direct deposits totaling $500 or more, hold a $1,500 minimum daily balance, or meet other qualifications.|
Other free bank accounts may waive ATM fees, lost card fees and other fees or could offer cash back rewards. Most free checking accounts still have backend fees for certain transactions, like overseas withdrawals and international transaction fees.
|What fee do you want to avoid?||Bank accounts that avoid this fee|
|Domestic ATM withdrawal fees|
|International money transfer fees|
Do free bank accounts earn interest?
It depends on the account. Most free accounts won’t reward you with interest, though you might get lucky and come across one that does. If not, there are many free savings accounts that reward you with higher interest rates to help grow your balance.
How do I compare free checking accounts?
Read the fee-free conditions
Some bank accounts will waive monthly fees when you meet conditions like balance requirements or making qualifying direct deposits each month. Requirements and conditions may vary, so you should read the terms and conditions to ensure that you won’t be charged.
Determine if your salary can cover the direct deposit
If an account requires a direct deposit each month, your paychecks may be enough to waive the monthly fee. Find out what the requirements are, then sign up for direct deposit with your employer.
Look at the other fees that apply
Free checking accounts will often waive the monthly service fee, but other fees could still apply. You may be charged for using your bank account overseas, sending or receiving wire transfers, ordering checks and more. Read the terms and conditions or fee schedule for a full breakdown of fees.
Linked debit card access
Many financial institutions will give you a debit card with a Visa or Mastercard logo, meaning you can use it at an ATM or for purchases. Beyond that, find out if you can link your debit card to other accounts.
ATM network and fees
Most banks charge a fee when you make an ATM withdrawal from an out of network ATM. You can save money by going with the financial institution with the largest ATM network, but you can also find banks that don’t charge ATM fees.
Other products offerings
Find out if the institution offers other products so that you can do all of your banking in one place and make instant transfers between your accounts.
How to avoid fees
Whether you open a free checking account or find an account that will waive the monthly service charge, there are still other fees to watch out for. Here’s how you can avoid getting charged fees on your checking account:
- Ensure you meet the conditions. If your bank will waive fees when certain conditions are met, ensure that you always meet the requirements.
- Get cash back from purchases. Instead of visiting an ATM, consider getting cash back when you make a purchase to avoid ATM fees.
- Avoid foreign transactions. Using your card abroad could rack up foreign transaction charges. Consider taking out cash before you travel, using a prepaid card or explore other types of travel money.
- Don’t overcharge your account. You’ll likely be charged about $35 every time you make a transaction that brings your balance below zero. While overdraft protection can ensure that these purchases are covered, you could rack up multiple charges in one day. Instead, consider setting up overdraft transfers, which uses money from a linked account to cover purchases when you have insufficient funds.
- Use in-network ATMs. Try to avoid using out of network ATMs, as you’ll be charged by the ATM owner and again by your bank.
- Make sure your deposits go through. Returned item fees can eat into your monthly budget even though you did nothing wrong. Try to avoid depositing checks that might bounce, as you’ll be on the hook for this fee.
- Pass on paper statements. Instead of getting a monthly statement in the mail, opt for online or e-statements and you could save a few dollars per month.
- Keep an eye on your transactions. Find out if your account has a transaction limit and make sure to stay below it to avoid unnecessary fees. On the contrary, make sure to make at least one transaction per month to avoid inactivity fees.
- Minimize wire transfers. Most banks charge for outgoing wire transfers, while some will even charge for incoming ones. If possible, try to use ACH or online transfers to avoid wire fees.
What are the pros and cons of free checking accounts?
- There are no monthly fees. By choosing a free bank account, you can save money every month.
- You get ATM access. Some give you deals on ATM transactions while others don’t charge for transactions at non-partner ATMs.
- Other benefits. Waiving the monthly service fee is the least you should expect. Some bank accounts give you other incentives like cash back or free checks.
- You still get charged other fees. Unfortunately, truly free checking accounts aren’t common. Banks will still charge for certain activities, like foreign transactions, going into overdraft or sending wire transfers. However, it’s possible to get by without incurring any of these fees.
- You could give up perks. Free checking accounts are a low-cost option designed for people looking to save. By choosing this account, you might be giving up valuable features that might be worth paying a small monthly fee for.
Free checking accounts are a great way to cut down on your monthly expenses without sacrificing the convenience of a checking account. And while there are a handful of free checking accounts available, you can also find plenty that will waive the monthly fee when certain conditions are met. Compare bank accounts to find one that fits your financial situation.
Common questions about free checking accounts
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