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The best free checking accounts for 2021

Compare seven free bank accounts that won't hit you with monthly fees.

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 free checking account comes with no monthly fees and the features you need to reach your goals. Most free checking accounts still have backend fees for certain transactions, like overseas withdrawals and international transaction fees. We researched over 150 accounts and evaluated factors like interest, fees, ATM access, balance requirements and account features to bring you our top six picks. Use this list to quickly compare your options and find the best account for you in minutes.

What’s changed in 2021?
We added a new category for best free teen checking account and chose Capital One MONEY because it has helpful features with no fees or minimum deposit requirements. We removed Simple from our list because it’s shutting down later this year. We also added a new category for best free small business checking account and named the BlueVine Business Checking account as the winner because it has no fees, has unlimited transactions and earns 1% APY.

The 7 best free checking accounts

Compare these seven free checking accounts by exploring their minimum deposit, features, and pros and cons.

Best free checking account for high interest

Axos Bank Rewards Checking

Axos Bank Rewards Checking logo
Finder Rating: 5 / 5

★★★★★

Apply now
at Axos Bank's secure site
Up to 1%
APY
None
Fees
$50
Min. opening deposit
  • High APY. This account earns up to 1% APY if you meet the requirements.
  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements. Axos reimburses all domestic ATM fees within one business day.
  • No fees. On top of having no monthly fees, Axos doesn't charge you for overdrafts or insufficient funds
  • Opening deposit requirements. You need at least $50 to open this account.
  • APY requirements. You can only earn interest if you receive at least $1,500 in direct deposits each month. And to earn the maximum APY, you must make 10 or more debit card purchases of $3 or more each month and open two Axos investment accounts and one personal loan.
APY 1%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? Yes
Insufficient funds fee $0
ATM transaction fee $0
Foreign transaction fee 1%
Overdraft fee $0

Best free checking account for small business owners

BlueVine Business Checking

Up to 1%
APY
None
Fees
None
Min. opening deposit
  • No hidden fees. BlueVine foregoes common banking fees for monthly maintenance, incoming wires, transactions, non-sufficient funds and more.
  • Accepts cash deposits. Unlike most digital bank accounts, this one actually accepts cash deposits at any Green Dot location. While BlueVine doesn't charge a fee for this service, the retailer may charge up to $4.95 per deposit.
  • Earns interest. You'll earn a solid 1% APY on the first $100,000 in your account. This rate is higher than most high-yield savings accounts available today.
  • No other accounts. While BlueVine does have a loans program, it doesn't have any savings, money market or CD accounts to complement your checking account.
  • Limited customer service. BlueVine customer service is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, but it has limited hours on Saturday and doesn't operate on Sundays.
APY 1%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? Yes
Insufficient funds fee $0
ATM transaction fee $0
Overdraft fee $0

Best free checking account for teens

Capital One Money

0.1%
APY
None
Fees
None
Min. opening deposit
  • Earns interest. Unlike most teen checking accounts, Capital One Money earns 0.1% APY on your total balance.
  • No overdraft charges. Your teen won't have to worry about overdraft fees with Capital One because any charge that would drop their balance below $0 is automatically declined.
  • Savings tools. Your teen can create savings goals, track expenses and more in the Capital One mobile app.
  • No 24/7 support. Unlike most banks of its size, Capital One doesn't have 'round the clock support. Phone support is available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET.
  • No checks or bill pay. Your teen won't be able to write checks or pay bills with this account, which may limit withdrawals.
APY 0.1%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? No
ATM transaction fee $0
Paper statement fee $5

Best free checking account for cash back

Discover Cashback Debit

N/A
APY
None
Fees
None
Min. opening deposit
  • Earn rewards. Discover rewards you with 1% cash back on up to $3,000 eligible debit card purchases a month &mdash
  • meaning you could earn up to $360 a year.
  • No monthly fees. There's no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees. Plus, you won't pay for incoming wire transfers.
  • Fee forgiveness. Each year, Discover reimburses one insufficient fund or stop payment fee charged to your account.
  • No cash deposits. But you can still deposit checks through your mobile phone, set up direct deposits and make online transfers.
  • Withdrawal limits. You can't withdraw more than $510 a day at ATMs.
  • Limited in-person support. Discover operates almost entirely online and only has one branch location in Greenwood, 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

Best free checking account for travel

Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

0.03%
APY
None
Fees
$0.01
Min. opening deposit
  • Worldwide ATM reimbursements. Take advantage of free in-network ATMs and unlimited reimbursements at non-network ATMs worldwide.
  • No foreign transaction fees. You'll never pay fees for foreign transactions, checks, stop payments and more.
  • Earns interest. Although lower than other accounts, the 0.03% APY is on par with the national average.
  • Brokerage account requirements. To open this account, you must have a Charles Schwab brokerage account.
  • No foreign wire transfers. While this account has a lot of international features, you can't send or receive wire transfers from outside the US.
  • Hard pull. Charles Schwab does a hard pull on your credit when you open this account.
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

Best free checking account for overdraft protection

Capital One 360 Checking

0.1%
APY
None
Fees
None
Min. opening deposit
  • 0.1% APY. While most checking accounts don't earn any interest, this one earns 0.1% on your balance. You'll never pay fees for foreign transactions, checks, stop payments and more.
  • Overdraft protection. This account has four overdraft protection options to choose from: auto-decline, next-day grace period, a free transfer from your savings or an overdraft line of credit.
  • Early paydays. If your employer pays you via direct deposit, your paycheck could arrive in your account up to two days early.
  • Limited branch access. Capital One operates primarily online, so don't expect to find a branch location on every corner.
  • Credit checks. There's a hard pull on your credit if you choose an overdraft line of credit as your overdraft protection option.
  • Other fees. Capital One doesn't charge monthly fees, but there are other miscellaneous fees for overnight check deliveries, overnight card replacements and stop payment requests.
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

Best free checking account overall

Ally Bank Interest Checking

Up to 0.15%
APY
None
Fees
None
Min. opening deposit
  • Variable interest. Earn 0.1% on balances up to $14,999 and 0.15% on balances of $15,000 or more.
  • No minimum balance. On top of having no fees, you also never have to worry about keeping a certain amount of money in your account.
  • 24/7 customer support. Ally Bank is always available by phone or email.
  • No branch locations. Ally Bank is 100% online, so you can't visit a branch for in-person support.
  • No cash deposits. The only way to deposit cash is to buy a money order and mail it to Ally.
APY 0.15%
Account fees $0 monthly
Can the fee be waived? Yes
ATM transaction fee $0
Foreign transaction fee 1%
Overdraft fee $25

How to choose the best free checking account

When choosing the best free bank account for you, consider these six factors:

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.

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What are the pros and cons of free checking accounts?

Free checking accounts have a few features and drawbacks worth noting:

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

3 pesky checking account fees to avoid

Aside from monthly maintenance fees, there are 30+ sneaky fees that could eat into your balance. Here are the three most common fees you’ll see when comparing checking accounts:

  1. ATM fee. Most banks and credit unions charge a fee if you use an out-of-network ATM, averaging $3.08 per transaction, on top of whatever the ATM owner charges.
  2. Paper statement fee. If you get your bank statement in the mail, it may run you a few dollars every month. Most checking accounts offer free e-statements to bypass the monthly paper statement fee.
  3. Overdraft fee. If you overdraw from your checking account, you may get hit with a non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee, which costs $33.47 on average. Though we’ve mostly seen accounts with overdraft fees of $35.

What banks offer free checking?

This table highlights banks that offer free bank accounts with no monthly fees, along with those that have no fees for domestic ATMs, overdrafts and international money transfers.

What fee do you want to avoid?Bank accounts that avoid this fee
Monthly fees
  • Ally Bank Interest Checking
  • BBVA Free Checking
  • Capital One 360 Checking
Domestic ATM withdrawal fees
  • Ally Bank Interest Checking
  • Capital One 360 Checking
  • Chase Premier Plus Checking
  • Chase Total Checking®
  • Citibank Full-Feature Relationship Checking
  • HSBC Basic Banking
  • US Bank Easy Checking
  • Wells Fargo Everyday Checking
Overdraft fees
  • Citibank Affordable Access Banking
International money transfer fees
  • Capital One 360 Checking

    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 accountMonthly fee
    Ally BankNo 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 CheckingNo monthly fee.
    Capital One 360 CheckingNo 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.

    Compare banks with free checking accounts

    Use the table to sort free checking accounts by ATM fees, overdraft fees, foreign transaction fees and more. View your top picks side-by-side by clicking the “Compare” box next to each.

    Name Product Fee ATM transaction fee Overdraft fee Nonsufficient funds fee Foreign transaction fee
    Aspiration Spend & Save Account
    $0 per month or $7.99 per month for Aspiration Plus ($5.99 per month if you pay annually)
    $0
    $0
    $0
    1%
    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.
    OnJuno
    $0
    $0
    $0
    0%
    OnJuno embraces an open banking system for everyone, regardless of their age, location, or income.
    Chime Spending account
    $0
    $0
    $0
    0%
    Get rid of fees with this financial app offering consumer-friendly accounts. Chime can also help you save easily and access your paycheck faster.
    Axos Bank Essential Checking
    $0
    $0
    $0
    $0
    No fees. Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements.
    BBVA Free Checking
    $0
    $0
    $38
    $38
    3%
    Pay a $0 monthly Service Charge and get free access to BBVA ATMs.
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    Compare up to 4 providers

    Bottom line

    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

    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 know if an account is really fee-free?

    There are many accounts that waive the monthly transaction fee; however, other fees may still apply. Common backend fees include:

    • Statement reissuing.
    • Additional card.
    • Telephone banking transactions and staff-assisted transactions made at a branch.
    • Overdraft.
    • Purchase in a foreign currency.
    • Overseas ATM withdrawals.

    Can I overdraft my transaction account?

    No. While BBVA supports Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, these features are available in association with a BBVA Visa.

    Can I open a bank account with no money?

    Yes. Many banks let you open an account with no money, but plenty of other banks do require a minimum initial deposit. Compare free checking accounts before making a decision.

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    2 Responses

      Default Gravatar
      CandyDecember 9, 2018

      Does bank of America have a fee free checking account if so where do I apply

        Default Gravatar
        nikkiangcoDecember 12, 2018

        Hi Candy,

        Thanks for reaching out! Upon checking, Bank of America doesn’t have a fee free checking account. Hope this was helpful. Don’t hesitate to message us back if you have more questions.

        Best,
        Nikki

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