Checking vs. savings accounts

Paying bills or building your nest egg? Access to your money is the biggest difference.

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Checking and savings accounts are popular options that can keep your money safe. But one is better for saving and the other is designed to help you manage your money. Compare rates, fees, access and other features to find out which is right for you.

What’s the difference between checking and savings accounts?

Checking and savings accounts can both provide a safe place to keep your money. Compare their features to see which makes the most sense for your financial situation.

Checking Savings
About Provides easy access to your money with an ATM card and checks. Used as a convenient way to pay bills, withdraw cash, transfer funds and deposit paychecks. Designed to help you save by limiting access to your money to six withdrawals a month and paying interest on your balance. Most don’t come with ATM cards or checks.
Interest Sometimes Yes
Check writing Yes Rarely — varies by bank
ATM access Yes Rarely — varies by bank
FDIC insurance Yes Yes
Minimum deposit Varies widely, typically between $0 and $100+ Varies widely, typically between $0 and $500+
Six-transaction limit No Yes
Monthly fees Varies, typically $0 to $25+ Varies, typically $0 to $25+

Which is better for me, a checking or savings account?

Checking and savings accounts serve different purposes, but they can also work together. However, if you’re only looking for one, the best option will depend on what you plan to use it for.

Pick a checking account if …

  • You need unrestricted access to your money
  • You plan on making multiple transactions per month
  • You want features like overdraft protection and bill pay

Pick a savings account if …

  • You don’t need easy access to your money
  • You’re looking to save money and earn interest
  • You want to limit your spending

Should I get both?

Having both a checking account and a savings account could help you manage your money and save better. Your checking account provides flexible access to cover expenses, bills and more, and you can transfer any extra money to your savings account to earn interest. Plus, some banks allow you to set up overdraft protection that uses funds from your savings account to cover checking transactions.

Pros and cons of checking vs. savings accounts

Checking and savings accounts are both helpful banking products, but they each have their pros and cons:

Checking accounts

  • Unlimited access. With a checking account, you can make as many transactions as you’d like since there’s no federal restriction.
  • FDIC insurance. Checking accounts are eligible for FDIC insurance, which protects up to $250,000 of your money.
  • Features. Many checking accounts offer features like overdraft protection, bill pay, rewards programs and more.
  • No interest. Most checking accounts don’t pay interest, so your balance won’t grow while it sits in your account.
  • Potential fees. Checking accounts often have monthly fees and other charges for ATM usage, overdraft protection, paper billing and more.
  • Easy to overspend. With no limit on how many transactions you can make, there’s nothing stopping you from spending.

Savings accounts

  • Limits spending. Savings accounts are limited to six transfers per month, which can prevent you from spending and encourage you to save.
  • FDIC insurance. Savings accounts are also eligible for FDIC insurance, meaning your money is protected while it sits in your account.
  • Earns interest. Savings accounts pay interest on your balance, so you’ll earn money simply for holding a balance in the account.
  • Limited access. While savings accounts can limit your spending, they could also prevent you from accessing your money when you need it.
  • Deposits and fees. Savings accounts could have higher deposit requirements than checking accounts and will most likely have fees as well.
  • Lack of features. Unlike checking accounts that offer perks for using the account, savings accounts typically don’t have as many features.

Compare top-rated accounts

Name Product APY ATMs Fee
No ATM fees nationwide at more than 64,000 AllPoint, participating 7-Eleven and BBVA USA ATMs
A full-service account with convenient, surcharge-free access to two massive ATM networks.
More than 64,000 AllPoint, participating 7-Eleven and BBVA USA ATMs
(can be waived)
A full-service interest checking account that offers automatic rebates of ATM fees. Earn a $200 cash bonus when you add direct deposit.
Free to use anywhere worldwide
(can be waived)
Get a $1000 welcome bonus when you join Sapphire Banking by January 17, 2020. Within 45 days of joining, transfer a total of $75,000 or more in qualifying new money or securities to a combination of eligible checking, savings and/or investment accounts (excludes any J.P. Morgan retirement accounts and CDs), and maintain the balance for at least 90 days.
Access to 16,000 ATMs and nearly 5,000 branches nationwide
(can be waived)
Get a $200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking account and set up direct deposit within 60 days of opening your account. Chase's simplest checking account is easy to use and gives you access to 16,000 ATMs and nearly 5,000 branches.
38,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide
Linked checking and savings accounts from a mobile-first bank that’s light on fees.
5.09% on balances of $0 to $10,000
0.20% on balances of $10,000.01 to $25,000
0.10% on balances of $25,000.01 to
Over 30,000 ATMs and access to over 5,000 shared branches
Earn a super high 3.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you receive eDocuments, make 12+ debit card purchases totaling $100+ and direct deposit $500+ each month. Earn 4.09% APY if you also spend $500+ on CCU's credit card, or 5.09% if you also spend $1,000+ on the credit card monthly.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Interest rate (APY) Fee Minimum deposit to open
Earn 20x the national savings account average with no fees or minimums.
Enjoy no monthly fees and a competitive APY with this online-only savings account.
$15 per month
(can be waived)
Earn one of the highest annual percentage yields (APYs) if you live in one of 42 eligible states, and access your money by ATM, check or bill pay.
A super-high interest rate if you're in the habit of saving at least $100 per month or have $25K in the bank. Earn up to $300 Cash Bonus with a $50K deposit. Open to both current and new customers. Conditions apply
Betterment Everyday Savings
Betterment Everyday Savings
This savings account has no account and overdraft fees, plus it requires no minimum balance.
$5 per month
(can be waived)
Get a $150 bonus when you open a new Chase Savings account, deposit a total of $10,000 or more in new money within 10 business days and maintain a $10,000 balance for 90 days. Or get $350 when you open both a Chase Savings and Chase Total Checking account.

Compare up to 4 providers

How to compare checking accounts vs. savings accounts

To find out if you need a checking account or a savings account, think about features such as:

  • Interest rates. Most checking accounts don’t pay interest, while you could earn up to 2% or more with the right savings account.
  • Deposit requirements. Initial deposit requirements will vary whether you choose a savings or checking account, but checking accounts generally have lower requirements.
  • Features. Checking accounts often have more features such as overdraft protection, cash back and bill pay.
  • Fees. Checking accounts are more likely to have fees, but you should watch out for additional charges no matter which option you choose.
  • Access. Checking accounts give you more access to your money, but if you’re looking for an incentive to save, savings accounts have limits to discourage spending.
  • Security. Both accounts are eligible for FDIC deposit insurance, but only if the issuing bank is FDIC-insured.

Bottom line

Open a checking account to get easy access to your money or a savings account to earn interest and limit spending — or open both to cover all of your financial bases. Either way, compare options to find the right one for your financial needs.

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