Best Free Checking Accounts

Having a checking account is the best option for everyday banking, like paying bills, making purchases and managing your money. But many checking accounts, even at the top banks, charge monthly fees for having a checking account.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of free checking accounts. You can get one from one of the big banks like Chase, Capital One and Wells Fargo, online-only banks, and your local credit unions.

We made our choices for the best free checking accounts by focusing on a few different factors.

For example, most people want accounts that offer free transactions and access to fee-free ATMs. We also focused on accounts that have the potential of earning interest and feature good online banking options, high transaction limits, no or low minimum balance requirements and more.

Axos Rewards Checking Account

High interest rates are typically reserved for high-yield savings accounts, but in most cases, you won’t get much interest at all with a checking account. With online bank Axos, however, you’ll earn a remarkably competitive APY with its Axos Bank Rewards Checking account.

To earn that maximum APY on the account, though, there are requirements you need to satisfy.

For each of the requirements you satisfy, you’ll earn an APY consistent with the schedule above on your balance for the month. This means you’ll need to do some legwork to make sure you qualify for the full APY each month. However, if you regularly use a debit card as your primary payment method and you can easily meet the direct deposit requirement with your paychecks, you may not have to keep track.

It’s worth noting that the monthly direct deposit requirement must be met to be eligible to earn any interest during the statement cycle, regardless of whether the other interest-earning requirements are met.

In addition to a high interest rate, this free checking account also offers:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements
  • No overdraft or non-sufficient fund fees
  • No monthly minimum balance requirement

Axos Essential Checking Account

Axos Essential Checking is a solid option for fans of online banking. Accounts have no monthly fees and no opening deposit or ongoing balance requirements. As an online bank, Axos doesn’t have its own ATM network but does offer unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements.

Select Axos Essential Checking customers with direct deposits get paid up to two days early through Direct Deposit Express. Accessibility to the program depends on your employer’s payroll servicer and how and when they handle deposits.

Your money is accessible almost anywhere in the world, thanks to Axos Bank’s mobile app, available on iOS and Android. Manage accounts and make free mobile deposits on the go. Axos accounts also come with online access.

Unfortunately, this online bank doesn’t come with any check-writing privileges, although Axos customers can use its free online bill pay feature.

Nationwide My Checking Account

Nationwide My Checking is an online checking account with no monthly fee, and it offers many popular features of most online checking accounts today. That means it is an internet-only account with no bank branch to visit. If you are new to online and mobile banking, it’s a great way to handle all of your financial needs yourself from the comfort of home, couch or commute.

Nationwide My Checking account holders can use their ATM card at any ATM in the United States with no fees from your bank. There are no in-network ATM rules. If the ATM owner charges a fee, you will be reimbursed for those ATM fees with no limits. That means you can use any ATM in an airport, at a gas station, in a convenience store or anywhere else your travels take you surcharge-free.

My Checking also offers early direct deposit. If you are always anxiously awaiting payday for your direct deposit to show up in your account, this feature could help you get paid up to two days early. Most employers send direct deposit information in advance so employees can get their “paycheck” on a specific day. Read our full review of My Checking.

Free Checking Account FAQs

  • While it may not be easy to find a bank that offers low or no fees for wire transfers, there are some. Some banks that offer low or no fees for wire transfers can include Ally, Fidelity, Capital One 360, Axos, and more. In some cases, the fee you pay may vary based on the kind of account you have, so double check the account terms and fees. Fees may also vary depending on whether it is an incoming, outgoing or international transfer.

  • Many banks allow you to use ATMs within their network of machines for free. In some cases, this can provide you with access to thousands of ATMs free of charge.

    However, if you want free ATM transactions outside of your bank’s network, you may want to consider some online banks, as most of them offer ATM fee reimbursements. In addition, brick-and-mortar banks like Charles Schwab will reimburse your fees at the end of the month, including in some international ATMs.

  • The minimum amount of money needed to open a checking account varies by bank. Some banks offer free checking accounts with no minimum opening deposit, while others only require as little as $25 to open an account. 

  • There are many choices when it comes to low-cost checking accounts, including options from Axos, Discover, nbkc, PenFed and more. Make sure you review all the terms before opening an account, including monthly maintenance fees, required opening deposit, or direct deposit minimums necessary to waive any monthly fees. Check out our roundup above for some of the best free checking accounts.