Best Checking Accounts of 2020 - Compare Free Checking Accounts
Modern-day checking accounts have the potential to do so much more than provide consumers with an easy method of payment. Today, you can have your checking account earn money for you, provide you with valuable shopping benefits, and give you an edge in specific situations.

For that reason, it’s important to know as much as you can about what’s available and what each company has to offer you. Here’s a more detailed look at some of the best checking accounts in the industry today, along with just what they have to offer.

Best checking accounts overview

Checking Account Best ForMinimum BalanceAPY
Discover Cashback DebitAll-AroundNone0%
Radius BankUnlimited Cash BackNone0.15%
FNBO DirectFNBO Direct Online Users$10.65%
HSBC Premier CheckingBonus Cash BackNone0.01%
USAAMilitary MembersNone0.01%

Best all-around checking account: Discover

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Discover Cashback Debit

  • Minimum balance: None
  • APY: 0%
  • Sign-up bonus: $0
  • Monthly fee: $0

Discover checking accounts are some of the most lucrative options available. For one thing, there are many freebies involved. No monthly fees, free check reordering, free debit card replacement, and free online banking make Discover a valid option for those on a budget.

Not only is it a free checking account, something that is rare in and of itself, but Discover also offers a rewards program connected to your checking account. That is unheard of. Here are some features of the Discover checking account:

  • No monthly fees
  • Live help
  • No minimum balance
  • Cash back program
  • Signup bonus

You’ll be able to access loads of ATMs across the country (and the world). The cash back program awards you with 1% each time you make a purchase using your debit card (up to $3,000 per month), so you are earning money back every time you spend. You are not required to keep a minimum balance, another big perk on Discover’s side.

Open account/get details or read our full Discover Cashback Debit review.

Best checking for unlimited cash back: Radius Bank

Best Free Checking Accounts Of 2020 - Radius Bank

Radius Bank

  • Minimum opening deposit: $100
  • Minimum balance: None
  • APY: 0.15%
  • Monthly fee: $0

Radius Bank is a very enticing free online checking option if you want to earn cashback on your purchases. You’ll earn up to 1.5% unlimited cashback on purchases made with a Radius debit card.

Even when you aren’t spending, your Radius Bank account is earning you money. You can earn up to 0.15% APY on your balance. If your balance hits or exceeds $100,000, your interest rate can even go as high as 0.20% APY.

Here are some other features you’ll get with your free Radius Bank checking account.

  • No monthly fees
  • Apply online in under 3 minutes; manage entirely online afterwards
  • No minimum balance requirement after you open your account with $100
  • Cash back program
  • Early access to funds with direct deposit

Best of all, with Radius Bank, you have easy access to your funds at all times. Not only can you use the mobile app, but you can use any ATM to deposit checks or withdraw funds. Radius Bank rebates any fees you pay, including those charged by the banks that own the ATMs you use.

If you ever need help with your account, you can access customer support via text, chat, and phone. Support is available seven days a week, almost around the clock.

Open account/get details or read our full Radius Bank review.

Best online checking account: FNBO Direct

FNBO Direct

  • Minimum balance: $1 to open account
  • APY: 0.65%
  • Sign-up bonus: None
  • Monthly fee: None

FNBO or First National Bank of Omaha is a small, almost overlooked bank, but it would be a real shame if you did because this bank is truly online banking done right. For people who are not interested in long lines, drab tellers, and inconvenient interactions, First National Bank is the perfect solution for you. Here are some of the benefits FNBO has to offer with its checking accounts:

  • Visa Direct debit card
  • Two million+ ATMs globally
  • Overdraft forgiveness
  • Free incoming wires
  • Free stop payments

To begin with, First National Bank waives several fees that most other banks do not. For example, you won’t have to pay for incoming wires or to put a stop on payments. And in terms of monthly fees, you’ll never have to worry about any of those. Customers will also appreciate the free person-to-person payment option, handled by Popmoney.

As mentioned, First National Bank checking accounts are also extremely convenient. You can do everything online, from tracking your debit card activity to actually paying your bills directly from your checking account. You can even arrange recurring payments for frequent charges like utility bills and schools. First National Bank allows customers to set up direct deposits into their checking account as well, so your recurring payments will always be covered.

Open account/get details or read our full FNBO Direct review.

 

Best checking account with an up front bonus: HSBC Premier Checking

HSBC Premier Checking AccountHSBC Checking

  • Minimum balance: None
  • APY: 0.01%
  • Up Front Bonus: 3% Cash back on your direct deposits – up to $600 the first six months
  • Monthly fee: $50; but waived with one of three qualifying activities

HSBC is now offering it’s Premier Checking Account with the ability to earn 3% cash back on every direct deposit you make, and a maximum of $100 cash back can be earned in a single month ($600 cash back max over the first six months).

The drawback for this account is in it’s monthly maintenance fee.  There’s a $50 for account holders BUT that fee can be waived by accomplishing one item from this list:

  • Set up direct deposits totaling at least $5,000 per month
  • Have a mortgage with an initial balance of at least $500,000 with HSBC
  • Keep an average daily balance of $75,000 in your HSBC deposit and investment accounts (in total)

I think the easiest thing to accomplish for those with a decent wage is to keep the direct deposits coming in your HSBC Premier Checking account.  Coincidentally, it’s also the best way to ensure you receive the maximum cash back amount per month; so this account is perfect for people who can consistently bring app德扑圈官方网址home $60k plus from their work.

Open account/get details or read our full HSBC Premier Checking review.

Best checking account for military members: USAA

USAA

  • Minimum balance: None ($25 minimum opening balance)
  • APY: 0.01%
  • Sign-up bonus: None
  • Monthly fee: $0

USAA is an exclusive military banking service that provides the flexibility, ease of use, and reach that service families need. Since military personnel and their families are usually on the move or settling in far-flung locations, the USAA banking system provides plenty of benefits to suit these requirements, and the checking accounts available offer just as much convenience and understanding. Here are some highlights:

  • 60,000+ ATMs around the world
  • No monthly fees
  • No monthly balances
  • Finance management tools

As long as you are military personnel or a family member of one, USAA has a lot to offer, and USAA is particularly accommodating to young adults and college students. You can choose from 4 different kinds of checking accounts including:

  • Classic checking
  • College checking
  • Youth spending
  • Military recruits checking

USAA requires that you open your account with a minimum of $25, but after that, there are no minimum balance requirements. Also, new recruits won’t need to pay the minimum opening requirement either. Regardless of which account you choose, there are no monthly fees whatsoever. You can use the more than 60,000 ATMs around the globe for free (up to ten times a month), and you’ll get up to $15 reimbursement on ATM fees not included in USAA’s network. Finally, USAA works directly with DFAS for faster direct payments, provides prefilled 1199A forms, and minimizes charges for military members.

Open account/get details or read our full USAA Bank review.

What to look for in a checking account

With so many financial institutions offering checking accounts today, you might start to feel a little light-headed at the options. Wondering which checking account is right for you? Here are a few key factors to look at before you open an account of your own:

No or low monthly maintenance fees

If a checking account costs you $10 a month to hold onto, you’re being charged $120 a year for nothing. There are too many free checking account options for you to be paying even a nominal $5 per month.

Most of the choices found on this list are monthly maintenance fee-free like the Discover Checking, Aspiration, and FNBO Direct Checking. The HSBC accounts are practically free since the monthly fee is waived if you maintain a minimal balance and/or direct deposit.

Bottom line, don’t settle for a checking account that charges a monthly fee. Ever.

Transaction limitations

Many checking accounts will waive the monthly fee (all of the cool banks are doing it), but they’ll hit you somewhere else it really hurts. Namely, transactions.

Checking accounts that limit your transaction ability or charge hefty fees after the first few transactions kind of defeat the purpose of a fee-free account. Look for an account instead that offers no limitations on withdrawals, deposits, and money transfers.

ATM access

Another important “feature” of a good checking account is the accessibility of ATMs. This is another area where banks often hit unsuspecting customers hard because when you’re stuck without cash and need to take out money, you’ll do it at any ATM you can find, even if it incurs a hefty service charge.

A good checking account will have ample ATMs across the country and won’t charge you for using them. HSBC and Discover have tens of thousands of machines all over the world and won’t charge you to use them. Aspiration really takes the cake here though, allowing you to use any machine anywhere, reimbursing you any service fees incurred.

Mobile app or online access

While you might not consider yourself the most tech-savvy individual, most people would be hard-pressed to name a service that they use on a regular basis that doesn’t offer online or mobile access.

In today’s connected society, we need everything easily accessible, at our fingertips, 24/7, and that includes our banking. Not every bank will offer a dedicated mobile app, but a good checking account option will, at the very least, have smooth, integrated online access. If you can take that experience to your mobile device, well, that’s all the better.

Pros & cons of different types of checking accounts

When you are weighing your options, it’s important to consider the different types of checking accounts before you settle on the one that’s right for you. After all, what’s good for one person or situation won’t be good for someone else.

Here are a few of the pros and cons associated with the most common types of checking accounts:

High-yield checking account

Pros:

  • Low or no monthly fees
  • Can accrue interest on your balance

Cons:

  • Must maintain a high balance throughout the month, each month

Good for:

  • If you keep several thousands of dollars in your checking account each month, a high-yield checking account is great for you.

Rewards checking account

Pros:

  • Earn rewards on everyday spending
  • Get a lower interest rate after a certain amount of usage

Cons:

  • Usually come with higher than average monthly fees

Good for:

  • People who use bank services such as debit cards, direct deposit, and other bank services on a regular basis will benefit from this rewards program

Second-chance checking account

Pros:

  • Low minimum balance requirements
  • Low monthly fees

Cons:

  • Generally restrict your access to some basic services until you’ve “proven” yourself to be trustworthy

Good for:

  • Anyone whose account has been closed for delinquent payments or behavior and wants a second chance

Joint checking account

Pros:

  • Easily allows two people to access the same account
  • Useful for couples, colleagues, or relatives to share their resources

Cons:

  • Can easily fall into overdraft because multiple users are withdrawing from the same account

Good for:

  • Couples who want to have a communal household budget account

FAQs about our best checking accounts

There’s a lot of information about different types of checking accounts. Is there an easy way to figure out which one is really the best for me?

While every person and situation is unique, there are a few basic ITTT scenarios when it comes to checking accounts. For example,

  • If you regularly carry a balance of more than say $2,500, then you might as well enjoy the benefits of a high-yield checking account. These come with no monthly fees and offer you a chance to get your money working for you.
  • If you have bounced many checks, had an account closed in the past, or have many unresolved bills, you may be limited to which accounts you can open. If this is your situation, a second-chance account may be your best option.
  • If you need to share your account with a business partner, spouse, or older child, a join account is helpful.

If you’re still not sure, read through some of our other articles about checking accounts to get a better idea of which one is suitable for every situation.

I deposited a check from my landlord for some repairs I covered last month, but the money isn’t in my account. Why not?

To understand why your money isn’t in your account, you have to understand how the money actually gets to your account to begin with. It’s not an instantaneous thing, despite living in a primarily digital world, it’s a process. The money has to go to a clearing house, and then to the writer’s bank, and then finally the funds are transferred to your bank. Since the process takes time, the money only shows up a few days later. And sometimes, there’s a lag at one of the stages, taking longer to get to your account.

Other reasons a check may take longer to clear is if there’s a hold on your account, the check is from out of state, or for some other reason including bank clerical errors. If you don’t see the money in your account after standard business processing time, be in touch with your bank to ensure there wasn’t a mistake on their end.

I had a rough month last month and ended up withdrawing more than I had in my account. What will happen to my checking account?

Many checking accounts offer overdraft protection. This insurance policy is helpful if you’re traveling and not keeping track of your expenses or if you have a month when you’re withdrawing a lot. It’ll basically cover you for the amount that you’ve overdrawn from your account. If you don’t have this insurance, the transaction will probably not go through.

Just remember, though, with overdraft protection you are getting charged a fee for the protection and you’ll still have to pay back the money (it’s not free!) So, account holders need to be careful not to get too comfortable with overdraft protection or you could wind up in substantial debt.

I bounced a check recently. I thought I had money in the account but it wasn’t enough to cover the full amount. Now what?

Bouncing a check is bad on two counts:

  1. You will have to pay a service fee. Chances are you’ll pay two, one to the bank and another one to the merchant (recipient of the check). With bounced check fees averaging around $27 a piece, you’re talking about a pricey mistake if you make it too often.
  2. You’ll end up getting a mark on your record for delinquent behavior. Bouncing a check is a sign of irresponsible account maintenance. This is not a good sign and can affect future financial options.

You’ll want to do your best to avoid bouncing checks, and if it’s already happened, deal with it responsibly and then put a plan into place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Summary

Today, checking accounts not only make life easier, but they come with a lot of benefits to the account holder as well. Don’t just settle for the first offer you get; check out the more in-depth reviews for these and other checking accounts available to find the best, most competitive option for you in 2018.

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About the

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David Weliver is the founder of Money Under 30. He's a cited ity on personal finance and the unique money issues he faced during his first two decades as an adult. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

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