best free checking account

5 Best Free Checking Accounts in 2021

If you are like most people, your checking account is the account you use most often. Though you may not notice small fees here and there, they can add up over time. This is particularly true of overdraft fees, overdraft protection fees and monthly maintenance fees, all of which can prove to be a huge drain on your time and energy. The good news is that there are fee-free checking accounts out there, the best of which you can explore below.

The Top 5 Best Free Checking Accounts

  • Axos Bank® Rewards Checking: Best interest accruing account
  • Discover Bank® Cashback Debit Account: Best for cashback rewards
  • Chime Spending Account: SpotMe program
  • Simple Checking & Budgeting: Best budgeting programs
  • Varo Bank Account: Large fee-free ATM network

5 Best Checking Accounts

Axos Bank® Rewards Checking – Above Average APY

Axos Bank® Rewards Checking is one of the few checking accounts that build interest on all available balances. The bank also does away with most of the fees associated with checking accounts.

If you receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits each month and make at least 15 debit card transactions, you qualify for the APY of 1.25% on your total balance. Enjoy ATM fee reimbursement regardless of where you withdraw money, and never pay a monthly maintenance fee.

Never worry about overdraft or insufficient funds fees again. With the Rewards Checking account, the bank declines transactions if you don’t have sufficient funds or pulls from a linked account, for free. It may also extend an overdraft line of credit.

Discover Bank® Cashback Debit Account – Earn as You Spend

Discover’s cashback debit account is an online bank account that lets you earn as you spend and save money on typical banking fees. The bank only has one physical branch, which is something to consider for individuals who prefer in-person banking.

Earn 1% cashback on qualifying purchases totaling $3,000 each month when you use your Discover debit card. Access funds for free from over 60,000 ATMs nationwide, and never pay a monthly service charge. There are balance minimums you must meet.

Discover does not charge overdraft fees. If your checking account has insufficient funds, the bank will either pull funds from a linked account for free (which other banks charge for) or decline the transaction.

Chime Spending Account – Solid Overdraft Protection Program

Though it’s online only, Chime partners with two major institutions to offer checking and savings accounts that are FDIC insured.

Though not completely fee-free (Chime charges $2.50 for out-of-network ATM purchases, and you may have to pay to deposit cash), the bank does not charge a monthly fee or maintain a minimum balance requirement. The app makes it easy for you to stay on top of your spending, as it provides daily balance updates and real-time transaction alerts.

If you receive $500 in direct deposits each month, you qualify for Chime’s SpotMe program. On this program, you don’t have to pay overdraft fees on purchases that drop your balance as low as negative $100. Outside of that limit, the bank will simply decline the transaction.

Simple Checking & Budgeting – Budgeting Made Easy

It’s mostly app-based, but Simple’s checking account comes with a Visa debit card and useful mobile budgeting tools.

Simple does not charge a monthly maintenance fee or require a minimum balance. It also declines transactions if you do not have sufficient funds, thereby helping you avoid overdraft fees. Access funds for free at over 40,000 in-network ATMs.

Set up a separate Simple’s Protected Goals Account to protect your money from accidental overspending and earn 0.60% APY. The mobile app accounts for scheduled bills, transfers and savings to deliver a “safe to spend” balance.

Varo Bank Account – Convenience

Varo offers strictly online banking, a fact that allows it to offer fee-free banking.

Don’t pay a monthly fee, access funds for free at any one of the 55,000+ in-network ATMs and never pay a foreign transaction fee on withdrawals made abroad. Varo will decline any transactions you can’t afford to help you avoid overdraft fees.

If Varo receives a direct deposit notification, it will credit the funds up to two days earlier than usual.

Summary

A lot of checking accounts charge a myriad of fees, all of which can quickly add up. Fortunately, the best free checking accounts are either completely or almost fee-free.

Quick Questions

How much can you save by going with a fee-free checking account?

The average person pays $97.80 in banking fees each year, which amounts to approximately $1,000 in a decade. However, overdraft and foreign transaction fees can cause you to easily meet this average in a single day.

Are online banks safe?

Online banks are FDIC insured, just like traditional banks are. In fact, online banks are safer than traditional banks.

Which is better, an interest-bearing account or a fee-free one?

An interest-bearing account is best if you plan on maintaining a high balance from month to month. However, if you plan to use the account for daily expenditures, and if you don’t anticipate depositing a significant amount monthly, fee-free could save you more than you will make on interest.

Make more informed financial decisions, check out our 5 best banks of 2021 here.