6 Best Free Checking Accounts of 2021
Best for Easy Access
- Early direct deposit
- Overdraft protection
Best for Lots of Features
- Discounts on products
- Fee-free checking
Too many of us are settling for less-than-satisfactory checking accounts. (Just look at the folks complaining on Twitter!)
We’re still forking over so many bank fees. The average overdrafter hands over about $350 a year in overdraft fees alone, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That doesn’t even account for ATM network fees, monthly maintenance fees and minimum balance fees.
In reality, there are a ton of free checking account options out there; you just might not be looking in the right places (ahem, online banks!). No need to spend hours researching, though. We did that for you.
6 Best Free Checking Accounts
|Account||Top Feature||ATM access|
|NBKC Everything Account||Checking, savings in one||37,000+||SEE DETAILS|
|Varo Money Banking Account||Excellent banking app||55,000+||SEE DETAILS|
|SoFi Banking Account||Loan interest discounts||55,000+||SEE DETAILS|
|Chime Money||Early direct deposit||60,000+||SEE DETAILS|
|Discover Cashback Debit||Zelle money transfer||60,000+||SEE DETAILS|
|Capital One 360 Checking Account||Overdraft options||70,000+||SEE DETAILS|
NBKC Everything Account
- Up to $12/month in reimbursed ATM fees
- 0.15% APY on all balances
- No fees
With NBKC’s Everything Account, you can set up savings buckets in the platform, and move money in and out of your savings easily without the penalties associated with traditional savings accounts. You’ll earn 0.15% annual percentage yield (APY) on all balances within your Everything Account. Anyone can open an account online; you don’t have to live near the bank’s Overland Park, Kansas, headquarters.
Varo Money Banking Account
- Dual account for checking and savings
- Up to 3.00% APY for eligible accounts
- Cash back on in-app purchases
Varo’s origins as a technology company mean it offers an intuitive banking app with all the perks we’ve come to expect from challenger banks: higher-than-average APYs*, early payday, automatic savings features and cash back perks.
- 0.25% APY on checking
- $50 in free overdraft protection
- Member discounts on other products
When you’re a SoFi member, you get access to its vast community and events, as well as interest rate discounts on its loan products, including mortgage, student loans and refinancing. Bonus security: Because SoFi works with up to six partner banks, your account is eligible for up to $1.5 million in FDIC insurance — compared with the typical $250,000 of any single bank.
Chime Bank Account
- Up to 2 days early direct deposit
- $20–$200 free overdraft protection
- Access to Credit Builder credit card
Chime also has a $75 referral bonus promotion that has no expiration date. After you open your account, if you refer a friend and they open a new account and receive a direct deposit of at least $200 in the first 45 days, you will each receive $75.
Make sure to use the referral link from your account to get the cash bonus. Chime is great for beginners, offering fee-free overdraft, automatic savings, early paycheck deposit and 60,000+ fee-free ATMs.
Discover Cashback Debit
- 1% cash back on debit card purchases
- No extraneous fees
- Transfer money to anyone with Zelle
The Discover Cashback Debit account is a great fit for anyone who uses their checking account more for spending than storing a big balance of money. You won’t earn an impressive APY on this account, but you can open a Discover Online Savings account to earn 0.50% APY on your savings balance. You can manage all your Discover products — from loans to credit cards to bank accounts — through the Discover app.
Capital One 360 Checking Account
- Multiple options for free overdraft protection
- Up to 2 days early direct deposit
- Transfer money to anyone with Zelle
The account also comes with early direct deposit and peer-to-peer payments via Zelle.
Capital One 360 doesn’t have the most attractive APYs for either its online checking or savings (0.10% for checking and 0.40% for savings), but the online bank makes up for it with the industry’s second-highest-rated app according to J.D. Power, with users citing the app’s speed, easy-to-use interface and self-service options that are simple to use.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Banks Offer Free Checking Accounts?
Most banks offer a free checking account option now that challenger banks have shoved the market in that direction. In some cases, the account is only free if you maintain a minimum balance or deposit requirement, so read the fine print before opening an account.
In many cases, especially with online banking platforms like we listed above, you can get a checking account with no monthly fees, limited ATM fees, no overdraft fees and few miscellaneous fees without balance or deposit requirements — so compare your options before going all in with a traditional bank. The best free checking accounts cut nearly all fees.
Are Free Checking Accounts Really Free?
Most customers consider a checking account “free” as long as it doesn’t come with a monthly maintenance fee. That’s the baseline we applied to choose the checking accounts listed above.
But lots of banks, especially traditional institutions, charge for other things, like overdraft protection, ATM transactions, minimum balance requirements, paper statements and more. We sought checking accounts that minimize or eliminate these fees, so you can count on a fee-free banking service.
The only fees you typically can’t get away from are for less common services like card replacement, foreign transactions, stop payment and wire transfers.
Nearly all banks charge fees for these services, but if you know you’ll use them often, shop around and seek out an account that caters to your needs by eliminating or reducing fees for the types of services you use.
How Can You Avoid Common Checking Account Fees?
The most common checking account fee is a monthly maintenance fee. Most financial institutions waive this fee is you keep a minimum monthly balance. Avoid the fee by paying attention to that minimum balance requirement when you sign up and keeping your account in the no-fee zone.
Many banks also charge for paper statements, so sign up for electronic statements right away. You’ll be able to see your bank statements, balance and transactions online no matter what; opting out of paper statements just saves a bunch of trees and saves you money.
Check out our current list of bank promotions for a chance to gain a monetary bonus when signing up for a new bank account.
What Are Common Free Checking Account Benefits?
The best benefit of a free checking account is the elimination of a monthly service fee, and balance and direct deposit requirements.
To stay competitive, many free checking accounts also include perks like well-designed mobile apps (especially the online-only platforms), free ATMs, early direct deposit, budgeting features, automatic savings options, cash back, creative fee-free overdraft protection options and high APYs.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing for online audiences since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media. She is a former staffer at The Penny Hoarder. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, CNBC, The Motley Fool, Inc. and more.