The 6 Best Free Checking Accounts of September 2022
Best for Easy Access
- Early direct deposit
- Overdraft protection
Best for Lots of Features
SoFi Checking and Savings
- 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. Frequent overdrafters hand over $380 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 Bank Account||Excellent banking app||55,000+||SEE DETAILS|
|SoFi Checking and Savings||Loan interest discounts||55,000+||SEE DETAILS|
|Chime Checking Account||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|
6 Best Free Checking Accounts of 2022
You might not have heard of some of the financial institutions on our list, but give them a chance. It’s likely they all offer what a traditional bank account does, including online bill pay, mobile check deposit, ATM withdrawals and deposits, and Visa or Mastercard debit card transactions. Plus, they’re all FDIC-insured accounts. (Safety first!)
Unlike many traditional bank accounts, these are all free: no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements or fees, almost no ATM fees and no overdraft fees. And none come with minimum opening deposit requirements — so you can get started right away.
Even better? Each bank offers a unique perk, including interest, cash-back rewards checking and early paydays.
Here are our picks for the best free checking accounts.
NBKC Everything Account
- Up to $12/month in reimbursed ATM fees
- 0.50% 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 0.50% annual percentage yield (APY) on any balance. Anyone can open an account online; you don’t have to live near the bank’s Overland Park, Kansas, headquarters.
Varo Bank Account
- No monthly maintenance fees
- Cash Deposit via Green Dot
- Up to 6% cash back with Varo cards
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.
For more information on Varo’s features, check out our full Varo Bank review.
SoFi Checking and Savings
- 2.00% 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. All SoFi Checking and Savings accounts are FDIC-insured up to the standard $250,000 ($500,000 for joint accounts).
For more information on SoFi’s Checking and Savings features, check out our full SoFi Checking and Savings review.
Chime Checking 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.
For more information on Chime’s bank’s features, check out our full Chime Bank review.
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 interest on this account, but you can open a Discover Online Savings account to earn 2.00% APY on your savings balance. You can manage all your Discover products — from loans to credit cards to bank accounts — through the Discover app.
For more information on Discover Bank’s features, check out our full Discover Bank review.
Capital One 360 Checking Account
- No overdraft fees
- 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 1.90% 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.
For more information on Capital One’’s features, check out our full Capital One Bank review.
Which 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.
Check out our current list of bank promotions for a chance to gain a monetary bonus when signing up for a new bank account.
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.
The fees you typically can’t get away from are for less common services like card replacement, foreign transactions, stop payment and wire transfers.
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.
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 to Avoid Common Checking Account Fees
The most common checking account fee is a monthly maintenance fee. Most financial institutions waive this fee if 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Free Checking Accounts
We’ve answered the most common questions about free checking accounts to steer you toward the one that works for you.
Checking accounts that are advertised as “free” typically come with no monthly maintenance fees. Many free checking accounts also cut fees in other areas, like overdraft fees, ATM fees, the cost of checks and debit card replacement.
Look for a checking account that’s truly free; you shouldn’t have to meet certain criteria to waive a maintenance fee. And then look for features that will be beneficial for your lifestyle, like free overdraft protection or reimbursed ATM fees. Many free checking accounts are online-only accounts, so look for an easy-to-use app that covers your banking needs, like mobile check deposit and easy access to customer service.
Some free checking accounts pay interest! The amount tends to vary with the prime rate, so the rate you’re offered when you sign up could go down or up as the prime rate changes. While it might be impressive, the interest rate on a checking account isn’t an extremely valuable feature, because checking accounts are intended for spending, not holding, money.
Contributor Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance®. She’s written about work and money for publications including Forbes, The New York Times, CNBC, Insider, NextAdvisor and a column for Inc. Magazine. She founded Healthy Rich to publish stories that illuminate the diversity of our relationships with work and money.
*Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
*SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 1.00% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.00% APY is current as of 08/12/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet