Checking Account Report Card: 6 Accounts Graded on Fees, Rewards and More

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Checking Account Report Card: 6 Accounts Graded on Fees, Rewards and More
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Honest Abe

Disclosure:

Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.

How do you choose where to do your banking?

If you’re like a lot of people, you probably just picked the institution closest to your house and opened the cheapest account to maintain.

That’s good enough if you’re just looking for a place to store your money, but banks have gotten a lot better than that. If you’re not shopping around, you’re probably missing out on lots of benefits.

Because of online banking and mobile apps, you don’t have to be tied to your local bank or credit union. You’ve got options.

So how do you choose?

Picking a bank account is a surprisingly personal choice. What makes an account “good” depends largely on your financial situation and goals.

But we can tell you a few things that make any account good: no fees, good rewards, easy to set up and accessible to anyone.

We decided to see how some of our favorite accounts stack up against this criteria.

We graded six bank and credit union accounts on these factors:

  • Fees — How much will it cost you to manage your money with this account?
  • Rewards — What do you earn in return for using the account?
  • Accessibility — What are the requirements to open this account and earn the rewards?
  • Mobility — Can this account travel and move with you?

Based on this criteria, here are the best checking accounts:

1. Aspiration Summit Account

Overall: A

Fees: A+

Rewards: B

Accessibility: A

Mobility: A

Aspiration’s Summit Checking Account is an online-only bank account with no fees, no minimums and an interest rate up to 1%.

It nails the criteria on our list:

  • It’s easy to set up.
  • You don’t have to have a ton of money to qualify for the benefits.
  • You won’t pay a monthly maintenance fee, and ATMs are free anywhere in the world.
  • It offers an interest rate higher than most checking accounts.

The minimum deposit to open this account is just $10.

Instead of a monthly fee, all of Aspiration’s services work on a “pay what is fair” model. You choose your price and pay as a “tip” — up to $6 a month and as little as $0.

The Summit Account pays 1% APY on a full balance of $2,500 or more, or 0.25% on a balance below $2,500.

The Aspiration Summit Checking mobile app makes it easy to access this account from anywhere — and deposit checks when you need to!

2. Bank of Internet USA Essential Checking Account

Overall: B+

Fees: A

Rewards: A

Accessibility: B

Mobility: B

Bank of Internet’s Essential Checking account comes with no monthly or annual fees, no overdraft fees and cash-back rewards for debit card purchases.

A BofI representative told TPH all its checking accounts require a $100 minimum opening deposit, but after that require a minimum balance of only $1.

It will reimburse you by the end of the next business day for unlimited ATM fees within the U.S.

For ATM use in another country, you’ll pay a 2% service fee, according to NerdWallet. So even though this online bank account is flexible, it isn’t ideal for international travelers.

3. Northpointe Bank Ultimate Checking Account

Overall: B

Fees: A

Rewards: A

Accessibility: C

Mobility: B

Northpointe Bank’s Ultimate Checking Account pays 5% compounded interest.

The catch? You can only get that 5% on a balance up to $5,000 in your account. Plus, you’ll have to meet these requirements to earn it:

  • Enroll in e-statements.
  • Have a direct deposit or automatic withdrawal of at least $100 a month.
  • Spend at least $500 in at least 15 debit card purchases a month.

If you maintain the $5,000 balance and hit these requirements, you’ll earn $250 a year in interest — so the payoff’s pretty sweet.

Enrolling in e-statements through your online account is as simple as clicking a button. Setting up your paycheck for direct deposit is pretty simple, too, and should easily hit the $100 mark.

But the last requirement could be tricky.

Keep track of those debit card purchases. If you fail to meet any of these requirements, your interest rate drops to just 0.05%!

Northpointe Bank is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but anyone can open an account online with a $100 minimum deposit.

4. Ally Interest Checking

Overall: B

Fees: A

Rewards: D

Accessibility: B

Mobility: A

With Ally’s free, online Interest Checking account, you can use any Allpoint ATMs in the U.S. for free, plus Ally will reimburse you up to $10 — three average transactions per statement cycle — for other ATM fees within the U.S.

An Ally representative told TPH this checking account has no required minimum deposit to get started.

With a balance of $15,000 or more, this checking account yields 0.6% interest. Below $15,000, it’s 0.1%. That tops a lot of bank accounts, but it’s not as impressive as we’d expect for an account with “interest” in the name — and that balance requirement is a beast.

You can access this account online or through the Ally app, so it’s an accessible choice for anyone within the U.S.

5. Consumer Credit Union Free Rewards Checking

Overall: B

Fees: A

Rewards: A

Accessibility: D

Mobility: B

The rewards on Consumer Credit Union’s Free Rewards Checking are pretty sweet, but the requirements are hefty.

You’ll earn 3.09% interest on your balance up to $10,000 and have all ATM fees reimbursed, as long as you:

  • Make 12 debit card purchases each month without using the PIN (as a credit transaction).
  • Have at least one direct deposit, ACH debit or online bill-pay each month.
  • Login to your online account at least once a month.
  • Enroll in e-documents.

In addition to that, you can earn 3.59% interest on balances up to $15,000 and 4.59% up to $20,000 if you meet CCU Visa credit card spending requirements: $500 and $1,000, respectively.

All CCU branches are in Illinois, but anyone can open and manage an account online and through the mobile app.

6. Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account

Overall: C+

Fees: B

Rewards: F

Accessibility: D

Mobility: A

Schwab Bank is loved by international travelers. The account offers unlimited ATM fee rebates for cash withdrawals at ATMs anywhere in the world.

You can manage your account online or through the Schwab app for iPhone, and make deposits through the app, so this account keeps up with jet-setters.

The downside? Schwab’s online-only High Yield Investor Checking account must be linked to a Schwab One brokerage account. Luckily, there are no fees or minimum deposits to open either account, as long as you open them together.

Neither account comes with monthly fees or a minimum balance, but “other account fees, fund expenses and brokerage commissions may apply” to the brokerage account once you begin investing.

The checking account offers a variable interest rate. If you want to grow your savings through Schwab, you’ll want to invest through the brokerage account.

Your Turn: What do you look for in a bank?

Honest Abe

Disclosure:

Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.