The Best Checking Accounts of December 2023
The Best Checking Accounts of December 2023
Checking account features and fees differ from one institution to another, so shopping for the best checking account is important. The best checking accounts minimize fees and have a network of ATMs where you need them.
You’ll also want a checking account with all the convenience of direct deposit, online bill-pay, and mobile banking.
To help you search for the best checking account for you, MoneyRates analyzed dozens of banks and looked at six fees commonly charged by banks, credit unions, and nonbanks.
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Best Checking Accounts At a Glance
Compare the Best Banks
To monitor checking accounts, MoneyRates tracks a cross-section of the industry consisting of 50 of the largest U.S. deposit institutions, plus 25 medium-sized banks and 25 small banks.
This cross-section represents close to three-quarters of all U.S. bank deposits and includes over 300 different checking accounts.
Based on our research, the following were 20 of the best checking accounts, including the fees charged by each bank:
Key Factors in Finding the Best Checking Accounts
We examined six factors to find the best checking accounts.
- Minimum account size
- Monthly maintenance fees
- Overdraft fees
- Maximum overdraft fees per day
- Out-of-network ATM fees
- Paper statement fees
Best Checking Accounts: Our Picks
While bonuses, fees, and ATM access change regularly, there are some checking accounts that provide consistency in service and offerings, plus some enticing extras.
We’ve gathered some of the best checking accounts and offer a snapshot of them here to give you a good idea of which ones may suit you best. Visit our full reviews for all of these accounts and pick the best one for you.
Best for: Cashback on debit card purchases
About the Account
Discover checking offers numerous benefits that you should be aware of.
With access to over 60,000 no-fee ATMs across the U.S., your money is always within reach. Plus, the fee-free overdraft protection transfer service ensures peace of mind for unexpected expenses.
Discover account holders get paid up to two days early through direct deposit. You won’t have to pay or wait for a replacement debit card, as Discover offers expedited delivery at no extra cost.
And should you ever misplace your card, you can easily freeze it without the need to cancel, keeping your financial security intact.
Pros and Cons
- No monthly fees, no balance or activity requirements
- Early direct deposit
- Cashback rewards
- Access to a large network of ATMs
- Fraud protection
- No branch banking or a way to do ATM deposits
- There is a limit to cashback rewards
- No out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement
Best for: Encouraging savings
About the Account
Customers who use direct deposit of any amount or deposit over a certain amount in their checking accounts at least every 30 days will earn a competitive interest rate on their savings account.
Account holders with a direct deposit of at least $1,000 monthly are eligible for overdraft protection.
SoFi customers also have access to a network of 55,000 ATMs for cash withdrawals free of charge.
- Get paid early with direct deposit
- Large ATM network with free withdrawals
- Highly competitive savings interest rate
- No maintenance fees
- Robust mobile banking app
- Investment products available
- There are no in-person branches
- You must sign up for savings and checking
- There are no other savings products, like CDs or money market accounts, available
You must sign up for savings and checking
There are no other savings products, like CDs or money market accounts, available
Best for: Good interest rate for checking
About the Account
Current is a pioneering fintech enterprise categorized as a neobank. It relies on a partner bank to safeguard customers’ deposits through FDIC insurance. The core access point for accounts lies in the user-friendly Current mobile app.
This innovative financial institution offers a package featuring a rewards debit card and a competitive interest rate on its Savings Pods. It’s worth noting that this appealing interest rate does come with certain constraints, and customers should be aware that options for customer support are somewhat limited.
- Zero overdraft fees
- No minimum opening deposit
- A robust network of free ATMs across the country
- No monthly fees
- Cash deposits allowed at some ATMs
- Better-than-average checking interest rate
- You’ll pay a fee for cash deposits
- All banking is done online
- Account offerings are limited
No minimum opening deposit
A robust network of free ATMs across the country
No monthly fees
Cash deposits allowed at some ATMs
Better-than-average checking interest rate
Best for: Offers a variety of checking accounts
About the Account
First Horizon’s checking accounts are similar to those of typical banks. A $50 minimum deposit makes them easy to open, and the absence of a monthly fee in the FirstView Checking account is a perk for those who prefer straightforward banking.
If you want to save, you can also do so with a linked savings or money market account. In summary, First Horizon is suitable for those seeking traditional checking with branch banking access.
- No monthly fees
- Multiple checking accounts offered
- Each checking account offers specialized perks
- Some accounts require a higher daily balance
- ATM network isn’t as large as some other banks, and branch locations are limited
How We Picked the Best Checking Accounts
To weigh these six factors across hundreds of checking accounts, MoneyRates used the following process to pick the best checking accounts:
1. Accessibility to most customers
Some banks only offer their best terms to their largest customers, such as those with balances of $10,000 or more. Since this is beyond the means of most checking account customers,
MoneyRates found the best checking accounts for everyone by focusing its analysis on accounts with a minimum to open of $1,000 or less.
2. Free checking accounts
The phrase “free checking” generally refers to accounts with no monthly maintenance fees.
While free checking has become relatively scarce in recent years, it is fairly common among online checking accounts.
Since monthly maintenance fees are charged every month regardless of how you use the account, MoneyRate considers only accounts with no monthly maintenance fees as contenders for its picks of the best checking accounts.
3. Overdraft fees
At an average of $32.30 per transaction, overdraft fees can add up quickly and become staggering.
Plus, there is the potential for several overdraft fees to be charged in a single day.
So, the field of the best checking accounts with reasonable minimum costs was ranked based on both how high their overdraft fees are and whether there was a cap on the number of overdraft fees that could be charged in a single day.
4. Out-of-network ATM fees
Most banks charge you if you use an ATM that isn’t one of their own or part of a network to which they belong.
While these charges seem modest at an average of $1.74 per transaction, that can really add up if you use ATMs regularly.
The best checking accounts won’t nickel and dime you to death with ATM fees. That’s why this was used as the next ranking factor, just after the overdraft fee.
5. Paper statement fees
Most banks still do not charge you for receiving paper statements, so this was considered a low-priority ranking factor.
However, it was included in our survey of the best checking accounts because charges for paper statements are becoming more common.
Why we didn’t consider interest rates
Checking account interest rates were not considered in this ranking because the interest generated by checking accounts is usually negligible compared to their fees.
However, if you are able to identify checking accounts that would cost you nothing based on how you do your banking, you might use their interest rates as a tie-breaker in deciding among the best checking accounts. Finding the best high-yield checking accounts may be worth it in some instances.
What Is a Checking Account?
A checking account is a type of demand deposit account offered by banks and credit unions. This means you can withdraw your money without advance notice.
Checking accounts are designed to keep money safe and liquid – funds are readily accessible without restriction.
A checking account is a bank account designed to process daily transactions, such as incoming deposits and outgoing payments, seamlessly.
The ability to be able to use the account as much as you need to is at the heart of why checking accounts are effective money-management tools.
This easy, seamless access is also one of the reasons banks and nonbanks with some of the best checking account offers are reinventing checking accounts and finding new tools to offer to customers.
These newer, online, or hybrid checking accounts can be offered by a bank, brokerage firm, or other financial service providers.
Nonbank financial service providers typically partner with a bank to provide FDIC protection for their cash management accounts or spending accounts.
Cash management and spending accounts operate like checking accounts, but they may offer other features like mobile apps that help you monitor your budget, support charities, and find businesses that match your values.
Checking accounts are so commonplace today that most people think they’re all alike, but they’re not – especially now that technology is being used to reimagine how checking accounts work.
Knowing what to look for when determining the best banks for checking accounts could save you a great deal of money and time or even make managing your money easier.
Can You Have More Than One Checking Account?
For some people, one checking account is probably enough, but there are smart reasons why you may decide to have more than one checking account.
- If you share household expenses with a partner, you may wish to hold a joint checking account with that person and also have an individual account for your personal expenditures and purchases.
- If you’re helping a parent or other senior pay their bills, you can opt to hold a joint account with that person for ease of writing checks. You’d also have a separate account for yourself.
- If you make extra money from freelance work or a business, no matter how small, you may want to have an additional checking account for your extra earnings separate from your main account.
These are just a few of the reasons why you would want to have more than one checking account.
Whether you share one account with someone else or opt to have more than one individual account will depend on your own situation, but you are allowed to do so.
Before you open a second checking account, however, you should make sure that you are comfortable managing your primary checking account.
If you’ve just opened your first checking account or if you’re still getting used to managing it, you may want to wait before you open another.
When shopping for a second checking account, you should still look for the best checking account offers to meet your specific needs.
How to Choose the Best Checking Account
Using MoneyRates’ selection process as a guide, here are some tips for how you can find the best checking accounts:
1. Check the monthly fee
While overdraft and ATM fees depend on how you use the account, maintenance fees are charged month after month no matter what.
Therefore, minimizing or avoiding this kind of fee should be your primary consideration when choosing a checking account.
2. Find out if a fee waiver applies
Many banks that charge maintenance fees waive them if you meet certain conditions, such as maintaining a specified minimum balance or setting up a direct deposit.
If you are considering an account with a maintenance fee, see if you are likely to qualify for a fee waiver.
3. Decide on overdraft protection
Because overdraft fees are so expensive, MoneyRates recommends that you do not opt into overdraft protection.
However, if you plan to opt in, look for an account with relatively low overdraft fees and a cap on the number of such fees that can be charged in a single day.
4. Consider your ATM habits
If you plan to be a frequent ATM user, consider the locations of the bank’s ATMs or ATM network locations.
Make sure they are convenient for your regular travels so you can avoid fees for using out-of-network machines.
5. Consider customer service
If you like dealing with bank representatives in person, make sure you choose a bank with convenient locations and hours.
If you prefer to bank online, check which websites have features you are likely to find useful.
6. Protect your account
Also, keep the balance of this account plus any other deposit accounts at the same institution below the applicable insurance limit. Typically, your total deposits should be less than $250,000.
7. Weigh additional benefits as tie-breakers
Banks sometimes offer promotions like cash bonuses and other gifts for opening an account. Some checking accounts even offer interest on your account balance.
They use a variety of enticements to attract customers; but in the long run, the value of these offers tends to pale in comparison to how much you could spend on fees.
These additional benefits should not be your primary reasons for choosing a bank, but they could be useful for deciding between two banks that are very similar on other criteria.
Use promotions, gifts, interest, and other benefits as a tie-breaker.
What to Consider Before Opening a Checking Account
You can compare lots of things when choosing a checking account – fees, locations, services, etc.
However, the factors that make the best checking account for you depend on how you intend to use the account. Before you open an account, consider the following:
Is the account federally insured?
Only banks that participate in FDIC insurance and credit unions that participate in NCUA insurance can claim to be federally insured.
Keep in mind, though, that not all accounts offered by these institutions are necessarily insured. While checking accounts should be, an investment account may not be insured.
How do you intend to use the checking account?
There are a variety of fees that potentially could affect your finances. Be clear about how you expect to use the account so you’ll know which are the most important to you.
- Maintenance fees only affect you if you don’t qualify for a fee waiver.
- If you tend to overdraft your account regularly, the size of the overdraft fee will be a big factor, as will whether the bank caps the number of these fees you can incur in a single day.
- If you are a regular ATM user, the location of the bank’s ATM network will be a key consideration.
Will you qualify for a fee waiver?
Many banks waive their monthly maintenance fee if you maintain a certain minimum balance level. Others waive that fee if you set up direct deposit into the account.
Find out what a bank requires in order to waive its monthly fee. If you can easily qualify for a fee waiver, you can cross the monthly fee off the list of things to consider when choosing a checking account.
Does location matter to you?
If you still like to do your banking in person, the location of branches will matter a great deal to you.
If you use cash regularly, the location of the ATM network might be important. On the other hand, if you do your banking exclusively online, you don’t have to worry about location issues.
Is the bank as tech-savvy as you are?
If you want the latest in mobile banking tools, keep in mind that while some banks are leading in technical innovation, others seem to operate as if they are still in the 20th century.
Check out a bank’s mobile and online tools to see if they are a good match for your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Traditionally, these transactions were most often made by writing checks, but nowadays, automatic bill payments, ATM withdrawals, and electronic transfers are also very common. You can use a combination of these tools to handle both routine payments and one-time expenses.
Many checking accounts do pay interest, but interest is typically less important than fees in choosing a checking account.
If you don’t need regular access to your money and are simply concerned with earning the most interest, consider a certificate of deposit (CD). CDs lock your money up for a specified period of time, in exchange for which they typically pay more interest than checking, savings, or money market accounts.