Best Free Checking Accounts of 2016

Whether you want to open a free online checking account or a checking account with a big bank, you have options.

best free checking accounts 2016

Paying $10 or $15 in monthly checking account fees is frustrating, as is maintaining a minimum balance of $50 or $100 to avoid being charged the monthly fee. But the fact is fees have become a way that big banks make up for lost revenue in a low-interest, low loan volume world, said Consumer Affairs financial expert Mark Huffman.

According to Huffman, free checking accounts used to be the norm. However, when regulators made it tougher for banks to collect debit card fees and revenue from loans dried up, banks partly made it up through checking account fees.

But, there are still many free checking account options, including free online checking accounts. “Bottom line, a checking account should not cost you money or require you to maintain a large balance,” said Huffman. “Fortunately, there are plenty of options for consumers who do a little homework.”

Best Free Checking Accounts of 2016

To help you find the best free checking accounts of 2016, GOBankingRates did the research for you. Here are 10 banks offering some of the best free checking accounts currently on the market, with varying features so you can choose the one that best suits your banking needs.

Free Checking AccountMonthly FeeMinimum Balance RequirementChecking Account FeaturesHow to Apply
Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking$0$0
  • 0.65% APY
  • ATM rebates up to $20/month for out-of-network ATMs
  • Courtesy Pay & Overdraft Protection
Apply Now
Ally Bank Interest Checking Account$0$0
  • 0.10%-0.60% APY
  • 24/7 live customer care
  • Up to $10 ATM fee reimbursement per cycle
Apply Now
Capital One 360 Checking$0$0
  • 0.20%-0.90% APY
  • Overdraft line of credit available
  • Free savings transfer available
Apply Now
 Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking$0$0
  • 0.06% APY
  • No foreign transaction fees with debit card
  • Unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide
Apply Now
 Discover Bank Cashback Checking$0$0
  • Earn up to $120 cash back per year
  • Earn 10 cents on debt card purchases, online bill pay and cleared checks
  • 60,000+ free ATMs
Apply Now
FirstBank Anywhere Account$0 $0
  • Mobile banking
  • 24-hr phone banking
  • Text & email alerts
Apply Now
First National Bank of Omaha First National Checking$0$0
  • 1 overdraft forgiveness/year
  • 0.25% rate discount on select loans
  • $200 mortgage closing cost credit
Apply Now
 Fulton Bank Simply Checking$0$0
  • Online banking
  • Online bill pay
  • No annual fee for Relationship Rewards Visa Debit Card
Apply Now
 Glacier Bank Totally Free Checking $0$0
  • Free Visa Debit Card
  • Unlimited check writing
  • Online banking and bill pay
Apply Now
Simple Bank Simple Account$0$0
  • 0.01% APY
  • 55,000+ fee-free ATMs
  • No overdraft fees
Apply Now

Rates and fees are subject to change at the financial institutions’ discretion. 

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

With no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees, Alliant’s High-Rate Checking account is an interest-bearing account that offers 0.65% APY. And, with ATM rebates of up to $20 a month for out-of-network ATMs, it’s a great choice.

Important to Know: To qualify for this checking account, you’ll need to be an Alliant member and do two things. First, you must choose free eStatements rather than paper ones. And second, you’ll need to have at least one electronic deposit to your account per month. Direct deposits, payroll deposits, ATM deposits, mobile deposits and transfers from another financial institution all qualify.

Key Features:

  • No monthly fees
  • Free first box of checks; $15 thereafter
  • Free Visa debit card with Apple Pay compatibility
  • Android Pay and Samsung Pay compatibility
  • More than 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs
  • Up to $20 out-of-network ATM rebates
  • Online and mobile banking

Related: 10 Free Student Checking Accounts

Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

With no minimum balance requirements or maintenance fees, Ally Bank’s Interest Checking Account is one of the best free online checking accounts. This online bank also has other attributes. Huffman said Ally has good 24-hour, seven-day-a-week customer service, and he likes the bank’s policy of reimbursing up to $10 of out-of-network ATM fees per statement cycle.

Important to Know: In addition to the out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement, this bank uses the Allpoint ATM network, so you’re well-covered in accessing your money. Also, balances less than $15,000 can earn 0.10% APY; balances of $15,000 or higher can earn 0.60% APY.

Key Features:

  • No monthly fees
  • Free bill pay
  • Free standard checks
  • Free debit MasterCard
  • Postage-paid deposit envelopes
  • 24/7 live customer care
  • Send people money with Popmoney
  • Deposit checks remotely

Capitol One 360 Checking

Want a big-bank checking account without the hassle of dealing with a brick-and-mortar institution? The Capitol One 360 Checking account might suit you. This free checking doesn’t have minimum balance requirements or monthly balance fees. And, it’s one of Huffman’s favorites because you can earn a bit of interest — 0.20% APY for balances less than $50,000 — and that the account doesn’t charge overdraft fees.

“It also gives you fee-free access to [about 40,000] Allpoint and Capital One ATMs,” he said. If you’re an on-the-move sort, that could save you a lot of money in ATM fees.

Important to Know: Although you’ll earn 0.20% APY on your checking account balance if it’s under $50,000, the rate does go up with higher amounts. From $50,000 to $99,999.99, you’ll get 0.75% APY, and $100,000 or more earns 0.90% APY.

Also, you can opt into a free overdraft protection line of credit program, which carries an 11.50% APR on borrowed amounts. But there is a $9 fee for rejected checks, which occurs if a check is presented to Capital One but there aren’t enough funds in your account.

Key Features:

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Mobile check deposit
  • First checkbook free; $5 after that
  • Free bill pay
  • Overdraft protection

Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking

You might be surprised to see the Charles Schwab name, better known as an investment firm, on this list. But the company’s High Yield Investor Checking account has no minimum balance requirements and no monthly service fees. Plus, it offers a 0.06% APY, one of the few reasons this checking account is one of personal wealth-building expert Ramit Sethi‘s favorites.

Important to Know: Sethi said his favorite feature is the unlimited reimbursement of ATM fees. “This means you can use any ATM, corner stores, other banks, whatever, without having to look for some specific bank’s ATM,” he said.

One caveat: You’ll have to open a Schwab One brokerage account to open the checking account. However, the brokerage account also doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement, and you’re not obligated to fund the account.

Key Features:

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • No foreign transaction fees for debit card purchases
  • Free online bill pay
  • Unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide
  • A debit card you can add to Apple Pay
  • Free standard checks
  • Free Schwab Bank Visa Platinum Debit Card (and no fees for replacement cards)

Discover Bank Cashback Checking

Discover Bank’s Cashback Checking account is a free checking account that earns you money. For every debit card purchase, online bill pay and cleared check, you earn 10 cents each. In total, you can earn 10 cents on up to 100 transactions per month and then redeem your cash back rewards to your Discover card’s Cashback Bonus account.

Important to Know: Although there is no monthly balance requirement, you do need to deposit at least $25 to open an account.

Key Features: 

  • No monthly fees
  • No monthly balance requirements
  • Earn up to $120 cash back each year
  • Free online bill pay
  • Free replacement debit card
  • Free official bank check and check reorder
  • Access to more than 60,000 free ATMs in the U.S.

FirstBank Anywhere Account

The Anywhere Account from FirstBank might not get you any cash back, rewards or interest, but it’s a solid free checking account with all the necessary fixings: no monthly service charges, no minimum balance requirements and more.

Important to Know: ATMs are located at each of FirstBank’s 120-plus branch locations, plus at King Soopers grocery stores and select CVS locations.

Key Features: 

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • No ATM fees for FirstBank ATMs
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Text and email alerts
  • 24-hour phone banking services

First National Bank of Omaha First National Checking

This free checking account from First National Bank boasts very few fees and a couple of unique perks. For example, it offers a 0.25 percent rate discount on auto, home equity and personal loans, which translates to great potential savings for you. And, this checking account offers a $200 mortgage closing cost credit. For more details about the credit, the bank advises you reach out to a mortgage loan officer.

Important to Know: Overdraft forgiveness is available — but only once a year. And the bank’s fine print makes it clear that it, generally, won’t pay overdrafts for customers who do not make regular deposits or those who have excessive overdrafts. So, always keep track of how much money is going in and out of your account.

Key Features: 

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • No minimum deposit to open
  • $200 mortgage closing credit
  • Overdraft forgiveness available
  • 0.25% rate discounts on select loans (auto, home equity and personal)
  • Free paper or online statements
  • Free cashier’s checks and bank logo checks
  • Free incoming wires
  • Free stop payments

Fulton Bank Simply Checking

If you tend to maintain a low balance in your checking account, you might want to consider opening a Simply Checking account with Fulton Bank. With no minimums and no monthly fees, you’ll save money on your everyday banking needs.

Important to Know: Fulton Bank doesn’t have locations everywhere throughout the country. Its network of community banks are located in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Key Features: 

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum daily balance requirement
  • Online banking and bill pay
  • Free ATMs for customers at all of Fulton Bank’s locations

Keep Reading: 10 Free Business Checking Accounts

Glacier Bank Totally Free Checking

Glacier Bank’s Totally Free Checking Account is hassle-free and low in fees. And, it offers protection for your debit cards and accounts. For example, the Glacier Bank Visa Debit Card allows customers to enroll in Debit Card Guard, which is a fraud protection text alert notification service. So whenever you receive an alert of a transaction that you think is fraudulent, you can report it immediately.

Important to Know: Glacier Bank ATMS are located only in Montana, according to its website. However, Glacier Bank has multiple divisions — 1st Bank, Bank of the San Juans, Citizens Community Bank, etc. — with ATMs located in other states, including Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Washington.

Key Features: 

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • No minimum opening deposit
  • Free Visa debit card
  • Free online banking and bill pay
  • Unlimited check writing
  • Return of check images

Simple Bank Simple Account

Though it’s technically a negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) account, Simple Bank’s “checking account” still deserves a spot on this list. It features no minimum balance requirements and no monthly account maintenance fees while offering a little interest at 0.01% APY. The bank is online only and has a variety of free features.

Important to Know: You can “write” checks using Simple’s free Mail a Check service, which mails a check to the payee of your choice. You will also have free access to over 55,000 ATMs across the nation.

Key Features:

  • No monthly fees
  • No overdraft fees
  • No account closing fees
  • No card replacement fees
  • No ATM fees (other banks’ charges may apply)
  • Direct Deposit available
  • Free Simple Visa debit card
  • Photo check deposit

GOBankingRates is a personal finance and consumer interest rate website owned by ConsumerTrack, Inc.an online marketing company serving top-tier banks, credit unions, and other financial services organizations. Some companies mentioned in this article might be clients of ConsumerTrack, Inc., which serves more than 100 national, local and online financial institutions. Rankings and roundups are completely objective, and no institution, client or otherwise, paid for inclusion or specific placement. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the companies included in the article.