Figuring out the best bank to open a checking account usually entails finding an account that charges minimal fees. Plenty of banks advertise free checking accounts that come with no monthly maintenance service charges and free ATM usage. However, even these free checking accounts might carry fees such as overdraft charges. Take a look at the types of fees you could encounter with a free checking account.
Fees Associated With Free Checking Accounts
Free checking accounts usually don’t charge monthly maintenance fees and tend to provide additional free banking services to boot. But the most common fees associated with free checking accounts are overdraft fees. And, even the best free checking accounts sometimes require a minimum balance, though they tend to be relatively low.
To identify the best free checking accounts, compare banks and their bank account features:
|Bank||Free Checking Account||Overdraft Fee||Minimum Opening Deposit||Free Services||How to Apply|
|Ally Bank||Interest Checking||$25||$0||Free use of any Allpoint ATM; ATM reimbursement up to $10 per cycle for fees at other ATMS; live customer service 24/7||Learn More|
|Bank of Internet USA||Essential Checking||$0||$0||Free online banking, bill pay, mobile banking and mobile deposit; sign up for purchase rewards and earn cash-back offers||Learn More|
|Capital One Bank||360 Checking||$9||$0||Free use of 38,000 Allpoint ATMs and 2,000 Capital One ATMs; free MasterCard debit card for purchases; free mobile deposit and one free checkbook||Learn More|
|Discover Bank||Cashback Checking||$30||$0||Free use of over 60,000 ATMs; earn cash-back rewards on debit card purchases||Learn More|
|Simple Bank||Simple Checking||$0||$0||No fees ever; free use of 50,000 in-network ATMs||Learn More|
|KeyBank||Hassle-Free Checking||$0||$10||Sign up for KeyBank Relationship Rewards and earn points through everyday banking activities such as online bill pay and debit card purchases||Learn More|
|BBVA Compass||ClearChoice Free Checking||$32||$25||Free online and mobile banking; free online paper statements; one free Visa debit card, which can be personalized||Learn More|
|USAA Federal Savings Bank||USAA Secure Checking||$25||$25||Network of 60,000 USAA-preferred ATMs; 10 free ATM withdrawals; ATM refund up to $15 per month for other U.S. ATM fees||Learn More|
|State Farm Bank||Checking Account||$25||$25||ATM fee rebate up to $10 per statement cycle or unlimited with direct deposit||Learn More|
|First Internet Bank||Free Checking||$30||$25||First IB Visa debit card free; unlimited online and mobile banking; free electronic statements||Learn More|
|Arvest Bank||Free Blue Checking||$17||$50||Free debit card; free online and mobile banking; free notary services, free checks for customers ages 62 and older; $400 overdraft protection||Learn More|
|Great Western Bank||Free Checking||$33||$50||Free use of over 25,000 ATMs; debit card with no monthly fees; free online banking and bill pay; free mobile banking with check deposit; free online statements; free access to VISA Checkout||Learn More|
Of the 12 best free checking accounts, five banks don’t require a minimum opening deposit; two checking accounts require more than $25 to open an account. The checking account fees for all banks vary widely, but so do the features these free checking accounts offer.
Free Checking Accounts With the Fewest Fees
Many banks with the lowest fees are online banks, and that’s simply because they’re cheaper to operate. Online banks usually have no overhead costs so it’s easier for them to pass on savings to clients.
Bank of Internet USA has no overdraft fee and no minimum opening deposit. In addition, Bank of Internet USA was voted one of the best online banks of 2016. Simple Bank also boasts no overdraft fee, no minimum opening deposit and a network of 50,000 free ATMs.
The best route to get a checking account with fewer or no fees might be to go with an online bank. But if you prefer a no-fee checking account from a brick-and-mortar bank, try to negotiate with them. If that doesn’t work, prepare to meet the requirement for monthly fees to be waived, such as keeping a minimum balance.
Free Checking Accounts With the Most Fees
A large percentage of the banks with the most fees are brick-and-mortar banks, most likely because they are more expensive to operate.
For example, Great Western Bank‘s free checking account has the highest overdraft fee of the free checking accounts compared here — $33. Its $50 minimum opening deposit is also the highest. Ally Bank, on the other hand, charges an overdraft fee of $25, but the bank does reimburse up to $10 per statement cycle for fees charged at other domestic ATMs.
The Free Blue Checking at Arvest Bank might have a lower overdraft fee than Great Western Bank, but its free checking account is equal to Great Western’s $50 minimum opening deposit.
Despite having more fees overall, there are benefits to maintaining an account at a brick-and-mortar bank, including a larger selection of checking accounts, keeping all of your assets and accounts in one place, and one-on-one interaction with a bank representative. The last point might sound silly to millennials, but for other generations, interacting with an individual at a bank is an integral part of their relationship with a financial institution.
Free Services Offered With Checking Accounts
The best free checking accounts compiled here offer a wide array of free services and perks. Here are some of the best free services offered:
- Free online banking
- Free mobile banking
- Free online or electronic statements
- No ATM fees
- ATM rebates
- Debit card
- Rewards programs
- Sign-up bonuses
The Pros and Cons of Free Checking Accounts
Free checking accounts that come with minimum opening deposits and overdraft fees also tend to offer more free services, rewards and convenient perks. On the other hand, free checking accounts without minimum opening deposit requirements or overdraft fees still tend to provide plenty of free services and features such as rewards programs and online and mobile banking. When it comes to the best free checking accounts, you can pick and choose which fees and benefits fit what you’re trying to do with your money.
Keep Reading: 15 Best Free Business Checking Accounts
Ashley Redmond contributed to the reporting for this article.