Stop With the Bank Fees: Our 8 Favorite Free Checking Accounts of 2019

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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. The average American forks over $360 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, minimum balance fees… you get the point.

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 banking!). No need to spend hours researching, though. We did that for you.

8 Best Free Checking Accounts of 2019

Now, 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 your current account does, including online bill pay, mobile check deposit, ATM withdrawals and deposits and Visa debit card transactions. Plus, they’re all FDIC-insured. (Safety first!)

What’s different than your more traditional banking options is that these are all free: No monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements or fees, no ATM fees and no overdraft fees. None of them have insanely high minimum opening deposit requirements either.

Even better? Each bank offers a unique perk, including interest, cash-back rewards checking and early paydays.

So, without further ado, check out these best checking accounts:

1. Aspiration Spend and Save Account

Best for: Those who want cash-back rewards… without the credit card

Our favorite perk: If you want to earn cash back on your debit card purchases but aren’t interested in (or can’t quality for) a rewards credit card, don’t worry. We know of a free checking account that offers those rewards.

It’s Aspiration’s Spend and Save account. This online account comes with a debit card that gets you 0.5% cash back on purchases. It basically turns your debit card into a cash-back card.

Plus, you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.

Minimum deposit: $10

How to sign up: Open an Aspiration account online and simply connect your existing bank account to fund your account.

Want more information? Read our complete Aspiration review.

2. NBKC Personal Checking Account

Best for: Those constantly running to the ATM for cash

Our favorite perk: Now, many of the checking accounts on this list offer free ATMs, but we like NBKC’s online checking account because it adds an extra layer of protection.

In addition to free MoneyPass ATM transactions (there are 32,000-plus in the U.S.), NBKC also gives account holders a monthly $12 ATM reimbursement allowance — just in case you somehow use an out-of-network ATM.

This is also an interest-bearing account, and you’ll earn 1.01% on your account balance.

Minimum deposit: $5

How to sign up: Open your  NBKC checking account online. It takes about five minutes.

3. Varo Money Banking Account

Best for: Those iPhone users who want a connected savings account

Our favorite perk: Looking for a free checking account and a savings account? We’ve got a few other dual options on this list, but we like Varo Money, an app-based financial institution. Why?

It goes easy on the fees and when you pair your Varo account with a Varo Savings Account, you’ll earn 2.12%* Annual Percentage Yield (APY) with the opportunity to earn up to 2.80% APY on up to $50,000 in savings. To qualify for the 2.80% rate, you’ll need to have payroll or government direct deposits of $1,000 or more and authorize at least five purchases with your Varo debit card each month.

That’s 31 times — repeat, 31 times — the average savings account, based on a 0.09% average reported by the FDIC.

Minimum deposit: None

How to sign up: Download the Varo iOS mobile app to get started. (Android users: Look into other mobile banking checking and savings accounts on this list, like Aspiration and Chime.)

*Varo disclosure: APY is accurate as of Jan. 29, 2019. This rate is variable and may change. No minimum balance required to open account. Balance in savings must be at least $0.01 to earn interest. Deposits are FDIC insured to at least $250,000 through The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.

4. SoFi Money

Best for: Those most interested in a high interest checking account

Our favorite perk: Yes, there are plenty of high-yield savings options out there, but what about high-yield checking?

So far, one of the highest interest rates we’ve found for a checking account is with SoFi Money. It gets you 2.25% APY — the interest (including compound interest) that you’ll earn on your money in a year. That’s better than the rate on a lot of savings accounts.

Minimum deposit: None

How to sign up: You can sign up for SoFi Money in about 60 seconds.

5. Chime Bank Account

Best for: Those who need access to money before payday

Our favorite perk: Want to get a jump on payday? Let Chime be your secret weapon.

Unlike most banks, this free online-only bank won’t wait until your pay date to get your money. As soon as it receives notification of a direct deposit from your employer, it immediately posts those funds to your account — up to two days before payday.

Minimum deposit: None

How to sign up: It takes about five minutes to sign up for Chime online.

6. Discover Cashback Debit

Best for: Those who are brand traditionalists (or, ahem, have trust issues) who want cash back

Our favorite perk: We get it. Sometimes jumping ship and moving all your money into a bank you’ve never heard of can be intimidating, so here’s an option for you brand traditionalists: Discover’s Cashback Debit. The fee-free account offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 of purchases each month.

Minimum deposit: None

How to sign up: Whether you’re new to Discover Bank or an existing customer, you can sign up online.

7. Simple’s Checking Account

Best for: Those who need some help putting money away

Our favorite perk: Saving money isn’t the easiest of tasks, but Simple can help. Set savings goals, and Simple will automatically stash your money away in a separate protected account, which earns you up to 2.02% interest (on balances of $2,000 or more).

Not sure how much you can afford to save? No worries. Simple’s Safe-to-Spend feature will help you forecast your spending for the month and determine how much you can put away.

Minimum deposit: None

How to sign up: You can sign up for your shiny new Simple account online.

8. Capital One 360 Checking Account

Best for: Those who can’t seem to stop overdrafting

Our favorite perk: Overdrafting is a cruel — and expensive — cycle. The accounts on this list won’t charge you overdraft fees, but none of them give you as many options as this fee-free Capital One 360 account.

You can opt to:

  1. Auto-decline any transaction that’ll cause you to overdraft.
  2. Transfer funds from your savings account to cover the charge.
  3. Open an overdraft line of credit, which allows you to borrow money with interest.
  4. Use next-day grace, which gives you one business day to deposit more money into your account.

Of course, you’ll want to figure out how to stop overdrafting, but at least you have a few options with this account.

Minimum deposit: None

How to sign up: It takes about five minutes to sign up for a new Capital One 360 account. If you’re already a Capital One customer? It’ll be even snappier.

A Final Note on Free Checking Accounts

A woman uses an ATM machine.

Like we said, all the checking accounts on this list are free of monthly service fees, minimum balance fees, ATM fees and overdraft fees. Those are the big hitters when it comes to bank fees.

However, we suggest peeping the fine print. Some of these accounts have a few more obscure fees you likely won’t face but could be important for you. These might include card replacement fees, foreign transaction fees or stop payment fees.

Now, did you ever think you would be so excited for a new checking account?!

Carson Kohler (carson@thepennyhoarder.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She used to fork over way too many overdraft and monthly service fees until she switched to Aspiration.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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