Best Free Checking Accounts | November 2022
Checking accounts are one of the most basic financial tools you need to achieve your financial goals. However, according to the FDIC about 25% of households in the U.S. are either unbanked or underbanked. Having to pay expensive fees is one of the reasons may consumers decide not to get a checking account. If you want to open a checking account without paying a monthly maintenance fee, read on.
Many people believe that banking is expensive and that you have to pay fees or maintain outrageously high balances to waive monthly service charges. It is one of the reasons millions of Americans don't have a bank account.
The good news is that is not true. There are many checking accounts that don't charge a maintenance fee. The best free checking accounts do more than save you money by having no monthly fees. They also offer other free services or even pay interest.
Here is our list of the best free checking accounts available.
The Complete Guide to Free Checking Accounts
Are you looking for a low-cost checking account. It is a competitive market, so banks, credit unions, and nonbank financial institutions have come up with many ways to make their free checking accounts more attractive. Here are some things to consider when looking at different banks’ free checking accounts.
A free checking account is NOT a no-fee checking account
Free and no-fee may sound like the same thing, but there is an important distinction. Free checking accounts don't charge a monthly maintenance fee, but could still have traditional fees. No-fee checking accounts waive most, if not all, account fees. The best way to remember this? All no-fee checking accounts are free checking accounts but not all free checking accounts are no-fee checking accounts.
Mobile features are a huge advantage in the age of disruptions.
Disruptions can happen any time. You may be on vacation or on a business trip with no physical access to your bank. Natural disasters could also cause banks to temporarily close some or all their branches. But if your bank had an app with access to your free checking account, chances are you would still be able to do your banking transactions.
See if the free checking account allows online check deposits. Can you make bill payments and fund transfers to third parties, including P2P payments? Will you get mobile alerts when you make payments and purchases? Does the free checking account come with a debit card? Is the free checking account compatible with other mobile payment apps? Does the mobile app come in both Android and iOS versions?
Minimum opening deposit and maintaining balance requirements.
Some free checking accounts do not require a minimum opening deposit or minimum average daily balance. Others do, but may compensate for it by making the account interest-bearing or by providing otherrewards, such as free ATM transactions.
Some banks will offer a bonus if you open a free checking account with them and deposit a specified minimum amount. It is not usually a huge amount but it's a welcome extra when you're already getting a free checking account.
Many accounts offer free ATM transactions within the bank's ATM network but you could be charged for ATM transactions outside your network. Some free checking accounts reimburse you for ATM processing fees.
In general, transactions that would result in an overdraft are automatically declined. But some free checking accounts offer overdraft protection for a fee. Typically, they either sweep funds from your other accounts to cover the overdraft or they provide a credit line for the overdraft. There are also a few free checking accounts that do not charge a fee for an overdraft as long as it does not exceed a specified amount.
Frequently asked questions about free checking accounts
Which banks offer free checking accounts?
You would be surprised to know that many banks still have free checking accounts. There are hundreds of checking accounts that waive monthly maintenance fees. Start with our list above and do a comparison review.
Who has the best free checking account?
It depends on who is applying and what they need from their checking account. Before deciding, it is always best to do a side-by-side comparison of different free checking accounts. Make a shortlist of banks offering free checking accounts. Consider several factors like how much money you plan to deposit and maintain, whether you want physical and mobile access to your account; how important overdraft protection is for you; or if that signup bonus is important to you. The list above is a good place to start.
What is the maximum amount I can place in a free checking account?
There is usually no set limit on how much you can keep in a free checking account. But note that there are FDIC insurance deposit limits, $250,000 per account.
What other fees may be charged to me even if I have a free checking account?
This is not a comprehensive list but other fees could include:
- ACH transfers (bank-to-bank transfers)
- Stop payment orders
- Paper statements
- Returned deposits
- Replacement debit card
- Cashiers check
- Domestic wires
- NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds) checks
- International transactions
- Dormant account
- Over-the-counter withdrawals
The bottom line
The idea that checking accounts are expensive to maintain is a myth. There are free checking accounts available for practically every kind of consumer. Choosing a free checking account doesn't mean you have settle for a basic account without all the services we have come to expect from online banking either. Consider the checking accounts listed above and find the best deal for you.