In today’s digital world, flexible banking options have become the norm. From contemporary financial start-ups to iconic institutions that have stood for centuries, consumers have a variety of options when selecting a bank for a new checking account. By being able to manage banking accounts through a computer or mobile device, online banking offers more convenience and savings compared to traditional banks.
Throughout this analysis, we compared the strengths and shortcomings of dozens of online checking accounts, considering features such as overdraft and stop payment fees, minimum balance requirements, wire transfer fees, and ATM fee reimbursement policies.
After weighing these checking account attributes, our top picks represent options that provide easy online access, the lowest fees around, and the most enticing sign-up rewards. Our top picks combine the reliability of well-known financial brands with the special features and customer service you expect from a local agent. Together, the companies make up the top three checking accounts currently available.
The Best Checking Accounts Compared
Our Top Picks for the Best Checking Accounts
- Chase Total Checking Account – Best for Sign-Up Rewards
- Discover Cashback Checking Account – Best Low-Fee Account
- Ally Interest Checking Account – Best for Online Banking
The 3 Best Checking Accounts Explained
Chase Total Checking – Best for Sign-Up Rewards
Chase is a globally-renowned banking institution with 4,900 physical branches located throughout the United States. Additionally, Chase provides more than 16,000 ATMs to serve customers, making Chase Total Checking a reliable and easily-accessible option for consumers looking for convenience, even when traveling outside of the U.S.
One of the top advantages of setting up a Chase Total Checking account is because of the impressive sign-up bonus rewards. Currently, consumers can receive a $200 sales credit when they open a new Chase Total Checking account and set up a direct deposit within 90 days of the account opening. Once the direct deposit has been completed, Chase will deposit the $200 credit into your checking account.
Chase Total Checking disadvantages include levying fees on practically every feature. Though the account does not have a minimum balance requirement, account holders must pay a $12 per month fee unless certain requirements are met. These requirements include carrying a minimum $1,500 per day balance, receiving a minimum of $500 in direct deposits, or carrying an average balance of $5,000 when combined with other accounts and investments.
Discover Cashback Checking – Best Low-Fee Account
Unlike Chase, Discover’s Cashback Checking account offers a nearly fee-free banking experience. Those holding Discover Cashback Checking accounts do not have to worry about overdraft or stop payment fees, minimum balances, or account essentials like cashier’s checks and checkbooks. The only fee you will incur with this account is the outgoing wire transfer fee, which amounts to $30, no matter whether international or domestic.
Beyond the nearly nonexistent account fees, the Discover Cashback Checking Account offers substantial cash back options on purchases made with your debit card. Each month, earn 1% back on up to $3,000 worth of purchases from your debit card. This perk is particularly beneficial for those who utilize debit cards more frequently than credit cards.
Discover is another reliable, nationwide banking option in the United States. Unlike Chase, Discover does not have nearly as many brick and mortar banking locations or ATMs. In fact, the company only has two branch locations, both situated in Delaware. However, Discover customers do have access to more than 60,000 fee-free ATM machines.
Ally Interest Checking – Best for Online Banking
Ally is an online bank that offers customers an interest-bearing checking account option. The company boasts of its competitive offerings, rates, and fees, which include free ACH transfers, incoming wires, and cashier’s checks. Common fees Ally charges include $25 for overdrafts, $7.50 for returned deposit items, and $20 for outgoing domestic wires.
While most checking accounts with other banks do not deliver interest gains, Ally’s Interest Checking Account does. Customers who carry less than $15,000 as a minimum daily account balance earn 0.1%, and those with a greater than $15,000 minimum daily balance earn 0.5%. Comparatively, other banks like Wells Fargo, Chase, and CitiBank only offer an annual percentage yield of 0.01%.
Though one disadvantage is that the company does not have any physical branch locations, it does provide access to your funds 24/7 via ATMs. Ally Interest Checking Account customers may access any of the 43,000+ Allpoint ATMs located throughout the United States for free, and Ally reimburses customers up to $10 per payment cycle for fees incurred at ATMs around the country.
What Is a Checking Account?
A checking account is a type of bank account enabling you to make withdrawals for purchases or input deposits easily. Checking accounts allow you to store larger amounts of income securely. Checking accounts are ideally suited for people who need day-to-day withdrawals or deposits of money, including paying bills and conducting various financial transactions.
One of the top advantages of setting up a checking account is because of the impressive sign-up bonus rewards. Currently, consumers can receive a $200 bonus when they open a new Chase Total Checking account and set up a direct deposit within 90 days of the account opening. Once the direct deposit has been completed, Chase will deposit the $200 credit into your checking account.
What to Look for in a Checking Account
There are many components to keep in mind when shopping around for a new checking account. First, check to see if the account requires a minimum opening balance or a minimum balance requirement after opening the account.
You should also consider whether the account offers you any type of interest-earning potential, as in the case of Ally’s Interest-Bearing Checking Account. An interest-bearing account allows you to earn a passive income by merely maintaining an account balance, even if the interest rate is modest.
Furthermore, consumers should also be aware of any additional fees that may accompany the account, such as overdraft fees, cashier’s check fees, and ATM withdrawal fees. Finally, be sure to check out each option’s online presence and ease of access for times when you need to utilize mobile or online banking.
For this study, we examined 30 different checking account options across ten different companies. We then compared these accounts based on nine features, including minimum balance to open, minimum balance requirement, overdraft fee, stop payment fee, returned item fee, outgoing wire transfer fee, cashier’s checks cost, additional boxes of checks cost, and ATM fee reimbursement. Additionally, we also considered the accessibility of the company and checking account, with regard to physical branches, ATMs, and online presence. Finally, we added in special features like cashback and sign-up bonuses, which offer consumers an added benefit with their checking account.
After taking all of these elements into consideration, we determined that Chase Total Checking, Discover Cashback Debit, and Ally Interest Checking are the best options for checking accounts in 2020.