Thanks to technology and the increasingly-digital nature of our money, it's possible to do your banking with an free online checking account — no need to walk into a branch location tied to a specific geographic area.
Plus, many online accounts offer perks that you won't find with traditional brick-and-mortar banks, including interest-bearing checking accounts.
Online checking accounts can be convenient, and many of them come without the fees that are starting to crop up at “regular” banks.
Online banks tend to have lower overhead, and can offer to pay interest, or even to provide rewards.
Most online banks will also send you debit cards and checks so that you can access your money at ATMs around the country and make paper check payments.
Compare Best Online Checking Accounts
But with so many online checking account options, how do you know which bank to choose? Here are some of the absolute best online checking accounts:
Chase Total Checking® Account
Chase offers the best cash rewards for opening an account. Their current promotion is you get a $150 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit.
There are a ton of features that come with your Chase Total Checking® account. This includes QuickDeposit℠, which lets you deposit checks to your account from your smart device by taking a picture.
Here is what you get with a Chase Total Checking account:
- Get a $200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit
- Access to over 16,000 Chase ATMs and 5,200 branches
- Chase QuickDeposit(TM) lets you deposit checks almost anytime, anywhere with the ease of taking a picture. Just point, snap, and deposit.
This is a popular choice among people who can maintain a higher account balance. EverBank promises that it will pay a yield in the top 5% of banks nationally, but that high yield also comes with strings attached.
First of all, you need $1,500 to open an account. You will pay a fee unless you keep $5,000 in your account. Once you reach that $5,000 threshold, you will be able to take advantage of free bill pay and ATM reimbursement. EverBank also allows online check deposit.
EverBank's interest rates are set up in five different tiers. The lowest tier is everything under $10,000, but the rate is still competitive. In order to get the absolute best available rates, you need to have more than $100,000 on deposit. (However, the middle tiers do pay competitive rates compared to other online checking accounts.)
- Competitive interest rate
- Free online bill pay (if your average monthly balance is > $5,000; otherwise $8.95)
- Free ATM reimbursement (if your average monthly balance is > $5,000)
- No monthly maintenance fee
- Deposit checks from home
EverBank also has a $50 guarantee. The bank rates highly for customer service, and is willing to back it up. If you close aren't satisfied after three months, EverBank will send you $50. Of course, there are requirements you have to meet, such as using online bill pay, as well as providing proper notice of account closing, within three months of opening your account.
Compass Bank BBVA
The BBVA Compass ClearChoice Premier Checking isn't the most well know account on our list, but it's one you should know about. BBVA Compass is one of the largest U.S. commercial banks based on deposit market share. They offer a wide variety of products and services, everything from small business loans to online savings accounts (because that's why you are here right?)
- Interest rate! You get interest on checking what an idea! BBVA Compass offers tiered interest rates that compound to make your money grow faster.
- Low initial deposit. While you are required to make an initial deposit, it's a minuscule $25.
- Account options. You'll have the freedom to choose between several different account types: Everyday Savings, Money Market, or CD account.
- Beware of fees. One of the few negatives of BBVA is their monthly service fees that come along with their accounts. It's only $15 a month, but it can be avoided by having a minimum balance of $5,000 in your checking or a Money Market account through BBVA. I consider this pretty fair in exchange for getting interest on your checking (and the MMA account has great interest compared to bricks and mortar banks).
If you haven't heard of Compass Bank BBVA, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the organization, their online savings account will make it worth your time.
USAA – Best Online Checking Accounts for Military Personel and Their Families
The USAA checking accounts are just the tip of the iceburg with this bank. Aside from being an exceptionally reputable organization, USAA offers several unique benefits that the other banks on this list don't. You can get a HUGE variety of different products with USAA. They offer just about any financial or insurance product you could ever need, and having all of your accounts and products in one place is an impressive advantage.
What you'll get with USAA Checking
- Use just about any ATM. If you ever need to get money out of your online savings account at an ATM, you don't have to worry about those ATM fees. You will be able to use more than 60,000 “USAA-preferred” ATMs for free. They will also refund you the fees of any ATM that isn't one of the preferred machines.
- Low initial deposit. Similar to some of the other accounts, USAA does require an initial deposit, but it's only $25.
- No fees. With a USAA savings account, you will not have to may any service fees or any fees if you transfer money to another bank.
If you have a family member that has ever served in the military, it's worth checking out an online savings account with USAA.
Capital One 360 Checking Account
Capital One purchased ING Direct and converted the brand name over to Capital One 360 in 2013. ING Direct was one of the most beloved online banking institutions out there because they were one of the first online accounts that paid great interest on savings. Over time the bank branched out and offered an online checking account called ING Electric Orange.
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That account is now called Capital One 360 Checking.
Here's what you get with this account:
- $50 bonus
- Competitive interest rate
- Free online bill pay
- Free unlimited check writing (Capital One 360 prints and mails the check for you!)
- 35,000+ free ATMs
- No monthly maintenance fee
- Incredibly low overdraft costs
If you open an account today, Capital One 360 will give you $50 just for using your debit card 3 times in the first 45 days. (Alternatively, you can use the free Person2Person payment system 3 times, or any combination of the two.) That's a free $50 just for trying out the account.
The overdraft protection is called an Overdraft Line of Credit. Instead of hitting you with massive fees for each charge you overdraft, Capital One 360 gives you a $165 line of credit to pull against if you need to. Let's say you have $500 in your account, but need to spend $600 during an emergency. The charge will go through and you will draw down your line of credit from $165 to $65. The $100 you borrowed is now charging you interest for borrowing the money, but we're talking pennies on the dollar for the overdraft. If you borrowed $100 for 10 days on overdraft your total fee would be approximately $0.31. Compared to the $30 to $35 a normal bank would charge you for each overdraft charge you're looking at a 99% savings for the overdraft.
Capital One 360 also provides an extensive network of free ATMs, and doesn't force you into account minimums (although you do need a minimum deposit to open an account) or activity requirements. A great perk of using a Capital One 360 Checking account is you can easily connect to all of your other Capital One 360 accounts like savings, CDs, and even . Capital One 360 offers free online bill pay, and will send out paper checks if that is needed. You can receive a debit card and order checks from the bank. Additionally, it's possible engage in Person2Person banking transactions — sending payments to any bank account.
Mutual of Omaha Bank Online Advantage Checking
Another great option for those with smaller balances that still want to earn interest on those balances is Mutual of Omaha Bank's Online Advantage Checking.
Where other banks require you to have tens of thousands of dollars on deposit to earn the highest interest rate offered (usually between $25,000 to $50,000), Mutual of Omaha Bank's interest rate kicks in at of balances of $1,500. Unfortunately this great account is only available in 11 states: NY, NJ, CT, IL, MA, MD, NC, OH, PA, SC, and VA.
- Low opening deposit of just $100
- Interest begins to accrue on balances of $1,500 or more
- Free online banking and bill pay
- Access to 22,000 free ATMs nationwide
- Your first box of checks is free
As great as this account is — who doesn't love earning interest without having to have thousands of dollars on deposit? — there are two fees to be aware of:
- $5 dormant account fee per month
- $1 inactive card fee
In short if you don't use the account and don't swipe your debit card, you pay a fee. You shouldn't run into this problem, but it is something to be aware of.
Ally Interest Checking Account
Ally Bank was built on the premise of getting rid of all the crazy fees that normal banks charge while giving customers great rates and great customer service.
They have been winning points for customer service and convenience for quite some time, and the interest checking account is another popular product. This is because Ally offers a bunch of freebies with its account. These are freebies that have largely disappeared from the world of brick-and-mortar banking. When you have an interest checking account from Ally, you get:
- Industry-leading interest rate
- Free online bill pay
- Free unlimited check writing
- Unlimited free checks
- Free ATMs (you are reimbursed for fees)
- No monthly maintenance fee
One of the last strongholds of brick-and-mortar banks was the question of “What do I do if someone gives me a paper check?” The answer used to be: go to the brick-and-mortar bank. You don't need to do that anymore.
Ally now offers free eCheck Deposit. You simply can scan your check in to your computer and then upload it to the bank's web site. You don't have to go in to the bank to deposit checks if you have an Ally online checking account – you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
You can open an account with no deposit, and there are no minimum balance requirements. If you slip up and overdraft your account the fee is only $9. Not $9 per overdraft charge (which is how normal banks make a killing off of customers), but one $9 fee per day you have an overdraft, even if you had 10 overdrafts that day. A normal bank would charge you $35 per overdraft for a total of $350 for the same number of overdrafts. That's unbelievable.
Schwab High Yield Investor Checking
The brokerage giant Schwab actually offers banking services as well. This account is linked to a Schwab One brokerage account, and you don't pay any fees to maintain either account. The checking account earns a yield (variable) of 0.10% at the time of this writing. There are no account minimums, and there is no minimum opening deposit for this account. You are issued free standard checks as well as a debit card.
One of the great perks of Schwab's checking account is that you get free ATM access worldwide. No matter where you go, you will receive a rebate for the ATM fees you pay. If you are a frequent traveler, this can be quite useful, as can the fact that your debit card is a Visa branded platinum card that can be swiped as a credit card in most businesses around the world.
Choosing an Online Checking Account
First and foremost, you want to make sure that any online checking account you open is insured by the FDIC. All of the banks above are FDIC-insured, so your deposits are insured for up to $250,000.
Next, consider your own needs and requirements. For those who are looking for a safe place to park a large emergency fund, BBVA Compass can be a good choice, since you can maintain the $5,000 minimum to keep the fees at bay. However, if you are using your online checking account as a primary account, you'll want an account that has no minimum balance requirements.
You should also consider the perks available, and the interest yield paid. Figure out which bank will help you get the most bang for your buck, and which is likely to provide you with all of the services that you need.
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