The best checking accounts of 2021 come with mobile apps and online account management features, including online bill pay. They also come with low (or no) fees, excellent customer support, and plenty of access to ATMs nearby as well as nationwide.
To help people find a checking account that checks off all their boxes for a price they can afford (or even for free), we took the time to compare most of the major checking options available today in terms of their functionality, perks, and long-term costs. We liked the opportunity to earn rewards offered by Discover® Cashback Debit. Keep reading to learn more about the top checking offers available today, their main features and functions, and why you should consider them.
Best Checking Accounts of 2021 and Beyond
These checking accounts come with low fees and plenty of perks, and some of them even offer “rewards” for using a debit card or competitive interest rates on your deposits. If you’re in the market for a new checking account, consider these banks first:
- Discover® Cashback Debit
- Chime Bank
- Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking
- Simple Checking and Budgeting
- Axos Bank™ Rewards Checking
- Chase Total Checking
Best Checking Accounts: An Overview
Before you decide between one of the checking accounts on our list, it helps to know exactly what they offer in terms of perks and functionality, as well as which features help them stand out. The following reviews can help you find out the most important factors to consider with each option.
Wealthfront offers the Wealthfront Cash Account, which works as a checking account with its own debit card. This account doesn’t charge any account fees, yet you can earn a 0.35% APY on your deposits. Not only that, but your balances are FDIC-insured for up to $1 million.
The Wealthfront Cash Account comes with a mobile app that lets you pay bills or send money to friends with ease. You can also use your debit card to access cash at 19,000 ATMs nationwide without any fees.
Interestingly, your account can help you get paid up to two days faster when you set up direct deposit for your paycheck. If you also have an investment account with Wealthfront, you can even move money from your Cash Account to your investment account on an unlimited basis without any fees.
Why We Like It: The Wealthfront Cash Account is free of hidden fees and fine print. You also earn 0.35% APY on your deposits, which is more than the average checking account offer.
BBVA promises online and mobile banking with a low opening deposit requirement (just $25) and no monthly service charge. Customers get one free BBVA Visa Debit Card per account, which can be used to access cash from more than 64,000 ATMs nationwide, without any fees.
Customers can also access its mobile banking app that makes it easy to track purchases and get transaction alerts. The app can even be used to deposit checks or pay bills. BBVA’s Simple Cash Back program also lets customers earn cash back at select retailers and based on their spending patterns.There are no additional costs or fine print involved.
The main fee you should know about with this account is a $3 paper statement fee that’s charged monthly. However, you can avoid this fee by signing up for paperless billing.
Why We Like It: BBVA offers a free checking account you can open with as little as $25, and you can use it to pay bills and manage your money wherever you are. This account is also a good option if you need access to a broad range of ATMs considering 64,000 fee-free ATMs are in its network.
Aspiration is a newer cash management account that also comes with a handy mobile app. As a customer, you can qualify for up to $2 million in FDIC insurance for your account, which is considerably more than you’ll get through a traditional bank.
Aspiration also offers 1.00% APY on your deposits, and you can access cash at more than 55,000 ATMs nationwide, without any fees. This account is free of account management fees or any hidden fees. You can also use its app to deposit checks, pay bills, or manage your money on the go.
Finally, checking accounts from Aspiration come with a digital debit card and up to $600 in cell phone protection when you use your debit card to pay bills.
Why We Like It: Aspiration offers fee-free checking with 1.00% APY on your account balance. You can also get cash at more than 55,000 ATMs around the country without any fees.
Discover® Cashback Debit
The Discover® Cashback Debit account is one of the few checking accounts available today that lets you earn rewards on debit card purchases. Once you sign up and get started, you’ll earn 1% back on up to $3,000 per month — or $36,000 per year — in debit card purchases. This makes Discover® Cashback Debit similar to a rewards credit card, except that you are using debit instead of credit and thus avoiding the risk of debt.
The Discover® Cashback Debit program is also popular because there are no fees involved. You also get access to over 60,000 ATMs nationwide, which is a broader network than most of the other checking accounts you can find today.
Why We Like It: You’ll earn cash back on debit card charges, and you won’t pay any fees.
Chime Bank offers an award-winning app and debit card with its checking account offer. There are no hidden or ongoing banking fees to be aware of, and you can open an account without a credit check. Chime Bank even lets you access your paycheck up to two days early with their “faster” direct deposit offering. There are also no minimum deposit amounts, so it’s easy to get started.
Even more impressive is the fact that Chime Bank lets you access your money with a network of more than 38,000 ATMs nationwide. While Chime doesn’t allow you to write paper checks, they do have an online bill pay feature that lets you set up a check electronically and have it mailed on your behalf. You can also set up real-time alerts that let you know when a debit has been made, your account balance is getting low, and more.
Why We Like It: Get your paycheck two days earlier and access more than 38,000 ATMs nationwide.
Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking
Consumers Credit Union offers one of the most valuable checking accounts available today if your goal is earning interest on your deposits. This account lets you rack up 5.09% APY on deposits up to $10,000 if you meet specific account requirements. For example, earning their best rate requires you to agree to receive documents electronically, make at least 12 debit card purchases totaling $100 or more each month, set up direct deposits of at least $500 per month, and spend $1,000 or more on a CCU Visa Credit Card each month.
Those are some strict requirements, but the rewards can be worth it if you want to earn a high rate of return on your checking account balance. Other features you’ll like about this account include the fact that you can qualify for unlimited foreign ATM reimbursements, and that you can write unlimited checks. There are also no monthly maintenance fees to be aware of, and you can access over 30,000 ATMs and 5,000 shared bank branches nationwide.
Why We Like It: Earn up to 5.09% APY on your deposits and have foreign ATM fees reimbursed.
Simple Checking and Budgeting
Simple Checking is another online checking and budgeting app that makes managing your money and paying bills a breeze. This account also lets you earn up to 2.02% APY on up to $10,000 in deposits provided you move that money into a “protected goals” account so you can save it toward a goal.
Simple Checking and Budgeting comes with a helpful mobile app that lets you pay bills and track your spending all in one place. There are no overdraft fees and you’ll have access to more than 40,000 free ATMs nationwide. There are also no banking fees or account management fees to be aware of, although you’ll have to pay $5 if you want a book of checks. You’ll be subject to foreign ATM fees if you use out-of-network ATMs, but that’s the case with any checking account.
Why We Like It: Earn up to 2.02% APY on up to $10,000 in deposits without any monthly account fees.
Axos Bank™ Rewards Checking
Axos Bank™ Rewards Checking is another online bank account that lets you earn a high rate of return on deposits. In fact, you can earn up to 1.25% on funds kept in this account with qualified direct deposit and debit card activity. This account also comes with no monthly maintenance fees and there are no overdraft fees, either.
There are no minimum balance requirements to get started with this account, and you can even qualify for unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements.
Why We Like It: Earn up to 1.25% on your account based on qualifying activity, yet you won’t pay any ongoing banking fees.
Chase Total Checking
Chase Total Checking is one of the few accounts available today that consistently offers a bonus just for signing up and meeting specific account requirements. At the moment, the Chase checking bonus is for $200 when you open a new account and set up a qualifying direct deposit each month.
To avoid the $12 monthly maintenance fee on this account, you can maintain at least $500 in direct deposits each month, maintain an average balance of $1,500 in your checking account, or maintain an average balance of at least $5,000 across all your Chase accounts.
Chase checking also offers an array of digital features and a highly rated app. You can also access more than 16,000 ATMs and nearly 5,000 branches nationwide. While Chase also has a robust online presence, this bank is one of the only banks on our list where you can walk into a branch and deal with a live banker at any time.
Why We Like It: Earn a checking bonus of $200 with qualifying activities, and the monthly fee on this account is easy to avoid.
How We Chose These Top Checking Accounts
The checking accounts on our list were required to meet specific criteria, which is a big part of the reason we only chose six. Here are all the factors we considered as we compared checking accounts to find the absolute best available this year.
No Fees or Avoidable Fees
Most of the accounts on our list don’t charge any monthly maintenance fees. Chase Total Checking made our list because their monthly fee is easy to avoid with qualified direct deposits or a minimum account balance. Checking fees are a waste and you should avoid paying them if you can.
Online Account Features
Because banking is much different now that it was just a decade ago, we only focused on checking accounts that come with online account features and mobile apps. Being able to bank on the go is important to today’s consumers, so we didn’t include any banks that don’t make it easy to pay bills and manage your money online.
ATM access is also important to checking customers, which is why we prioritized checking accounts that offer broad ATM access nationwide. The more available ATMs you can access nationwide without a fee, the lower your ongoing banking fees have the potential to be. With that being said, we also gave extra points in our study to banks that offer foreign ATM fee reimbursement.
Mobile Bill Pay Features
Finally, we chose banks for our list that let you pay bills online. That’s really the whole point of having a checking account, so banks without mobile or online bill pay features didn’t make the cut. We also gave precedence to banks with a big online presence that also let you order and use paper checks. Even though paper checks are on their way out, some people still need to use one from time to time.
How to Choose the Best Checking Account
The best checking accounts should offer all the features you want without any burdensome costs. However, there is no such thing as the “best” checking account for everyone since each of the top offers has different features and functions.
These tips can help you find the best checking account for your needs with all the benefits you want the most.
1. Check ATM Networks in Your Area
One of the most important factors of checking accounts is the ATM access they offer, but it’s more specific than that. If you use an ATM to access cash in your account often, you’ll need access to ATMs where you live and wherever you travel the most.
Before you sign up for a new checking account, take the time to check on the ATM network it offers so you can ascertain whether you’ll have any fee-free ATMs nearby. ATM fees can add up quickly if you don’t, and they could even wipe out other benefits your new checking account offers, such as any interest you’re earning.
2. Know Which Features You Want the Most
You should also think long and hard about which banking features are most important to you. Do you want the best mobile app available today? Need access to paper checks? Are you hoping to earn rewards on debit card purchases? Or would you rather earn interest on your deposits?
The best checking accounts available today offer some amazing features, but they don’t all offer the same ones. By deciding which benefits you want the most, you can narrow down your search and get closer to finding the ideal account for your lifestyle.
3. Decide If You Need Branch Access
Because many of the banks with the most benefits operate mostly online these days, not all of them make it possible for customers to access a brick and mortar branch. If you want a personal relationship with a banker or to be able to pop into a branch to ask questions at any time, consider the banks on our list that have branches available.
If you rarely enter a bank and do most of your bill pay and general banking online or with a mobile app, however, you may not care about this factor at all. In that case, you may want to consider an online checking account.
4. Figure Out Your Average Monthly Balance
Finally, take a few moments to figure out how much you normally keep in your checking account. Having an idea of your average monthly balance can help you determine if you’ll be able to avoid monthly maintenance fees with banks that waive them if you keep a minimum amount of cash on deposit.
The Bottom Line
The best checking accounts available today make banking easy, but they don’t charge exorbitant fees. Make sure to do some basic research across the banks on this list to see which one offers a checking account that will help you pay bills, track your spending, and grow your wealth.
It would be nice to earn interest on your deposits or an initial checking bonus as well, so make sure to explore banks that offer those options. The right bank account is out there waiting, but it’s up to you to find it.