10 Best Free Checking Accounts in May 2024

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The best checking accounts in 2024 are free, and most offer perks to their customers.

If you’re looking for a new checking account, read on: I’ll tell you which factors matter, which accounts to consider, and perhaps just as importantly, which ones to avoid.


This article was updated in May 2024. I review the rates weekly and the included banks monthly. I added Wealthfront during my most recent review.


Best Free Checking Accounts in 2024

Financial InstitutionAccount NameWhy It Makes Our List
Alliant Credit UnionHigh Rate Checking AccountEasily accessible, national credit union with well-rounded features
Ally BankSpending AccountMinimal fees and requirements, pays interest
American ExpressRewards Checking AccountHigh-interest checking account with rewards for AmEx credit card holders
Capital One360 Checking AccountFree checking account with a good app and good service that pays interest
ChimeChecking AccountGood free online option for the unbanked and people with negative banking histories
Discover BankChecking AccountGood option for those who despise fees and like cash back
Fidelity InvestmentsCash Management AccountCash management account that automatically earns interest on uninvested money
LendingClub BankRewards Checking AccountCombines early direct deposit, cash back and free ATM use worldwide.
RobinhoodCash AccountGreat option for investors, especially those with significant savings
WealthfrontCash AccountCash management account with strong APY, access to financial planning tools

Money expert Clark Howard has strong opinions on where you should do your banking. His main tenets about banking are to avoid paying fees and to go somewhere that cares about you as a customer (he advises you to avoid big institutional banks).

In developing the list below, I considered factors such as the availability of ATM networks, online services like mobile deposits and the quality of mobile apps. All of the options below are federally insured for at least $250,000 per account.

After reviewing dozens of checking account options, I’ve listed 10 in alphabetical order below. All of the options meet the criteria of minimal fees and requirements. There’s not a whole lot of difference between these accounts. You should choose the account that offers the features that are most important to you.

I’ve also provided a table of four additional checking accounts that didn’t quite crack our list but could be great options for specific people (USAA for those with military connections, for example).


Table of Contents


Best Free Checking Accounts

Alliant Credit Union

Ally Bank

American Express

Capital One 360

Chime

Note: Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC. Chime FAQs.

Discover Bank

Fidelity Investments

LendingClub Banking

Robinhood

Wealthfront

Other Checking Account Options

Here are some other checking accounts that stand out for specific reasons.

BankWhy It Stands OutAccount Features
AspirationBest for the environmentally conscious-Up to 10% cash back on purchases at Conscience Coalition companies
-Option to round up purchases to the nearest dollar to plant trees
-Deposits won't fund fossil fuel exploration/production
Pelican State Credit Union Kasasa Cash CheckingBest for those looking for maximum interest-6.05% APY on balances of less than $20,000
-Must meet qualifications including 15 monthly debit card purchases, direct deposit, sign into online account once per month and electronic statements
SoFiBest for those who don't mind mixing checking and savings-4.6% APY with direct deposits
-Up to $300 in cash via promotion that ends June 30, 2024
-15% cash back on certain debit card purchases
USAABest for those with military connections-Few fees/requirements
-Well-received app
-Modern mobile tools/integrations

What You Need in a Checking Account

In Clark’s view, the most important feature of your checking account should be its lack of fees.

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You should be able to conduct basic banking activities without having to dodge fee land mines. Also, be wary of banks that offer you perks and benefits but have a lot of fees and requirements.

The best checking accounts I found each offer a good mobile setup, FDIC insurance and good customer service.

Fees and Requirements To Avoid

  • Maintenance fees. There’s no need to pay a maintenance fee for your checking account. Some banks offer perks such as higher interest rates in exchange for a monthly or annual fee, but in many cases, the bank gets the better of that deal.
  • Overdraft fees. There’s a limit to this, of course. It’s hard to imagine a bank allowing you to overdraft by the price of a Lamborghini and not charge you a penny. But try to find a bank that will not hammer you with fees for small overdrafts that you pay back relatively quickly.
  • ATM fees. There’s little need for you to pay fees to access your money through ATMs. A good checking account includes a large network of ATMs and even reimburses you if you incur fees for using an ATM outside of its network.
  • Paper statement fees. Some banks will charge you if you want a paper statement mailed to you. You can opt for online statements to avoid charges.
  • Monthly balance requirements. Plenty of good checking account options don’t require you to keep a single dollar in your account.
  • Direct deposit requirements. This is not a guaranteed deal-breaker. Not everyone with a bank account has direct deposit. Ideally, your bank won’t require any kind of direct deposit minimum to qualify for certain perks or avoid fees, but some do.

Checking Account Features You Want

  • Online and mobile access. A lot of the best free checking accounts are online only. Financial institutions with zero or few branches contend with less overhead and can pass those savings along to the customer. No matter which bank you choose, you’ll want it to have a well-designed website and/or mobile app.
  • Good customer service. No matter how digitally oriented we’ve become, sometimes there’s no substitute for human help.
  • FDIC insurance. This should be a given, but make sure that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures your bank. The FDIC typically protects the money in your account up to $250,000. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the credit union equivalent of the FDIC.
  • Interest. This is not a must-have, as checking accounts typically aren’t the best places to put your money to work. But, all else being equal, wouldn’t you rather earn interest on your money than not?

Clark: Avoid Big, Expensive Banks

When you’re looking for a checking account, it can be tempting to select JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Citigroup.

And many people have succumbed to that temptation. The “big four” of American banking held nearly 48% of all U.S. customer deposits as of February 2024, according to the FDIC.

But money expert Clark Howard strongly cautions against banking with those financial institutions.

“I see no reason for anybody at any time to ever do banking with any of those four under any circumstances. Because they’re very expensive to do business with,” Clark says. “And if you have a problem with your account, you’re facing dealing with a giant bureaucracy that is set up to not care. And they don’t.”

One of the reasons Clark loves pointing people toward credit unions is that they’re nonprofit, member-owned organizations that, by nature, value their customers.


Why You Should Avoid Overdraft Protection

Checking accounts are designed for you to use to pay for things.

But if you don’t keep close track of your balance, you could write a check or use your debit card for a purchase you can’t afford based on the money in your account. That’s overdrafting.

What happens when you overdraft depends on your bank and how you set up your account.

Banks often offer overdraft protection, paying for a transaction even if your account doesn’t have enough money to cover the payment. But banks often charge customers a premium for this “generosity” — an average of $26.61 per overdraft, according to a 2023 Bankrate study. That’s down from $33.47 in 2020.

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Fortunately, financial institutions must get your written or electronic consent before enrolling you in overdraft protection. And you can contact your bank and ask to opt-out if you’re already enrolled.

“If your bank pitches you or has already conned you into signing up for overdraft protection, I want you to ‘un-protect’ yourself,” Clark says. “Banks live by ‘fee-ing’ you to death. So look at online banks, credit unions and small local banks that don’t want to do that.”

Instead of relying on overdraft protection, opt to get text alerts when you have a low account balance, practice good budgeting and choose a bank that won’t charge you fees. Some financial institutions offer an auto-decline option for transactions that would put your account balance into the red.


Frequently Asked Questions About Free Checking Accounts

Are Free Checking Accounts a Real Thing?

It depends on your definition of free. In this instance, I consider a bank account that does not charge fees for monthly maintenance, monthly statements, failure to maintain a minimum balance and ATM usage to be “free.” However, I have not seen a bank that offers a checking account with zero fees for any possible action that its customers take (such as overdrafting).

Do Checking Accounts Pay Interest?

Some checking accounts pay interest. Some don’t. And some require you to make a certain number of debit card transactions and/or deposit a certain amount of money each month to access the best interest rates. Although it’s nice if your checking account pays interest, savings accounts usually provide better interest rates.

Do You Have To Pay To Withdraw Money From ATMs?

Usually not, if you’re using an ATM that’s within your bank’s network. However, you may be charged a fee if you’re using an ATM outside of that network and/or in a foreign country. Many of the checking accounts I recommend will reimburse you between $10 and $20 per month if you incur fees at ATMs outside of their networks.

Do Any Banks Offer Bonuses To Open Checking Accounts?

Yes. Some banks offer bonuses to incentivize you to open accounts with them. Typically they come with strings attached. And those strings can come in different forms: minimum balance requirements, deposit requirements or even a requirement for the number of transactions you make within a certain period. However, bonuses of $100 or more do exist. Before you open an account due to a welcome bonus, compare it to other options. You could be forced to pay an amount in fees that exceeds your bonus, which would defeat the purpose.


Final Thoughts

There’s no reason to pay fees for a checking account in 2024.

Clark says you should find a bank that provides free checking, values you as a customer and isn’t looking to hit you with “gotcha” charges. He says one proven way to do that is to consider banking with your local credit union.

“I love credit unions for checking accounts,” Clark says. “It’s very rare that a credit union will have junk fees on a checking account, although some might. Because they’re owned by the membership, their whole structure is about serving the member instead of gouging the customer.”

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