7 Best Free Checking Accounts in 2020

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Looking for the best free checking accounts that come with no fees and easy access to your money?

It’s getting harder to find a free checking account these days, but there are still some options out there. Here at Team Clark, we’ve done the research to deliver this list of the best free checking accounts!

Where to Find the Best Free Checking Accounts

Your checking account is among the most important accounts in your financial life. It’s typically where your money for paying bills and other short-term expenses lives.

But finding the best free checking accounts can sometimes be difficult, as more and more places eliminate no-fee checking.

Team Clark worked together to identify the best free checking accounts. While everyone on our team had different expectations of what they wanted and needed from a checking account, there were a number of factors we kept coming back to:

  • No fees
  • Free ATM access or reimbursement
  • Ability to deposit cash at an ATM
  • Good mobile/app experience for check deposit
  • Interest-earning account
  • Free paper checks
  • Federally insured by FDIC or NCUA

So, those were the considerations we had in mind when we came up with our list of the best free checking accounts in 2020.

However, we should point out that not every bank on our list below necessarily offers every one of these amenities. But considering the above factors is a good starting point when you want to figure out which free checking account would best serve you.

When you click on an institution’s name below, you can read more about each of our selections.

InstitutionMonthly FeesInterest RateBest For
Alliant Credit Union$00.25%Credit union customers who want ATM reimbursement
Ally Bank$00.10% - 0.50%Those who want an simple online bank with ATM reimbursement
Capital One$00.10%People who want to deposit cash regularly
Charles Schwab$00.03%Brokerage customers who want unlimited ATM reimbursement
Discover$0N/AThose who want a rewards debit card and a strong commitment to no fees
FNBO Direct$00.65%People who want high interest, but don't need to write checks
USAA$00.01%Military-affiliated customers who want ATM reimbursement

1. Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union logo

No fees and widespread access to your cash — with ATM reimbursement — are hallmarks of this account that lives up to the great legacy of credit unions.

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No monthly service fees or minimum balance requirements are just the beginning with Alliant’s High-Interest Checking Account.

Accessing your cash is easy at 80,000+ surcharge-free ATMs. Furthermore, Alliant will rebate ATM fees up to $20 per month if you have to use an out-of-network ATM.

Meanwhile, if you like to write checks, you’ll get your first box free with this account. After that, you can order more from Alliant for around $15 a box.

Alliant is our only credit union on this list, partly because the market for credit unions is so local. But this is one credit union that’s open to anybody no matter where they live.

Just meet the membership qualifications and you’re in. Or, simply make a $5 donation to the nonprofit Foster Care to Success to join. Alliant even states online that it will make that donation on a prospective member’s behalf.

If for some reason Alliant doesn’t work for you, you could always check with a local credit union for another good free checking option.

2. Ally Bank

Ally Bank logo

Ally’s online checking account is a solid option for people who want an account with no surprises and some limited ATM reimbursement.

Fee-free accounts are a common theme on this list and Ally doesn’t disappoint.

Ally also partners with Allpoint, a surcharge-free ATM network with locations in Canada, the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, Australia and Mexico in addition to across the United States.

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Meanwhile, this bank also offers reimbursement for up to $10 in fees charged at other banks’ ATMs. The reimbursement is good once per statement cycle.

You could say Ally is just a good, clean online checking account for almost anyone.

Team Clark member Kim Drobes says she’s had a checking account with Ally for about seven years and has no complaints.

“It wasn’t my first online checking account so I didn’t have to adjust to online banking life. It suits me very well,” she says.

“Depositing checks online is simple with the app, and Ally’s communication as to when funds will be available is very straightforward and on par with other online banks I’ve been with,” Kim notes. “The account earns a smidgen of interest, which is nice — and I’ve never incurred any surprise fees from Ally.”

3. Capital One

Capital One logo

If you’re paid in cash and need to make regular deposits, this account may be a good choice for you. Online banking customers can deposit cash at select Capital One-branded ATMs and Capital One Cafés. 

Capital One is another great option for fee-free checking with no minimum balance requirements. Accessing your cash is easy thanks to a network of more than 39,000 fee-free ATMs.

For people who are resistant to the idea of online banking because of the lack of physical branches, Capital One offers the best of both worlds: No fees like an online bank, but with the ability to make cash deposits at a Capital One ATM or Capital One Café (yes, they actually have Peet’s Coffee in the latter!).

Team Clark member Sally McDonald says she has been very happy with Capital One for checking.

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“I like banking with Capital One 360 because it offers simple and flexible money management. I can easily label my bank accounts to monitor my financial goals,” she says. “Depositing checks is an incredibly easy, quick and accurate process.”

Sally also likes the great customer service and easy mobile experience with the Capital One app, particularly the access it offers to her credit score.

“And while I don’t need a physical bank location, I appreciate that the option is available.”

4. Charles Schwab

charles schwab logo

Schwab checking customers get unlimited fee rebates from any ATM worldwide, but the checking account must be linked to a Schwab One brokerage account.

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum deposit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0.03% APY
  • Unlimited ATM rebates worldwide
  • No service fees or account minimums
  • Free checks
  • Linked to a Schwab One brokerage account

Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking doesn’t have any fees and pays a decent rate of interest. It’s different from any other account on this list because it’s linked to a Schwab One brokerage account, which also has no minimum balance requirement.

Because of that, this option is most likely to appeal to affluent customers who may already have a Schwab brokerage account.

Among the key selling points on High Yield Investor Checking are unlimited ATM rebates worldwide, making it unnecessary to find an in-network ATM.

“Schwab gives me the ATM rebates so I always take my cash out of Schwab,” Team Clark member Christa DiBiase says.

Other things customers like are the free checks and the no foreign transaction fees for when traveling internationally.

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However, the mobile app experience when it comes to depositing checks is less than perfect, according to Christa.

“With the Schwab app, taking pictures is clumsy and entering check amounts while in landscape mode (to take the photos) is hard,” she notes.

5. Discover Bank

Discover logo

Discover Bank offers cash-back rewards for debit card purchases and a strong commitment to no fees.

  • No monthly fees
  • No fees for insufficient funds, excess withdrawals and many more
  • Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month
  • 60,000+ Allpoint and MoneyPass ATMs nationwide
  • Free standard checks
  • FDIC insured

If you’re somebody who really hates fees in your life, Discover Bank’s checking account may be for you.

We’re not just talking about an account with no monthly maintenance fees, either. It goes beyond that with no fees for insufficient funds, excessive withdrawals, falling below minimum balances and stop-payment requests, among others.

Meanwhile, instead of paying interest on deposits, Discover offers 1% cash-back debit card rewards up to $360 annually. However, we should note that money expert Clark Howard strongly discourages people from using debit cards. Find out why here.

There are a few caveats you should know about before opening an account.

Like most online-only banks, you can’t deposit cash to Discover’s checking account. So it’s likely to only make sense for folks who get paid by direct deposit from work.

Second, even though Discover has no-fee cash withdrawals at over 60,000 Allpoint and MoneyPass ATMs, you’re limited to $510 in ATM withdrawals daily.

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Of course, many banks have ATM withdrawal limits. If you know you’ll withdraw a lot of cash in a day, you may want to check with your bank of choice before signing up for a checking account.

Discover’s daily cash withdrawal limit happens to be lower than some others on this list, which can be up to $1,000 a day.

6. FNBO Direct

FNBO Direct logo

This bank offers the highest rate of interest on our list. But if you’re still a fan of paper checks, you’re out of luck!

Like all the other best free checking accounts on this list, FNBO Direct from the First National Bank of Omaha has no monthly service fees at all — plus free incoming wires and free stop payments, to boot.

Meanwhile, this online checking account offers a high rate of interest on money in your checking account.

Accessing your money is easy at any of Allpoint’s 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs. Additionally, FNBO says you can access your cash 24/7 at more than two million ATMs worldwide.

FNBO’s online checking account also offers its own version of a free person-to-person payment system called PopMoney. This service aligns with the bank’s goal to go green and eliminate all paper checks.

So, if you still need to write the occasional paper check, this account probably won’t work for you.

7. USAA

USAA-logo-NEWS-UPDATE-version

USAA is best for people who are in the military and want ATM reimbursement.

  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • $25 to open an account
  • New recruits don’t need an opening deposit
  • 0.01% APY
  • 60,000+ USAA-preferred ATMs nationwide
  • Get paid up to a day early
  • ATM reimbursement
  • FDIC insured

The USAA Classic Checking account has no monthly fees and a low $25 barrier to open an account.

But before we go any further, we should note that USAA’s checking product is only available to those in the military, those who are veterans or those who are affiliated with the military through direct family ties. That may eliminate it from consideration for a lot of people.

However, if USAA is a consideration for you, one of the chief selling points of the Classic Checking account is how it handles ATM access. You get 10 free withdrawals every month from more than 60,000 USAA-preferred ATMs.

After that, USAA offers ATM reimbursement up to $15 per statement cycle in the U.S. when you use other banks’ ATMs.

Meanwhile, you can also get paid up to a day early into your Classic Checking account when USAA receives pay information from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services.

However, if earning some interest on your checking account is important to you, USAA has the lowest APY on this list. What they pay is measly and requires you to have a daily balance of $1,000 or more.

Final Thought

When you’re looking for the best free checking account, you want to find a fee-free provider who gives you easy access to your money. If you can earn a healthy rate of interest on your checking account, so much the better.

If you open an account today with any of the nation’s Big 4 banks as a new customer — Bank of America, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo — you’ll likely face minimum deposits. Plus, there will be other rules you have to comply with in order to avoid what could be an up to $25/month fee.

That’s not the case with the selections on our list of the best free checking accounts!

Most of the best free checking accounts are from online banks. However, if you like to bank locally, credit unions may be a good in-person option.

Best of all, moving your checking account away from your current bank is not nearly as difficult as you might think. Just check out our guide to How to Switch Banks in 4 Simple Steps to get started today!

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