A checking account is a bank account for everyday expenses that offers customers easy access to their money through a debit card, ATM or check. Online checking accounts allow customers to manage their money from any computer with an internet connection—or smartphone—offering services like bill pay, money transfers, and mobile deposits. Some banks even offer ATM fee reimbursements. Most traditional banks also offer online banking features that are tied to a regular checking account, so that customers can access their money at a physical branch, an ATM, or online.

Customers can set up an online checking account either through a brick and mortar bank or an online-only bank. Different banks have different procedures for opening an online account, but there are a few things that are standard. In most cases, customers need to complete an online application and provide their full name, date of birth, Social Security number, and a valid driver’s license or another government-issued id. Depending on the bank, customers may need to provide debit card information as well. Customers who already have an account with a brick and mortar bank can simply register for online access to their bank account, and provide a username and password. If the account is new and strictly online, customers must deposit money to open the account, either through a transfer from their current bank, a check, or a money order.

There are many different types of online checking accounts, so customers can choose between features like high interest, debit-card rewards, no monthly fee, and money management tools. These days, online-only banks offer better benefits than those from traditional banks. Online-only banking accounts are free to use, and some of them pay interest. They also offer better rates and lower fees than traditional branches.

One of the drawbacks with online-only banks is that it can take longer for a deposited check to clear. However, many banks, both online and traditional, now offer mobile deposits to make depositing checks much faster. Before deciding on an online checking account we recommend that customers confirm that the financial institution or digital-only bank is FDIC-insured. Customers should also check the minimum balance requirements and fees. A final concern with online banking and financial transactions has to do with security. Though encryption software and other high-tech security devices are fairly standard, it's important for consumers to keep both their mobile devices and their personal computers safe from malware and viruses.


Top 10 Companies

#1
9.8 / 10
  • 24/7 live customer representative phone support
  • No minimum balance, no fees
  • Use any ATM, $10/month fee reimbursement
  • No fee at 43,000+ nationwide Allpoint ATMs 
  • Interest earning checking account
  • No fees for checks or debit card
  • Mobile banking app available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone
#2
9.5 / 10
  • Bank easily and securely from anywhere
  • Free online banking
  • Free overdraft protection
  • Mobile app for Android and iPhone
  • Domestic ATM reimbursements
  • Cash back purchase rewards
  • Free money management tools
#3
9.2 / 10
  • A network of over 80,000 ATMs
  • ATM reimbursements of up to $20 a month for out of network machines
  • A free debit card that's digital wallet ready
  • No minimum balance required
  • No monthly service fee
  • NCUA insured for at least $250,000
#4
9.1 / 10
  • Free online and mobile checking
  • Zero fees and your first checkbook is free
  • No minimum balance 
  • Mobile deposit and online bill pay
  • Over 39,000 Captial One of Allpoint ATMs at zero cost
#5
9.1 / 10
  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum balance
  • Earn up to 1% cashback on up to $3,000 in monthly debit card transactions
  • Over 60,000 no-fee ATMs
  • Online bill pay
  • Online account monitoring
#6
8.9 / 10
  • No minimum opening deposit required
  • Online bill pay
  • A network of thousands of ATMs across the nation
  • Mobile app for Android and iPhone
  • Accounts with no overdraft fees
  • Regular or interest-bearing accounts
  • Special accounts for people over 62 years of age
#7
8.8 / 10
  • Unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide
  • Interest-bearing checking account
  • No monthly fee and free bill pay
  • No minimum balance when linked to a Schwab brokerage account
  • FDIC insurance up to $250,000
  • Mobile check deposit with mobile app
  • Google Pay, Apple Pay, Microsoft Wallet, and Samsung Pay
#8
8.6 / 10
  • Over 16,000 ATM network
  • Operates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico 
  • Zero liability for fraudulent transactions made with your debit card
  • Set up email or text notifications for account transactions
  • Cash-back rewards
  • Set up an automatic savings program
#9
8.2 / 10
  • Online/mobile banking
  • Track your spending, pay bills, deposit checks, and more
  • U.S. Bank has more than 3,000 branches and 4,800 ATMs.
  • Customers can choose between silver, gold, platinum, and premium checking account packages
  • Overdraft protection
  • Bilingual website (English and Spanish)
#10
8.0 / 10
  • No monthly service fee
  • $10 minimum deposit 
  • Up to $15 reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees
  • Competitive annual percentage yield
  • Low minimum balance of $100
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How We Compare Checking Accounts

Account Characteristics

45%

Banks have many checking accounts available that can help you manage your money and keep it safe; the trick is to choose the one that meets your financial needs while paying the lowest fees. Thus, thoroughly researching accounts before picking one should be a required step. First, you should know the types of checking accounts available, some of which are Basic, Free, Interest-Bearing, Joint, and accounts for seniors or students. Basic checking accounts allow consumers to pay bills and own a debit card for transactions. Users have a limited number of checks per cycle, and usually need a qualifying direct deposit transaction or consistent minimum balance in order to avoid maintenance fees. This type of account seldom earns interest, so it is not wise to keep balances above what is required, in order to avoid fees. An interest-bearing checking account, on the other hand, typically pays interest once a month, but does require a monthly maintenance fee and has a minimum balance requirement as well. Free checking accounts are the most popular option available, and for good reason. Customers who select a free checking account will have no monthly maintenance fee and won't have to worry about keeping a minimum balance or keeping track of the number of checks they issue. Another option is a joint account, with two or more people who share expenses. These can be basic, free, or interest-bearing; it depends on the bank. This type of account is used mostly by couples and families. Finally, senior and student accounts are designed for people who meet the age requirement established by the institution (student accounts are typically for college-age customers). The perks vary by bank and can include free checks, discounts, and better rates on other products offered by the financial institution.

Requirements

The requirements to open a checking account vary by bank, but in general, customers need to have a valid Social Security number, provide their date of birth, have a driver’s license or state issued id, be a U.S. citizen, and provide a physical address. Additionally, online accounts require that users an email address. While some financial institutions do not require an initial deposit to open the account, others do require a minimum amount.

Fees

Fees charged vary by institution, so it is important to study your financial habits before selecting an account. In addition to requiring an initial deposit to fund the account, customers can be required to pay a monthly maintenance fee, a per item fee for all checks or each one after a set number is written, and a bellow minimum balance fee. Fees

Minimum Balance

The minimum balance is the minimum dollar amount account holders need to have in their account in order to avoid paying maintenance fees. Each financial institution calculates the minimum balance differently: as a minimum balance, minimum daily balance, combined balance, or an average monthly balance requirement. Understanding how your minimum balance is calculated and how you spend your money is a clear way to help you determine which account is best for you.

Online Features

Online features let customers access their money easily, from the convenience of their phone or computer. Today’s technology makes it possible to simplify many of the processes involved in everyday-banking. Customers can therefore take control of their finances using available money-managing tools on the bank's website or official app. In addition to having 24/7 access, customers can deposit checks, pay bills using the bank application, or by through official apps.

Digital Wallet

Digital wallets allow customers to securely make payments or purchases using their smartphones by accessing linked bank or credit card accounts. Keeping a digital wallet is also an efficient way to store and use digital coupons.

Monthly Charge Waiver

Monthly charge waivers allow consumers to keep their hard-earned money, rather than pay excessive amounts in fees. Essentially, this means that if a customer meets the established criteria, banks waive some of the fees associated with their account. Read the account agreement for further details, as these offers vary by bank.

Loans

Loans offered at a reduced rate or without fees are sometimes an added benefit customers can enjoy when they open a checking account. Loan products and rates available vary by lender.

Additional Services

The additional services available make checking accounts more attractive. Banks and credit unions offer an array of tools and perks that help customers manage their money. Among the services available are budget managing tools, points or cash back rewards, credit score trackers, and investment services.

Security Measures

The security measures in place to protect your money and information include providing a secure connection with encryption protocols and 24/7 account monitoring. Many banks also have tools and information that teach their customers about keeping their data secure.


Company Reputation

30%

With all the tools available today, it's easier than ever for customers looking to research financial institutions before committing to one. Customers can learn about a company's stability from federal and state regulators, as well as rating agencies, all of which offer in-depth looks at financial institutions. These agencies include the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and BauerFinancial. The CFPB particularly establishes and enforces rules that protect consumers against predatory practices. On the agency’s website, consumers can access tools to help them manage their finances and can submit complaints and see first hand how companies respond. BauerFinancial, on the other hand, has a five-star rating system that reflects how a financial institution capital is being used. Another rating agency that reveals a financial institution's strenght is Moody's Investors Service, which provides credit ratings and publishes risk analysis reports that map a company’s financial condition.

Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System ID

The Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS) is a storage system for licensing and registration information on financial service providers. Besides managing and organizing data regarding state-based regulations applicable to the finance industry, the system aims to enhance consumer protection by sharing information related to mortgage loan originators (MLOs). Through their NMLS ID numbers, consumers can look up details about their mortgage lenders, including the number of regulatory actions taken against them.

The Nationwide Mortgage Regulatory Actions

The NMLS requires MLOs to disclose all disciplinary actions brought against them, which are then publicly displayed on the consumer-access section of their registry. These actions may include civil, disciplinary, and regulatory measures taken against a company or individual by federal or state regulators.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Complaints



What's important to know about Checking Accounts?


What is a checking line of credit?

A checking line of credit (previously called overdraft line of credit) is a loan attached to your checking account. If you run out of money and you’ve been approved by your bank, the line of credit protects from overdrafts and from having transactions denied for non-sufficient funds. Plus, it’s a convenient line of credit when you need quick access to cash. Any money you use is provided as a standard loan from your bank, so you’ll pay interest on the amount you borrow. However, checking lines of credit are often less expensive than traditional overdraft protection programs, which usually charge around $35 for each rejected transaction. Depending on the bank it can also include flexible repayment options and a low-interest rate.

Can I be turned down for a checking account?

A bank or credit union can deny your application for a checking account when a checking account reporting company such as ChexSystems or Early Warning has negative information in its files about your checking history. These agencies share their reports with banks and credit unions, which use the information in deciding whether to approve accounts. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there are several reasons why you to be denied a checking account: (1) having an unpaid negative balance on a previous checking account, such as from an overdraft from an account closed by the bank or credit union that you did not repay this is called “involuntary closure”), (2) if you were suspected of fraud related to a checking account, or (3) having shared a joint account with someone who had these problems.

What is a high-yield checking account and do I need one?

With a high-yield checking account or interest-bearing checking account, the bank pays your interest on the money in your account, much like it pays interest on a savings account. Banks that offer a high APY (2,3, or even 4 percent) tend to be regional banks or local credit unions. They are looking to draw people in with the possibility of high rates, but don’t want those customers treating these accounts like savings, where the money just sits there and does nothing but earn interest. Banks basically want you to treat your high-yield checking account like a regular checking account, in which you deposit money, pay bills, and use your debit card.

However, high-yield checking accounts come with a lot more strings attached than a regular checking account. Many have a minimum number of debit card transactions allowed per month, usually 10. While others require electronic receipt of checking statements and a direct deposit set up to go into the account. Also, make sure the bank has a reasonable balance cap and that it refunds your ATM fees. So, if this is not a problem for you, consider giving a high-yield checking account a try.

What should I do with my check after I deposit it online?

With the convenience of mobile banking services, it’s pretty easy to deposit checks by just taking a couple of photos with your phone. Once you have deposited the check successfully—which means that you see the money in your account and can also access an image of the scanned check online—you should write “Mobile deposit on Date” in the front of your check. The date should be the month, day, and year of the deposit. Then securely store your check for 5 days after your deposit. This allows sufficient time in case the original check is required for any reason. Then, you can destroy the check or mark it “VOID”.

What information do I need when applying for an online checking account?

Most online banks have a simple application that you’ll need to complete to open an online checking account. You will likely need to provide personal and contact information such as your full name, date of birth, and mother’s maiden name. The bank will also ask you to provide your Social Security number or another identification number like an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, a state-issued ID or a valid driver’s license, or a passport or other government-issued ID. In addition, some banks might ask you to provide information about your debit card information, or routing and account numbers, for another account that you own. You’ll need this information to make the initial deposit to your new account. Finally, you will need to provide your email address and phone number.

Do I need paper checks anymore?

Paper checks can seem out of date but you might need to write a check occasionally. Your landlord may insist that you pay him with a check and some small business don’t accept credit or debit cards. Also, paper checks help you stay disciplined with your spending, avoid convenience fees for electronic payments, and checks also have old-school security, so your money is safe. On the downside, checks cost money and processing takes longer. Overall, checks can be convenient, so if your checking account offers free checks, you might as well order a pack.

How do I avoid monthly service charges?

Fees and rules vary by institution, but you might be able to avoid monthly service charges by meeting one of the following requirements. (1) Maintain a minimum balance. Keep enough money in the account or pay the service fee for each month-long statement cycle when you don’t meet the minimum balance requirements. (2) Enroll in direct deposit, whereby your paycheck, pension, Social Security benefits, or other regular monthly income is automatically deposited into your checking account. Bear in mind that each bank might have different qualifying criteria. (3) Link your accounts. Most banks will waive the monthly service fees for customers who use a debit card linked to the account a certain number of times each month, usually around ten transactions.

Is the money in my checking account insured?

Most online banks are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). In addition, some banks offer Zero Liability Protection for unauthorized transactions. If you want your funds to be insured, make sure that you are placing your funds in a deposit account at an FDIC or NCUA insured financial institution and that your deposit doesn’t exceed the maximum allowed by law. You can check the FDIC’s Bank Find tool to determine which financial institutions offer this protection.

Why should I open an online checking account?

Opening an online bank account is easy. It takes just minutes, and you can do it from the comfort of your own home. With an online checking account, you can check balances, pay bills, deposit checks, transfer funds, and even send money—with your tablet or smartphone. Also, it’s an easy way to keep track of your spending habits. Other advantages include 24-hour access to your account, lower rates, lower fees, and some banks offer an extensive set of online tools such as tax forms, budgeting tools, investment analysis tools, loan calculators, among others. Additionally, some banks offer interest-bearing online checking accounts, which pays you interest for the money in your account.