The 6 Best Free Checking Accounts of September 2022

Free checking accounts don't charge monthly maintenance or ATM network fees, or overdraft penalties.
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Too many of us are settling for less-than-satisfactory checking accounts. (Just look at the folks complaining on Twitter!)

We’re still forking over so many bank fees. Frequent overdrafters hand over $380 a year in overdraft fees alone, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That doesn’t even account for ATM network fees, monthly maintenance fees and minimum balance fees.

In reality, there are a ton of free checking account options out there; you just might not be looking in the right places (ahemonline banks!). No need to spend hours researching, though. We did that for you.


6 Best Free Checking Accounts

Account Top Feature ATM access

NBKC Everything Account

Checking, savings in one

37,000+

Varo Bank Account

Excellent banking app

55,000+

SoFi Checking and Savings

Loan interest discounts

55,000+

Chime Checking Account

Early direct deposit

60,000+

Discover Cashback Debit

Zelle money transfer

60,000+

Capital One 360 Checking Account

Overdraft options

70,000+

6 Best Free Checking Accounts of 2022

You might not have heard of some of the financial institutions on our list, but give them a chance. It’s likely they all offer what a traditional bank  account does, including online bill pay, mobile check deposit, ATM withdrawals and deposits, and Visa or Mastercard debit card transactions. Plus, they’re all FDIC-insured accounts. (Safety first!)

Unlike many traditional bank accounts, these are all free: no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements or fees, almost no ATM fees and no overdraft fees. And none come with minimum opening deposit requirements — so you can get started right away.

Even better? Each bank offers a unique perk, including interest, cash-back rewards checking and early paydays.

Here are our picks for the best free checking accounts.

NBKC Everything Account

Best for Ambitious Savers

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • Up to $12/month in reimbursed ATM fees
  • 0.50% APY on all balances
  • No fees
Formerly National Bank of Kansas City, NBKC Bank is a full-fledged financial institution, member FDIC, offering loans, credit cards, savings, money market and free checking accounts. Its Everything Account is a personal checking and savings account in one, with spending, budgeting and savings goals built into one high-yield account.
NBKC Everything Account

Fees
None
Minimum opening deposit
None
APY
0.50% on checking and savings
ATM access
37,000+ MoneyPass ATM
Promotions
n/a

More Information About NBKC Everything Account

With NBKC’s Everything Account, you can set up savings buckets in the platform, and move money in and out of your savings easily without the penalties associated with traditional savings accounts. You’ll earn 0.50% annual percentage yield (APY) on any balance. Anyone can open an account online; you don’t have to live near the bank’s Overland Park, Kansas, headquarters.

Varo Bank Account

Best for Tech-Forward Clients

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • Cash deposit via Green Dot
  • Up to 6% cash back with Varo cards
Varo is a double threat: a tech-forward banking platform with a bonafide bank charter and FDIC membership. That means, unlike with most online banks, Varo holds your money itself, so there’s no complicated business happening under the hood.
Varo Bank Account

Fees
$2.50 for out-of-network ATMs (plus ATM owner’s fee); up to $5.95 for cash deposits
Minimum opening deposit
None
APY
n/a
ATM
55,000 Allpoint ATMs

More Information About Varo Bank

Varo’s origins as a technology company mean it offers an intuitive banking app with all the perks we’ve come to expect from online banks: higher-than-average APYs on savings accounts*, early payday, automatic savings features and cash back perks. Varo offers up to 6% cash back with more than 50 brands, and you’ll earn up to 5.00% APY with Varo’s savings account.

For more information on Varo's features, check out our full Varo Bank review.

*https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/rates/

SoFi Checking and Savings

Best for Lots of Features

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • 2.00% APY on checking
  • $50 in free overdraft protection
  • Member discounts on other products
Originally known for revolutionizing student loan refinancing, SoFi has become an all-around go-to for your financial needs. Its banking service, SoFi Checking and Savings, offers a fee-free online account with 2.00% APY, early direct deposit and up to $50 in free overdraft protection.
SoFi Checking and Savings

Fees
None
Minimum opening deposit:
None
APY
2.00% on all balances, when you set up direct deposit. Otherwise, 0.01%
ATM access
55,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Promotions
$50–300 bonus when you receive $1,000+ in direct deposits within 30 days

More Information About SoFi Checking and Savings

When you’re a SoFi member, you get access to its vast community and events, as well as interest rate discounts on its loan products, including mortgage, student loans and refinancing.  All SoFi Checking and Savings accounts are FDIC-insured up to the standard $250,000 ($500,000 for joint accounts).

For more information on SoFi's Checking and Savings features, check out our full SoFi Checking and Savings review.

Chime Checking Account

Best for Easy Access

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • Up to 2 days early direct deposit
  • $20–$200 free overdraft protection
  • Access to Credit Builder credit card
Chime is one of the top online bank accounts, loved for its simplicity and focus on just what a typical banking customer needs: easy access to your money. Through its Checking account, you’ll get a debit card and get paid up to two days early through direct deposit. When you open a Savings account, you can earn 1.50% APY. Set up rounds up and automatic deposits from your Spending account to build savings automatically.
Chime Bank Account

Fees
Out-of-network ATM fees
Minimum opening deposit:
None
APY
n/a
ATM access
60,000+ ATMs from Allpoint, Visa Plus Alliance and MoneyPass ATMs at any 7-Eleven
Promotions
n/a

More Information About Chime Checking Account

Chime also has a $75 referral bonus promotion that has no expiration date. After you open your account, if you refer a friend and they open a new account and receive a direct deposit of at least $200 in the first 45 days, you will each receive $75. Make sure to use the referral link from your account to get the cash bonus. Chime is great for beginners, offering fee-free overdraft, automatic savings, early paycheck deposit and 60,000+ fee-free ATMs.

For more information on Chime’s bank’s features, check out our full Chime Bank review.

Discover Cashback Debit

Best for Traditionalists

3 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • 1% cash back on debit card purchases
  • No extraneous fees
  • Transfer money to anyone with Zelle
Sometimes jumping ship and moving all your money to a company you’ve never heard of can be intimidating, so here’s an option for traditionalists: Discover’s Cashback Debit. The fee-free account offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 of debit card purchases each month. Beyond that, the account’s perks are slim (hello, traditional banking…).
Discover Cashback Debit

Fees
None
Minimum opening deposit:
None
APY
None
ATM access
60,000+ Allpoint and MoneyPass ATMs
Promotions
n/a

More Information About Discover Cashback Debit

The Discover Cashback Debit account is a great fit for anyone who uses their checking account more for spending than storing a big balance of money. You won’t earn interest on this account, but you can open a Discover Online Savings account to earn 2.00% APY on your savings balance. You can manage all your Discover products — from loans to credit cards to bank accounts — through the Discover app.

For more information on Discover Bank’s features, check out our full Discover Bank review.

Capital One 360 Checking Account

Best for Money Transfers

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • No overdraft fees
  • Up to 2 days early direct deposit
  • Transfer money to anyone with Zelle
Overdrafting is a cruel — and expensive — cycle. The accounts on this list won’t charge you overdraft fees, but none of them give you as many options as the fee-free Capital One 360 account. You can opt to auto-decline a transaction, transfer funds from savings or allow the bank to overdraft your account for free.
Capital One 360 Checking Account

Fees
Extraneous service fees only
Minimum opening deposit:
None
APY
0.10%
ATM access
70,000+ Capital One and Allpoint ATMs
Promotions
n/a

More About Capital One 360 Checking Account

The account also comes with early direct deposit and peer-to-peer payments via Zelle. 

Capital One 360 doesn’t have the most attractive APYs for either its online checking or savings (0.10% for checking and 1.90% for savings), but the online bank makes up for it with the industry’s second-highest-rated app according to J.D. Power, with users citing the app’s speed, easy-to-use interface and self-service options that are simple to use.

For more information on Capital One’’s features, check out our full Capital One Bank review.

Which Banks Offer Free Checking Accounts?

Most banks offer a free checking account option now that challenger banks have shoved the market in that direction. In some cases, the account is only free if you maintain a minimum balance or deposit requirement, so read the fine print before opening an account.

In many cases, especially with online banking platforms like we listed above, you can get a checking account with no monthly fees, limited ATM fees, no overdraft fees and few miscellaneous fees without balance or deposit requirements — so compare your options before going all in with a traditional bank. The best free checking accounts cut nearly all fees.

Pro Tip

Check out our current list of bank promotions for a chance to gain a monetary bonus when signing up for a new bank account.

Are Free Checking Accounts Really Free?

Most customers consider a checking account “free” as long as it doesn’t come with a monthly maintenance fee. That’s the baseline we applied to choose the checking accounts listed above.

The fees you typically can’t get away from are for less common services like card replacement, foreign transactions, stop payment and wire transfers.

Lots of banks, especially traditional institutions, charge for other things, like overdraft protection, ATM transactions, minimum balance requirements, paper statements and more. We sought checking accounts that minimize or eliminate these fees, so you can count on a fee-free banking service.

Nearly all banks charge fees for these services, but if you know you’ll use them often, shop around and seek out an account that caters to your needs by eliminating or reducing fees for the types of services you use.

How to Avoid Common Checking Account Fees

The most common checking account fee is a monthly maintenance fee. Most financial institutions waive this fee if you keep a minimum monthly balance. Avoid the fee by paying attention to that minimum balance requirement when you sign up and keeping your account in the no-fee zone.

Many banks also charge for paper statements, so sign up for electronic statements right away. You’ll be able to see your bank statements, balance and transactions online no matter what; opting out of paper statements just saves a bunch of trees and saves you money.

Common Free Checking Account Benefits

The best benefit of a free checking account is the elimination of a monthly service fee, and balance and direct deposit requirements.

To stay competitive, many free checking accounts also include perks like well-designed mobile apps (especially the online-only platforms), free ATMs, early direct deposit, budgeting features, automatic savings options, cash back, creative fee-free overdraft protection options and high APYs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Free Checking Accounts

We’ve answered the most common questions about free checking accounts to steer you toward the one that works for you.

What Is a Free Checking Account?

Checking accounts that are advertised as “free” typically come with no monthly maintenance fees. Many free checking accounts also cut fees in other areas, like overdraft fees, ATM fees, the cost of checks and debit card replacement.

What Should I Look for in a Free Checking Account?

Look for a checking account that’s truly free; you shouldn’t have to meet certain criteria to waive a maintenance fee. And then look for features that will be beneficial for your lifestyle, like free overdraft protection or reimbursed ATM fees. Many free checking accounts are online-only accounts, so look for an easy-to-use app that covers your banking needs, like mobile check deposit and easy access to customer service.

Do Free Checking Accounts Pay Interest?

Some free checking accounts pay interest! The amount tends to vary with the prime rate, so the rate you’re offered when you sign up could go down or up as the prime rate changes. While it might be impressive, the interest rate on a checking account isn’t an extremely valuable feature, because checking accounts are intended for spending, not holding, money.

Contributor Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance®. She’s written about work and money for publications including Forbes, The New York Times, CNBC, Insider, NextAdvisor and a column for Inc. Magazine. She founded Healthy Rich to publish stories that illuminate the diversity of our relationships with work and money.

*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.

*SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 1.00% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.00% APY is current as of 08/12/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet