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The 10 best free checking accounts of January 2023

January 12, 2023, 8:41 PM UTC
We compared fee free checking accounts across minimum balance requirements, APYs, branch and ATM access, and more.
Illustration by Tim Boelaars

Fees can have a way of eating into your budget if you’re not paying close attention to them. A few dollars here and there can add up and make it difficult to save or have extra funds available to set aside for your longer-term financial goals.

One common fee you may be charged each month: a monthly maintenance fee for your checking account. Many checking accounts charge a monthly service fee, sometimes referred to as a monthly maintenance fee, which is a charge by your financial institution for day-to-day operations. Add this to potential overdraft fees, ATM fees, transfer fees, and more—it can take a serious toll on your balance. One way to save: a free checking account. 

Choosing the right checking account can be challenging, and the right account for your financial needs will depend on a few different factors. To help make your decision a little easier, the Fortune RecommendsTM editorial team ranked 27 free checking accounts and came up with a list of the top 10 picks. We weighed minimum balance requirements, annual percentage yields (APYs) for interest-earning checking accounts, branch and free ATM access, mobile and online banking platforms, overdraft fees, and customer service options. (Read our full methodology here.)

  1. Consumers Credit Union 
  2. Wealthfront 
  3. SoFi 
  4. NBKC Bank 
  5. Aspiration
  6. Landmark National Bank 
  7. Quontic Bank 
  8. Ally Bank 
  9. Customers Bank 
  10. American Express 

The top 10 free checking accounts  

Here’s our rundown of the top 10 free checking accounts, including the key figures you should know before you open an account. (Note: APYs and fees are up to date as of Jan. 11, 2023 but are subject to change.)

1. Consumers Credit Union: If you’re looking to earn a high APY on your account balance 

Consumers Credit Union is an Illinois-based credit union that offers a wide range of financial products and services including checking, savings, debit and credit cards, vehicle and consumer loans, money market accounts, certificates, and more. Anyone can become a member of Consumers Credit Union by becoming a member of the Consumers Cooperative Association and making a one-time payment of $5.00 for the membership fee. 

Key numbers
Minimum balance to keep account open: $5
APY: Our top pick offers a solid 5% on balances up to $10,000 when you spend $1,000 or more in Consumers Credit Union (CCU) Visa Credit Card purchases each month. But while there are no minimum number of transactions required to get that APY rate it has a number of other requirements to earn that APY: You must sign up to receive eDocuments, make at least 12 debit card purchases each month, and have direct deposits, mobile Check Deposits, or ACH credits totaling $500 or more monthly. 
Overdraft fee: $30

Why we picked it: This account took the top spot on our list for having the highest APY compared to other competitors we ranked. Just keep in mind that there are certain requirements to qualify for this higher APY, and it only applies on balances up to $10,000, which we mentioned above. Consumers Credit Union also offers online and mobile banking platforms, their app is available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Customers can speak to a representative by visiting a physical branch, calling the credit union between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday, and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.CST. There is also a 24/7 live chat option available on the credit union’s website. 

2. Wealthfront: If you want to dabble in investing

First launched in 2008 in California, Wealthfront is an online investment management service that offers portfolio management services, a high-interest cash management account, portfolio lines of credit, and more.

Key numbers
Minimum balance to keep account open: $1
APY: 3.80%
Overdraft fee: $0

Why we picked it: This account made our list for its stellar APY and a minimum balance of just $1. Plus, for users hoping to start investing or become more consistent investors, they can make almost immediate transfers from their cash account to their Wealthfront investment accounts. The Wealthfront app is available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play and has just under a 5-star rating on both platforms. Wealthfront offers support via email and phone on weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT. 

3. SoFi: If you’re looking for a checking account that sweetens the deal with a bonus 

SoFi is an online bank headquartered in San Francisco that offers checking, savings, investing products, and more. SoFi has just three physical locations in the U.S., but customers have access to a network of over 55,000 ATMs nationwide.

Key numbers 
Minimum balance to keep account open: $0
APY: 2.50% for account holders who sign up for direct deposit 
Overdraft fee: $0

Why we picked it: Their free checking account scored a spot on our list for their $0 minimum balance requirement and $0 overdraft fee. We also like that SoFi offers checking account holders a 2.50% APY on their balance—that’s 50 times the national average. What’s more—signing up for direct deposit can score you a $250 cash bonus.

SoFi also offers online and mobile banking platforms available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Customers can request assistance by reaching out to SoFi via phone, chat, email, and even sending general questions to the Twitter account at @SoFiSupport.

4. NBKC Bank: If ATM access is your top concern 

Founded in 1999, NBKC Bank is an online bank with a few physical branches in Kansas. Their product offerings include home loans, checking accounts, money market accounts, and more.

Key numbers 
Minimum balance to keep account open: $0
APY: 1.26%
Overdraft fee: $0

Why we picked it: NBKC also has a large network of more than 37,000 free MoneyPass® ATMs and up to $12/month in reimbursement for any fees you may be charged for out-of-network ATM use. Another big reason we picked this bank: Its free checking account boasts a 1.26% APY, which is over 25 times the national average.

NBKC Bank offers mobile and online banking for Apple and Android users, and customer service representatives are available to assist customers via email and telephone Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST. They also offer chat support on their website Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. CST.

5. Aspiration: If you want to use your dollars to do some good for the planet 

Aspiration is a nonbank that offers an FDIC-insured online cash management account. Aspiration prides itself on its commitment to do good for the environment, allowing cardholders to monitor the impact of their spending on the planet and giving them up to 10% cash back for purchases made at socially responsible businesses.

Key numbers
Minimum balance to keep account open: $10
APY: 1%–3%
Overdraft fee: $0

Why we picked it: The Aspiration Plus account scored a spot on our list for its 1% APY (3% for Aspiration Plus subscribers) and low minimum balance. Aspiration also offers unlimited fee-free withdrawals at over 55,000 Allpoint ATMs.

Aspiration offers mobile and online banking platforms, and users can download their mobile application on the Apple App Store and Google Play. For customer service, representatives can be reached via email 24/7 and by calling their service number between Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. PT, as well as weekends between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. PT. 

6. Landmark National Bank: If you’re searching for a national bank with a community bank feel 

Landmark National Bank first began in 1885 as the Manhattan Buildings & Savings Association headquartered in Manhattan, Kansas. Their products include (but are not limited to) checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit cards, as well as business banking products and home loans.

Key numbers
Minimum balance to keep account open: $50
APY: 1.25%
Overdraft fee: $19

Why we picked it: Landmark National Bank’s Smart Money checking account requires a minimum opening balance of $50 and does not charge a monthly service fee.

This bank also offers up to $30.00 in ATM refunds each month, as well as free online banking, online bill pay, and mobile banking for Apple and Android users. Their checking account earns a 1.25% APY, or 25 times the national average. To speak with a representative, customers can call Landmark’s customer service center Monday through Friday,  8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday between 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Landmark offers live chat and email support as well. 

7. Quontic Bank: If you swipe your debit card at least 10 times per month

Quontic is a digital bank that began as a community bank based in New York City over 10 years ago. Quontic offers both checking and savings account options, mortgage loans and refinancing.

Key numbers
Minimum balance to keep account open: $100
APY: 1.10%
Overdraft fee: $0

Why we picked it: Quontic’s interest-earning checking account offers account holders a 1.10% APY on all balance tiers when you make at least 10 qualifying debit card transactions of $10 or more per statement. Interest is compounded daily and deposited into your account each month. Customers also have access to a network of over 90,000 fee-free ATMs across the nation and Quontic offers online and mobile banking platforms. Their application is available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play and has a rating of 4.4 and 3.2 stars, respectively. 

As far as customer support goes, customers can contact a customer service representative via live chat, email, and telephone Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. EST. 

8. Ally Bank: If you want an online bank with 24/7 customer support

Ally is an online-only bank that offers a wide range of financial products and services including checking and savings accounts, credit cards, auto loans, and more. While Ally does not have any physical branches, their customers can enjoy free access to a network of more than 43,000 ATMs and 24/7 live chat, email, and phone support.

Key numbers
Minimum balance to keep account open: $0
APY: 0.25%
Overdraft fee: $0

Why we picked it: Their free checking account offers a lower APY compared to other accounts on our list, but their zero-fee policy and unlimited customer support could be a major selling point for consumers on the hunt for a new checking account.

One drawback for cash carriers: Ally does not accept cash deposits, so customers will need to make deposits via mobile deposit, online transfers, direct deposit, wire transfers, or via mail.

9. Customers Bank: If you keep a strict budget and never overdraft your account 

Customers Bank is a community bank founded in 2009 with banking and loan services across Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas.

Key numbers
Minimum balance to keep account open: $50
APY: 1%–2%
Overdraft fee: $20

Why we picked it: Its personal checking account offers a 2.00% APY (a base APY of 1.00% with an additional 1.00% when using direct deposit or bill pay). There are no minimum or maximum balance requirements tied to this account, but there is a fee of $20 for overdrafting your account. Customers Bank offers online and mobile banking on the Apple App Store and Google Play, and customer support is available every day of the week from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.

10. American Express: If you prefer to keep all of your financial accounts under one roof 

American Express has a history that stretches back to 1850 and has since become globally recognized for their credit cards, rewards, personal, and business banking products.

Key numbers
Minimum balance to keep account open: $0
APY: 1.00%
Overdraft fee: $0

Why we picked it: American Express offers a high-yield checking account with a 1.00% APY, no monthly account fees, no minimum balance requirements, and access to over 37,000 free ATMs. Customer support specialists are available 24/7 over the phone or via live chat. The Amex app is available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play and has a 4-star rating on both platforms.

But there’s a catch: only American Express® Card Members with a Consumer Card can apply to open an American Express Rewards Checking account. You must be the primary Card Member and must have your Card for a minimum of three months before applying.

Our methodology

The Fortune RecommendsTM team compared 27 no-fee checking accounts across major banks, credit unions, and online-only banks. Our top picks are available to customers across the U.S. no matter where you’re located, subject to the terms of each checking account. 

For our best free checking accounts, we ranked the best accounts on the following categories and weighted each category as set forth in the percentages below:

  • Minimum balance requirement (25%): Some financial institutions require that account holders maintain a certain balance to keep their account open. We thought that a lower minimum was preferable and rated banks with lower minimum balance requirements higher. 
  • Annual percentage yield (APY) on your account balance (25%): This percentage represents the real rate of return on your balance; the higher the APY, the better. 
  • Branch and free ATM access (20%): Accounts belonging to financial institutions that have physical branches and fee-free ATMs ranked higher on our list than alternatives that were online-only or charged fees for ATM use. 
  • Mobile and online banking platforms (15%): Accounts that can be accessed and managed via online or mobile banking platforms scored higher on our list than accounts that did not have digital banking platforms. 
  • Overdraft fees (10%): Overdraft fees are charged when there isn’t enough money in your account to cover your transactions. We favored accounts with lower overdraft fees. 
  • Customer service (5%): Top picks offer customers three ways to get in contact: chat support, by phone, or even email. Among the three options, we gave phone support the most weight. 

We think that the best free checking accounts offer a low or zero monthly service fee, minimum balance requirements, and a lucrative APY, among other perks. We also ranked accounts with physical branches and free ATM access higher on our list. The rates, fees, and minimum balance requirements on these checking accounts are available for limited time periods, and APYs are subject to fluctuation, which could impact how much interest you earn. All the banks and credit unions on this list are insured by the FDIC and NCUA respectively.

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EDITORIAL DISCLOSURE: The advice, opinions, or rankings contained in this article are solely those of the Fortune Recommends editorial team. This content has not been reviewed or endorsed by any of our affiliate partners or other third parties.