Although writing paper checks has become less common as time passes, we all still need a checking account to keep our hard-earned money safe.
After all, the alternatives aren’t great.
You could deposit your money into an interest-earning savings account, but there are limitations to this seemingly sensible option. The big one: Federal law prohibits more than six monthly transfers or withdrawals to or from your savings account.
Or you could just stash all of your cash under your mattress, but… I rest my case. You need a checking account.
Luckily, there are many great checking account options available online. So let’s take a look at our picks for this year’s best.
Investor Junkie’s Recommended Checking Account
Currently, Ally Bank ranks high as our recommended online bank. It offers an interest-paying checking account, provides friendly customer service 24/7 and charges zero maintenance fees.
We like Ally Bank for its interest-paying checking and savings accounts, as well as CDs and money market accounts. Its APYs are much higher than what you'll find at a brick-and-mortar bank and are in line with other online-only institutions.
- No Fees
- No Account Minimums
- Interest-Paying Checking
- 24/7 Customer Service
- Competitive Rates
- Easy-to-Use Online Interface
- eCheck Deposit
- Ally Invest
- Transaction Limits for Savings
- No Cash Deposits
- No Brick-and-Mortar Locations
Ally Bank is a subsidiary of Ally Financial, a huge firm that actually traces its roots back nearly 100 years. It’s the sister company of online brokerage Ally Invest, which we here at Investor Junkie have also rated highly.
Along with checking accounts, Ally offers savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs). So, you can take advantage of several different banking options to keep your money safe and grow it too.
Ally Bank’s checking account offers the following features:
- A debit MasterCard
- Free use of any Allpoint ATM
- Reimbursement of up to $10 per statement cycle for fees charged by out-of-network ATMs in the U.S.
- eCheck Deposit
- Online Bill Pay
Plus, you’ll earn interest, too. Accounts with minimum daily balances above $15,000 earn 0.60% APY, while lesser balances earn 0.10%. We’ve seen savings accounts with lower APYs.
But maybe the best thing about Ally Bank checking accounts is that there are no maintenance fees. So you don’t have to worry about meeting a list of criteria to keep your money there for free.
Ally Bank’s checking accounts are suitable for just about everyone, from college students to retirees.
Best Checking Account for Large Amounts
If you're looking for somewhere to park your cash, EverBank's interest-paying accounts might be just the ticket for you. The bank even offers CDs tied to foreign currencies, along with investments in precious metals.
- Great CD Selection
- Competitive Rates
- CDARS Program
- Comprehensive Investments
- Mobile App
- 24/7 Phone Banking
- Few Branches
- Small ATM Network
- Risky Foreign Currency CDs
- No Custodial Accounts Offered
TIAA Bank may not be a name you’re familiar with, but you probably know this bank from its previous incarnation as EverBank. Financial services firm TIAA bought EverBank in 2017 for $2.5 billion and rebranded it as TIAA Bank in June 2018.
TIAA’s Yield Pledge Checking accounts really shine if you have a large chunk of money to deposit. These accounts require a minimum daily balance of $5,000. But the APY here is killer.
Currently, TIAA is offering a one-year promotional rate of 1.21% on all balances. After that one year, the amount you earn will depend on your balance. That ranges from 0.25% for accounts with up to $9,999.99 to 0.71% for accounts with $100,000 to $10 million.
All the while, you’ll also enjoy no monthly account fees, free bill pay, mobile check deposits and unlimited ATM fee reimbursements as long as you maintain a minimum average daily balance of $5,000.
Best Checking Account for Cashback Rewards
While we like Discover Bank’s no-fee accounts and large network of participating ATMs, there are some limitations to having an account -- chiefly, the inability to use a Discover debit card with many retailers.
- No Fees
- Decent APY
- Limited Fees for Overdrafts
- Large ATM Network
- No Physical Branch Locations
- Limited Account Options
- Debit Card Not Accepted Everywhere
It’s likely that when you think “Discover” you think “credit cards,” but parent company, Discover Financial, also offers a full-service online bank with account options from checking accounts to money markets.
However, the centerpiece of Discover Bank is Cashback Checking. With no monthly fee and no required minimum monthly balance, it’s a great option for anyone looking for a checking account.
But there’s an added benefit: Cashback Checking accounts pay 1% cash back on purchases made with an included debit card up to $3,000 of purchases per month. That’s up to $360 a year in free money.
Best Checking Account for International Travel
We love that Capital One 360's checking and savings accounts are free to open and maintain, and that they require no minimum balances, either. However, we don't love that you can find better interest rates at other online banks.
- No Fees
- No Required Minimum Balance
- Mobile Checking
- No International Fees
- Customer Service 7 Days a Week
- Free Access to Nearly 40,000 ATMs
- Rates Aren't the Best
- App Isn't Foolproof
- Few Local Branches
If you’ve traveled abroad, you likely know how painful transaction fees can be when you want to use your U.S. debit card. Heck, you may even have been charged exorbitant fees just for buying something from an international retailer online while sitting in your own living room!
Capital One 360’s popular checking account is well known for low fees. But you may not know that your 360 account grants you free access to your money abroad. There are no transaction fees when you use your debit card for a purchase in a foreign currency, and you won’t be charged for using an ATM outside the U.S. (however, the owner of the ATM may still charge a fee). 360 checking account holders can also receive free wire transfers from anywhere in the world.
If you’re looking for a checking account — and let’s face it, we all need one — you have many online options to choose from.
Different accounts will suit different needs. Before signing up, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s more important to me: cashback rewards or interest accrual?
- Do I meet the criteria for waived maintenance fees?
- Do I make frequent purchases overseas or from a foreign online vendor?
- Do I rely on having a brick-and-mortar bank branch? (In this case, an online account might not suit your needs.)
Which online checking account did you choose? Are you pleased with your experience? Let us know in the Comments Section below.