Editors’ Choice: Best Checking Accounts for May 2021

The best checking accounts can provide a competitive interest rate, ATM fee reimbursements and even cashback rewards. If your current account doesn’t offer any of these features, it may be time to switch.

Why trust us?

At MagnifyMoney, it’s our mission to inform our readers about the best financial opportunities out there. Our insights have been cited by top financial publications including MarketWatch, CNBC and the Wall Street Journal.

Our dedicated team of financial experts spent dozens of hours grading each checking account on its features, including fees, minimum balance requirements, ATM and branch network availability, APYs and customer satisfaction. We distilled our picks from a list that included hundreds of banks, credit unions and online institutions nationwide.

We ensure our list is updated every month as new banks are added to our database, and we update information as banks change their terms. Check out our best checking account picks for May 2021 and click on the links in the table below to read about why we picked each one.

Please note: While this list is up-to-date as of this writing, many banks have cut back on or even halted their hours temporarily in response to the COVID-19 outbreak to protect their customers and employees. Many banks continue to offer standard services online and over the phone, as well as through automated ATMs.

Best checking accounts of May 2021

Best overall checking account: Paramount Bank Interest Checking

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Paramount Bank (MO)’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Highlights:

High APY available on accounts up to $99,999.99No ATM fees, and up to 20 reimbursements per month for third-party feesEasily waivable $3 monthly feeAPY: Up to 0.75%Maintenance fee: $3Current promotion: N/A

Why we picked it: Paramount Bank offers a standout APY on its Interest Checking Account. Balances up to $99,999.99 earn 0.75% APY, while balances of $100,000.00 or more earn an APY of 0.10%, which is still above-average in the current rate environment.

Beyond its impressive rates, Paramount’s Interest Checking is also notable for not charging ATM fees — plus, Paramount will refund up to 20 third-party ATM fees per month. The account comes with a free Visa Debit Card, and you can manage your account using the Paramount Bank app, as well as through a limited number of branch locations throughout the country.

What to watch out for: You’ll need to make a deposit of at least $100 to open the account. In addition, there’s a monthly fee, though it’s only $3 and is waivable by maintaining an account balance of just $1.

How we picked our best overall checking account: Our pick for best overall checking account had to have the characteristics that we favored for any checking account that made this list: a competitive APY, low or no minimum balance requirements and minimal monthly service fees or ATM fees (or ATM fee reimbursements). To be considered for the best overall checking account, however, an account had to check off these more specific, stringent requirements:

An APY that exceeds the current national average APY for checking accountsNo conditions necessary to meet advertised APYAccess to either over 40,000 ATMs nationwide or ATM fee rebatesA monthly maintenance fee below $10An option for a savings account at the bank

Best high yield checking account: Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking

Highlights:

Access to over 30,000 ATMsMost lucrative rates require minimum direct deposits or spend on CCU Visa credit cardAPY: Up to 4.09%Maintenance fee: $0Current promotions: N/A

Read the full review

Why we picked it: Consumers Credit Union has routinely offered sky-high rates, even in a plummeting rate environment, earning this account the title of best high-yield checking account.

While this is a tiered rate account, the lower tiers — which can be earned with fewer requirements — still offer attractive rates that are well above those offered by other banks and credit unions.

What to watch out for: While balances between $10,000 and $25,000 — regardless of your tier — earn an APY of 0.20%, it’s worth noting that balances over $25,000 earn an APY of just 0.10%.

In addition, if you don’t meet the monthly activity requirements, you’ll earn an APY of just 0.01% and won’t receive ATM refunds. The account also has an overdraft fee of $30.

Best free checking account: Axos Bank Rewards Checking

Highlights:

No overdraft or non-sufficient funds feesUnlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursementsAPY: Up to 1.25%Maintenance fee: $0Current promotions: N/A

Read the full review

Why we picked it: We’ve crowned the Axos Bank Rewards Checking account as the best free checking account not only for its attractive features, but also for its consistency.

The Axos Bank Rewards Checking account has consistently offered competitive APYs — even as earning rates drop at other banks. This account also offers all of the bells and whistles that the best standard checking accounts are known to include, like ATM fee reimbursements and no overdraft fees.

What to watch out for: The Axos Bank Rewards Checking account is a tiered, interest-earning variable rate account. So, in order to earn the 1.25% APY, you must meet the following requirements:

Receive monthly direct deposits totaling $1,000 or moreUse your debit card for a total of 15 transactions per month (minimum of $3 per transaction)

If you don’t meet those requirements, you’ll receive a reduced APY from what’s advertised. There’s also a $50 minimum balance required to open this account.

Best no-fee checking account: Discover Cashback Debit

Highlights:

No insufficient funds feeAccess to over 60,000 no-fee ATMs1% cash back on up to $3,000 of debit card purchases per monthAPY: NoneMaintenance fee: $0Current promotions: N/A

Read the full review

Why we picked it: The Discover Cashback Debit checking account is a truly no-fee checking account, with no monthly maintenance fees, no insufficient funds fees and access to over 60,000 ATMs.

As the icing on the cake, this account offers 1% cash back on all debit card purchases, up to $3,000 per month. This is a unique perk among checking accounts, and if you prefer cash back to earning interest, this could be the account for you.

What to watch out for: There aren’t too many surprises with this account — just be aware that fees for non-Discover ATMs may apply.

Best checking account bonus: HSBC Premier Checking

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on HSBC’s secure website

Member FDIC

Highlights:

Unlimited ATM fee rebates within the U.S.No foreign transaction fees$50 monthly service waived if you meet any one of the requirementsAPY:0.01%Maintenance Fee: $50Current Promotions: $450 welcome bonus

Read the full review

Why we picked it: HSBC is currently offering up to a $450 welcome bonus for those who open and fund a new Premier Checking account by June 30, 2021. To earn the bonus, you must make recurring monthly qualifying direct deposits totaling at least $5,000 from a third party to your HSBC Premier checking account for three consecutive calendar months, beginning the second full calendar month after account opening. You also must be a new HSBC customer to take advantage of this offer, and fund your new account with new money.

What to watch out for: The Premier Checking account earns a dismal 0.01% APY on balances of $5 or more. It also charges a hefty $50 monthly fee.

Best rewards checking account: Radius Bank Rewards Checking

Highlights:

Earn up to 1.00% cash back on debit card purchasesOffers early direct depositUnlimited ATM fee rebatesAPY:0.10% on balances between $2,500 and $99,999, 0.15% on balances over $100,000Maintenance Fee: $0Current Promotions: N/A

Read the full review

Why we picked it: Radius Bank’s Rewards Checking account features a robust rewards program that offers up to 1.00% cash back on debit card purchases, as well as a decent APY on the funds in your account. There’s a minimum $100 opening deposit required for this account.

This account also stands out for its unlimited ATM fee rebates and early direct deposit feature, as well as having no fees.

What to watch out for: To earn the cash back, you must maintain a minimum balance of at least $2,500.

Best no-ATM fee checking account: TD Bank Beyond Checking

Highlights:

No fees at TD Bank ATMs, and reimbursed fees for out-of-network ATMs for accounts that maintain a daily balance of at least $2,500No required minimum opening depositOverdraft fees reimbursement offered up to two times per yearAPY: Up to 0.03% on balances greater than $0.01Maintenance Fee: $25Current Promotions: Earn $300 when you open an account and make at least $2,500 in direct deposits within 60 days of opening. Offer expires Aug. 3, 2021.

Read the full review

Why we picked it: TD Bank’s Beyond Checking account is a great option for those who prioritize fee-free access to ATMs.

With this account, not only do you receive fee-free ATM access to TD Bank’s network of ATMS, but if you maintain a minimum daily balance of at least $2,500, TD Bank will reimburse you for any fees incurred at out-of-network ATMs.

What to watch out for: Be aware of the dismal APY offered, and note that there’s also a $35 overdraft fee associated with this account.

Best business checking account: Axos Bank Business Interest Checking

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on Axos Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Highlights:

Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursementUp to 50 free transaction items per monthMonthly service fee can be waived if you maintain an average, daily minimum balance of $5,000APY: Up to 0.81% on balances between $0 and $49,999.99Maintenance Fee: $10Current Promotions: $100 welcome bonus for businesses that incorporated after June 1, 2020. Application must be submitted before 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2021 to qualify.

Read the full review

Why we picked it: Axos Bank’s Business Interest Checking account stands out among other business checking account products for a myriad of reasons, most notably its surprisingly low fees.

In addition, Axos Bank throws in a number of freebies with its Business Interest Checking account, from ATM fee reimbursements to free checks, making it our pick for the best business checking account.

What to watch out for: Transactions are $0.50 each after the first 50, and there’s a $100 minimum opening deposit required for this account. Balances of $50,000 or above are subject to lower APYs.

Best checking account for students: Chase College Checking

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on Chase Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Highlights:

$6 monthly service fee waived for up to five years if you’re 17 to 24 years old, have proof of student status and are enrolled in college, or if you meet any one of Chase’s monthly requirementsNo monthly service fee on a Chase Savings account linked to this account for overdraft protectionAPY: NoneMaintenance fee: $6Current promotions: $100 bonus for new Chase customers with qualifying activities. Offer expires July 14, 2021.

Read the full review

Why we picked it: The Chase College Checking account is a great option for students, as it waives its monthly service fee for those between the ages of 17 and 24 who have proof of a student status, for up to five years while in college.

With widespread ATM access, the ability to pay friends with QuickPay or Zelle and a robust mobile app, this account checks all the boxes for college students.

What to watch out for: For this account, you’ll need to show proof of student status. There’s also a $2.50 non-Chase ATM fee and $34 overdraft fee associated with this account.

Best joint checking account – PNC Virtual Wallet

Highlights:

Free access to 18,000 ATMs, plus two PNC ATM fee reimbursements per statement cycle and up to $5 in fee reimbursements from other financial institutions’ ATM surcharges per statement cycleBudgeting tools and featuresFee waiverAPY: N/AMaintenance fee: $7, but waived if certain requirements are metCurrent promotions: Earn up to $50 when you open a new Virtual Wallet account and fund it with a direct deposit of $500 or more within the first 60 days. Offer expires June 30, 2021.

Read the full review

Why we picked it. The PNC Virtual Wallet is a standout checking account that supports joint ownership. This account comes with a plethora of budgeting tools that can help couples manage their money more effectively, such as the ability to create budgets for different spending categories and set up alerts for certain account activities. This account also has $0 monthly maintenance fee if you have a minimum of $500 in monthly direct deposits, or if you maintain a monthly balance of $500 in the Spend + Reserve account — both of which are easier to achieve with two people owning the account, as opposed to one.

What to watch out for: If you can’t meet the monthly qualifications to waive the monthly service fee, you’ll have to pay $7 per month. In addition, your balance doesn’t earn interest.

Other honorable mentions

Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking: This account from investment firm Charles Schwab offers a few attractive perks like unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide, no monthly fees or minimums and no foreign transaction fees. The Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account falls flat with its paltry 0.03% APY on all balances over $0.01, which can’t quite compete with the best high yield checking account, the Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account, which earns up to 4.09% APY.

Aspiration Spend and Save: The Aspiration Spend and Save cash management account is one of the most fee-friendly accounts out there, even allowing you to pay a monthly fee in an amount that you think is fair. Aspiration comes with the added bonus of access to over 55,000 ATMs and cash back rewards — especially at conscience-minded businesses. To earn the 1.00% APY you’ll have to open a Spend and Save Plus account and pay $7.99 per month or $5.99 per month if you pay annually. Only balances up to $10,000 will earn the competitive 1.00% APY. Balances over $10,000 will earn 0.10% APY.

Betterment Checking and Cash Reserve: Another cash management account, Betterment Checking and Cash Reserve maximizes your FDIC insurance up to $1 million and provides unlimited transfers in and out of your account. It also earns interest at 0.30% APY. A minimum deposit of $10 is required, but there is no minimum balance required to earn the attractive APY.

Chase Premier Plus Checking: A step up from Chase’s basic checking account, the Chase Premier Plus Checking account earns a paltry 0.01% APY (across all balances) and waives select fees, including on the first four non-Chase ATM transactions per month. However, its features don’t quite justify the $25 monthly service fee, which you can only waive by meeting certain requirements.

Chime: The mobile-first Chime account is great for individuals who have trouble with traditional checking accounts. It allows you to receive direct deposits up to a couple days early, grow savings automatically and even overdraw your account for free if you meet certain eligibility requirements. Chime also provides free access to over 38,000 ATMs, which you can access with the account’s linked debit card. Despite all these perks, Chime doesn’t earn any interest on account balances. However, Chime does stand out for having a robust, no-overdrafting policy.

TIAA Bank Yield Pledge Checking: Despite TIAA Bank’s Yield Pledge promise, which ensures their rate will always remain among the top 5% of competitive accounts, the Yield Pledge Checking account earns a pretty low APY of 0.10%. The minimum opening deposit is $100, but all balances are eligible to earn the 0.10% APY. Luckily, there’s no monthly service fee, nor are there fees for out-of-network ATM usage. Plus, you can get reimbursed for ATM surcharges. This made it a strong contender for our Best Overall Checking Account.

Varo Money: Pioneering fintech company Varo offers a pretty much fee-free, checking-like cash management account, which allows customers who meet certain requirements to overdraft up to $50 at no cost. Varo can get you your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit, and it also offers fee-free access at over 55,000 Allpoint® ATMs and provides a free Varo Visa® Debit Card, which you can lock in the app at any time. Though all of these perks are nice, the checking account doesn’t earn interest; you’ll have to open the Varo Savings Account for that.

Capital One 360 Checking: The Capital One 360 Checking account is easily accessible — via its debit card, mobile and online — and there’s no fee or minimum balance to worry about. You also get access to over 39,000 Capital One and Allpoint ATMs for free. However, its low 0.10% APY can’t quite keep up with its competitors. All balances are eligible to earn Capital One’s 0.10% APY.

Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking: Bank5 Connect’s High-Interest Checking account isn’t always so high-yield, as it earns 0.20% APY. There is a minimum deposit of $10 required to open and a minimum balance of $100 required to earn interest.Still, the account is relatively customer-friendly as it doesn’t charge any monthly maintenance fees and offers free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide in addition to up to $15 in surcharge reimbursements.

Methodology

We look at hundreds of financial institutions and reviews to determine our picks for the best checking accounts. Specifically, we consider the following factors when making our selections:

Checking account rates: We heavily weighted the APYs offered by each institution on their checking accounts, paying attention to both high interest rates and the consistency at which these rates were offered. Higher and more consistently competitive interest rates were prioritized.Minimum deposit and balance requirements: We also controlled for account accessibility by looking at minimum deposit and balance requirements, prioritizing banks and accounts that have low minimum requirements or none at all.Bank account fees: Because the best checking accounts are the ones that don’t cut into your hard-earned money, we favored checking accounts that don’t charge monthly service fees or ATM fees, as well as those that offer ATM-fee reimbursements. If accounts had the same APY and minimum requirements, we went with the account with lower fees.Special offers: As an added bonus to their checking accounts, some institutions offer cash bonus offers for new customers or even cash-back rewards for debit card usage. We made sure to include these special accounts and offers so you can get more from your account.Specialized accounts: Checking accounts aren’t one-size-fits-all — nor should they be. When we did our search, we also looked for specialized accounts with specific features made for certain groups, like students, business owners and joint account holders. Because different accounts are intended to serve different purposes, the features we prioritized for each account type may vary.

What should I look for in a checking account?

When shopping for a checking account, keep in mind that its main purpose is providing a convenient and safe place to stash the cash you use for your daily spending. With that in mind, factors such as safety, ease of use and minimal costs should be top-of-mind.

Here’s what to look out for specifically when you’re searching for a checking account that’s right for you:

An account that meets your needs

A great first step to finding the right checking account is understanding what you want from a checking account. Of course, you’ll want an account that’s easily accessible. But only you can decide whether that means prioritizing brick-and-mortar branches, mobile app access or worldwide ATMs. As debit cards are a big part of accessibility, you should also make sure you’re getting a debit card that’s protected.

If you’re a senior citizen, a student or perhaps a couple looking for joint account ownership, these are things to consider when making your checking account wishlist. As shown above, there are several specialized accounts out there that offer special deals and features for members of these groups.

Next, determine whether you want your checking account to earn interest or other rewards. Often these rewards only add to the checking account experience, rewarding you for owning the account rather than you paying to own it. Rewards on some accounts may also offset any fees you face.

If you don’t know where to start, it helps to check out high-yield checking accounts first. These accounts are most often free, easily accessible, provided by reputable institutions and, as an added bonus, can earn you money.

An account with few or zero fees

It’s a good idea to check for bank fees when shopping for a checking account. After all, why pay your bank fees for access to your own cash?

Thankfully, there are many checking accounts that charge little to no fees. Online banks, in particular, offer checking accounts with no fees, as they are able to save on the operational costs that burden brick-and-mortar banks. Some checking accounts even offer unlimited ATM reimbursements or a monthly allowance for reimbursable ATM surcharges.

Since many checking accounts offer little to no interest, it’s even more critical to opt for an account with minimal fees. Common checking account fees include:

Maintenance feesMinimum balance feesATM feesOverdraft fees

If your checking account has any monthly balance or spending requirements to waive the maintenance fee, make sure you stay within those limits to avoid any unnecessary fees.

An account that offers widespread ATM access

There’s nothing worse than needing cash in a pinch and not having a way to get it. Then, even when you find an ATM, it’s out of your bank’s network, so to add insult to injury, you’re charged a fee (or two) for using the ATM.

You can avoid this situation by finding a checking account that offers widespread ATM access. Often, this isn’t even brick-and-mortar banks, which may offer free access to a few thousand branded ATMs across the country. Online banks tend to go above and beyond, offering free access to tens of thousands of ATMs, often worldwide, through ATM networks like AllPoint and MoneyPass.

An account with FDIC Insurance

You want to make sure your money is protected no matter what. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance — and National Credit Union Administration insurance for credit unions — insures your money up to legal limits, which for an individual’s checking account would amount to $250,000. This means that up to $250,000 in your checking account will be recovered if your bank or credit union fails.

In the event of institution failure, you’ll either get a check for the amount that was in your checking account, or set up with a new account for the same amount at another insured institution.

An account that has overdraft protection

Overdraft protection is a crucial feature, especially if you’re often at risk of overextending your funds. This feature works in a few different ways, depending on the institution and the account. Often, a bank’s overdraft protection will link your checking and savings accounts, drawing on your savings account when you overdraft from your checking account. Other iterations may simply not allow you to overdraft the account at all.

Typically, you’ll have to enroll in overdraft protection. Some accounts charge an extra fee for overdraft protection, but many of the best no-fee checking accounts offer this feature at no cost.

An account that pairs with a high-yield savings account

You might want to pair your checking account with a high-yield savings account if you’d like to maintain your day-to-day spending, but also stash away a portion of your cash to earn a higher rate of return in longer-term savings. A high-yield savings account is also a great option for those who don’t want to be tempted with the ability to easily spend their savings on everyday needs.

If this sounds like the right setup for you, start by finding a checking account that fits your daily spending needs and is easily accessible and FDIC-insured. You can then track your spending and set up regular deposits into a separate, high-yield savings account for any excess cash you don’t spend. Keep in mind that not all savings accounts are created equal, so it’s worth shopping around for the best rates when it comes to your savings account, too.

FAQ: What should I know about checking accounts?

What is a checking account?

What’s the difference between a checking and a savings account?

Should I store my cash in a checking account or savings account?

Are checking accounts free?

Can checking accounts earn interest?

How is interest taxed on a checking account?

Is my money safe in a checking account?

How many checking accounts should I have?

What are the different numbers associated with my checking account?

Why was I rejected by a bank when I tried to open a checking account?

What’s a second-chance checking account?

Can a checking account affect my credit?

What is overdraft protection?

The post Editors’ Choice: Best Checking Accounts for May 2021 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

The best checking accounts can provide a competitive interest rate, ATM fee reimbursements and even cashback rewards. If your current account doesn’t offer any of these features, it may be time to switch.

Why trust us?

At MagnifyMoney, it’s our mission to inform our readers about the best financial opportunities out there. Our insights have been cited by top financial publications including MarketWatch, CNBC and the Wall Street Journal.

Our dedicated team of financial experts spent dozens of hours grading each checking account on its features, including fees, minimum balance requirements, ATM and branch network availability, APYs and customer satisfaction. We distilled our picks from a list that included hundreds of banks, credit unions and online institutions nationwide.

We ensure our list is updated every month as new banks are added to our database, and we update information as banks change their terms. Check out our best checking account picks for May 2021 and click on the links in the table below to read about why we picked each one.

Please note: While this list is up-to-date as of this writing, many banks have cut back on or even halted their hours temporarily in response to the COVID-19 outbreak to protect their customers and employees. Many banks continue to offer standard services online and over the phone, as well as through automated ATMs.

Best checking accounts of May 2021

Best overall checking account: Paramount Bank Interest Checking

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Paramount Bank (MO)’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Highlights:

High APY available on accounts up to $99,999.99No ATM fees, and up to 20 reimbursements per month for third-party feesEasily waivable $3 monthly feeAPY: Up to 0.75%Maintenance fee: $3Current promotion: N/A

Why we picked it: Paramount Bank offers a standout APY on its Interest Checking Account. Balances up to $99,999.99 earn 0.75% APY, while balances of $100,000.00 or more earn an APY of 0.10%, which is still above-average in the current rate environment.

Beyond its impressive rates, Paramount’s Interest Checking is also notable for not charging ATM fees — plus, Paramount will refund up to 20 third-party ATM fees per month. The account comes with a free Visa Debit Card, and you can manage your account using the Paramount Bank app, as well as through a limited number of branch locations throughout the country.

What to watch out for: You’ll need to make a deposit of at least $100 to open the account. In addition, there’s a monthly fee, though it’s only $3 and is waivable by maintaining an account balance of just $1.

How we picked our best overall checking account: Our pick for best overall checking account had to have the characteristics that we favored for any checking account that made this list: a competitive APY, low or no minimum balance requirements and minimal monthly service fees or ATM fees (or ATM fee reimbursements). To be considered for the best overall checking account, however, an account had to check off these more specific, stringent requirements:

An APY that exceeds the current national average APY for checking accountsNo conditions necessary to meet advertised APYAccess to either over 40,000 ATMs nationwide or ATM fee rebatesA monthly maintenance fee below $10An option for a savings account at the bank

Best high yield checking account: Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking

Highlights:

Access to over 30,000 ATMsMost lucrative rates require minimum direct deposits or spend on CCU Visa credit cardAPY: Up to 4.09%Maintenance fee: $0Current promotions: N/A

Read the full review

Why we picked it: Consumers Credit Union has routinely offered sky-high rates, even in a plummeting rate environment, earning this account the title of best high-yield checking account.

While this is a tiered rate account, the lower tiers — which can be earned with fewer requirements — still offer attractive rates that are well above those offered by other banks and credit unions.

What to watch out for: While balances between $10,000 and $25,000 — regardless of your tier — earn an APY of 0.20%, it’s worth noting that balances over $25,000 earn an APY of just 0.10%.

In addition, if you don’t meet the monthly activity requirements, you’ll earn an APY of just 0.01% and won’t receive ATM refunds. The account also has an overdraft fee of $30.

Best free checking account: Axos Bank Rewards Checking

Highlights:

No overdraft or non-sufficient funds feesUnlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursementsAPY: Up to 1.25%Maintenance fee: $0Current promotions: N/A

Read the full review

Why we picked it: We’ve crowned the Axos Bank Rewards Checking account as the best free checking account not only for its attractive features, but also for its consistency.

The Axos Bank Rewards Checking account has consistently offered competitive APYs — even as earning rates drop at other banks. This account also offers all of the bells and whistles that the best standard checking accounts are known to include, like ATM fee reimbursements and no overdraft fees.

What to watch out for: The Axos Bank Rewards Checking account is a tiered, interest-earning variable rate account. So, in order to earn the 1.25% APY, you must meet the following requirements:

Receive monthly direct deposits totaling $1,000 or moreUse your debit card for a total of 15 transactions per month (minimum of $3 per transaction)

If you don’t meet those requirements, you’ll receive a reduced APY from what’s advertised. There’s also a $50 minimum balance required to open this account.

Best no-fee checking account: Discover Cashback Debit

Highlights:

No insufficient funds feeAccess to over 60,000 no-fee ATMs1% cash back on up to $3,000 of debit card purchases per monthAPY: NoneMaintenance fee: $0Current promotions: N/A

Read the full review

Why we picked it: The Discover Cashback Debit checking account is a truly no-fee checking account, with no monthly maintenance fees, no insufficient funds fees and access to over 60,000 ATMs.

As the icing on the cake, this account offers 1% cash back on all debit card purchases, up to $3,000 per month. This is a unique perk among checking accounts, and if you prefer cash back to earning interest, this could be the account for you.

What to watch out for: There aren’t too many surprises with this account — just be aware that fees for non-Discover ATMs may apply.

Best checking account bonus: HSBC Premier Checking

SEE DETAILS Secured

on HSBC’s secure website

Member FDIC

Highlights:

Unlimited ATM fee rebates within the U.S.No foreign transaction fees$50 monthly service waived if you meet any one of the requirementsAPY:0.01%Maintenance Fee: $50Current Promotions: $450 welcome bonus

Read the full review

Why we picked it: HSBC is currently offering up to a $450 welcome bonus for those who open and fund a new Premier Checking account by June 30, 2021. To earn the bonus, you must make recurring monthly qualifying direct deposits totaling at least $5,000 from a third party to your HSBC Premier checking account for three consecutive calendar months, beginning the second full calendar month after account opening. You also must be a new HSBC customer to take advantage of this offer, and fund your new account with new money.

What to watch out for: The Premier Checking account earns a dismal 0.01% APY on balances of $5 or more. It also charges a hefty $50 monthly fee.

Best rewards checking account: Radius Bank Rewards Checking

Highlights:

Earn up to 1.00% cash back on debit card purchasesOffers early direct depositUnlimited ATM fee rebatesAPY:0.10% on balances between $2,500 and $99,999, 0.15% on balances over $100,000Maintenance Fee: $0Current Promotions: N/A

Read the full review

Why we picked it: Radius Bank’s Rewards Checking account features a robust rewards program that offers up to 1.00% cash back on debit card purchases, as well as a decent APY on the funds in your account. There’s a minimum $100 opening deposit required for this account.

This account also stands out for its unlimited ATM fee rebates and early direct deposit feature, as well as having no fees.

What to watch out for: To earn the cash back, you must maintain a minimum balance of at least $2,500.

Best no-ATM fee checking account: TD Bank Beyond Checking

Highlights:

No fees at TD Bank ATMs, and reimbursed fees for out-of-network ATMs for accounts that maintain a daily balance of at least $2,500No required minimum opening depositOverdraft fees reimbursement offered up to two times per yearAPY: Up to 0.03% on balances greater than $0.01Maintenance Fee: $25Current Promotions: Earn $300 when you open an account and make at least $2,500 in direct deposits within 60 days of opening. Offer expires Aug. 3, 2021.

Read the full review

Why we picked it: TD Bank’s Beyond Checking account is a great option for those who prioritize fee-free access to ATMs.

With this account, not only do you receive fee-free ATM access to TD Bank’s network of ATMS, but if you maintain a minimum daily balance of at least $2,500, TD Bank will reimburse you for any fees incurred at out-of-network ATMs.

What to watch out for: Be aware of the dismal APY offered, and note that there’s also a $35 overdraft fee associated with this account.

Best business checking account: Axos Bank Business Interest Checking

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Axos Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Highlights:

Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursementUp to 50 free transaction items per monthMonthly service fee can be waived if you maintain an average, daily minimum balance of $5,000APY: Up to 0.81% on balances between $0 and $49,999.99Maintenance Fee: $10Current Promotions: $100 welcome bonus for businesses that incorporated after June 1, 2020. Application must be submitted before 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2021 to qualify.

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Why we picked it: Axos Bank’s Business Interest Checking account stands out among other business checking account products for a myriad of reasons, most notably its surprisingly low fees.

In addition, Axos Bank throws in a number of freebies with its Business Interest Checking account, from ATM fee reimbursements to free checks, making it our pick for the best business checking account.

What to watch out for: Transactions are $0.50 each after the first 50, and there’s a $100 minimum opening deposit required for this account. Balances of $50,000 or above are subject to lower APYs.

Best checking account for students: Chase College Checking

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on Chase Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Highlights:

$6 monthly service fee waived for up to five years if you’re 17 to 24 years old, have proof of student status and are enrolled in college, or if you meet any one of Chase’s monthly requirementsNo monthly service fee on a Chase Savings account linked to this account for overdraft protectionAPY: NoneMaintenance fee: $6Current promotions: $100 bonus for new Chase customers with qualifying activities. Offer expires July 14, 2021.

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Why we picked it: The Chase College Checking account is a great option for students, as it waives its monthly service fee for those between the ages of 17 and 24 who have proof of a student status, for up to five years while in college.

With widespread ATM access, the ability to pay friends with QuickPay or Zelle and a robust mobile app, this account checks all the boxes for college students.

What to watch out for: For this account, you’ll need to show proof of student status. There’s also a $2.50 non-Chase ATM fee and $34 overdraft fee associated with this account.

Best joint checking account – PNC Virtual Wallet

Highlights:

Free access to 18,000 ATMs, plus two PNC ATM fee reimbursements per statement cycle and up to $5 in fee reimbursements from other financial institutions’ ATM surcharges per statement cycleBudgeting tools and featuresFee waiverAPY: N/AMaintenance fee: $7, but waived if certain requirements are metCurrent promotions: Earn up to $50 when you open a new Virtual Wallet account and fund it with a direct deposit of $500 or more within the first 60 days. Offer expires June 30, 2021.

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Why we picked it. The PNC Virtual Wallet is a standout checking account that supports joint ownership. This account comes with a plethora of budgeting tools that can help couples manage their money more effectively, such as the ability to create budgets for different spending categories and set up alerts for certain account activities. This account also has $0 monthly maintenance fee if you have a minimum of $500 in monthly direct deposits, or if you maintain a monthly balance of $500 in the Spend + Reserve account — both of which are easier to achieve with two people owning the account, as opposed to one.

What to watch out for: If you can’t meet the monthly qualifications to waive the monthly service fee, you’ll have to pay $7 per month. In addition, your balance doesn’t earn interest.

Other honorable mentions

Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking: This account from investment firm Charles Schwab offers a few attractive perks like unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide, no monthly fees or minimums and no foreign transaction fees. The Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account falls flat with its paltry 0.03% APY on all balances over $0.01, which can’t quite compete with the best high yield checking account, the Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking account, which earns up to 4.09% APY.

Aspiration Spend and Save: The Aspiration Spend and Save cash management account is one of the most fee-friendly accounts out there, even allowing you to pay a monthly fee in an amount that you think is fair. Aspiration comes with the added bonus of access to over 55,000 ATMs and cash back rewards — especially at conscience-minded businesses. To earn the 1.00% APY you’ll have to open a Spend and Save Plus account and pay $7.99 per month or $5.99 per month if you pay annually. Only balances up to $10,000 will earn the competitive 1.00% APY. Balances over $10,000 will earn 0.10% APY.

Betterment Checking and Cash Reserve: Another cash management account, Betterment Checking and Cash Reserve maximizes your FDIC insurance up to $1 million and provides unlimited transfers in and out of your account. It also earns interest at 0.30% APY. A minimum deposit of $10 is required, but there is no minimum balance required to earn the attractive APY.

Chase Premier Plus Checking: A step up from Chase’s basic checking account, the Chase Premier Plus Checking account earns a paltry 0.01% APY (across all balances) and waives select fees, including on the first four non-Chase ATM transactions per month. However, its features don’t quite justify the $25 monthly service fee, which you can only waive by meeting certain requirements.

Chime: The mobile-first Chime account is great for individuals who have trouble with traditional checking accounts. It allows you to receive direct deposits up to a couple days early, grow savings automatically and even overdraw your account for free if you meet certain eligibility requirements. Chime also provides free access to over 38,000 ATMs, which you can access with the account’s linked debit card. Despite all these perks, Chime doesn’t earn any interest on account balances. However, Chime does stand out for having a robust, no-overdrafting policy.

TIAA Bank Yield Pledge Checking: Despite TIAA Bank’s Yield Pledge promise, which ensures their rate will always remain among the top 5% of competitive accounts, the Yield Pledge Checking account earns a pretty low APY of 0.10%. The minimum opening deposit is $100, but all balances are eligible to earn the 0.10% APY. Luckily, there’s no monthly service fee, nor are there fees for out-of-network ATM usage. Plus, you can get reimbursed for ATM surcharges. This made it a strong contender for our Best Overall Checking Account.

Varo Money: Pioneering fintech company Varo offers a pretty much fee-free, checking-like cash management account, which allows customers who meet certain requirements to overdraft up to $50 at no cost. Varo can get you your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit, and it also offers fee-free access at over 55,000 Allpoint® ATMs and provides a free Varo Visa® Debit Card, which you can lock in the app at any time. Though all of these perks are nice, the checking account doesn’t earn interest; you’ll have to open the Varo Savings Account for that.

Capital One 360 Checking: The Capital One 360 Checking account is easily accessible — via its debit card, mobile and online — and there’s no fee or minimum balance to worry about. You also get access to over 39,000 Capital One and Allpoint ATMs for free. However, its low 0.10% APY can’t quite keep up with its competitors. All balances are eligible to earn Capital One’s 0.10% APY.

Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking: Bank5 Connect’s High-Interest Checking account isn’t always so high-yield, as it earns 0.20% APY. There is a minimum deposit of $10 required to open and a minimum balance of $100 required to earn interest.Still, the account is relatively customer-friendly as it doesn’t charge any monthly maintenance fees and offers free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide in addition to up to $15 in surcharge reimbursements.

Methodology

We look at hundreds of financial institutions and reviews to determine our picks for the best checking accounts. Specifically, we consider the following factors when making our selections:

Checking account rates: We heavily weighted the APYs offered by each institution on their checking accounts, paying attention to both high interest rates and the consistency at which these rates were offered. Higher and more consistently competitive interest rates were prioritized.Minimum deposit and balance requirements: We also controlled for account accessibility by looking at minimum deposit and balance requirements, prioritizing banks and accounts that have low minimum requirements or none at all.Bank account fees: Because the best checking accounts are the ones that don’t cut into your hard-earned money, we favored checking accounts that don’t charge monthly service fees or ATM fees, as well as those that offer ATM-fee reimbursements. If accounts had the same APY and minimum requirements, we went with the account with lower fees.Special offers: As an added bonus to their checking accounts, some institutions offer cash bonus offers for new customers or even cash-back rewards for debit card usage. We made sure to include these special accounts and offers so you can get more from your account.Specialized accounts: Checking accounts aren’t one-size-fits-all — nor should they be. When we did our search, we also looked for specialized accounts with specific features made for certain groups, like students, business owners and joint account holders. Because different accounts are intended to serve different purposes, the features we prioritized for each account type may vary.

What should I look for in a checking account?

When shopping for a checking account, keep in mind that its main purpose is providing a convenient and safe place to stash the cash you use for your daily spending. With that in mind, factors such as safety, ease of use and minimal costs should be top-of-mind.

Here’s what to look out for specifically when you’re searching for a checking account that’s right for you:

An account that meets your needs

A great first step to finding the right checking account is understanding what you want from a checking account. Of course, you’ll want an account that’s easily accessible. But only you can decide whether that means prioritizing brick-and-mortar branches, mobile app access or worldwide ATMs. As debit cards are a big part of accessibility, you should also make sure you’re getting a debit card that’s protected.

If you’re a senior citizen, a student or perhaps a couple looking for joint account ownership, these are things to consider when making your checking account wishlist. As shown above, there are several specialized accounts out there that offer special deals and features for members of these groups.

Next, determine whether you want your checking account to earn interest or other rewards. Often these rewards only add to the checking account experience, rewarding you for owning the account rather than you paying to own it. Rewards on some accounts may also offset any fees you face.

If you don’t know where to start, it helps to check out high-yield checking accounts first. These accounts are most often free, easily accessible, provided by reputable institutions and, as an added bonus, can earn you money.

An account with few or zero fees

It’s a good idea to check for bank fees when shopping for a checking account. After all, why pay your bank fees for access to your own cash?

Thankfully, there are many checking accounts that charge little to no fees. Online banks, in particular, offer checking accounts with no fees, as they are able to save on the operational costs that burden brick-and-mortar banks. Some checking accounts even offer unlimited ATM reimbursements or a monthly allowance for reimbursable ATM surcharges.

Since many checking accounts offer little to no interest, it’s even more critical to opt for an account with minimal fees. Common checking account fees include:

Maintenance feesMinimum balance feesATM feesOverdraft fees

If your checking account has any monthly balance or spending requirements to waive the maintenance fee, make sure you stay within those limits to avoid any unnecessary fees.

An account that offers widespread ATM access

There’s nothing worse than needing cash in a pinch and not having a way to get it. Then, even when you find an ATM, it’s out of your bank’s network, so to add insult to injury, you’re charged a fee (or two) for using the ATM.

You can avoid this situation by finding a checking account that offers widespread ATM access. Often, this isn’t even brick-and-mortar banks, which may offer free access to a few thousand branded ATMs across the country. Online banks tend to go above and beyond, offering free access to tens of thousands of ATMs, often worldwide, through ATM networks like AllPoint and MoneyPass.

An account with FDIC Insurance

You want to make sure your money is protected no matter what. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance — and National Credit Union Administration insurance for credit unions — insures your money up to legal limits, which for an individual’s checking account would amount to $250,000. This means that up to $250,000 in your checking account will be recovered if your bank or credit union fails.

In the event of institution failure, you’ll either get a check for the amount that was in your checking account, or set up with a new account for the same amount at another insured institution.

An account that has overdraft protection

Overdraft protection is a crucial feature, especially if you’re often at risk of overextending your funds. This feature works in a few different ways, depending on the institution and the account. Often, a bank’s overdraft protection will link your checking and savings accounts, drawing on your savings account when you overdraft from your checking account. Other iterations may simply not allow you to overdraft the account at all.

Typically, you’ll have to enroll in overdraft protection. Some accounts charge an extra fee for overdraft protection, but many of the best no-fee checking accounts offer this feature at no cost.

An account that pairs with a high-yield savings account

You might want to pair your checking account with a high-yield savings account if you’d like to maintain your day-to-day spending, but also stash away a portion of your cash to earn a higher rate of return in longer-term savings. A high-yield savings account is also a great option for those who don’t want to be tempted with the ability to easily spend their savings on everyday needs.

If this sounds like the right setup for you, start by finding a checking account that fits your daily spending needs and is easily accessible and FDIC-insured. You can then track your spending and set up regular deposits into a separate, high-yield savings account for any excess cash you don’t spend. Keep in mind that not all savings accounts are created equal, so it’s worth shopping around for the best rates when it comes to your savings account, too.

FAQ: What should I know about checking accounts?

What is a checking account?

What’s the difference between a checking and a savings account?

Should I store my cash in a checking account or savings account?

Are checking accounts free?

Can checking accounts earn interest?

How is interest taxed on a checking account?

Is my money safe in a checking account?

How many checking accounts should I have?

What are the different numbers associated with my checking account?

Why was I rejected by a bank when I tried to open a checking account?

What’s a second-chance checking account?

Can a checking account affect my credit?

What is overdraft protection?

The post Editors’ Choice: Best Checking Accounts for May 2021 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

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