Best Banks With Free Checking and No Minimum Balance [2024]

Nearly all consumer banks offer checking accounts — the trick is to find a good balance between features and fees.

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Updated June 19, 2024
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Banks with no monthly fee checking and no minimum balance are about as abundant as mosquitoes in a Minnesota summer. Some are better than others, though, depending on what you’re looking for.

Whether you want to earn a good interest rate, use ATMs a lot, or ensure a good customer service experience, we’ll point you to different banks to suit your needs.


In this article

Key takeaways

  • Free checking accounts don’t charge monthly fees, but they can charge other fees for things like ATM withdrawals and overdrafts.
  • Common banking features vary with a monthly fee-free checking account. For example, you may not be able to write paper checks or visit an in-person branch.
  • Discover Bank is our top pick, while SoFi and Ally are close runners up.

8 of the best banks with free checking and no minimum balance

Bank comparison

Minimum deposit Perks APY
Discover Cashback Checking $0
  • 1% cash back on up to $3,000 of debit card purchases per month
  • Early paycheck deposit
  • Excellent savings account
  • 24/7 customer service
None
SoFi Checking $0
  • Early paycheck deposit
  • Sign-up bonuses
  • Excellent savings account
0.50% (as of 07/22/24) with direct deposit1
Ally Spending Account $0
  • Early paycheck deposit
  • Excellent savings APY
  • $10 monthly ATM fee reimbursements
0.25% (as of 06/26/24)
Varo Bank $0
  • Cashback on certain purchases
  • Early paycheck deposit
  • $500 in free overdraft coverage for qualified customers
  • Free VantageScore credit score updates
None
Chime2 $0
  • Cashback on certain purchases
  • 24/7 phone support
  • Offers products to build credit
  • Free cash deposit at certain retailers
None
Axos Bank Essential Checking $0
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Early paycheck deposits
  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements
None
Capital One 360 Checking $0
  • Early access paycheck deposit
  • Deposit actual cash to account
  • Good security tools
0.10% (as of 06/26/24)
Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking $25
  • Large ATM network
  • Make deposits at some ATMs
  • $20 monthly ATM fee rebates
0.25% (as of 06/26/24) if you’re signed up for estatements and have at least one electronic deposit per month

Discover Cashback Checking

Pros
  • Easy to reach customer service
  • Qualifying paychecks may be deposited up to two days early
  • Excellent customer satisfaction ratings
  • High APY on matching savings account
Cons
  • No physical branches
  • $30 outgoing wire transfer fee
  • No out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement

Discover is a household name thanks to its credit cards, but it actually offers a pretty spiffy suite of FDIC-insured online bank accounts as well. It doesn’t have many bank accounts within each category (there’s only one checking and one savings account, for example) — and while some might consider that a drawback, the truth is you won’t get much better than the single checking account it offers.

Discover’s online checking account was actually rated as the second best for overall customer satisfaction in 2023 by the independent reviewer J.D. Power. It’s easy to see why — the company operates a 24/7 phone line for customer support with agents based in the U.S., and you can even reach someone via live chat once you have an account.

Rather than earning interest, Discover offers 1% cash back every time you use your debit card on up to $3,000 in purchases per month for a total potential cash back of $360 per year.

Visit Discover | Read our full Discover Cashback Checking review

SoFi Checking

Pros
  • No monthly fees3
  • No overdraft fees4
  • Qualifying paychecks deposited up to two days early5
  • Great rate on matching savings account
  • Extra benefits if you receive direct deposits
Cons
  • No in-person branches
  • Must open checking and savings accounts together
  • No reimbursement for out-of-network ATMs
  • Below-average customer satisfaction ratings

SoFi is a newer FDIC-insured6 online bank that first launched in 2011 as a student loan lender but has since expanded into a full-service online banking provider. It’s an especially good pick if you get paid regularly via direct deposit since that unlocks the highest APY on your savings account (which you must also open with this checking account).7

The APY on SoFi’s checking account isn’t too shabby, though, at 0.50% (as of 07/22/24) with direct deposit.

Although SoFi is generally regarded as an excellent online bank, it does suffer a bit in overall customer satisfaction. J.D. Power actually rated SoFi’s checking account as just below average in 2023. It may be a bit tougher to get help when you need it if you work strict hours since customer support is only available from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. PST, depending on the day of the week.

Visit SoFi | Read our full SoFi Checking and Savings review

Ally Spending Account

Pros
  • Easy “bucket” budgeting tools
  • Direct deposits available two days early
  • $10 ATM fee reimbursements per month
  • High ratings for overall customer satisfaction from J.D. Power
Cons
  • Can’t deposit cash
  • Fees for outgoing wires, account research, and expedited delivery
  • Occasional short outages when logging into your account

Ally is a great all-around choice for anyone, but particularly if you prefer having tools to organize your finances. Ally offers “buckets” within its checking and savings accounts that let you earmark a portion of your balance for certain uses, such as bills or saving up for your next vacation. That way you know how much you can truly spend at any time without jeopardizing your long-term financial goals.

If you prefer spending with cash, Ally Bank is an excellent option because it’ll reimburse you up to $10 each month if you happen to use an out-of-network ATM. Sometimes you just aren’t around an in-network ATM, and you won’t have to worry about paying those fees with this account.

Ally Bank is based out of Detroit, Michigan, and is FDIC-insured.

Visit Ally

Varo

Pros
  • Up to two days early paycheck deposit for qualifying direct deposits8
  • Offers cashback on some purchases
  • Offers VantageScore credit score updates
Cons
  • Poor customer satisfaction ratings
  • Doesn’t provide much info on cashback program

Varo Bank is teeny tiny as far as banks stack up, officially landing in as the 1,531st-largest bank in the country. It launched in 2015 and is based out of San Francisco, California. Despite its small stature, it is FDIC-insured, so your money is safe. It offers many of the same perks as our other top fee-free banks, but it adds a unique benefit: you can actually deposit cash with local Green Dot retailers. The catch is you’ll need to pay a fee of up to $5.95 to do it, however.

Other nice perks about Varo are its cashback program and its free overdraft service that offers to spot you up to $500 if you run your account in the red. Again, there are catches here too. Varo only offers cashback with certain retailers, but it doesn’t tell you how much or who qualifies without having access to the app. And you don’t get access to the full $500 in overdraft coverage right away — you need to gradually build up to that max mark, and Varo doesn’t say how long this takes.

Visit Varo | Read our full Varo Bank review

Chime®

Pros
  • Early paycheck deposit up to two days early for qualifying deposits9
  • Fee-free overdraft coverage of up to $200 for eligible members10
  • Free cash deposits with certain retailers
Cons
  • Difficult to use paper check system
  • Poor rate on savings account (Note: savings accounts are optional and you must have a Chime checking account to open a savings account)11

Chime was one of the first app-based fintech companies to lead the transition to getting rid of overdraft fees as well as having access to your direct-deposit paychecks up to two days sooner. The mobile app has been downloaded over 10 million times on the Google Play store alone. Since then, it’s also introduced several new services such as SpotMe®, which allows eligible customers to get fee-free cash advances of up to $200 to cover overdrafts in their account.

Since it’s not a bank, your money is actually stored with The Bancorp, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., two FDIC-insured institutions. You simply use the Chime app or website to manage your money. You can deposit cash for free at any Walgreen or Duane Reade store and even send paper checks, although you won’t get a checkbook — you’ll need to manually submit a paper check request in your account.12

Visit Chime | Read our full Chime review

Axos Bank Essential Checking

Pros
  • Unlimited ATM fee refunds
  • Get paychecks two days early
  • Good mobile app security tools
  • Customer service available 24/7
Cons
  • Uninspiring savings account
  • Poor J.D. Power customer satisfaction ratings

Axos Bank offers three different FDIC-insured checking accounts, one of which — the Essential Checking — comes with no rewards but charges no monthly or overdraft fees, either. It’s a good choice if you like using cash to pay for things since you’ll get unlimited ATM refunds at any machine in the U.S. Note that there is no way to deposit actual cash, however.

If you’re the type of person who’s paranoid about data breaches, Axos may be a good choice. It offers plenty of cool security features such as biometric logins. Unfortunately, while Axos does staff its call center 24/7, it does suffer from a poor reputation when it comes to happy customers. In 2023, J.D. Power ranked it lowest on its list for overall customer satisfaction when it came to its checking account.

Read our full Axos Bank review

Capital One 360 Checking

Pros
  • Ability to lock debit card from spending
  • Can use paper checks with this account
  • Deposit cash at any CVS, Duane Reade, or Walgreens
Cons
  • No ATM fee reimbursements
  • Piddly interest rate on deposits
  • Fees ranging from $10 to $30 for various services

In 2023, Capital One ranked just above average — barely — in customer satisfaction. Still, there’s a lot to like about these accounts. It’s one of the few big banks with free checking and no minimum balance that operates mostly online. It does run some physical branches, although they’re relatively limited with just 278 locations around the country.

It’s a good choice if you want to be extra safe as the company offers several tools, such as biometric logins and the ability to lock your debit card from further spending within the app in case you lose it or it’s stolen. Capital One is FDIC insured.

Read our full Capital One 360 review

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking

Pros
  • 80,000 ATMs in network
  • Up to $20 per month in ATM fee rebates
  • Membership in credit union open to anyone
Cons
  • Charges fees on some services such as outgoing wire transfers

Alliant is another great choice if you’re an ATM fiend. Like all credit unions, you’ll need to meet membership requirements to join, but Alliant makes it easy — it’ll make a $5 donation on your behalf to its partner charity, allowing you to get in the door for free. It offers an extremely robust network of 80,000 ATMs, and in the event you do use an out-of-network machine and incur a charge, Alliant will reimburse you up to $20 per month.

It’s common to find online banks that let you access cash at ATMs but less so to deposit paper currency. Alliant doesn’t go into detail about how widespread this is, but you can technically deposit cash at some ATMs (you can find these on its website). All of your cash is held safe since the credit union is insured by the NCUA, similar to an FDIC-insured bank.

Visit Alliant Credit Union

How to choose the best bank

It’s not hard to find banks with free checking and no minimum balance. What is sometimes difficult is finding a good bank. The best banks all have a few features in common, which you can find by taking a few minutes to do some research in advance. Here’s what to look for.

  • Compare interest rates offered on savings accounts.
  • Read reviews online from Trustpilot, Yelp, Google, Reddit, etc.
  • Consider how many ATMs are in the bank’s network if you’ll be using cash a lot.
  • Consider the bank’s mobile app or online account offerings, especially for online banks.
  • Look for the bank’s “fee schedule” of other charges you might have to pay such as ATM fees.
  • Check recent complaints listed with the Better Business Bureau and the CFPB Complaint Database.

One point that’s worth calling out specifically is paper checks. Many banks don’t allow you to write paper checks with their free checking accounts. If you want to have this option available to you, even if you don’t regularly use it, make sure you double-check this in advance.

FAQ

What bank offers a bonus for opening an account?

Many banks, such as SoFi, Chase, and Axos Bank, frequently offer sign-up bonuses on new checking accounts. These offers are for a limited time only and are constantly changing, so you’ll need to do a quick search to see what’s currently being offered when you’re ready to apply.

Are there any banks that don't require a minimum balance?

Yes, many banks offer at least one basic checking account with no minimum balance requirement. It may be easier to find a checking account with no minimum balance at an online bank, such as Ally Bank, Capital One, or Discover Bank.

What are the easiest banks to open an account with?

It’s usually very easy to open a checking account with most online banks such as Ally Bank, Capital One, or Discover Bank. All banks are required to verify your identity in the U.S., and they do this in various ways (such as by scanning or taking a photo of your official government I.D.).

Bottom line

You have many options when it comes to banks with free checking and no minimum balance. The tricky part will be figuring out which one is right for you. For the best customer service, we recommend Discover Bank, and SoFi is the winner hands-down in terms of best interest rate. Make a list of your priorities when it comes to banking as this can serve as a key tool to help you choose the best option for your unique situation.

Methodology

The companies we chose for our best banks with free checking and no minimum balance list

may be current or past FinanceBuzz partners. We did not review all companies in the market. When evaluating these companies, we considered factors such as fees, minimum opening deposit, and whether the account pays an APY.

Discover®️ Cashback Debit Benefits

  • Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month13
  • No minimum deposit, no minimum balance, and no account fees
  • Access your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay
  • 60K+ fee-free ATMs and make cash deposits at Walmart stores nationwide

Author Details

Lindsay VanSomeren

Lindsay VanSomeren is a professional writer based in Suquamish, Washington. Originally a wildlife biologist, Lindsay became passionate about helping others learn smart financial moves after seeing how positive money habits made a big difference in her own life.