Holding a checking account is a great way to keep your money safe yet easily accessible to you. Most checking accounts also come with a debit card, allow you to take cash out of an ATM, and can be managed online or from your smartphone.
If you’re just getting started with a checking account, the options can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created a list of the best checking accounts available and provided a guide for how to choose the right checking account for you.
Top Checking Accounts
How to pick the best checking account for you
As you compare the best checking accounts available, you’ll still need to consider what’s important to you to pick the right one for your goals and lifestyle.
According to the Federal Reserve, customers spend an average of $250 annually on bank fees. The largest percentage of those fees come from overdraft or non-sufficient fund fees, which occur when a customer tries to complete a transaction without the actual money to do so. Meaning, you write a check for more than you have in the bank. But some banks also charge monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance fees on top of ATM and check fees.
When choosing the best checking account, consider what you’re willing to pay for the conveniences offered. There are many options for checking accounts without maintenance or overdraft fees, so there’s really no reason to pay any fees at all for your checking account. If you currently have a checking account where you are forking over money to your bank every month, you’re probably getting a bad deal.
Some checking accounts charge ATM fees, while others have a large network of ATMs you can use for free. A checking account that doesn’t provide easy and free access to cash might be a huge hassle for you. Sometimes, it’s not about the number of ATMs in a bank’s network, but more about which bank has a free ATM near you. Then again, you might not care if you generally write checks or use other payment options besides cash.
Different banks will require different minimum deposits to open a checking account, so you’ll need to consider how much cash you have on hand to put in your account. You should also make sure you can maintain the minimum balance needed to avoid any fees (if one is required).
If you receive income via direct deposit, it’s important to consider how much time these deposits will take before the money becomes accessible to you. Some banks get your funds to you earlier than others, which can be helpful if you’re living paycheck to paycheck or have an unpredictable schedule that causes cash flow issues. Or, getting your earnings a couple of days early might not matter to you at all. Consider your needs when choosing the best checking account for you.
While most traditional banks offer little to no interest on a checking account, there are online banks that offer great potential for earning interest with their checking accounts. This might not be a huge selling point, since you can likely earn more if you deposit money into a high-yield savings account, but it’s something to consider if you want to keep your cash accessible while also earning some interest.
Online vs. in-person banking
If you find it annoying to wait in line at a traditional bank, you’ll probably be better served by an online bank. Online banks also typically have lower fees, as well as apps and websites that provide you with all the financial assistance you could need. But if it’s important for you to be able to speak to a banker in-person, you should consider a brick-and-mortar bank.
The companies we chose for our best checking accounts list are all current partners with FinanceBuzz. We did not evaluate all companies in the market. Companies were evaluated and scored according to a set of weighted criteria.
FinanceBuzz ranking criteria include:
- FDIC or NCUA insured: To make our list, a checking account must be FDIC or NCUA insured
- Account minimums: All listed accounts have no minimum balance requirement to remain open without incurring fees. Accounts were rated higher if they also had no minimum deposit required to open.
- Fees: Accounts were rated higher for having fewer fees. Fees evaluated include monthly maintenance, ATM, minimum balance, foreign transaction, and overdraft fees.
- Account features: Checking accounts were evaluated and scored based on the availability of certain features like paper checks, mobile deposits, rewards on spending, and whether or not the account is interest bearing.
- Customer experience: Accounts were evaluated based on how the customer can access and manage the account (mobile app and/or web-based portal), as well as the methods by which the customer can communicate with support.
FAQs about checking accounts
What is required to open a checking account?
Requirements vary by bank, but you’ll typically need to be at least 18 years old and have a valid Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. You’ll also need to submit photo identification and provide proof of your current address.
How many checking accounts should I have?
There’s no magic number; it’s totally okay to have one or multiple checking accounts in your name. Sometimes, having more than one checking account can make it easier to organize your budget. For example, you might want a separate checking account for spending on your kids, or a business checking account for your business expenses.
How much should I keep in checking?
You should keep at least the minimum balance in your checking account and ensure you have enough to cover all your monthly bills. It’s a good idea to have a cushion to protect yourself from accidental overdrafts, but you shouldn’t keep too much money in your checking account if you could earn a better APY by moving some of that money into a savings account.
Is it better to have more money in checking or savings?
There’s no real need to choose between a checking vs savings account — it’s good to have both. Since it’s easier to access money in your checking account, you’ll want to ensure you keep enough in checking to cover your expenses. But any money you want to set aside for future financial goals may be best kept in a savings account.