The 5 Best Free Checking Accounts [2024]: Elevate Your Financial Game

BANKING - CHECKING ACCOUNTS
The best free checking accounts include accounts that have no monthly maintenance fees from SoFi, Chime®, Axos, and a few others.
Updated May 23, 2024
Fact checked
A woman opening a free checking account

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

The best free checking accounts have no monthly maintenance fees while giving you easy access to your cash. Accounts that have no monthly maintenance fees include SoFi Checking for its membership benefits, Chime® Checking1 for its early paycheck access with direct deposit2 and cash deposit options3, Axos Rewards Checking for its high yields, and more.

Let’s discover the pros and cons of these options and more in our roundup of the best free checking accounts.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • The best checking accounts with no monthly maintenance fees include SoFi Checking, Chime® Checking, Axos Rewards Checking, Betterment Checking, and Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus.
  • These checking accounts don’t charge monthly maintenance fees, but you may have to pay other fees for less-common things like making wire transfers or stopping payment on a check.
  • Free checking accounts are typically offered by online-only banks that have no physical branches. Having no branches reduces overhead costs that brick-and-mortar banks pay. This can be passed down to you in the form of no monthly maintenance fees for these online checking accounts.

The 5 best free checking accounts

  1. SoFi Checking
  2. Chime® Checking
  3. Axos Rewards Checking
  4. Betterment Checking
  5. Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus

Compare the best free checking accounts

Account name Main features Monthly maintenance fee
SoFi Checking4
  • Up to 0.50% (as of Jan. 30, 2024) APY with direct deposits5
  • Simple and straightforward banking experience
  • Member benefits program
  • Joint account option
$0
Chime® Checking
  • Fee-free overdraft up to $200 for eligible members via SpotMe®6
  • Cash deposits available at Walgreens7
  • Paycheck available up to two days early with direct deposit
$08
Axos Rewards Checking
  • Up to 3.30% APY with qualifying activities9
  • Unlimited U.S. ATM fee reimbursement
$0
Betterment Checking
  • ATM and foreign transaction fee refunds
  • No overdraft fees
  • Joint account option
$0
Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
  • Up to 2% cash back on eligible purchases10
  • Paychecks available up to two days early with direct deposits11
  • Fee-free withdrawals at 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs
$0

SoFi Checking

Pros
  • Up to 0.50% (as of Jan. 30, 2024) APY with direct deposits
  • Simple and straightforward banking experience
  • SoFi membership benefits
  • Joint accounts available
  • $0 monthly maintenance fee
Cons
  • Cash deposits cost $4.95
  • Higher APY requires direct deposits

Why we like it

There’s a lot to like about SoFi’s banking services that come with $0 monthly maintenance fees. By opening a SoFi Money account, you automatically get a checking and a savings account. The SoFi checking account helps you earn an annual percentage yield (APY) of up to 0.50% (as of Jan. 30, 2024). Keep in mind that you need qualifying direct deposits to earn this rate.512

We use it
I rely on both SoFi's Checking and Savings accounts and appreciate the advantages they offer. I keep most of my funds in SoFi Savings, where I can earn an APY of up to 4.60% with direct deposit and benefit from unlimited withdrawals. I also use it for bill payments, and the instant transfers to my SoFi Checking make money management effortless.

Yahia Barakah, Editor

With your SoFi Checking account, you get access to SoFi member benefits that include valuable perks like access to certified financial advisors, career counselors, discounts on loans, and more. On top of that, you can open this account as a joint account, which is handy for couples and partners.

What we don’t like

One downside of SoFi Checking is that cash deposits through its mobile app are exclusively facilitated through select retailers and are subject to a $4.95 fee per deposit. This can be inconvenient if you frequently handle cash or receive your income in cash form.

Another limitation is that the higher APY rates depend on having direct deposits, a requirement that may not be accessible to everyone.

Visit SoFi Checking

…Or learn more in our SoFi Checking and Savings review.

SoFi Checking & Savings - Earn Up to $300 When You Set Up Direct Deposit

Earn 4.60% APY13 and collect up to a $300 cash bonus with direct deposit or $5,000 or more in qualifying deposits.5 FDIC Insured.

Open Account

Chime® Checking

Pros
  • Fee-free overdraft up to $200 for eligible members via SpotMe®
  • Paycheck available up to two days early with direct deposit
  • Cash deposits available at Walgreens
  • $0 monthly maintenance fee
Cons
  • ATM withdrawals limited to $515 per day
  • $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee
  • No interest-earning potential

Why we like it

Chime® is a popular fintech company that offers financial services through partner banks. The Chime® Checking account enables you to have a $0 monthly maintenance fee while getting access to various benefits.

Chime® Checking has a feature named SpotMe® that helps you access up to $200 in fee-free overdrafts, depending on your eligibility. You’ll also receive your direct deposit paycheck up to two days earlier than at other banks.

Chime® also allows you to conveniently deposit cash for free at any Walgreens or Duane Reade location using the Chime® mobile banking app.

What we don’t like

Chime® Checking might be a better fit for people with smaller cash management needs. Each day, you can only withdraw up to $515 in cash or use your debit card to make up to $2,500 in purchases. That might not be enough money to make big transactions like buying a living room set.

Keep in mind
In-network ATMs include ATMs at Walgreens, 7-Eleven, Target, Circle K, and CVS. Out-of-network ATM withdrawals cost $2.50, plus additional fees the ATM operator may charge you.

Additionally, the Chime® Checking account offers no APY on your balance, meaning that your money won’t see passive growth.

Visit Chime® Checking

…Or learn more in our Chime® review.

Chime® Checking1 - No Fees + Early Paydays86

Checking Account. No minimum balance. FDIC Insured through The Bank Corp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.

Open Account

Axos Rewards Checking

Pros
  • Up to 3.30% APY with qualifying activities
  • Unlimited U.S. ATM fee refunds
  • $0 monthly maintenance fee
Cons
  • $50 minimum opening deposit
  • Various requirements to earn the highest APY

Why we like it

The Axos Rewards Checking account has a $0 monthly maintenance fee and enables you to earn an APY of up to 3.30% with qualifying activities. This is a high APY rate for a checking account.

Another benefit of this checking account is that you can get unlimited refunds for U.S. ATM fees, enabling you to use any ATM without worrying about its cost to you.

What we don’t like

The Axos Rewards Checking requires a $50 minimum deposit for account opening. While this isn’t a big ask, there are other checking accounts that don’t require an initial deposit.

Furthermore, although you have the potential to earn up to 3.30% APY, the requirements for the qualifying activities may seem somewhat demanding. For example, there’s a monthly direct deposit requirement of at least $1,500 to begin earning interest.

From there, you can earn additional interest by having at least $2,500 in an Axos self-directed investing account, at least $2,500 in a managed investing account with at least 10 debit card purchases a month, and more.

Visit Axos Rewards Checking

…Or learn more in our Axos Bank review.

Earn Up to 3.30% APY

Learn More

Betterment Checking

Pros
  • ATM and foreign transaction fee refunds
  • No overdraft fees
  • Joint account option
  • $0 monthly maintenance fee
Cons
  • No cash deposits or wire transfers
  • Low ATM withdrawal and transfer limits
  • No interest-earning potential

Why we like it

Betterment is an investment platform that offers banking services via a partner financial institution. The Betterment Checking account can be a good fit for people who want free ATM access, as Betterment offers ATM reimbursements and foreign transaction fee refunds.

Betterment Checking has a $0 monthly maintenance fee and charges no fees for overdrafts, as charges would simply be declined if you don’t have enough balance. Additionally, this checking account can help partners or spouses manage their money since it offers joint accounts.

What we don’t like

One of the biggest drawbacks of Betterment Checking is that you can’t deposit cash or set up a wire transfer. Additionally, your existing checking balance doesn’t earn interest.

Learn how interest checking accounts can help you grow your money.

Betterment Checking only allows you to withdraw $510 in cash per day from an ATM. Another limit is that you can transfer only up to $2,000 per day to and from your account online. These can be relatively tight limits.

Visit Betterment Checking

…Or learn more in our Betterment Checking review.

Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus

Pros
  • Up to 2% cash back on eligible purchases
  • Paychecks available up to two days early with direct deposits
  • $0 monthly maintenance fee
  • Fee-free withdrawals at 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Cons
  • No cash deposits
  • Limited cashback rewards
  • Direct deposit is required for various benefits
  • No interest-earning potential

Why we like it

The Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus has a $0 monthly maintenance fee while helping you earn cash back on certain purchases.10

You can earn 2% cash back when you use your linked debit card at certain merchants, including restaurants, convenience stores, drug stores, and gas stations. You can also earn the same cashback rate when using your debit card to pay for utilities and monthly subscriptions.

Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus allows you to earn up to $500 per year in cash rewards from the 2% cashback rate.

To be eligible for the higher rate on your cashback debit card, as well as various other benefits, you need to have an active account that receives at least $1,000 in direct deposits each month.1415

You can also earn 1% cash back on other purchases. Active account holders can also benefit from early paychecks with direct deposits.11

What we don’t like

Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus offers no method for cash deposits, which might be a hassle for people who tend to use cash. Additionally, it doesn’t help you earn interest on your checking account balance.

Another downside is that various perks require direct deposits, including the higher 2% cashback rates. Your ability to earn cash back at this rate is also capped at $500 per year.

Visit Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus.

How to choose the best free checking accounts

Each of these checking accounts offers different benefits and perks. That makes each one better suited for some people but not for others. As you shop around for the best checking accounts, here are a few factors to consider.

  • Do you use cash a lot? Look for an account with cash deposit options.
  • Are you banking with a partner? If so, choose a joint checking account option.
  • Do you get FDIC insurance? Banks that are member-FDIC provide protection for your money balance.
  • Will you need to borrow money in the future? Some banks and fintech companies offer personal loans and may give you discounts on your loan if you’re already a client.
  • Do you work for an employer or receive benefits? Many free checking accounts have perks and features that are only available with direct deposits.
  • What other fees does the bank charge? Free checking accounts typically mean that these accounts don’t charge monthly maintenance fees. However, no account is completely free. Work with the best banks and make sure to review their fees.

Free checking accounts FAQ

What’s the downside of free checking accounts?

Free checking accounts may have certain limitations, such as having no physical branches, offering lower interest rates, or providing fewer fee-free ATM withdrawals compared to premium accounts. Credit unions may offer free checking accounts that don’t have some of these downsides, for example, by having physical branches.

Are free checking accounts really free?

Free accounts, whether checking or savings, are typically offered by online banks that don’t charge monthly service fees, but they may not be entirely without costs. However, free checking account fees may still include certain services such as paper statements, wire transfers, out-of-network ATM usage, overdrafts, and paper checks.

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

Both checking and savings are deposit accounts. However, a checking account holds cash for everyday spending, while a savings account is meant to help you with your budgeting goals by storing your money long-term. Checking accounts typically offer zero or little interest. Savings accounts, on the other hand, typically earn more interest but may have limitations on the number of withdrawals allowed per month.

Best free checking accounts: bottom line

To choose the best free checking account for your personal finance needs, begin by evaluating your banking habits and preferences. Consider how often you use ATMs, whether you prefer mobile or in-person banking, and if you require additional services like wire transfers or cashier’s checks.

Our roundup of the best free checking accounts includes:

  1. SoFi Checking: Offering a straightforward banking experience and the potential to earn an APY of up to 0.50% (as of Jan. 30, 2024) with qualifying direct deposits
  2. Chime® Checking: A popular fintech choice, providing fee-free overdraft protection and the convenience of early paychecks with direct deposits along with cash deposit options at Walgreens
  3. Axos Rewards Checking: Standing out with its APY of up to 3.30% and unlimited U.S. ATM fee refunds
  4. Betterment Checking: Offering ATM and foreign transaction fee refunds, joint account options, and no overdraft fees
  5. Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus: Offering up to 2% cash back on eligible purchases and early paycheck access with direct deposits

You can explore more options in our list of the top checking account bonuses.

Methodology

To create our list of the best free checking accounts, we first compiled a list of popular banks that offer checking accounts that don't have monthly maintenance fees. We then looked at factors such as APY rates, minimum balance requirements, accessibility, and various fees such as ATM and overdraft fees.

Next, we evaluated each bank based on the factors above and selected ones that offer useful features and benefits for customers. We aimed to provide a balanced and comprehensive overview of each bank, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses.

Keep in mind that our list is not ranked in any particular order, We encourage readers to compare different options and choose the one that best suits their financial needs and goals. We did not review every available option, and our recommendations aim to help you make an informed decision when choosing a bank account for your personal use.

Discover®️ Cashback Debit Benefits

  • Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month16
  • 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.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt