Why Discover’s Checking Account Is the Best in the U.S.

No fees and lucrative cash-back? Look no further for the best checking account out there.

Savings APY
0.40%
1Y CD Rate
0.50%
J.D. Power Rating
863/1,000
SimpleScore
4.6 / 5.0
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SimpleScore Discover, Member FDIC 4.6
Savings APY 5
1Y CD APY 5
Customer Satisfaction 4
Mobile App 4
Product Variety 5

While most people know Discover Bank, Member FDIC from the company’s credit card offerings, it may come as a surprise that the company offers a benefit-rich checking account. Throughout the industry, many checking account options come with required account minimums, monthly maintenance fees and little to no ability to earn cash through the use of the card. These fees can eat away at any thoughts you had of earning on your checking account balance.

Not with Discover. The company’s checking account is changing the banking game by offering a fee-free account that carries no account balance requirement or monthly activity requirement. Not only are you not shelling out cash to use Discover’s services, but the company also pays you a lucrative cashback offering every month for using the card.

 

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In this article

    1. Cashback rewards

    In the past, the only way to earn bonus cash through a checking account was through interest payments. Unfortunately, the interest rate on checking accounts is often only a fraction of a percentage. Because of this, many people use credit cards to make purchases to earn rewards points or cashback.

    With Discover’s new checking account, you can get those same cashback rewards normally reserved for credit card users, but with a debit card.

    Leslie H. Tayne, a financial attorney with the Tayne Law Group, explains that Discover’s checking account includes the same features at its credit cards, but also has no monthly fees, insufficient funds or stop payment fees.

    “The account also offers 1% cashback on purchases you make with the card,” she continues. “If you like to avoid using a credit card for everyday purchases, you can still take advantage of many of the rewards perks and features of a credit card without compromising or worrying about interest fees with the Discover Cashback Debit account.”

    Users can earn up to 1% cashback every single month on $3,000 worth of purchases with the Discover debit card. Unless you’re planning on keeping a very large balance in your checking account, this could be the best rewards system out there for you.

    With current interest rates so low, it would require a significant account balance to surpass these benefits. The national average for annual percentage yield on savings accounts at traditional banks is around 0.06%. With an account balance of $100,000, you would earn $60 in interest for the year. If you’re meeting the maximum spend threshold with Discover, you will earn that annual amount in two months.

    You would need to carry an account balance of $600,000 for the year to earn the $360 you would earn from the Discover cashback program. Even if you’re able to secure a high-yield savings account with an APY of 1.70% — the highest available with Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Synchrony or American Express — you’d need to have just over $21,000 in the bank to earn the $360 you’d get annually from the cashback rewards.

    2. Zero fees

    While the cashback is a great perk, the bigger story with Discover’s checking account is the fees — or lack thereof. Discover charges no fees to open an account or maintain an account. Additionally, there are no requirements for a starting balance, monthly balance, or account activity to avoid fees. No matter how much money you have in the account or how often you use it, you will pay $0.

    The Discover checking account also carries no fees to freeze your debit card, get an official bank check, expedite the delivery of your debit card, make an outbound ACH transfer or get a paper copy of a check or deposit item. There are no other banks on the market that offer all of these services to customers free of charge.

    3. 60,000 free ATMs

    Need to withdraw some cash from your Discover checking account? All accounts come with access to over 60,000 free ATMs across the country. The company has a handy ATM finder on the website and in the banking app that you can use to find the closest fee-free ATMs you can use. And it’s not just Discover-branded ATMs, as the bank utilizes a network of third-party providers throughout the country to give customers adequate resources to withdraw funds.

    Are Discover debit cards accepted everywhere?

    As of the last update, Discover debit cards are accepted at over 95% of merchants within the U.S. This works out to about 11 million locations, including big-box stores, online merchants, gas stations, coffee shops and more. Most places you spend and shop accept Discover.

    On top of this, you can use your debit card from Discover at many brick-and-mortar banks, credit unions, and ATMs (including those not covered in the 60,000 fee-free options).

    Getting started with a Discover checking account is simple and can be done 100% online. To apply, you can fill out an application at Discover’s website. You will need some basic information like your name, address, and social security number. Once you fill out the application, you’ll be able to make an instant deposit or come back later when you’re ready. The account does not require any money upfront to get the account open and active.

    Once you’ve made your deposit, the bank will send you some confirmation documents, and you are all set to begin using your new checking account. The entire process should take no more than a few minutes of work on your end. If you do have questions during the process, Discover’s customer support is available via phone 24/7/365.

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    Methodology

    SimpleScore

    The SimpleScore is a proprietary scoring metric we use to objectively compare products and services at The Simple Dollar.

    For every review, our editorial team:

    • Identifies five measurable aspects to compare across each brand
    • Determines the rating criteria for each aspect score
    • Averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore

    Here’s a breakdown of the five aspect scores and their rating criteria for our review of the best checking accounts of 2020.

    Why do some brands have different SimpleScores on different pages?

    To ensure the SimpleScore is as helpful and accurate as possible, we developed unique criteria for every category we compare at The Simple Dollar. Since most brands offer a variety of financial solutions, their products and services will score differently depending on what we’re scoring on a given page.

    However, it’s also possible for the same product from the same brand to have multiple SimpleScores. For instance, if we compare the savings account offered by Chase, it scores a 3.8 out of 5. However, when we compare the checking account offered by Chase with the checking account SimpleScore metrics, it scores a 4.4 out of 5. We change and tweak the methodologies for different categories based on industry standards to paint a complete picture of products and brands.

    Have questions about our methodology?

    Email Hayley Armstrong at hayley@thesimpledollar.com.

    Minimum deposit

    We awarded checking account providers that require low or no minimum deposits to open an account.

    Overdraft protection

    It sucks when your account gets overdrafted and you’re hit with fees. Brands that offer more overdraft protections are awarded higher SimpleScores.

    Customer satisfaction

    We leveraged J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study and 2020 U.S. Direct Banking Satisfaction Study to rate each brand for customer satisfaction. The higher the satisfaction score, the higher the SimpleScore.

    Customer support

    The checking account providers that have the most channels of customer support score higher than providers that don’t. We considered e-chat, email, phone, mobile app support and social media as channels of support for this metric.

    Additional products

    When it comes to banking, it’s nice to have options. If you want a checking and savings account in one place, that’s great, but we also considered other financial products like MMAs, CDs, IRAs, loans and more. Providers that have more additional products score higher.

    Jason Lee

    Contributing Writer

    Jason Lee is a U.S.-based freelance writer with a passion for writing about dating, banking, tech, personal growth, food and personal finance. As a business owner, relationship strategist, and officer in the U.S. military, Jason enjoys sharing his unique knowledge base and skill sets with the rest of the world. Follow Jason on Facebook here