The Best Free Checking Account in 2020

Whether this is your first account ever or you’re looking to move your money to a new bank, knowing where to get the best checking account is a significant step in your financial journey. For many, this will be your highest traffic financial account where you deposit paychecks, withdraw money from ATMs, pay bills and spend on entertainment. It’s essential you choose the right bank or financial institution with the right option to handle your money.

The 6 best free checking accounts of 2020

The best free checking accounts at a glance

Provider APY Overdraft Protection ATM Network SimpleScore
Discover 0% Auto-transfer from connected account 60,000 ATMs worldwide 3.8/5
Ally 0.10%–0.50% Auto-transfer from connected account 43,000+ Allpoint® ATMs 4.6/5
N26 0% None 55,000 Allpoint® ATMs 2.25/5
SoFi Money 0.20% Automatically declines transaction 55,000 fee-free Allpoint® ATMs 3.75/5
Capital One 360 0.10% Auto-decline, transfer from account and next-day grace 39,000 Capital One and AllPoint® ATMs 4.5/5
Betterment 0% Auto-decline All Visa-accepted ATMs 2.5/5

Discover – Best for cashback rewards

Discover

Discover offers a free checking account that gives users 1% cashback monthly on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases.

APY
0%
Overdraft Protection
Auto-transfers
J.D. Power
5/5
SimpleScore
3.8 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
Discover
3.8
  • APY
    1
  • Overdraft Protection
    3
  • Customer Satisfaction
    5
  • Support
    5
  • Additional Accounts
    5
Discover's free checking account may not deliver interest like some other checking accounts, but it does offer up to 1% cashback every month on purchases up to $3,000. Typically, cashback is reserved for credit card accounts, but Discover is trying to change the game.

Discover free checking accounts come with no monthly fees, no account minimums and no fees for online bill pay, check orders or debit card replacement. This is on par with some of the other top free checking account options available.

Full review

Our Two Cents — For checking account users who plan to make several thousand dollars in purchases throughout the month, Discover's free checking product is attractive. If your checking account activity is low, though, you could look into an account with a higher interest yield.

Ally – Best customer satisfaction

Ally

Ally's free bank account comes with a competitive APY, a 5/5 rating from J.D. Power, and no monthly maintenance fees.

APY
0.10%–0.50%
Overdraft Protection
Auto-transfers
J.D. Power
5/5
SimpleScore
4.6 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
Ally
4.6
  • APY
    5
  • Overdraft Protection
    3
  • Customer Satisfaction
    5
  • Support
    5
  • Additional Accounts
    5
Ally's FDIC insured interest checking accounts offer APYs on account balances between 0.10% and 0.50%. The higher-end rate is for accounts over $15,000, while the lower-end rate is for accounts under that threshold. A concern at times with online banks is access to customer service. Ally puts this to rest with seven different ways to contact a live agent for help. What stands out the most about this company is its interest-bearing checking account a 5/5 J.D. Power satisfaction rating.
Full review

Our Two Cents — You won't find many free checking account rates better than what Ally is offering or as many customer service support channels.

N26 – Best mobile app

N26

N26 is an FDIC-insured online bank that gives account holders unique savings perks and an industry-leading mobile application.

APY
0%
Overdraft Protection
None
J.D. Power
Not Rated
SimpleScore
2.25 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
N26
2.25
  • APY
    1
  • Overdraft Protection
    3
  • Customer Satisfaction
    N/A
  • Support
    5
  • Additional Accounts
    1
N26 is an online bank exclusively dealing in free checking accounts. However, unlike some other online banks, the company does not offer additional financial products. All account features can be managed through the company's website or the technology-forward mobile app. While you're not going to get interest or cashback on all purchases on your account, you will get N26 perks. These perks include savings at many retailers and limited cashback from designated subscription services like Headspace, Tidal, Blinkist and Babbel.
Full review

Our Two Cents — It would be nice to see some interest or account-wide cashback with an N26 account. However, if you frequent the retailers that offer discounts and cashback to N26 customers, it could be worth it.

Sofi Money – Best hybrid account

SoFi

SoFi Money's hybrid free checking account comes with perks like unlimited ATM reimbursement, a 0.20% APY regardless of account balance and exclusive SoFi members-only benefits.

APY
0.20%
Overdraft Protection
Auto-decline
J.D. Power
Not Rated
SimpleScore
3.75 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
SoFi
3.75
  • APY
    3
  • Overdraft Protection
    3
  • Customer Satisfaction
    N/A
  • Support
    5
  • Additional Accounts
    4
Sofi's free online checking account offers extensive flexibility that can't be ignored. The account allows P2P transfers, hold a joint account, manage your cash, get unlimited reimbursed ATM fees and access to exclusive SoFi members-only services, event, and experiences. All of this is available for no account fee.
Full review

Our Two Cents — With the APY rate offered and the flexibility of the account, SoFi money should be a serious contender in your list of choices of banks with free checking accounts.

Capital One 360 – Best for overdraft protections

Capital One 360

Customers looking to bank where they have access to a wide range of other products should consider the fee-free checking option from Capital One — Capital One 360.

APY
0.10%
Overdraft Protection
3 protection options
J.D. Power
2/5
SimpleScore
4.5 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
Capital One 360
4.5
  • APY
    3
  • Overdraft Protection
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    2
  • Support
    5
  • Additional Accounts
    5
The free checking account option from Capital One offers 0.10% APY regardless of your balance. For those with larger account balances, this may be lower than what you can get elsewhere. However, customers with smaller balances will enjoy a higher rate than many other banks with free checking accounts. Of all options. Capital One 360 has the most robust plan for dealing with overdrafts. The company has four separate options to protect consumers, including next-day grace periods, auto decline of charges, free savings auto transfers and overdraft lines of credit.
Full review

Our Two Cents — People with smaller account balances will benefit from the APY rates with Capital One. Additionally, those looking to take advantage of multiple banking products under one roof will enjoy the options available through Capital One.

Betterment – Best for investors

Betterment

Betterment is delivering a no-fee, no-minimum checking account option.

APY
0%
Overdraft Protection
Auto-decline
J.D. Power
Not Rated
SimpleScore
2.5 / 5.0
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SimpleScore
Betterment
2.5
  • APY
    3
  • Overdraft Protection
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    2
  • Support
    5
  • Additional Accounts
    5
Betterment's free checking account product comes with no monthly account fees, no maintenance fees, no withdrawal fees, no account minimums, and never any ATM fees. Currently, the Betterment checking account is on a waitlist as the product has still not been released. As the company deals heavily with investing accounts, investors looking to manage their cash and investments under one roof may be attracted to this offering.
Full review

Our Two Cents — Unless you're looking to open investment accounts as well, you may be able to find a better free checking account option online. That said, the simplicity of managing cash and investments together is something to be considered. However, if you need a free checking solution now, you'll need to look elsewhere.

What is a checking account?

A checking account is an account held with a financial institution that you can use for deposit and withdrawal transactions. Typically, checking accounts are designed for a high volume of transactions, rarely with limits on the number of deposits or withdrawals you can make. These accounts differ from savings accounts, which typically have higher APY rates but also limits on the number and types of transactions and transfers you can make.

How should I choose the right checking account?

All checking accounts have different features and perks to them. Some are interest-bearing, offer consumer protections, charge fees for usage or offer unique features. When trying to select the best free checking account for you, it’s important to understand your expected financial habits and then determine which account fits those best.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at the Ally free checking account that offers a higher APY rate for accounts over $15,000. If you’re not planning on keeping that much cash in your checking account in the future, Ally might not be the best fit. Understand where you are financially, how you plan to manage your money in the future and find the account that fits those parameters the best.

Too long, didn’t read?

Free checking accounts are great for consumers regardless of balance size, account activity, or financial goals. As banks continue to compete for your business, the perks, savings, and rates you’ll see will continue to get better. Take the time to determine the best free checking account for you. Your money should always be working for you, not against you.

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Methodology

The SimpleScore is our proprietary scoring metric to compare products and services at The Simple Dollar in a transparent, evidence-based way. Our editorial team identifies five quantifiable aspects to compare for every brand, determines the rating criteria for each aspect score, then averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore. For checking accounts, we compared APYs, overdraft protection options, customer satisfaction, support and additional accounts for every major checking account provider. Our ratings are meant to be a directional tool to help you in the process of choosing a checking account. Be sure to continue your research and shop around for the best checking account that fits your specific needs.

Last updated July 22, 2020 – Updated SimpleScore data

We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the checking accountss we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser's page for terms & conditions.

Jason Lee
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