The Best Free Checking Account in 2021

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.

In this article

    The 6 best free checking accounts of 2021

    The best free checking accounts at a glance

    ProviderAPYOverdraft ProtectionATM NetworkSimpleScore
    Discover0%Auto-transfer from connected account60,000 ATMs worldwide3.8/5
    Ally0.10%–0.50%Auto-transfer from connected account43,000+ Allpoint® ATMs4.6/5
    N260%None55,000 Allpoint® ATMs2.25/5
    SoFi Money0.20%Automatically declines transaction55,000 fee-free Allpoint® ATMs3.75/5
    Capital One 3600.10%Auto-decline, transfer from account and next-day grace39,000 Capital One and AllPoint® ATMs4.5/5
    Betterment0%Auto-declineAll Visa-accepted ATMs2.5/5

    Best for cashback rewards – Discover, Member FDIC

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

    APY
    N/A
    Min. Deposit
    $0
    J.D. Power Rating
    5/5
    SimpleScore
    4.6 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Discover, Member FDIC 4.6
    Min. Deposit 5
    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.

    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. You won’t find many free checking account rates better than what Ally is offering or as many customer service support channels.

    APY
    N/A
    Min. Deposit
    $0
    J.D. Power Rating
    5/5
    SimpleScore
    4.6 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Ally 4.6
    Min. Deposit 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.

    Best mobile app – N26

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

    APY
    N/A
    Min. Deposit
    $0
    J.D. Power Rating
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    3.5 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore N26 3.5
    Min. Deposit 5
    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.

    Best hybrid account – SoFi Money

    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. 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.

    APY
    N/A
    Min. Deposit
    $0
    J.D. Power Rating
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    4.3 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore SoFi Money 4.3
    Min. Deposit 5
    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.

    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. 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.

    APY
    N/A
    Min. Deposit
    $0
    J.D. Power Rating
    2/5
    SimpleScore
    4.4 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Capital One 360 4.4
    Interest APY 5
    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.

    Best for investors – Betterment

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

    a
    N/A
    1
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    3.5 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Betterment 3.5
    Min. Deposit 4
    Overdraft Protection 3
    Customer Satisfaction N/A
    Support 4
    Additional Accounts 3
    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.

    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.

    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.

    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

    Reviewed by

    • Courtney Mihocik
      Courtney Mihocik
      Loans Editor

      Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and debt consolidation loans. She is a former writer and contributing editor to Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, and elsewhere.