A checking account isn't just a checking account anymore -- it can do so much more. Aside from paying your bills and funding everyday expenses, a good checking account can help you save money and reach your financial goals.
Banks are going above and beyond basic free checking in 2015 by providing customers added value such as free money management software, bill pay and rewards programs. Customers can also find attractive fee structures, with many checking accounts offering no fees of any kind, including overdraft or out-of-network ATM fees. In fact, the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau estimates that the average customer who incurs overdraft fees could save over $200 a year by simply switching to a checking account with no overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees, or by opting out of overdraft protection. Therefore, a new checking account could be your key to saving more money in 2015 .
Consumers can also enjoy the return of the interest-bearing checking account in 2015. Interest rates have been at historical lows in recent years, which all but wiped out APY offerings on checking accounts, but rates are on the rise. According to a GOBankingRates analysis of checking account rates from thousands of banks and credit unions throughout the U.S., the average checking account earned 0.17 percent APY last year. But in 2015, you can do much better.
As part of its weekly "Best of Banks 2015" series, GOBankingRates looked at the best checking accounts for 2015 and ranked the 10 very best, based off criteria checking customers care about most: APY, minimum deposit, monthly maintenance fee, non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee and the minimum balance required to avoid a fee. We also included information about additional services, free perks and attractive offerings that help solidify these banks' top rankings.
Banks have really stepped up their game and are after your business in 2015 -- and they have the products to prove it. Here are the results of the survey.
10 Best Checking Accounts of 2015
1. Bank5 Connect. The High-Interest Checking account offers 0.76 percent APY and no monthly fees. Plus, the minimum deposit to open is just $10. The account reimburses up to $15 of out-of-network ATM fees per monthly billing cycle, and NSF fees run $15 as well. Customers also have the option to enroll in Bank5's UChoose debit rewards program, which allows them to earn points that can be redeemed for thousands of online items.
2. FNBO Direct. This checking account offers no monthly services fees, 0.65 percent APY, a minimum deposit of only $1 and no balance requirements. The account's NSF fee is $33 per transaction, but additional free services make this account a standout: free debit card fraud monitoring, free incoming wires and stop payments and free Popmoney person-to-person payments.
3. Bank of Internet USA. The Rewards Checking account from Bank of Internet USA starts at 0.47 percent APY, but customers can earn more (up to 1.25 percent) by meeting certain conditions such as using the account's Rewards Checking Visa debit card at least 10 times a month. The minimum opening deposit is $100, though consumers have access to several other attractive features, including cash-back purchase rewards, unlimited ATM fee reimbursements and free FinanceWorks money management software, which is powered by Quicken.
4. Capital One 360. The checking account from Capital One 360 offers tiered interest rates starting at 0.20 percent APY and ranging upward to 0.80 percent APY for balances above $100,000. The account offers no minimum opening deposit, no monthly service fee and no minimum balance requirement, but our favorite feature was the overdraft fee structure; instead of getting hit with a $30-plus charge every time you overdraw, Capital One only charges interest on that money, which equates to pennies instead of dollars.
5. iGObanking.com. The iGOchecking account from iGObanking.com offers no monthly fees, no minimum balance, $1 opening deposit, 0.25 percent APY and many more beneficial services, such as tools that allow customers to import bills right into their accounts and then pay them online. The NSF fee is a standard $30, but ATM withdrawals are free at Allpoint ATM locations.
6. Ally Bank. This account has no monthly maintenance fee, no minimum opening balance requirement and starting APY is 0.10 percent. But what makes this account really stand out are the freebies: no overdraft transfer service fees, free incoming wires, free official and cashier's checks and free Ally Bank standard checks. Also, with an NSF fee of just $9 (one of the lowest on this list), account holders won't see their balances disappear with every overdraft.
7. TIAA Direct. A 0.05 percent starting APY knocks TIAA Direct farther down on this list, but its tiered rate system helps customers earn up to 0.15 percent APY as their balance grows. Plenty of perks offset the low interest, including no monthly maintenance fee, no minimum balance requirement, $25 opening deposit, free checks and free eBills online bill-paying service .
8. EverBank. The $1,500 minimum opening deposit and $30 NSF fee hurt this account in the rankings, but if you are looking for a place to park your cash and stay liquid, this product is a great option. The base rate is 0.30 percent APY, but EverBank is currently offering several tiered introductory rates on the Yield Pledge Checking, such as 1.40 percent APY for the first six months on balances up to $100,000, and first-year APYs starting at 0.85 percent on balances below $10,000.
9. KeyBank (tie). KeyBank tied with Simple (below) to round out our top 10 checking accounts. The Hassle-Free Account has no overdraft or bounced check fees because paper checks aren't offered with this account. There are also no monthly service fees, no minimum balance requirements and no NSF fees, but the product's best feature is its Relationship Rewards program (which might include an annual fee based on the type of checking account you have) that allows customers to earn points by actively using their accounts and debit cards.
9. Simple Checking Review (tie). With the online checking account from Simple, customers have to make a tradeoff: There is a nominal .01 percent APY, but there are also no overdraft or monthly fees, and customers have access to 55,000 fee-free ATMs. Customers also get access to innovative technology and tools that help them keep their spending under control and reach their financial goals.
Although the standard checking account is nothing to get excited about, these 10 banks prove checking can be both functional and rewarding. Demand more from your bank in 2015, and look for a checking account that can help you get closer to your financial goals.
Morgan Quinn is a writer for GoBankingRates.com, a leading source for the best savings account rates, CD rates, personal finance news and more.
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