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Best Checking Accounts in 2021

·13 min read
Techa Tungateja / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Techa Tungateja / Getty Images/iStockphoto

GOBankingRates’ comprehensive analysis of the Best Banks of 2021 paid significant attention to checking accounts, which are many customers’ entry point to banking. Even with so many online banking options, consumers still turn to brick-and-mortar banks for basics like a checking account. Traditional banks have worked hard to compete with their digital-only counterparts, offering robust apps, online bill pay, and low-fee or no-fee checking. Some even provide a return on your investment with checking that offers interest.

See: These Are the Best Banks of 2021 – Did Yours Make the Cut?
Find: 90% of Americans Say They’re Happy with Their Bank – But Most Could Get Better Rates and Lower Fees

To help you in your quest for better banking, GOBankingRates analyzed financial products from over 100 banks to find some of the best checking account offers for 2021. Criteria included the following:

  • Minimum deposit required

  • Monthly maintenance fee

  • Minimum balance required to avoid fees

  • Annual percentage yield

  • Nonsufficient funds fee

Here are GOBankingRates’ best checking accounts for 2021, starting with our finalists and ending with our winner.

mediaphotos  / iStock.com
mediaphotos / iStock.com

20. First Internet Bank: Free Checking

Why we like it: First Internet Bank’s Free Checking offers free checks, Zelle P2P payments and no fees, combining the best of online banking with traditional tools like checks.

Benefits

  • Free bill pay

  • Up to $10 in monthly ATM fee reimbursements

  • $25 minimum to open account

  • No monthly maintenance fee

  • Free first order of checks

  • Upgrade to Interest Checking to earn up to 0.30% APY

Drawbacks

  • $30 overdraft fee

  • Online-only bank

  • No interest

Learn more about the best checking accounts of 2021 here.

RyanJLane / Getty Images
RyanJLane / Getty Images

19. Radius Bank: Rewards Checking

Why we like it: No-fee, high-APY checking with free worldwide ATM withdrawals make the Radius Bank Rewards Checking account a knockout contender.

Benefits

  • Receive 1% cash back from purchases with a balance of $2,500-plus or at least $2,500 in monthly direct deposits

  • Earn up to a 0.15% APY on balance of $100,000 or more

  • Free ATMs worldwide

  • Free first order of checks

  • Early access to direct deposits

  • Mobile money management

Drawbacks

  • $100 minimum deposit required to open account

  • $25 overdraft fee

Related: Best Savings Accounts of 2021

golibo / Getty Images/iStockphoto
golibo / Getty Images/iStockphoto

18. USAA Federal Savings Bank: Classic Checking

Why we like it: USAA has no monthly maintenance fees, a network of more than 60,000 fee-free ATMS nationwide and a robust app that includes a Quick Balance widget to see your account balance without logging in.

Benefits

  • No minimum balance required

  • No monthly fees

  • Up to 0.01% interest

  • Access to more than 60,000 ATMs with no fees nationwide

  • $15/month reimbursement for out-of-network ATMs

  • Only $25 deposit required to open an account

Drawbacks

  • $29 overdraft fee

  • Only available to U.S. military members and veterans, pre-commissioned officers, their spouses and children

Rear our full review to get a deeper look at the features that make this a strong contender.

Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com
Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

17. Charles Schwab Bank: High Yield Investor Checking

Why we like it: With no monthly maintenance fees and no minimum balance, the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account links to your Schwab One brokerage account for seamless money management. It offers a reasonable APY, no foreign transaction fees and an easy-to-use mobile app.

Benefits

  • No minimum balance required

  • No monthly fees

  • 0.03% APY interest

  • No minimum deposit

  • Easily manage all your Schwab accounts and investments with one login

  • Robust mobile app

  • Unlimited reimbursement of fees at ATMs worldwide

  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks

  • Online-only banking; no physical branches

  • $25 overdraft fees

Our full review goes into the customer experience, rates and more at Charles Schwab Bank.

MStudioImages / Getty Images
MStudioImages / Getty Images

16. NBKC Bank: Everything Account

Why we like it: With no minimum balance, NBKC Bank’s Everything Account delivers an APY of 0.80%, plus fee-free banking.

Benefits

  • No minimum balance required

  • No monthly fees

  • No overdraft fees

  • Network of more than 34,000 MoneyPass ATMs are free

  • $12/month reimbursement for out-of-network ATMs

  • Free online bill pay

Drawbacks

  • Deposits may be held for 5 to 9 business days on new accounts (within the first 30 days)

Explore More: The Best Online Banks of 2021 – Enhanced Services & Low Fees

Alexa Suter / Unsplash.com
Alexa Suter / Unsplash.com

15. Axos Bank: Essential Checking

Why we like it: With no fees and an option to get paid up to two days early with Direct Deposit Express, Axos Bank Essential Checking helps your money go farther, faster.

Benefits

  • Online bill pay

  • No minimum deposit

  • No fees of any kind

  • Access direct deposit funds two days earlier

  • No minimum balance required

  • Reimbursed ATM charges

Drawbacks

  • No physical bank

  • Takes 15 minutes to apply online

  • No interest paid

Learn more about what has turned Axos Bank into a leader in the nation for 2021.

Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com
Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

14. SoFi: SoFi Money

Why we like it: A new addition to our list of best checking accounts in 2021, SoFi Money requires no minimum deposit, has zero fees and can deliver between 0.01% and 0.25% interest. Plus, earn as much as $125 when you sign up for a checking account, set up direct deposit of $500 and use your SoFi debit card for purchases.

Benefits

  • Access to more than 55,000 ATMs worldwide with no fees

  • Generous bonus

  • Checking account with interest

  • P2P transfers

  • No overdraft fees

  • Free access to events, experiences, financial planning, and other services

Drawbacks

  • Not a physical bank

Our full review explores about the reasons SoFi appeared on our list this year.

Sundry Photography / Getty Images
Sundry Photography / Getty Images

13. U.S. Bank: Easy Checking

Why we like it: With a low monthly maintenance fee, fee-free overdraft protection and free checking for adults 65+, US Bank offers a host of benefits.

Benefits

  • Low monthly fee that can be waived with direct deposits or a minimum account balance

  • Free account for adults 65+

  • Mobile check deposit

  • Online bill pay

  • Overdraft protection from a linked account

Drawbacks

  • $2 paper statement fee

  • $36 overdraft fee

U.S. Bank topped several of our categories this year – see why in our expert’s full review.

Walter Cicchetti / Shutterstock.com
Walter Cicchetti / Shutterstock.com

12. JPMorgan Chase Bank: Total Checking

Why we like it: Chase Bank sits on the cutting-edge of technology with an advanced mobile app, online bill pay and access to Chase QuickPay with Zelle. Plus, Chase is currently offering new customers a $200 bonus for opening a Total Checking account and setting up direct deposit right away. With a low minimum deposit to open your account and low monthly fees (including multiple ways to avoid the fee), Chase Total Checking has plenty going for it.

Benefits

  • Low minimum deposit

  • Low monthly fees, with multiple ways to avoid fees

  • Free mobile banking, including mobile deposits

  • $200 bonus, plus bonuses for referring friends

  • Many branches and ATMs

Drawbacks

  • No interest on checking

  • $34 overdraft fee

Find out more about features, customer experience and more in our review of Chase Bank.

katleho Seisa / Getty Images/iStockphoto
katleho Seisa / Getty Images/iStockphoto

11. CIT Bank: eChecking

Why we like it: There are no hidden fees, and you can open an account for as little as $100.

Benefits

  • Monthly ATM fee reimbursement up to $30

  • No monthly fees

Drawbacks

  • $30 overdraft fee

We get into the nitty-gritty of CIT Bank’s perks and practicalities in our full review.

Thaspol Sangsee / Shutterstock.com
Thaspol Sangsee / Shutterstock.com

10. Ally Bank: Interest Checking

Why we like it: With no monthly maintenance fees and up to 0.25% interest (with a minimum balance of $15,000, or 0.10% with no minimum balance), Ally Bank offers many benefits, including a robust mobile app, a network of 43,000 fee-free ATMs and no minimum deposit to open an account.

Benefits

  • No minimum balance

  • No monthly fees

  • Between 0.10% and 0.25% interest

  • Network of 43,000 fee-free ATMs in the Allpoint network

  • Send money with Zelle

  • Round debit transactions to the nearest dollar and have the change deposited into your connected Ally Online Savings Account

Drawbacks

  • $25 overdraft fees

  • Online-only bank

Ally Bank consistently tops multiple rankings in our Best Banks lists every year – see our most recent review to find out why.

mangpor_2004 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
mangpor_2004 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

9. Truist Bank: Essential Checking

Why we like it: SunTrust Bank has become Truist after a merger with BB&T and is offering no-fee mobile banking, low maintenance fees with multiple ways to waive the fees and access to Zelle P2P payments.

Benefits

  • Free starter pack of checks

  • Low maintenance fee with multiple ways to waive it

  • Free checking for students

Drawbacks

  • $36 overdraft fee

  • Paper statement fee

Learn more: The Best Regional Banks of 2021 – Localized Focus With Broad Product Lines

golibo / Getty Images/iStockphoto
golibo / Getty Images/iStockphoto

8. TIAA Bank: Yield Pledge Checking

Why we like it: With purchase benefits on their debit cards, TIAA Bank offers generous interest rates on balances and no fees.

Benefits

  • No minimum balance required

  • No monthly fees

  • 0.12% APY interest

  • ATM fee reimbursement

  • Free debit card with benefits

Drawbacks

  • Requires $100 minimum deposit to open an account

  • $30 overdraft fee

Check out what our experts had to say about TIAA Bank’s full experience in our review.

Alexander Oganezov / Shutterstock.com
Alexander Oganezov / Shutterstock.com

7. E*TRADE Bank: E*TRADE Checking

Why we like it: E*TRADE is one of the few banks today that offers free checks plus a robust mobile app and no minimum deposit to get started.

Benefits

  • No minimum balance required

  • Free checks

  • No monthly maintenance fees

  • Owned by Morgan Stanley

Drawbacks

  • Transferring money can take up to 3 business days, while check deposits can take up to 5 to open your account

  • $25 overdraft fee

Discover more about E*Trade in our review.

Farknot_Architect / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Farknot_Architect / Getty Images/iStockphoto

6. Betterment: Checking

Why we like it: Betterment provides a simple, fee-free checking account and debit card with no minimum deposit required.

Benefits

  • No monthly fees or account minimums

  • ATM fees and foreign fees reimbursed automatically

  • Earn cash back at select locations

  • No overdraft fees

  • Backed by NBKC Bank, which is FDIC-insured

Drawbacks

  • Not a physical bank

See: The Best Online Banks of 2021 – Enhanced Services & Low Fees

RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images
RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images

5. PNC Bank: Virtual Wallet Checking Pro with Spend

Why we like it: This checking account may be a mouthful to say, but it’s got no minimum balance and low monthly service fees that are easily waived. Plus, it’s offered by the reputable PNC Bank, with a 100+ year history in financial management. PNC combines its Spend checking account with a virtual wallet that makes it easy to manage your money on the go. Plus, you can earn up to $500 when you open your account.

Benefits

  • Low monthly service fees

  • No minimum balance to open an account

  • Network of 18,000 ATMs nationwide to manage and access your money with no fees

  • Linked savings account with no fees

  • Backed by reputable PNC Bank

  • Free checking for adults 62+

Drawbacks

  • No interest

  • $36 overdraft fee

Learn more about why PNC Bank has risen to the top of so many of our rankings this year in our full review.

bongkarn thanyakij / Pexels
bongkarn thanyakij / Pexels

4. Simple Bank: Simple Checking + Protected Goals

Why we like it: This high-yield checking account from Simple, an online bank that also provides budgeting services, incorporates fee-free checking and no minimum deposit, plus no overdraft fee. What’s not to like?

Benefits

  • Free online bill pay

  • No monthly service fee

  • No overdraft fee

  • Ultra-low minimum balance

  • Free online and mobile banking

  • High APY

  • Lets you save money toward your goals in an easy-to-access checking account

  • Access to more than 40,000 fee-free ATMs

Drawbacks

  • No physical location

  • Protected Goals account does not include a debit card, but Simple Checking does

We explore Simple Bank further in our full review.

Discover Bank/Prostock-Studio / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Discover Bank/Prostock-Studio / Getty Images/iStockphoto

3. Discover Bank: Cashback Debit

Why we like it: This online-only checking account backed by credit card company Discover provides a debit card that offers cash back – a rare find in today’s banking climate. With no fees, free checks, online bill pay and Discover’s reputation behind it, this checking account is perfect for anyone who doesn’t care about having a brick-and-mortar location to visit.

Benefits

  • No overdraft fees

  • Online and mobile banking access

  • Cash back debit card

  • Free checks

  • No insufficient funds fee

  • No minimum deposit

Drawbacks

  • No interest paid

Find out more about what makes Discover Bank a strong choice in 2021 in our full review.

bombuscreative / Getty Images/iStockphoto
bombuscreative / Getty Images/iStockphoto

2. Bank of America: Advantage Plus

Why we like it: Bank of America offers three tiers of Advantage Checking: Advantage SafeBalance, Advantage Plus and Advantage Relationship. While the middle option, Plus, makes our list of best checking accounts, the beauty of their offerings is that you can scale up or down as needed. With a robust app that offers mobile deposits and Zelle compatibility to send money, Bank of America is a tech-forward company that also offers more than 4,267 branch locations and a nationwide network of ATMs.

Benefits

  • Low monthly fees with multiple ways to waive them

  • Mobile deposits and access to Zelle payment platform

  • Scalable options based on your monthly deposits and banking needs

Drawbacks

  • $100 minimum to open an account

  • $35 overdraft fee

Bank of America’s access and options make it a major player across our rankings this year – see why in our full review.

Ridofranz / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Ridofranz / Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Wells Fargo: Best Checking Account

Why we like it: Founded in 1852, Wells Fargo has a longstanding history as one of America’s top banks. With more than 13,000 ATMs and 5,200 branches across the U.S., the bank is both reputable and accessible. You need just $25 to open a checking account, making it a great choice for college students, young adults and those new to banking. Low monthly service fees and a robust mobile app set Wells Fargo apart from many smaller banks.

Benefits

  • Longstanding reputation

  • Multiple branch and ATM locations

  • Low minimum deposit to open an account

  • Many ways to avoid monthly fees

  • Available in many states across the U.S.

  • Free checking for college students and those between the ages of 17 and 24

Drawbacks

  • No interest on deposits

  • No branches in select states, particularly in the Northeast U.S.

  • $35 overdraft fee

The winner of our Best Checking Accounts analysis has a lot to offer, and you can discover its features in our full review.

More from GOBankingRates:

Methodology: To discover the Best Checking accounts, GOBankingRates looked at the top institutions in terms of total assets size that had available published data. To determine rankings GOBankingRates looked at the following factors: (1) total assets as sourced from the FDIC; (2) number of branch locations as sourced from the FDIC; (3) minimum deposit to open an account; (4) monthly fees associated with the account; (5) minimum balance needed to avoid the fee; (6) APY on the checking account; (6) overdraft fee amount; (7) the average mobile app rating between the android and apple stores. All factors were then scored and combined, with the lowest score being best. Factor (1) was weighted 1.5 times, factor (2) was weighted 2 times, and factor (6) was weighted 0.5 times. For all Savings and Checking Account data only the basic accounts/products offered at each institution was analyzed. All data is up to date as of November 4, 2020, rates and fees subject to change.

John Csiszar contributed to the reporting for this article.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Best Checking Accounts in 2021