Best Checking Accounts
Checking accounts provide essential banking access for transacting, bill pay and liquid cash needs. But account terms, features and fees vary significantly across providers. Identifying the best checking accounts requires comparing interest earnings, monthly costs, overdraft policies, convenience services and other key factors tailored to your usage.
Checking Account Basics
Key services checking accounts offer include:
- Direct deposit of paychecks/benefits
- Debit card for POS purchases
- Online bill pay via website and mobile app
- Bank transfers between accounts
- Check writing capabilities
- ATM access for cash withdrawals
- Mobile check deposits via app
- Overdraft protection options
Review required account activities and costs to determine optimal choices.
Average Checking Account Fees
Typical checking account fees average:
- Monthly maintenance – $12
- Non-sufficient funds (NSF) – $35 per item
- Overdraft – $35 per item
- ATM withdrawal – $3 per transaction
- Debit card replacement – $5-$10
- Paper statement – $3 monthly
- Account closing – $25-$50
Minimum balance requirements waive some fees. Compare banks’ specific fee schedules.
Interest Checking and Rewards Checking
Interest checking accounts pay competitive interest rates on deposits, operating similar to savings or money market accounts.
Rewards checking provides cash back, ATM fee reimbursements, and sometimes interest by meeting account activity requirements like:
- Minimum debit card purchases each cycle
- One direct deposit per month
- Online bill payments
- Electronic statements
These incentives enhance baseline checking services.
Minimum Balance Requirements
Many checking accounts stipulate maintaining certain minimum balances to avoid monthly fees.
Typical parameters include:
- Minimum to open an account, such as $25
- Minimum daily balance, like $500
- Minimum average monthly balance, for example $1,500
Accounts waiving minimums feature “no minimum deposit to open” prominently.
Overdraft Coverage Considerations
Overdraft coverage allows transactions completing despite insufficient funds available, preventing declines and returned payments. Banks charge per overdraft item fees averaging $35 each.
Coverage options differ:
Opt-in – Participate selectively in overdraft coverage
Opt-out – Decline transactions with inadequate balances
Transfers – Arrange links to savings accounts or lines of credit providing overdraft funding
Weigh risks, benefits and costs tailored to your spending consistency. Overdraft fees multiply quickly.
Online and Mobile Banking Capabilities
Digital features allow managing accounts anytime from your devices:
- Mobile apps with account dashboards
- Website account integration
- Bill pay directly from accounts
- Person-to-person (P2P) payments
- ATM/branch locators
- Mobile check deposit
- Automated balances and activity alerts
Evaluate user experience and flexibility meeting your needs.
Monthly Transaction Limits
Some basic checking accounts limit monthly transactions like deposits, withdrawals, checks and debit purchases before charging excess activity fees, usually around $0.50 per item.
Watch for caps on:
- In-network ATM withdrawals – often around 10 per month
- Debit card purchases – caps may be low as 12 per month
- Incoming/outgoing transfers – limits around 6 per month
Accounts with no transaction limits provide greater flexibility.
Comparing Top National Banks
The largest consumer U.S. retail banks ranked by deposits include:
- JPMorgan Chase
- Bank of America
- Wells Fargo
- U.S. Bank
- PNC Bank
- Capital One
- TD Bank
Start any comparisons with accounts offered by your existing main bank.
Criteria for Selecting the Best Accounts
Considerations when choosing great checking accounts:
- Monthly fees or options to waive them
- Minimum balances required to open and avoid fees
- Interest rates on checking balances
- Size of ATM and purchase transaction limits
- Overdraft policy flexibility
- Convenience services like online bill pay and mobile deposit
- Debit card cash back or rewards potential
- ATM access and rebates for out-of-network usage
Order criteria by importance for your usage patterns and needs when selecting.
Tips for Opening a Checking Account
When opening a new checking account:
- Consider visiting a local branch for personalized setup help
- Bring two forms of ID and confirm funding source for initial deposit
- Arrange direct deposit of your paycheck or benefits for convenience
- Order checks if not using online bill pay exclusively
- Designate beneficiaries and secondary signers if desired
- Activate online account access and mobile app during open process
Make the transition seamless by closing old accounts only after new account proves effective.
The best checking account aligns with your transaction habits, cash flow consistency, digital engagement preferences, risk tolerance for overdrafts and monthly fee exposures. Compare all costs and structure options for ideal fit. Your needs will evolve, so re-evaluate accounts regularly as usage patterns change. Flexibility and convenience should be prioritized in your checking services.