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Best Free Checking Accounts

SoFi, Ally Bank, and Axos Bank offer free checking accounts worth looking into

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Free checking accounts allow you to take care of your basic bill paying and debit transactions without having to pay monthly recurring fees or maintain a minimum balance. Some checking accounts do have fees but offer different ways to avoid them, such as by completing a certain number of transactions or setting up direct deposit. Those aren’t technically free checking accounts—even if you don’t have to pay.

You will find free checking account options at well-known big banks, online-only banks, and credit unions. The best free checking accounts offer not only fee-free access to your account, but also other appealing features. These might include the opportunity to earn interest or rewards, or access a large network of free ATMs.

Best Free Checking Accounts of 2023

Best for No Fees : SoFi : SoFi Checking Account



  • APY: 0.50%
  • Minimum Deposit: $0
  • Minimum Balance: $0
Pros & Cons
  • Cash bonus if you set up direct deposit?

  • Linked savings account can earn up to 4.50% APY

  • Large, no-fee ATM network

  • No overdraft fees

  • No option to open just checking without savings

  • Cash deposits cost $4.95 through a third party

  • No physical branches

Why We Chose It

The SoFi Checking account was our pick for no fees because not only is it free in terms of no monthly maintenance fee, but you won’t be hit with other sneaky fees either. You can even earn some decent interest, which is rare for a free checking account.

As long as you don’t mind online-only banking and are OK with opening a savings account at the same time—a requirement when opening a SoFi checking account—then the advantages definitely outweigh the minimal drawbacks. In fact, when you set up direct deposit with the SoFi checking account, it makes you eligible for the savings account’s competitive APY of 4.50%.


The checking APY is 0.50% as of September 2023.

Best APY : Lake Michigan Credit Union : Max Checking

Lake Michigan Credit Union

?Lake Michigan Credit Union

  • APY: 3.00%
  • Minimum Deposit: $5
  • Minimum Balance: $0
Pros & Cons
  • Great APY for a free checking account

  • Up to $10/month for outside ATM fee reimbursement

  • Easier to join than some credit unions

  • Several actions required to earn APY

  • No branch access outside of Michigan or Florida

  • Overdraft fees

Why We Chose It

If you’re looking for a super competitive free checking account APY, it’s hard to beat Lake Michigan Credit Union (LMCU). LMCU also makes it easy to join even if you do not meet residence requirements, or are closely related to another member—you just have to make a $5 donation to the ALS Foundation. On top of no monthly fees, you can also easily avoid ATM fees thanks to the large network and reimbursement for outside fees. Just watch out for overdrafts, which you will be charged for.


Earning the APY is not automatic—in fact, you’ll have four tasks to complete. Two of them are easy: set up a direct deposit and enroll in eStatements. The other two will take a bit more work as each month you must complete 10 or more transactions with your debit card, and login to your account or mobile app at least four times per month.

Best Credit Union : Alliant Credit Union : High-Yield Checking

Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union

  • APY: 0.25%
  • Minimum Deposit: $25
  • Minimum Balance: $0
Pros & Cons
  • $20 per month ATM fee reimbursement

  • No overdraft fees

  • First box of checks is free

  • APY isn’t too impressive

  • Paper statements are $1 per month

  • No branches, just online

Why We Chose It

Alliant Credit Union offers members a lot of freebies and perks, including a large fee-free ATM network and the ability to get back up to $20 per month in outside ATM fees. It’s also nice to get your first set of paper checks free, which is not always standard with online accounts. Plus, joining Alliant is easy—just sign up for membership to Foster Care to Success (which has a $5 fee).


If you want to earn the APY on the Alliant High-Yield Checking account, you must enroll in eStatements and make at least one electronic deposit into the account each month.

When researching free checking accounts, don’t overlook credit unions. Even if you don't qualify for membership via a trade association or because of your residency, you may be able to join in another way.

Best With a Minimum Deposit to Open : BMO : Smart Advantage

BMO Harris Logo Primary

BMO Harris Logo Primary

  • APY: 0%
  • Minimum Deposit: $25
  • Minimum Balance: $1
Pros & Cons
  • Just five minutes to open an account online

  • There are some fees, but most are avoidable

  • Highly-rated mobile banking app

  • Charges $3 fee for non-network ATM use

  • Overdraft fees

  • No APY

Why We Chose It

BMO is one of the top-ranked free checking accounts that require a minimum deposit, and it’s only $25, which is affordable for most. You’ll enjoy a free checking account with no monthly fees, and a lot of mobile-friendly features and tools. If you’re looking for branch access, there are more than 500 locations across eight states: Illinois, Indiana, Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota, Kansas, Florida, and Wisconsin.


There are some pesky fees to be aware of, like copies of check images sent by mail, for card replacement, and for using out-of-network ATMs. The good news is they can be avoided.

Best With a Major Bank : Ally Bank : Interest Checking Account

Ally Bank

?Ally Bank

  • APY: 0.25%
  • Minimum Deposit: $0
  • Minimum Balance: $0
Pros & Cons
  • Two-day early access to direct deposit

  • No overdraft fees

  • $10 monthly reimbursement for non-network ATM fees

  • APY isn’t the best

  • No cash deposits

  • Online-only banking

Why We Chose It

Opening an Ally Interest Checking account is an excellent choice for online banking since the bank is one of the largest, with 11 million customers and counting. The fact that it is transparent about the very few fees it has, and the way it makes digital banking fun (check out the Spending Buckets feature) makes this free checking account a great choice for managing your money.


To earn the 0.25% APY (which is already fairly low), you have to maintain a $15,000 minimum balance; if not, you’ll earn 0.10%.

Best Rewards : Axos Bank : Rewards Checking

Axos Bank

Axos Bank

  • APY: Up to 3.30%
  • Minimum Deposit: $50
  • Minimum Balance: $0
Pros & Cons
  • No overdraft fees

  • Unlimited ATM reimbursements

  • A lot of stipulations to earn top APY

  • Online-only bank

Why We Chose It

Axos Bank starts you off with an impressive $100 bonus when opening a Rewards Checking account (if you do so by April 12, 2023, and use the promo code). Beyond that, you’ll enjoy a no-fee experience, including no ATM fees ever.


Before you get drawn in by the APY offer, read the fine print. You have to do five separate things to level up to the top offer, including having Axos loans and trading accounts.

If you’re someone who deals with a lot of cash, an online-only bank might not be the best choice as your primary checking account. Often, you may not have the ability to deposit cash, or if you do, it’s through a third party with fees involved.

Best for ATM Access : Capital One : 360 Checking Account

Capital One
  • APY: 0.1%
  • Minimum Deposit: $0
  • Minimum Balance: $0
Pros & Cons
  • No foreign transaction fees

  • First checkbook is free

  • Online account and branch access

  • APY is very low

Why We Chose It

The Capital One 360 Checking Account boasts an impressive 70,000 ATM locations, which includes Capital One, MoneyPass, and Allpoint ATMs, many of which can be found in Target, Walgreens, and CVS locations. It’s also an ideal free checking account for someone who wants both the convenience of online banking with the option to stop into a branch.


There are a lot of fee-free ATM locations, which is good because Capital One does not reimburse for outside ATM fees.

Final Verdict

SoFi's checking account is worth looking into because of its customer-friendly features, lack of fees, and competitive APY. But there are a lot of strong options on this list depending on the attributes that are important to you.

For example, the best APY opportunity is an impressive 3.3% from Axos Bank, while Capital One offers more than 70,000 fee-free ATMs. If you want to go with a more well-known banking brand, you can’t go wrong with Ally Bank or SoFi.

Whether you prefer online banking, walking into a physical branch, or having the choice to do either, you’ll find free checking account options on the list to match your preference.

Compare the Best Free Checking Accounts

?Account ?Minimum to Open ?Minimum Balance to Maintain ?Offers Overdraft Protection
SoFi: SoFi Checking Account $0? $0 Yes
Lake Michigan Credit Union: Max Checking? $5 $0? Yes?
Alliant Credit Union: High-Yield Checking? $25? $0? Yes?
BMO: Smart Advantage? $25? $1? Yes?
Ally Bank: Interest Checking Account? $0? $0? Yes?
Axos Bank: Rewards Checking? $50? $0? Yes?
Capital One 360 Checking? $0 $0? Yes?

Guide to Choosing a Free Checking Account

Factors to Consider When Opening a Free Checking Account

  • FDIC insured: This means up to $250,000 in your checking account is federally protected. Credit unions offer similar insurance coverage through the National Credit Union Administration.
  • Minimum deposit requirements: Many checking accounts require a certain amount to open an account, so that’s something to ask about in case you have limited funds available.
  • Fees: While free checking means no monthly maintenance fees, you should see if there are other charges that you might have to pay, like overdraft fees, ATM fees, paper statement fees, and others.
  • ATM network: If you make withdrawals often, the number of fee-free ATMs in your area will be an important consideration because those out-of-network fees can add up.
  • APY: While checking accounts aren’t traditionally big interest earners, some free checking accounts offer the opportunity to earn a bit.
  • Promotions, rewards, or cash back: Some free checking accounts give you the chance to earn extra cash, whether it’s as a bonus for account opening or for using your debit card for transactions.
  • Mobile app functionality: Look into how a bank’s app is rated and to see what features it has, like the ability to make mobile deposits, transfers, and bill pay, as well as tools to track your spending and set goals.
  • Online or brick-and-mortar availability: Depending on your comfort level with online-only banks, you may or may not wish to have the option to walk into a physical branch.

How to Open a Free Checking Account

Opening a free checking account should be a fairly simple process whether you’re doing it online, in person, or by phone. There will be basic requirements to meet such as being 18 years of age or older, having proper identification, and sometimes a funding source or minimum deposit. Some online checking accounts can be opened in just a few minutes.

If you’re opening an account with a credit union, you may also have to become a member, which sometimes can mean proving a certain affiliation or making a small donation to an outside organization.

Common Checking Account Fees

  • Monthly maintenance fee: Free checking accounts will not have this recurring fee, which basically charges you each month to keep the account open. Some accounts with these fees offer ways to have them waived (i.e. setting up direct deposit).
  • Overdraft fee: If you do not have or do not opt into overdraft protection and you overdraw your account, you could be hit with a fee, sometimes multiple times per day. Not all free checking accounts charge overdraft fees, but the ones that do can be as high as $30.
  • Non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee: If you try writing a check and do not have the funds available when it is cashed, you can be charged this fee.
  • ATM fee: Most free checking accounts have a fee-free ATM network. But if you go to an ATM that is not supported, you can pay a fee to that third party and sometimes an additional fee from your bank. Some banks reimburse you up to a certain amount for external ATM use.
  • Paper statement fee: Many banks charge a small fee if you prefer to receive paper statements in the mail. Opting into paperless statements will save you this fee.
  • Foreign transaction fee: Using your checking account debit card abroad will typically incur a fee, although there are some banks that do not charge.
  • Account closure fee: There is sometimes a charge for closing your account, most commonly if it’s within a short time frame after account opening.

In the News

In the News: Free checking accounts allow you to withdraw cash and pay your bills without having to worry about monthly maintenance fees. In today’s rising rate environment, some free checking accounts also offer higher-than-average interest rates, allowing you to earn interest on your balance; browse the best high-yield checking accounts to see what you could earn.

Pros and Cons of Free Checking Accounts

  • No monthly maintenance fees

  • May not require a minimum balance or opening deposit

  • May earn interest on your balance

  • May charge overdraft fees

  • May charge a fee for out-of-network ATM withdrawals

  • Online banks may not have physical branches

Pros Explained

  • No monthly maintenance fees: Free checking accounts don’t charge monthly fees to maintain your account. 
  • May not require a minimum balance or opening deposit: If a checking account is truly free, it won’t charge a fee for dropping below a minimum balance. Free checking accounts also typically don’t require a minimum deposit to open the account.  
  • May earn interest on your balance: Some free checking accounts offer interest earnings on your balance or other perks, such as a cash-back debit card or reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees. 

Cons Explained

  • May charge overdraft fees: Some banks with free checking accounts still charge fees if you overdraw your account.?
  • May charge a fee for out-of-network ATM withdrawals: While you may have access to a large network of fee-free ATMs, you could incur a fee for taking out cash from an ATM that’s not in-network.?
  • Online banks may not have physical branches: If you opt for a free checking account from an online bank, you probably won’t have the option of visiting a brick-and-mortar location. Some online banks don’t let you deposit physical cash into your account or only permit this through a third-party service for a fee.?

Alternatives to Checking Accounts

As you explore options for storing your money, consider these alternatives to checking accounts:?

  • High-yield savings account. If you’re looking to meet a savings goal, consider parking your cash in a high-yield savings account. You’ll earn interest on your balance, but watch out for any withdrawal limits that restrict the number of times you can access your cash per month. 
  • Money market account: Money market accounts are like a checking and savings account hybrid. They usually come with a debit card and check-writing capabilities while offering a decent interest rate on your balance. However, they may come with monthly fees or high minimum balance requirements. 
  • Certificate of deposit (CD): If earning interest is a priority, consider parking your money in a CD for a certain period of time. CD terms often range from one to five years or longer, and your rate may depend on your balance and term. See the best CD rates available today.
  • Brokerage account: Investing in a taxable brokerage account is another option, especially for long-term wealth creation. Make sure you understand the tax implications and fees before you start investing. 
  • I Bonds. These government-issued bonds are a fairly safe investment and can help protect your money from inflation. However, you won’t be able to withdraw your money for at least a year. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why Does It Matter if a Checking Account Is Free?

    Having a free checking account allows you to conduct transactions and pay bills without a recurring cost. Considering that some checking accounts charge as much as $10 or more per month, it’s worth exploring the no-fee options available.

  • What Should I Look for in a Checking Account?

    When choosing a checking account, consider a number of features. One of the main ones is if it charges fees such as monthly maintenance, ATM fees, overdraft fees, and others. You also want to find a checking account that matches your digital comfort level, which can help you narrow down your choices between online-only and brick-and-mortar banks. Finally, look for features that can benefit you, like interest earning, bonuses, digital tools, and good customer service.

  • What Is the Difference Between Free Checking and Regular Checking?

    Free checking is different from regular checking in two main ways. First, you will not have to pay a monthly maintenance fee with a free checking account. Second, you usually do not have to maintain a minimum balance in the account in order to avoid paying a monthly fee.

  • How Secure Is a Free Checking Account?

    A free checking account is as secure as any other bank account. As long as you work with a reputable bank or credit union, there should be protections in place to safeguard your personal information and financial data. Account security features will be listed on a bank’s website or app so you know exactly the steps taken to protect your privacy and your money.

  • Who Has the Best Free Checking Account?

    SoFi provides our top-rated free checking account, as it doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees or any other hidden fees. SoFi’s free checking account also provides interest, but usually at a modest rate compared to high-yield checking accounts. Lake Michigan Credit Union, Alliant Credit Union, and BMO also provide excellent accounts.

  • What Banks Have No Fees for Checking Accounts?

    Some banks that don’t charge fees for checking accounts include SoFi, BMO, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Ally Bank, Axos Bank, and Capital One.

  • How Do I Avoid Monthly Checking Account Fees?

    You can avoid monthly checking account fees by opening a free checking account with a bank that doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees.?

    If you’re worried about incurring a monthly checking account fee, read over your bank’s guidelines to find out how to avoid this. For instance, you may need to maintain a certain balance in your account or conduct a certain number of transactions each month.

  • What Are the Best Free Checking Accounts?

    The best free checking accounts come from SoFi, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Alliant Credit Union, BMO, Ally Bank, Axos Bank, and Capital One.


Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews. To rate free checking accounts, we collected hundreds of data points, including, APYs, fees, and account requirements from a dozen popular banks to ensure that our review helps readers make informed decisions about their banking needs.

Close Up of a Fountain Pen Writing on a Check

Pete Gardner / Getty Images

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
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  2. Lake Michigan Credit Union. "Max Checking."

  3. Alliant Credit Union. "High Interest Online Checking Account."

  4. BMO Harris. "BMO Smart Advantage Account."

  5. BMO Harris. "About Us."

  6. Ally. "Online Checking Accout: High Interest Checking."

  7. Ally. "Our Company."

  8. Axos Bank. "Fee Free Rewards Checking Account."

  9. Capital One. "Online Checking Account."

  10. Capital One. "Fee-Free ATMs for Deposits & Withdrawals."