With the revolt against bank fees in the news, I thought it was a good time to highlight some no fee online checking account options. The great thing about online banks is that not only are their checking accounts free, but many of them even pay interest. For those that pay interest, online banks can generally beat traditional financial institutions big or small with higher rates because of lower costs. Online banks don’t need to maintain an expensive network of branches, and they can pass those savings on to consumers in the form of higher interest rates and lower fees.
To give you an idea of what’s available, I’ve put together this list of free and low cost online checking accounts. I’ll be adding to the list as interesting offers become available. What I like about these options, however, are the diversity in what is offered. As you’ll see below, for example, PerkStreet doesn’t pay any interest, but offers a cash back debit card and $50 sign-up bonus. EverBank pays one of the highest yields available for a checking account. Its rate is so high, it competes with rates for savings accounts and CDs. And ING Direct has no fees, pays interest, and offers a sign-up bonus.
So here’s the list, and if you know of other free checking account options, be sure to leave a comment.
Online Checking Accounts
Capital One 360 is the checking account my wife and I now use. Formerly ING Direct, Cap One 360 is hard to beat. They offer a $50 bonus for new accounts, no maintenance fee, and you even earn interest on the account. The website is super easy to use, and we can deposit checks to the account by snapping a picture of the check with our Smartphone. Add to that free ATMs at thousands of locations, and the Capital One 360 checking account is our top pick.
FNBO Direct – The top pick for free checking accounts goes to FNBO Direct. With its Online BillPay Account, you not only get a free account, but one that pays interest. The interest rate is currently 0.65% APY. The account comes with a free Visa debit card. And you can even transfer money with a cell phone or e-mail account.
Ally Bank – Ally Bank offers a free checking account that pays interest. Add to that no minimum deposit to open, no monthly maintenance fees, free debit MasterCard, and eDeposits from home with a Smartphone, and Ally’s offer is hard to beat. I’ve had a savings account from Ally and can attest that the website is extremely easy to use.
PerkStreet Financial – This online checking account gets high marks for innovation. PerkStreet offers a no fee checking account, including free checks. It takes only $25 to open an account, and after that, there are no minimum balance requirements. So long as you use your account, there are no monthly maintenance fees. PerkStreet offers a large network of surcharge-free ATMs, free online banking and bill pay, and customer service 24/7.
One of the most unique features PerkStreet offers is a debit card with up to 5% cash back. Cash back rewards are typically reserved for credit cards. The PerkStreet Financial Visa® Debit Card is the only one we are aware of that offers cash back. Here are the details of the cash back offer:
- You’ll get up to 5% cash back when you make non-PIN purchases in popular categories. Each month we’ll announce these categories at http://blog.perkstreet.com and via our Facebook and Twitter pages.
- 2% cash back on all other non-PIN purchases on days when your Current Account Balance is $5,000 or more.
- 1% cash back on all other non PIN purchases on days when your Current Account Balance is less than $5,000.
You can find more details about this offer in our PerkStreet Review.
EverBank – If you are looking for a checking account that pays interest, EverBank is the answer. The EverBank interest rate on it’s checking account can go as high as 0.66% for big balances but you can see a full table of interest rates below. These rates are higher than many savings or money market accounts. You can also check out our EverBank Review.
EverBank’s interest rate also has another nice feature – the Yield Pledge guarantee. EverBank pledges that its checking account will yield within the top 5% of competitive accounts.
Ally Bank Savings Account – Ally Bank has won award after award for low fees and customer service. With its checking account, there is no minimum balance required to open an account, no monthly maintenance fees, and free online banking and bill pay. And while some banks are charging to use their debit card, Ally’s debit MasterCard is still free. And there are no ATM fees at any ATM nationwide.
Note that all of the online checking accounts listed above are FDIC insured.
Published or updated April 1, 2013.