5 Best Online Checking Accounts

By Miranda Marquit on 11 February 2013 10 comments

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The Internet provides us almost limitless choices, especially when it comes to finances. These days, you can choose to keep your money at almost any bank in the nation rather than limit yourself to the brick-and-mortar choices in your local area.

If you aren't happy with your local offerings, turn to the Internet. There are plenty of online checking accounts with no fees, and some that even pay yields on your account balance. With low overheads, online checking account providers can afford to be more generous in their terms, and that benefits consumers.

How to Choose an Online Checking Account

The first thing you should look for is FDIC or NCUA protection — you want to make sure that your money is safe. You should also check into the reputation of the bank or credit union, since you don't want to end up with a fly-by-night operation.

Consider your individual needs. Think about whether or not you can handle maintaining a large account balance. Will you use the checking account as your primary account, or is it more of an emergency fund? Paper checks, remote deposit of checks you receive, ATM access, and other perks are also things to consider.

You can also compare yields, but it's important to recognize that yield isn't everything. If you have to maintain a high balance to get a high yield, it might not be worth the trouble — especially if you can get a great account with a little lower yield, but fewer restrictions.

Here are a few great options for online checking accounts.

Discover Cashback Checking

Discover's Cashback Checking offers a $50 bonus just for opening a checking account by September 15, 2015. Then, you can earn up to $120 cash back per year just for everyday banking activities like making a purchase with your debit card, paying a bill online, and writing a check. There are no monthly fees or monthly balance requirements, and you have access to over 60,000 free ATMs. Right now, Cashback Checking is only available if you already bank with Discover or if you have a Discover card, but they'll open up this service to everyone later this year.

Capital One 360

Capital One 360 offers an interest bearing checking account with a % APY along with no fees and no minimums. Get access to 38,000 fee-free Allpoint® ATMs and 2,000 Capital One ATMs. You'll also get a MasterCard debit card for purchases.

Sign up for a Capital One 360 account today!

Ally Interest Checking Account

Click here to apply nowAlly offers a checking account yield that is very competitive (currently 0.60%). You receive unlimited checks for check writing if you want, and there is free online bill pay. You don't have to pay any monthly fees, and you can open an account without a deposit.

One of the great things about Ally, though, is that the overdraft fee is only $9. In a world where $25 to $45 is normal for overdraft charges, Ally doesn't penalize as much for slip-ups. Ally also reimburses you for ATM fees, offers great customer service, as well as eCheck Deposit to remotely add funds to your account.

Chase Total Checking

Click here to apply now

Not exclusively an online bank, Chase is mentioned here for its sheer size and reputation for being an industry leader in customer service. You'll have access to 18,000 ATMs and 5,400 branches. There is a monthly fee but there are three ways to get it waived:

  • Direct deposits totaling $500 or more to the account
  • $1,500 minimum daily balance
  • Average daily balance of $5,000 or more in qualifying linked deposits/investments

There is a special promotion right now if you open a new account! Get a $150 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set-up direct deposit. Or get $100 bonus if you open a Chase SavingsSM account and deposit a total of $10,000 or more in new money within 10 business days, and maintain a $10,000 balance for 90 days. Or open both a Chase Total Checking and Chase Savings account to get a $250 bonus. These offers expire October 14, 2015.

Click here to learn more about Chase Total Checking® today!

USAA

Click here to apply nowEven though you won't earn a yield on this account, it is still one of the best in the business. USAA is generally lauded for its outstanding customer service. You no longer have to be a member of the military to join. You also don't have to worry about fees, and you are reimbursed for up to $15 in ATM transactions.

You can pay bills for free, as well as enjoy free unlimited funds transfers to any bank in the United States. USAA was one of the first financial institutions to offer remote check deposit. You can also send money to anyone using your iPhone or Android phone.

Click here to open an account now!

EverBank Yield Pledge® Checking

Earn interest with EverBank Yield Pledge® Checking. Get 1.40% APY for the first year. Then it goes down to 0.30% to 0.61% (depending on your balance). They promise that their yield will be in the top 5%. You'll need $1,500 to open an account, but get free bill pay and there are no monthly fees. You can also get unlimited ATM fee reimbursement as long as you keep your balance at or above $5,000.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank, card issuer, airline or hotel chain.

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Guest's picture

Growing up in a military family, I've had an account with USAA for a long time. I've been very happy with them and they do indeed have excellent customer service. I didn't know that they done away with the military requirement--that's great news.

Guest's picture
Long

A military affiliation is still required for insurance products.

Guest's picture
Kristen

I have a USAA checking account and I can definitely vouch for their awesomeness. The checking account does earn interest but it's a very piddly amount. They also have an account aggregator (like Mint) where you can easily track your budget, assets & liabilities. It seems like they're always adding new services or features to try to stay on top & they're always rated very high for customer service.

Guest's picture
David

As someone who has been with PerkStreet for a while, I am switching from PerkStreet to Ally. Several reasons (and these are just the ones off the top of my head):
-PS charges for additional paper checks. Ally doesn't.
-PS don't allow you to scan in checks as Ally does (PS UPS overnight still takes several days to process).
-PS ATM network is more limited and often claim to charge surcharges (even when they don't). Ally reimburses you for any ATM fees at the end of the month.
-PS recently changed their cashback system for the worse. I think they lowered it from 2% to 1% cash back in most cases, raised the amount of cash back money you need to earn (often $50) before getting gift certificates with their partners, and now charge you $2 if you want to put at least $20 in cash back into your account. It may be still be attractive if you don’t have a decent rewards/cash back credit card, but I do, so it’s not. Ally has a more limited Ally Perks program, but again, moot point for me.
-PS will charge you a monthly fee if you don’t meet minimum transaction requirements (such as direct deposit or two debit card purchases); Ally doesn’t.
-Ally offers interest on checking; PS doesn't.
-Ally offers savings accounts you can link with your checking account; PS doesn't.

Guest's picture

I have to say: this article, like so many others on the Internet, suffers from real, definitive advice. This person is a shill for the on-line banking community which is just about as bad as the "big bank" jerks that wrecked our country. How do I know this? Just peruse the rules and regulations put forth on any e-bank webpage mentioned above and your head will spin from all the ways they tag you with fees.

What are you searching for? Free checking, right? You don't want to pay for services like on-line bill pay. You want a FREE Visa/MasterCard Debit card, right? You want to use as many ATM's as possible without paying outrageous fees. You don't want to deal with stupid requirements meant to trigger fees (like balance requirements, direct deposit, etc.). If you travel, you don't want to pay outrageous fees (up to 3%) for converting foreign currency.

Let's face it: not many banks offer these things. So how do you cope? Why don't you check out the local, community banks nearby? You're searching on the Internet—that's a good start. Credit Unions are fantastic!

Check the rules within your community. I used to live in San Francisco and they forced all credit unions and banks within the boundaries of the city and county of San Francisco to open their doors to every resident, worker, or worshiper. Great, eh? You could force your community to do likewise—just proposing such a move at the next city council meeting would spur a lot of interest! I belong to the BEST credit union: San Francisco Fire! Beats USAA by a mile.

How about your employer? Do they offer access to a credit union? You can pressure them to offer such a service—work with them and you'll be able to choose the best services from the best credit unions in your area!

Lastly: write the idiots in our government. Make it clear you want more from banks. Sending copies of your letters to local banks sends a clear message: the good times won't last for long. Just think: if everyone send copies of their letters to their local banks, they'd get the picture quickly.

Don't be a victim. Fight back.

Guest's picture

I tend to agree with Jason. These are very simple introductions to a much more complex issue. The author can simply pick the "alternative" favorites that are trendy among twenty-somethings, for online checking, without actually giving much substance or any catalyst for choosing them beyond some tiny interest paid. Yes, there is incredible fine print with many of these, which makes them a terrible waste of your time.

Credit Unions and local banks are an incredible solution. We live in a time that all of them will offer some online opportunities including bill pay. So they are inherently useful to us, who have grown up on technology. Interest rates tend to be higher as does customer satisfaction. I am a member of one through my employer. Just a few perks I get: better rates on loans, paychecks deposited several days earlier, near 3% interest, free checks, etc. Again, not perfect but, no bank ever will be.

Another consideration: we mention the importance of something like no ATM fees at different locations, a lack of charges on currency transfers, etc. Honestly, how often is the average twenty-something going to encounter these instances to make them worthwhile? Why do I need all of those options when I might not ever encounter them?

We all want freebies and handouts but, if I was given the responsibility of holding onto your money, recording it, transferring it and giving it back to you at no notice, I would expect to charge a fee.

Guest's picture
Guest

Nothing comes close to the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account:
http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/banking_lending/checking_account

I have extensively used the unlimited fee rebates from US and international ATM's - and their customer service has been top notch. A no-brainer for a must-have checking account.

Guest's picture
Guest

Perkstreet has discontinued their accounts. So much for being number 1!

Guest's picture
Luis

Thanks for the insight. I started reading about CapitalOne360 checking and it has grabbed my attention. I am currently a Wells Fargo Account holder and am being charged $13/mo which feels like a rip off. Finding your website may have just made my day :)

Guest's picture
Yomar

Charles Shcwab has one of the best products in terms of checking accounts the market has to offer. It is even linked to a nice brokerage account. They offer atm fee refunds even when you use your atm card at any part of the world.