5 Best Online Checking Accounts

By Miranda Marquit on 11 February 2013 (Updated 9 December 2014) 10 comments

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 five great options for online checking accounts.

1. Capital One 360 Checking (formerly ING Direct Electric Orange)

Click here to apply nowCapital One has taken over ING Direct, and so far has kept things business as usual. Even though yields have fallen since the merger, they are still there, and the checking account yield is about average.

You can access more than 35,000 free ATMs, and you pay no monthly fees. If you want checks written, the account will do it for you, printing out the check and mailing it on your behalf. Remote deposit of checks is possible, and you can use P2P payments to send money to others for free. Rather than paying an overdraft fee, this checking account charges you interest until the overdraft is paid.

Click here to open an account now

2. Ally Interest Checking Account

Click here to apply nowInstead of rewards, Ally offers a checking account yield that is very competitive. 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.

The Ally account works well whether you want to use it as a very accessible emergency fund or as a primary checking account.

Click here to open an account now

3. EverBank Yield Pledge Money Market Account

Click here to apply nowEverBank generally gets points for high yields and solid customer service, but you need to have a high balance in order to make the most of any of EverBank’s accounts, including the Yield Pledge MMA. There are five tiers of rates, and you won’t get the best rate unless you have more than $100,000 in your account.

If you have less than $5,000 in your account, you will be charged for bill pay. There are a number of other fees that you might end up paying as well if you don’t maintain a relatively high balance.

This account is good as an emergency fund and for the occasional bill, but if you can’t keep at least $5,000 in your account, it’s probably not the best choice for you.

Click here to open an account now


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

5. Mutual of Omaha Bank Online Advantage Checking

Click here to apply nowThis is a great checking account, and it's now available in all 50 states. The interest begins accruing on a relatively low balance of $1,500, and you have access to thousands of free ATMs and bill pay.

You do need to be aware of the fees that come if you are inactive with your account. Make sure that you swipe your debit card at least once a month to avoid dormant account and inactive card fees. This account is a great choice for a primary checking account.

Click here to open an account now

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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

A military affiliation is still required for insurance products.

Guest's picture

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

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

Nothing comes close to the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor 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

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

Guest's picture

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

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.