For many of us, most of our financial life now exists online. Direct deposits, debit cards, and online banking have brought us to a point where most people have no need to ever go into a physical bank. Without being limited to your local bank, a lot of new options open up for an online checking account for your banking needs. What's the best checking account to open online in the U.S. though? Below, we'll break down seven of the best options for banks with online checking accounts.
What We'll Cover
Citibank is my top recommendation for opening an online checking account. Not only is Citi one of the largest financial institutions in the world, which gives you access to branches in multiple U.S states; their online banking capabilities are one of the best among all of the big banks. Citi also offers Zelle, free bill pay, and their wire transfer fees are one of the lowest we've seen.
- Amazing online banking features which include mobile deposit, online wire transfers, ach and bill pay
- Low domestic and international wire transfer fees
- Large number of branches everywhere in most of the 50 states
- Overdraft protection is subject to credit approval and doesn’t come with all accounts
- Balance requirements to avoid monthly maintenance fees
Axos Bank is among my top 3 picks for online checking accounts mainly because of the plethora of benefits and competitive interest rates they offer to their online checking account customers. Axos only has three branches in San Diego, Las Vegas, and Ohio, but provides banking services for hundreds of thousands of customers nationwide and holds over $14 billion in assets.
Axos offers one of the absolute highest interest rates on checking accounts commonly available to U.S. customers, but also has more stringent guidelines that customers must adhere to or else their rate will be reduced. Currently, the bank offers a 1.25% APY on its Rewards Checking accounts, but the APY is broken up and gated behind several requirements:
- Receiving at least $1,500 (or more) of direct deposits each month will earn you 0.40% APY
- Using your Axos debit card at least 10 times for $3 or more during the month or signing up for PFM will gain you another 0.30%.
- if you maintain an average daily balance of $2,500 per month in an SDT account you can earn 0.20%.
- Earn 0.20% if you maintain an average daily balance of $2,500 per month in an MP account.
- If you use your Rewards Checking account to make your full monthly Axos bank consumer loan payment you'll earn yet another 0.15%APY to bring your total to 1.25%.
It's worth noting that this APY only applies to accounts below $150,000. If your ledger balance rises above that value, your account will stop earning interest altogether.
While this tiered interest system may seem complicated, it's pretty easy for anyone actively using the checking account to check off at least two of these boxes for a very competitive APY on your checking account. Accounts have no minimums, and Axos charges no overdraft or maintenance fees which makes Axis Rewards Checking even more appealing. A limited ATM network and its extremely limited physical branches may turn some who are looking for a checking account off of Axos, but for anybody whose financial infrastructure mostly exists online, they are a great option for convenient checking with solid interest rates.
- Very high-interest rate, if you can meet requirements
- No overdraft fees or maintenance fees
- No minimum balance
- The mobile app offers great support and financial tools
- With only three physical locations, most customers will only be able to interact with online banking
- No interest rate on higher balances
- Direct deposit and transaction minimums may be difficult for some customers to maintain long-term
Chime is my runner up pick when it comes to online checking account providers. It is a next generation technology company that focuses on providing online-only banking services. Chime's model involves avoiding having local branches which results in lower overhead. They can then offer plenty of cool features that traditional banks can not; such as free overdraft protection and no monthly maintenance fees. Chime customers seem to love using the app, and I've personally heard a number of my friends rave about this banking app.
- Overdraft protection with all accounts
- Faster access to direct deposits’s funds
- Pay friends offers a fast and convenient option to send money to friends
- No local branches
NBKC stands for National Bank of Kansas City, but they are a national provider of online banking. They offer a select number of physical locations throughout the Kansas City area, but otherwise, handle a vast majority of their accounts exclusively online. This is due in no small part to NBKC providing extremely convenient and powerful banking tools through their mobile app, as well straightforward and versatile account offerings. Though the lack of physical locations may limit some customers' use of NBKC, over 37,000 MoneyPass ATMs throughout the country are available for use with no fee through NBKC debit cards.
NBKC's Everything Account offers both checking and savings in the same ecosystem, as well as a competitive interest rate of .15%. There are no overdraft, maintenance, or foreign transaction fees at all for the account, and it has no minimum balance. While fees for services like wire transfers may be much higher than traditional banking institutions, for someone who doesn't need the extras with their checking and savings accounts, NBKC may be a great choice.
- No overdraft fees or maintenance fees
- No minimum deposit to open an account
- Checking and savings together with great mobile tools Partial ATM fee reimbursement
- Higher interest rates are available elsewhere
- Nearly no physical locations
- Less common banking services are more expensive
Capital One has been around for a while as a major credit card provider, but they have expanded their scope in recent years to hybridize into full-service banking. It is one of the most popular online financial institutions in the nation and even offers physical branches in some locations. In addition to their more well-known credit card services, they also offer checking and savings accounts that take advantage of their existing mobile solutions and partner network. For many Capital One credit account holders, this means that they can bring all of their banking, lending, and credit monitoring into one ecosystem with well-developed security and support.
Their established financial record may make Capital One 360 Checking a convenient option for many people seeking a checking account online, though the bank's just over 700 branches and 30 cafe-style locations may limit many checking account users to online use only. Still, Capital One partners with many ATM providers for no-fee transactions, so if you live in an area with Capital One branch locations or don't really need a physical branch to get the most of your checking account, Capital One may be one of the best choices.
- 1% APR on checking balance
- $0 minimum balance
- Large network of no-fee ATMs
- Well-established support and mobile app
- $35 overdraft fee for checking accounts
- No bank branches in most areas of the country
Heritage Bank has been in operation for nearly 80 years and offers a full list of financial services including checking accounts. Originally founded as a bank in Minnesota, Heritage Bank has grown to 13 branches spread across the region but has grown to national prominence from the convenience and high-interest rates of their online checking accounts. Their accounts can be created by anyone in the U.S. and are accessible from anywhere. Their eCentive checking account currently boasts 1.02% APR on balances up to $25,000. The interest rate varies based on market factors, and was as high as 1.32% at the beginning of 2021.
For someone who only needs online functionality from their checking account, Heritage's interest rates are hard to compete with. There are stipulations that an account must meet for the eCentive APR, however, or the account will default to .05% APR, which is a more typical value for online checking accounts. Account-holders will have to maintain at least 10 debit card transactions per month, receive paperless statements, and have one direct deposit per month to hold onto their higher interest rate. As long as you meet these conditions, Heritage Bank will also refund you a portion of any ATM fees for out of network transactions. If you don't place too much importance on physical branches, and those guidelines are easy to maintain for you, then Heritage Bank may be a great choice for a checking account.
- One of the highest interest rates you can find in a checking account
- No minimum balance
- No monthly fee or deposit minimum
- Strict requirements to maintain interest may disqualify some
- Even with partial ATM fee reimbursement, the lack of Heritage ATMs or branches in your area may mean you pay more fees in the long run
Consumers Credit Union
A credit union differs a little from a bank, in that it's member-owned. Still, Consumers Credit Inion warrants mentioning on this list as their Rewards Checking account is one of the best values out there when you're looking for a checking account online. Consumers Credit Union isn't just online though. They operate over 5000 branches and 30,000 ATMs across the country, and as a credit union, can also be accessed through shared branching via any credit union in the CU Service Centers Network. This equates to nearly full, nationwide access to your Consumers Credit Union account, either online or in person.
As opposed to a bank, in a credit union, the customers are the owners. Account-holders or "members" pay an annual fee of $5 and in turn, are given dividends to represent their share of the credit union's profits. Though these often function exactly the same as interest, they are instead actually dividends since they represent your profit on an investment in the credit union. APR for dividends can be incredibly competitive, but credit unions regularly come with more requirements that a member must meet for distribution and higher fees.
Consumers Credit Union Rewards Checking has a tiered dividend system based on your spending and deposits. To 2.09% APR on your balance, you'll need to run your CCU debit card at least 12 times per month and have at least one direct deposit or ACH payment in your account. To raise your rate to 3.09%, you'll need your debit transactions to total at least $500. To get to the highest tier of 4.09%, you'll need to get apply for a CCU credit card and spend at least $1000 per month.
- Incredibly high APR dividends possible for a member who can qualify
- No account fees or maintenance fees other than the $5 annual membership fee
- Incredibly widespread physical accessibility in addition to online convenience
- Requirements may prohibit many members from higher interest rates
- Dividends drop dramatically to
- 2% APR on accounts over $10,000
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