Best Checking Accounts of 2021

Best Checking Accounts of 2021

Best Checking Accounts of 2021: Our Top Picks

Here are our top choices for checking accounts this year, based on the fees charged, features offered, and the ease of managing your daily funds:

  1. Chase Bank
  2. Ally Bank
  3. Capital One 360
  4. Charles Schwab
  5. Discover Bank
  6. Simple
  7. USAA

Which Checking Account Is Right for Your Money?

Most of us use our checking accounts every single day. It’s the place we deposit our paychecks, where we withdraw cash from, and is likely the account from which our bills are paid. But how much research did you do before picking that checking account… and could you find a better place to keep your money?

It’s important to select a bank that not only offers excellent services, but matches your earning, spending, and saving habits best. By choosing the right institution, you can save yourself money on fees, earn more in interest, and even take advantage of convenient features that make life easier.

Did You Choose Your Bank At All?

Many adults today inherited their checking accounts from their parents. Or, to be a bit more specific, these parents passed down bank loyalty to their children.

Whether this started with youth savings or a first checking account at 18, the fact is that many adults today continue banking at the same institution their parents used. And while these may very well be excellent accounts to use, this type of legacy loyalty can also be a bad thing for your money.

When you open a checking account at a bank that your parent, sibling, or even spouse uses, you risk missing out on competitive features. In order to ensure that the checking account you choose is the absolute best for your money — based on your goals and how you spend — you need to adequately shop around first. Failing to do so can be both costly and inconvenient.

Take inventory of how, and how often, you actually use your checking account. Also consider your location, preferred accessibility methods (such as banking in person or doing everything online), and how your checking and savings accounts connect.

Then, once you have an idea of what you utilize and how you need your checking account to perform, take a look at the banks below. This list includes the banking institutions that we consider to be the best for 2021 and why, based on the features offered from each.

Chase Bank

With Chase Bank, there are three checking account options to choose from: Chase Total Checking, Chase Premier Plus Checking, and Chase Sapphire Checking. Between them, you’re sure to find exactly what you need, based on your unique financial style.

With all three checking account options, you’ll get access to more than 5,000 physical banking branches and over 16,000 nationwide ATMs (where you can check balances and withdraw cash for free). You can also take advantage of Chase’s online banking, mobile banking, and bill pay, and all three account types offer an option for waiving the monthly service fee.

Here’s a look at the features you’ll find with Chase checking accounts:

  • Access to more than 16,000 free ATMs in the nationwide Chase network
  • Free Chase bill pay, mobile app, and online banking
  • Free debit card
  • Mobile check deposit
  • Over 5,000 brick-and-mortar banking locations
  • Access to Chase QuickPay with Zelle

What a Chase Checking account will cost you:

  • Monthly Account Fee
    • Chase Total Checking — $12 monthly fee is waived if you do one of the following each month: receive direct deposits totaling $500+, have a starting daily balance of $1,500+, OR have a combined starting daily balance of $5,000 between this account and other linked, qualifying Chase accounts (savings, other checking, etc.)
    • Chase Premier Plus Checking — $25 monthly fee is waived if you do one of the following each month: have an average daily balance of $15,000+ between this and other linked, qualifying Chase accounts OR have a linked, qualifying Chase first mortgage that’s enrolled in auto-pay from your Chase account.
    • Chase Sapphire Checking — $25 monthly fee is waived if you have an average daily balance of $75,000+.
  • Check fees
    • Chase Total Checking — Price for checks varies based on style and quantity ordered.
    • Chase Premier Plus Checking — Chase design checks are free and personal design checks are 50% off.
    • Chase Sapphire Checking — Chase design checks are free and in addition, all personal design checks are included as well.
  • ATM fees
    • Chase Total Checking — Free use of ATMs in the Chase network. There’s a $2.50 Chase fee for using non-Chase ATMs, in addition to any fees charged by the owner of the ATM. For ATM use outside the U.S., this fee is $5.
    • Chase Premier Plus Checking — Free use of ATMs in the Chase network, and the first four transactions per statement using non-network ATMs. There’s a $2.50 Chase fee for using non-Chase ATMs after the first four. For ATM use outside the U.S., this fee is $5. All fees charged by the ATM owner still apply.
    • Chase Sapphire Checking — No ATM fees charged by Chase for using network or non-network machines, whether in or out of the U.S.. Any fees charged by the ATM owner will be refunded.

Ally Bank

Once upon a time, checking accounts were only offered by brick-and-mortar institutions. These days, though, you can also find excellent options from online-only banks, such as Ally. You’ll find that even without access to a local branch, these banks can still meet (and exceed) all of your daily banking needs, while also offering you free account options.

One of the best things about the Ally checking account is that it’s interest-bearing, and at a very competitive rate. In fact, the interest rate offered on Ally Interest Checking accounts even surpasses the national average for savings accounts!

That’s not all Ally Interest Checking accounts have to offer, though. You’ll also enjoy:

  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • Free checks
  • Free debit MasterCard
  • Access to more than 55,000 free Allpoint ATMs across the country
  • Up to $10 refunded per statement cycle for use of out-of-network ATMs
  • Free eCheck deposit
  • 24/7 live customer care

As long as you can handle banking at an institution that doesn’t have local branches, Ally offers a checking account that’s much more competitive than most. Not only will you save money on monthly fees and ATM charges, but your funds will also earn excellent interest in the process.

Capital One 360

While you’re likely accustomed to seeing Capital One Bank branches, Capital One 360 is online-only. However, this is a great hybrid option for customers who want the benefits that only online banks can offer while also maintaining access to brick-and-mortar services if and when they’re needed.

Capital One 360 checking accounts are fee-free and have no minimums to open. You’ll earn considerably more interest on your balance than the average local institution can offer, while also enjoying a top-rated mobile app for your everyday banking.

No-Fee Checking from Capital One 360 includes:

  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • No minimum deposit or balance to maintain
  • Free use of more than 39,000 Capital One and Allpoint ATMs
  • Competitive interest on checking account balances
  • Free debit MasterCard
  • Free first checkbook
  • Free online bill pay
  • Next Day Grace on overdraft charges — you’ll have one business day to deposit additional funds before you’re charged a fee
  • Free mobile check deposit

You can also connect your Capital One 360 checking account with free savings accounts also offered by the bank. This makes it easy to tuck away funds for vacations, emergency expenses, and more, with instant transfer options.

Charles Schwab

In order to open a High Yield Investor Checking account at Charles Schwab, you’ll need to also open a brokerage account through the bank. However, you don’t have to actually use that brokerage account (unless you want to), while still enjoying all of the checking benefits available.

With Charles Schwab checking, you’ll avoid monthly fees, monthly balance minimums, and all ATM fees. There also aren’t any foreign transaction fees to worry about, which can save you quite a bit while traveling or making international purchases online.

High Yield Investor Checking from Charles Schwab includes:

  • Free connected brokerage account with no minimums or monthly fees
  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • No minimum deposit or balance to maintain
  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursement
  • Notably high interest rate on checking balances (0.03% APY as of October 11, 2021)
  • Free Visa Platinum debit card
  • Free standard checks
  • Free online bill pay
  • Access to Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay
  • Free mobile check deposit

When you apply to open your new Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account, you’ll automatically be opening a brokerage account, too. These two accounts will be connected and you can transfer funds seamlessly between them, without ever worrying about monthly fees or minimums. If you already have a brokerage account or don’t plan to use this for investing, no worries; since it’s a fee-free account, you won’t be punished for not using it.

One thing to note about the Schwab checking account process: since you’re also opening a brokerage account, the bank will request a hard inquiry on your credit report (versus the soft pull that most banks utilize). This isn’t impactful for the average person, but is still worth mentioning.

Discover Bank

Chances are, you only think of credit cards when you hear the name Discover. However, Discover Bank offers more than plastic, with competitive checking accounts that even offer cash back options for your everyday spending.

With Discover Bank Cashback Debit, you’ll find a fee-free checking account with great features. These include:

  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • Free debit card and replacements
  • 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month (that’s up to $30 just for spending as usual!)
  • Access to more than 60,000 free ATMs across the country
  • Free online bill pay
  • No more fees — Discover announced in June 2019 that they will no longer be charging fees on any deposit accounts. This includes insufficient funds fees, stop payment fees, and more.

You can use Discover’s mobile app to manage your account on the go, too. Their app is rated 4.9/5 stars in the App Store, and allows you to deposit checks, locate network ATMs, and transfer funds in seconds.


Finding a good checking account is important, but that alone won’t help you meet your financial goals. To do that, you’ll also need to learn how to budget effectively and manage your spending. This is where the Simple checking account shines.

Simple is a different breed. The online bank — a partner of Compass Bank — prides itself on being entirely fee-free. No, seriously… there are no fees that you will ever encounter from Simple.

With their checking account, you’ll enjoy:

  • No maintenance fees or monthly account fees
  • $0 minimum deposit to open and no minimum balance to maintain
  • No overdraft fees or ACH transfer fees
  • Free card replacement
  • No account closing fees
  • Free access to 40,000+ Allpoint ATMs across the country
  • Earning interest well above the national average, when you start a Savings Goal and contribute funds
  • A mobile app that both manages your account and helps you budget

If you need help, their phone representatives are available six days a week, and you can also send questions via email or social media.


This bank is only available to military members or their spouses, children/stepchildren, and grandchildren. However, if you have a military connection, the bank is definitely worth considering as they offer great account options.

Checking accounts at USAA are free, and can be opened for as little as $25. They are also interest-bearing if you have more than $1,000 in the account, though there’s no minimum balance to maintain once you’ve opened the account.

Classic Checking from USAA includes:

  • No monthly service or maintenance fees
  • Free debit card and free replacement
  • No ATM fees at more than 60,000 preferred ATMs across the country
  • Up to $15 in usage fees refunded each month, from using out-of-network ATMs (USAA still won’t charge you for using those machines, however)
  • Overdraft protection
  • Highly-rated smartphone app for managing your account, which offers mobile check deposit
  • USAA Money Manager and Bill Pay
  • Send and receive money fast with Zelle

You can also open any number of connected (and free) savings accounts through USAA, quickly transferring cash to save for your various goals.

Why Choose a Checking Account?

A checking account is an important part of money management. It is not only a safe place to store your funds, but also makes it easier to track and manage your spending, transfer between savings accounts, and automate your monthly expenses.

Checking accounts won’t typically earn the higher savings rates that savings accounts offer (though we’ve mentioned a few great interest-bearing options above!), even though they both offer you a secure place to deposit and hold your money. However, unlike a savings account, checking accounts don’t have transaction limits, making them important for your daily spending.

This means that you won’t get in trouble — or incur fees — if you use your checking account for little purchases and bill payments each and every day. By contrast, savings accounts have a federally-imposed limit of six transactions per statement cycle. Go over this limit, and you risk being fined or having your account shut down.

What to Look for in a Checking Account

It’s important to find a bank that offers the right checking account for you and your spending habits. That way, you can ensure convenient access to your money while minimizing the fees you’ll incur. 

Be sure to look for a bank with:

  • Fee-free checking, or a waived fee option for which you can qualify
  • ATMs and/or bank branches near you
  • Mobile banking and mobile check deposit options, if you prefer to bank that way
  • Convenient linking to bill pay, budgeting, and/or other account platforms

Depending on how you spend and how much money you keep in checking, you should also make sure to take advantage of interest rates, free checks, etc. offered by many banks.

A checking account is an important part of your everyday finances. Take some time to find the right bank (and account) for you, which will compliment your spending habits while also saving you some cash.