Here are the 8 Best Options for Online Banking with Free Accounts

Digital banking has become mainstream, particularly with the younger generation. The COVID pandemic of 2020 forced many of us to become part of the digital banking ecosystem, especially when banks limited access and hours, fast-tracking the digital banking industry.

Best free mobile banking options

Chime 

Chime is a financial technology company that provides fee-free mobile banking services. It is not a bank, but The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank provides banking services.

  • Free checking account details: While Chime doesn’t issue personal checkbooks to write checks, Chime Checkbook gives you the freedom to send checks to anyone, anytime, from anywhere. You can generate one from the Chime mobile app, and Chime will send it in the mail for you. They offer an annual percentage yield of .50% and have no minimum balance.
  • Minimum balance requirement: There is no minimum or monthly fees.
  • Account opening process: There are three easy steps: Apply for a Chime Spending Account by providing your name, social security number, email, and password. Download the Chime app. Set up a direct deposit with Chime.
  • Monthly fees: There are no monthly maintenance fees or monthly service fees.
  • Wire transfers: Chime does not currently allow wire transfers.
  • Other fees: Chime has no additional fees.
  • Direct deposit requirement: No, you can use Chime without a direct deposit. Chime may choose to limit the features available to you, such as removing your ability to make mobile check deposits.
  • Mobile app: Yes, for both IOs and Android.
  • Savings account: Chime’s savings account offers an 0.50% APY. It doesn’t charge monthly fees or requires a minimum balance. There is no cap on the amount of interest you can earn, and as long as you have at least a penny in your account, you’ll earn interest.
  • Fee-free ATM transactions: Moneypass ATMs at any 7-11 location are free, as are Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATMs. Otherwise you’ll pay an out-of-network fee of $2.50, plus whatever fee the bank that operates the ATM charges. Chime does not offer fee reimbursement for out-of-network banking fees. Other fees such as third-party and cash deposit fees may apply.
  • Online bill pay: Yes, you can pay electronically, or they can generate a check for you.
  • FDIC insured: Chime accounts are FDIC insured up to the standard maximum of $250,000 per depositor, for each ownership category, in the event of a bank failure through its partner banks.
  • Overdraft protection: There are no overdraft fees, and you can get fee-free overdraft up to $200.
  • Cashback offers: Chime doesn’t offer a cash back bonus.
  • Cash Advances: You get a small cash advance through Chime Spot Me at 40,000+ retail locations.
  • Credit card: Chime offers the Chime Credit Builder Visa Credit Card, a secured credit card issued by Stride Bank. It works differently from other secured cards because you can adjust your credit limit by adding more money to your card, much like a prepaid debit card.
  • Money market account: Not available. Chime offers simple banking services, so if you’re looking for a full-service bank with certificates of deposit (CDs), money market accounts, and lending options, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
  • Other perks: Opening an account online is easy, and many services are fee-free. You get a Chime card to spend and make withdrawals easy. They have competitive interest rates, credit-building solutions for people who need to improve their credit score, and 24/7 service and support via the Chime app.
  • Line of credit: Depending on your creditworthiness, you could qualify for a credit limit of $200.
  • Account balance alerts: The Chime app sends daily account balance notifications and transaction alerts when you purchase.
  • Budgeting and financial tools: Chime includes many tools to help you keep a budget.
  • Other noteworthy information: The account can receive direct deposits, and it supports pre-authorized withdrawals and interbank transfers through the automated clearing house (ACH) Network. 
  • Does Chime work with ApplePay? Yes, you can use your Chime Visa Debit Card with Apple Pay on multiple devices.
  • Foreign transaction fee: There are no foreign transaction fees, but you will have to pay a fee for any out-of-network ATM transactions.

Varo

Varo Bank is an all-mobile bank account app. Varo says its mission is to stamp out financial inequality. It offers a variety of traditional services with minimal customer fees.

  • Free checking account details: Varo has a tiered rate: 3.00% APY for balances up to $5,000 when certain conditions are met, 0.50% APY with a $.01 minimum balance. Varo does not offer paper checks with its checking account. However, you can send payments through the mobile app. There is no fee for this service.
  • Minimum balance requirement: None
  • Account opening process: The account opening process is simple, and you just need a government-issued ID and social security to sign up.
  • Monthly fees: None
  • Wire transfers: Not available
  • Other fees: Because Varo has no branches, cash deposits are only available through third-party retailers that charge fees.
  • Direct deposit requirement: Yes
  • Mobile app: Yes, for both IOs and Android.
  • Savings account: Yes
  • Fee-free ATM transactions: 55,000 Allpoint ATMs are surcharge-free— but there’s a $2.50 cash withdrawal fee for out-of-network ATM transactions. Varo allows the option to deposit cash at more than 90,000 retail locations using Green Dot Reload.
  • Online bill pay: Yes, and you can automate bill payments. You can set and forget your bill payments thanks to ACH transfers.
  • FDIC insured: Yes
  • Overdraft protection: Yes. Varo lets you overdraft your bank account by up to $50 if you meet the eligibility requirements.
  • Does it offer cashback? Yes, you can earn cash back by using the Varo-branded debit cards and credit cards. All cashback rewards are automatically deposited into your account whenever $5 in cashback is earned.
  • Credit card: Yes, Varo offers a credit-builder card named The Varo Believe Card.
  • Money market account? No
  • Perks: No monthly fees, minimum balance, monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees or interest owed for overdrafts, transfer fees, foreign transaction fees, and debit card replacement fees.
  • Cash advance: Varo Advance gives you access to up to $100 cash directly in the Varo Bank app. You just have to pay it all back within 30 days.
  • Account balance alert: Yes, every time money moves in and out of your account, you will receive an alert.
  • Budgeting and financial tools: Yes, but you need to sign up for EveryDollar Plus and connect your accounts.
  • Does it work with ACH? Yes.
  • Does it work with ApplePay? Yes, using your Varo bank Visa Debit card.
  • Foreign transaction fees: None

Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

Ally Bank offers the convenience of an online checking account — without the monthly maintenance fees or overdraft fees.

  • Free checking account details: Less than $15,000 earns an APR of .10%; $15,000+ APR earns .25%; they deliver your checks and debit card within ten business days after they receive the opening deposit.
  • Minimum balance requirement: No minimum balance requirements.
  • Account opening process: Takes 5 minutes or less, and the account owner must be 18 or older and provide a Social Security or Tax Identification number and a U.S. residential street address, legal name, and birth date.
  • Monthly fees? None
  • Wire transfers: Yes, with a $15-35 outgoing fee.
  • Other fees: Returned deposit item $7.50; expedited delivery $15; outgoing domestic wires $20; account research fee $25 per hour.
  • Direct deposit requirement: None
  • Mobile app: Yes, for both IOs and Android.
  • Savings account: Yes
  • Fee-free ATM transactions: Ally includes more than43,000 no-fee Allpoint ATMs, and they will reimburse up to $10 per statement cycle for fees charged at other ATMs nationwide.
  • Bill pay: Yes
  • FDIC insured: Yes
  • Overdraft protection? Yes, two types of overdraft protection are available.
  • Does it offer cashback? No; though it is possible a cashback program could be added through a new partnership with Fair Square.
  • Credit card: Ally Bank is expected to launch a new credit card product in 2022.
  • Money market account: Yes, along with Roth SEP individual retirements accounts and CDs.
  • Perks: They have auto financing, no overdraft fees, and an above-average interest rate on savings.
  • Line of credit: Not available
  • Account balance alerts: You can create custom alerts to stay on top of balances, deposits, overdrafts, and transactions.
  • Budgeting and financial tools: Ally Bank offers complimentary budgeting features that make it easy to stay on top of your money.
  • Does it work with ACH? Yes, free of charge.
  • Does it work with ApplePay? Yes, once your Ally Bank Debit MasterCard information is verified, they send an alert to confirm it’s been successfully added to Apple Pay.
  • Foreign transaction fees: Yes. Whether you use an Allpoint ATM or other ATM overseas, they charge a standard foreign transaction fee of up to 1% of the transaction amount for the currency conversion and cross-border transaction.

USAA Bank Classic Checking

USAA is only available to military servicemembers and their families. They also offer a wide range of insurance products for your car, home, personal belongings, and more. Plus, they have health and life insurance options available.

  • Free checking account details: .01%APY
  • Minimum balance requirement: $25 to open an account.
  • Account opening process: Requires military affiliation.
  • Monthly fees: None
  • Wire transfers: Yes, and there are no domestic and international incoming wire fees.
  • Other account fees: Deposited item returned, or cashed check returned $5; stop payment $29.
  • Direct deposit requirement: None
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Savings account: Yes
  • Fee-free ATM transactions: USAA offers access to over 60,000 preferred ATMs nationwide. Plus, if you have to use another ATM, USAA offers fee reimbursement of up to $15 per statement cycle.
  • Bill pay: Yes
  • FDIC insured: Yes
  • Overdraft protection? Yes, if you opt for overdraft protection and link a USAA credit card or another checking or savings account, USAA will transfer money to cover your overdraft in $100 increments for free. If your item is returned as unpaid, you may be charged a $29 NSF fee.
  • Does it offer cashback? Yes, you can earn 10 cents for every debit card purchase on qualifying transactions.
  • Credit card: Yes
  • Money market account: While there is no money market account, USAA does offer certificates of deposit.
  • Perks: Early direct deposit and special benefits for military personnel.
  • Lines of credit: USAA no longer offers home loans or lines of credit.
  • Account balance alerts: USAA’s mobile text message banking service gives you access to your account balances, transaction history, and available credit.
  • Budgeting and financial tools: Free budgeting tools are available.
  • Does it work with ACH? Yes.
  • Does it work with ApplePay? Yes, you can add a USAA Visa card through the USAA Mobile App or the Apple Pay app. But you’ll need to add your USAA American Express credit card through the Apple Pay app.
  • Foreign transaction fees: A 1% foreign transaction fee applies to debit card purchases and cash withdrawals in a currency other than U.S. dollars or with a merchant, financial institution, or ATM in a foreign country.

First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account

First Citizens’ free checking account offers several handy features, with a caveat: You must sign up for electronic statements within the first 60 days, or you’ll be converted to a fee-based account. If you don’t want electronic statements, look to the other options listed.

  • Free checking account details: There are three checking packages available (Free, Premier and Prestige).
  • Minimum balance requirement: No
  • Account opening process: The free plan requires an opening deposit of $50.
  • Monthly fees: None, but you need to enroll in paperless statements to avoid the monthly fee.
  • Wire transfers: Yes. The Wire Transfer Base Module costs $15.00 per month; Domestic wire origination is $15.00 each
  • Other fees: Next business say rush bill payments: $34.95; two-day rush bill payments: $29.95; gift payments $2.99; charitable donation payments $1.99; mobile check deposit (first 10 per month free) $.50; multiple users $7.50. See their banking fee schedule for a complete list.
  • Direct deposit requirement: None
  • Mobile app: Yes, for both IOs and Android.
  • Savings account: Yes
  • Fee-free ATM transactions: If you use a First Citizens Bank ATM, there is no fee for any transaction. If use another bank’s ATM, you’ll pay a fee. For the First Citizens Bank Free Checking Account, the fee is $2.50 per transaction.
  • Bill pay: Yes
  • FDIC insured: Yes
  • Overdraft protection: First Citizens offers Citizens Peace of Mind, which gives you a specific amount of time to deposit or transfer enough funds to bring your account to a positive available balance and have any overdraft fees automatically rebated.
  • Does it offer a cashback bonus? Yes, you can earn 1.8% back on everything you buy with the Citizens Cash Back Plus World MasterCard.
  • Does it offer a credit card? Yes, they have a range of cashback and rewards credit cards. They also offer business credit cards.
  • Money market account: No. They have investment accounts, including Roth, traditional, SEP, and SIMPLE IRAs, 529 college savings plans, and Coverdell education savings accounts.
  • Perks: Military members have access to special checking and savings accounts. These accounts have easier criteria to waive monthly fees. Plus, you can get preferred rates and free out-of-network ATM transactions. Get traveler’s checks in foreign currency.
  • Line of credit: Yes, First Citizens’ Overdraft Line of Credit. automatically transfers funds from a linked line of credit.
  • Account balance alerts: Yes, First Citizen’s Bank can set up account alerts to notify customers about specific account activities.
  • Budgeting and financial tools: No
  • Does it work with ACH? Yes.
  • Does it work with ApplePay? Yes.
  • Foreign transaction fees: None with the Cash Back Plus World Mastercard.

Axos Bank Rewards Checking 

Axos Bank is an equal housing lender that promises a comprehensive range of innovative financial products and services with the highest level of security.

  • Free checking account details: Earn up to 1% APY.
  • Minimum balance requirement: $50 to open an account and zero minimum monthly balance requirements.
  • Account opening process: Simple, three-step process for direct deposit.
  • Monthly fees: None
  • Wire transfers: Yes, domestic (outgoing) $35; international (incoming) $0; International (outgoing) $45.
  • Other fees: There is a paper statement fee of $5. 
  • Direct deposit requirement: No
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Savings account: Yes
  • Fee-free ATM transactions: Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements. There are 91,000 free ATMs across the U.S.
  • Bill pay: Yes
  • FDIC insured: Yes
  • Overdraft protection: There are no overdraft or NSF fees.
  • Does it offer a cashback bonus? Axos Bank’s Cashback checking account offers up to 1% cashback on debit card purchases that require a signature. You’re limited to a list of stores and must keep a $1,500 minimum daily balance to earn the full amount.
  • Credit card: No
  • Money market account: No, but they have certificates of deposit.
  • Perks: Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements and a welcome bonus.
  • Line of credit: No except for commercial lines of credit.
  • Account balance alerts: No
  • Budgeting and financial tools? No
  • Does it work with ACH? Yes
  • Does it work with ApplePay? Yes
  • Foreign transaction fees: 1%

Quontic High-Interest Checking

Quontic Bank is a digital bank that offers an array of account options and also offers residential, commercial, and wholesale real estate products. Quontic operates online in all 50 states but has one single brick-and-mortar branch in Astoria, N.Y. Quontic is designated as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), meaning it focuses on lending to underserved or underbanked individuals and communities.

  • Free checking account details: Earn 1.01% APY
  • Minimum balance requirement: No minimum daily balance is required.
  • Account opening process: A minimum opening deposit of $100 is required. Quontic requires basic contact info, your Social Security number, and date of birth. Then you will be able to fund your account instantly.
  • Monthly fees: None
  • Wire transfers: Yes, the fee for international outgoing wire transfers is $35; the fee for outgoing domestic wire transfers is $25.
  • Other fees: Returned deposit item, $10; stop payment, $20; legal levies and garnishments, $100; dormant account, $5 a month; account reconciliation, $30 per hour.
  • Direct deposit requirement: None
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Savings account: Yes
  • Fee-free ATM transactions: No ATM fees when you use your Quontic Debit Card at Citibank or MoneyPass ATMs across the U.S.
  • Bill pay: Yes
  • FDIC insured: Yes
  • Overdraft protection: No, there is a $35.00 fee for all items that cause your account to go below $0.
  • Does it offer cashback? It pays 1.50% cash back on all eligible debit card purchases. Quontic is the only bank on the list that includes an account that offers cash back as Bitcoin, though that account requires a minimum deposit and isn’t available to Hawaii residents.
  • Credit card: No
  • Money market account: No, but it offers certificates of deposit.
  • Perks: They have eliminated 12 fees associated with their deposit accounts to $0 provides residential, commercial, and wholesale real estate products. It offers its Bitcoin Rewards Checking account in select areas.
  • Line of credit: No
  • Account balance alerts: No
  • Budgeting and financial tools: No
  • Does it work with ACH? Yes
  • Does it work with ApplePay: Yes, as well as GPay, Samsung Pay and Zelle.
  • Foreign transaction fees: None

Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account

Schwab Bank’s free checking account offers a competitive interest rate for an account that includes so many perks, including free checks and the best ATM reimbursement policy of all of the options listed, with no fees at all, either domestically or abroad. Your account automatically includes a separate brokerage account if you want to do some investing.

  • Free checking account details: Earn 0.03% APY
  • Minimum balance requirement: No minimum daily balance is required.
  • Account opening process: It will take about 10 minutes. You’ll need a permanent U.S. address, Social Security number, employer name, and mailing address.
  • Monthly fees: None
  • Wire transfers: Yes, $25 per outgoing transfer, or $15 if transferred online.
  • Other fees: None
  • Direct deposit requirement: None
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Savings account: Yes
  • Fee-free ATM transactions: No ATM fees at any ATM, fee reimbursement for all out-of-network ATMs.
  • Bill pay: Yes
  • FDIC insured: Yes
  • Overdraft protection: If you overdraft with your debit card, Schwab automatically transfers money from your linked Schwab One brokerage account or your Schwab savings account for free. If funds are not available, each transaction will trigger a $25 nonsufficient funds fee, up to $100 a day.
  • Does it offer cashback? No. Schwab-branded American Express cards earn Amex Membership Rewards points.
  • Credit card: Yes
  • Money market account: Yes, Schwab’s money market account offers an APY of up to 2.23%. However, you must maintain a minimum balance of $1.
  • Perks: When you open a Schwab checking account it will automatically open a brokerage account at the same time with $0 trade commissions.
  • Line of credit: Yes, Schwab’s Pledged Asset Line is an uncommitted revolving non-purpose flexible line of credit.
  • Account balance alerts: Yes, you can create alerts.
  • Budgeting and financial tools: Yes, Schwab offers MoneyWise.
  • Does it work with ACH? Yes
  • Does it work with ApplePay: Yes, you can set up a mobile wallet with your Schwab Bank debit card.
  • Foreign transaction fees: None

Credit union options

Credit unions require membership, but if you’re eligible to join, they can have some great options for free checking accounts, and have the bonus of having more lenient lending restrictions for account holders whose credit scores are less than ideal.

To join, most credit unions require you to work for a specific employer, live in a certain area, be a member of a common group (like a labor union or be a school employee), or be related to a current member.

Alliant Credit Union, PenFed Credit Union and Consumers Credit Union all have popular free checking options.

What is digital banking?

A digital bank is a bank that operates online and provides its customers the services that were previously available only at a bank branch. Digital banking is a virtual process that includes online banking and beyond. It is digitized banking services delivered over the internet, using online or mobile tools to engage in financial service activities.

Questions to ask before you open your mobile bank account

  • How can I deposit checks?
  • How do I make withdrawals?
  • What are the minimum balance requirements?
  • What are the fees involved?
  • How many ATMs does your bank have access to?
  • Are there low account balance notifications? Overdraft fees?
  • What other products does your bank offer, such as credit cards, credit-builder products, savings accounts, loan products, or brokerage accounts?

What are the benefits of banking online instead of through a traditional financial institution?

Pros

  • The convenience of banking anywhere, anytime, without having to visit a branch saves time
  • It is simple to open an account and operate the app
  • It’s convenient because you can quickly pay your bills and transfer your funds between accounts from nearly anywhere in the world—no more check writing.
  • View your transactions on the app or online and no need to keep receipts, and it’s earth-friendly
  • You can view account statements, apply for speedy loan applications, request checkbooks, request stop payments, and update your contact info.
  • They are typically considered safer than traditional banking.
  • It is available all the time. You can perform your tasks from anywhere and anytime, even at night or on holidays when the bank is closed.
  • You can keep an eye on your transactions and account balance all the time.
  • Banks also deliver their latest products and services over the internet.
  • They can notify you of fraudulent activity or threat to your account before it can pose any severe damage.
  • There are more online services and investment options are available

Cons of online digital banking

  • You need an active internet connection
  • A person who is new to technology may face some difficulties
  • There is the possibility of someone hacking your account information
  • Constant password security changes required
  • Your banking information may be on several devices, making it more at risk for a security breach.
  • Bank servers go down once in a while
  • You can get too many marketing notifications, emails, and updates from the financial institution.

Can online-only banks be trusted? Check this out to learn more:

The bottom line

Digital banking is here to stay. It has heightened consumer demands for efficient ways to bank outside the traditional norms of local branches and save consumers millions of dollars from various hefty banking fees. The traditional banking industry is undergoing a massive digital disruption with these mobile apps, bill payments, and online deposits becoming the norm. 

It’s worth a look if it saves you money.

FAQs

What is Zelle?

Zelle is a mobile payment application that allows peer-to-peer money transfers. It simplifies the process of paying for things and making it an easy way to send and receive money with friends, family, and others you trust.

What does member FDIC mean?

You want to keep your money secure and insured. That’s why the words “Member FDIC” are so important. Member FDIC indicates that the federal government covers your bank. A Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) insured account is a bank account at an institution where deposits are federally protected against bank failure or theft. The FDIC is a federally backed deposit insurance agency where member banks pay regular premiums to fund claims. The maximum insurable amount is currently $250,000 per depositor, per bank.

How is digital banking helpful?

One of the main benefits of digital banking is the convenience of banking wherever and whenever you want. 24/7 access to the bank without ever visiting a branch is a huge timesaver. Many bank apps are also rich with features such as mobile check deposits, peer-to-peer payments, ATM locators, automated savings tools, and budgeting and tracking tools, to name a few.
Digital banking also allows you to control your finances with real-time access to manage and move money from one account to another. Some banks even allow you to activate a new debit or credit card from your app.
Digital banking offers many benefits for consumers making their lives easier and better.

Why isn’t Discover Bank on the list?

Discover traditionally offers one of the best free online checking accounts, but their program is getting an upgrade, and they cannot accept new applications until the changes occur.

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