Having a checking account provides a lot of benefits, including the ability to enroll in direct deposit, make online purchases and use a debit card.

Having a checking account and debit card is often more convenient than paying with cash. You may be able to open a bank account online while other types of accounts may require you to visit a branch in person. Additionally, it is worth knowing that some financial institutions may require you to meet certain qualifications in order to open an account. 

While there are some drawbacks to having an account, such as monthly fees or other fees, these potential drawbacks are often determined by the type of account that you have. Not every institution provides a free checking account, however, most financial institutions will waive the monthly service fee if you meet certain criteria, such as receiving a minimum amount of income through direct deposit each month or maintaining a minimum balance. 

The Benefits of Having a Checking Account

Before learning more about the best checking accounts, it is important to learn about the benefits of opening and maintaining an account. While some banks and financial institutions offer additional incentives, you can typically expect benefits such as:

  • Access to online and mobile banking and purchases. 
  • The ability to use personal checks without an additional fee. 
  • Access to direct deposit, which can assist you in receiving your paychecks automatically and have access to your funds faster. 
  • Access to online banking features.

Some financial institutions will offer additional account incentives, including enrollment bonuses, student discounts or access to additional services. 

The Drawbacks of Having a Checking Account

Having a checking account offers a lot of benefits, but you may experience some drawbacks depending on the financial institution that you open an account with. These drawbacks are typically related to fees. Depending on your institution and account, you may experience fees such as: 

  • Monthly maintenance or service fee. 
  • ATM withdrawal fees when utilizing third-party ATMs. 
  • In-bank transaction fees. 
  • Overdraft fees. 
  • Debit card usage fees. 

Depending on your bank, you may also be required to maintain a minimum balance and you could be charged a fee if your balance dips below the minimum amount. If you intend to open an account for the first time or you are interested in finding a new financial institution to bank with, it is best to start by reviewing some of the most popular institutions, including the pros and cons of the accounts that are offered.

Wells Fargo Checking Account

Wells Fargo is a popular choice among financial institutions and one of the most well-known banks in America. Due to its size, having a Wells Fargo checking account can be advantageous as there are over 13,000 free ATMs and over 5,700 branches. Wells Fargo also hosts branches within several other countries, making Wells Fargo a more convenient option for those who travel abroad.  

Wells Fargo does charge a monthly service fee of $10. However, the service fee is waived for account holders that use 10 or more debit card transactions in a month, maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance or receive automatic deposits totally $500 or more. While $25 is required to initially open an account, there is no minimum balance required to maintain an account. 

Discover Checking Account

If you are searching for free checking account banks, you needn’t look further than Discover. While Discover is mostly known for personal and business credit cards, this institution does offer checking and saving accounts that do not include a monthly service fee. Discover also waives many of the other traditional account fees, including standard checks, online bill-pay and replacement debit card requests. 

Discover accounts also come with an added benefit of receiving cash back on qualifying purchases up to a maximum of $3,000 in purchases per month. Customer service is available 24/7, unlike most banks, and there are over 10,000 ATMs that can be utilized within the United States. 

Capital One Checking Account

If searching for a free online checking account with no opening deposit, Capital One can provide just that. Capital One does not require a minimum deposit to open an account, does not require a minimum balance to maintain an account and provides consumers with several ways to avoid common account fees. 

In fact, Capital One provides consumers with numerous overdraft options to help protect accounts from one of the most common fees, including auto-decline, free transfers from savings account to cover delinquent amounts and provides one full business day’s grace period to replace an overdrawn amount before a fee is issued. 

Chase Checking Account

Chase frequently offers incentives for opening a new checking account, including monetary welcome bonuses. However, like most financial institutions, Chase does charge a monthly maintenance fee of $12. This fee can be avoided in several ways, including by receiving a minimum of $500 in deposits each month or by maintaining a daily balance of $1,500. 

As a larger financial institution, Chase has nearly 5,000 branch locations and more than 16,000 ATMs within the United States, assisting consumers in avoiding withdrawal fees from utilizing a third-party ATM. 

Bank of America Checking Account

Opening a checking account with Bank of America will provide you access to around 4,300 branch offices and 16,300 free ATMs within the United States. Bank of America features well-designed mobile and online banking tools as well as easy account access and money-saving tools. Bank of America applies monthly maintenance fees to accounts, however, these fees are often easily avoided through having automatic deposits or maintaining minimum account balances. 

However, while Bank of America does offer numerous benefits to consumers, overdraft fees can be tough as the bank can charge a $35 overdraft fee up to four times a day on delinquent accounts. Additionally, the 0.06 percent APY rating on savings accounts is easily beaten by other financial institutions.  

Which financial institutions provide the best checking accounts?

It is important to compare checking accounts based upon the account aspects that are most important to you. For example, you may prefer to open an account that never has a monthly service or maintenance fees, or you may not mind fees that can be waived in favor of other incentives or waived charges. 

Therefore, the type of account that will be best for you will likely be different than what another consumer may consider being the best. Each financial institution has several benefits and drawbacks to consider. Where you live may also have a large impact. For example, if a well-known bank does not have branch offices available within your state or local area, you may be less likely to bank with that particular institution.