The Best Checking Accounts of 2021

Joseph Meyer
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Best Checking Accounts of 2021 and Beyond

If you’ve been checking accounts lately, you’ve probably noticed just how costly they are. Retail banks have been adding fees left and right to cover the high cost of profits on accounts.

For years, with the economy and the world in general coming apart at the seams, personal check usage has plummeted. This, coupled with the fact that we’re known to be a society of instant gratification, commercial checking account fees have been on the rise.

The best checking accounts of 2021 and beyond will always be the ones that offer us the most value. Businesses want to win us over with good product offerings, competitive interest rates, and exceptional service.

But we also need to start taking responsibility for our spending, stop going through the motions when it comes to our checking accounts, and start educating ourselves about how to make these accounts more attractive to the companies behind them.

Best Checking Accounts: An Overview

Whether you’re a student or a business professional, it’s important to protect your hard-earned money. To accomplish this, it’s practical to have a checking account. Modern banks offer a variety of checking accounts, and that can be confusing to any newbie. To simplify the process, this post will examine the details of the best checking accounts of the year 2021.

The basic information you need to start with are checking account rates. Checking accounts are free for the most part. However, there are often balance requirements and minimum deposits that are necessary for opening the account. The bigger the balance, the higher the balance requirements. The bigger the balance, the higher the interest rate. Another way banks make money from checking accounts is through fees for various services. Checking account rates vary.

Currently, there are two basic types of checking accounts: the nationwide checking accounts and the local checking accounts. The first type is the most popular type of checking account as it offers flexibility while being uniform across the country. Even though the rates are uniform across the entire United States (or across a country, for worldwide banks), the local banks often offer additional perks and benefits that may persuade some people to open their accounts with a local bank. These added features may include credit card rewards, higher interest rates for balances, and high-quality online customer service.

Discover® Cashback Debit

No matter how you manage your money. It’d be better if you could earn cash back on debit card purchases. Use your savings and checking accounts together when you get cash back on checking purchases with the Discover Cashback Debit Card. Cash back earnings are automatically deposited into your savings or checking after each monthly qualification cycle.

You can earn cash back on purchases with the Discover Cashback Debit Card anywhere debit cards are accepted. Get 1.50% Cashback Rewards that automatically get credited to your account for using your card. Cashback Rewards apply to qualified purchases without restrictions or caps.

The Cashback Debit Card from Discover is the smart way to make everyday purchases.

Chime Bank

Everyone wants a debit card with a built-in smart chip, and features like overdraft protection, and other miscellaneous items familiar to those using banks to avoid checking accounts. Chime is the engine driving that engine. Chime is trying to simplify and unify banking account management through a simple phone app that it will run on both Apple and Android devices. The bank currently doesn’t offer all the features of most banks, but it does offer some features that will interest you as a beginner, such as a limited free checking account, and a free app that lets you deposit checks via a smartphone camera.

Chime is owned by the PacSun CEO Chris Paci, and is a direct challenge to the old guard. It has features, like a simple design, which make it easy to use. However, Chime still has the same features of most other banks. It offers more variations on the checking and savings markets, and some of them are simple starter accounts. However, these features may turn you off if you’re a seasoned bank user. If you are, you may want to use a more mature financial institution.

Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking

When you think of checking accounts, you might just think of the account you have with your bank. But the simple checking account from Consumers Credit Union is a great option for people that want more out of their checking account.

True, you can earn rewards for your checking account, but if you’re interested in a more comprehensive service, this is one of the best checking accounts to look at.

The bonuses that come with this checking account are strong and will give you cash back on the things you usually do. And it’s all thanks to the mobile app that gives you strong savings opportunities.

Listening to customer feedback is the hallmark of a great service, and that’s one of the reasons this checking account excels. You’ll love the streamlined approach to a checking account, which gives you the opportunity to build a strong relationship with this bank.

The credit union has a range of great services on offer, and this checking account is a great example of that. You’ll get the back with a number of bonuses and rewards and cash back on your daily expenses.

Automated balance updates, spending tracking, and money saving offers are just some of the reasons people choose this checking account over other checking accounts.

Simple Checking and Budgeting

Axos Bank™ Rewards Checking

We all know how important having good, dependable checking accounts are. After all, a great checking account will have no hidden fees and can provide you with a lot of great benefits (such as cash back rewards, Internet banking, etc.). Some checking accounts even offer interest rates, so your cash and your money in the bank will grow during the course of the year.

Chase Total Checking

The Chase Total Checking account is an unlimited 1.5% cashback checking account. There is no monthly maintenance fee, and you can enjoy access to more than 5,000 Chase ATMs around the country. With this account, you can make up to 10 debit card purchases each month for free.

What’s more, you can earn more cashback with Chase’s Payment Tracker. With this nifty little tool, you can follow your non-Chase debit card transactions and track them toward your cashback rewards.

How We Chose These Top Checking Accounts

With a checking account, you can make transactions at the ATM, pay bills online, and write checks to pay for things. As a financial product, checking accounts are very important because you can access your money instantly to meet your financial obligations.

Most people have some type of checking account, but maybe you’re bored with your current account and you want to switch to another bank, want to unbundle your services, or want to be able to earn rewards. Whatever the reason, you’re curious about checking accounts and you want to know what the best checking accounts of 2021 are.

Based on this information and our unique algorithms, we’ve identified and ranked the ten best checking accounts based on security, interest, overdraft, and reward rates and other key features.

We looked at the best checking accounts from banks that are FDIC insured as well as from online banks. All of the checking accounts below offer multiple products to their customers including savings, investments, and loans.

All checking accounts come with their own unique features, so check out the comparison tables and summaries below to help you decide which one is right for you. You can also learn more about how checking accounts work, how to choose a checking account, and how to be a smart bank customer.

No Fees or Avoidable Fees

All checking accounts have minimal fees. It is important that a checking account has no check processing fees, and no monthly maintenance fees. A no fee checking account can be easily avoided by staying under a certain balance, or by not writing a certain number of checks.

If a checking account does have monthly maintenance or other fees, those fees should be calculated in a way that gives you the ability to avoid them. If you can earn interest on your account, you will have more money in your account to avoid the maintenance fees by keeping the balance above the minimum required.

Some banks will give you discounts on your account if you have direct deposits or a minimum number of checks.

Online Account Features

Interest, Money Market & CD Accounts

When it comes to deciding on whether or not you should go for a traditional bank account vs an online bank account, you’re not just making a minor switch. Choosing the online account is a decision that could affect your finances in the years to come.

Here are the main features of online bank accounts, along with a selection that we recommend, and why we recommend them:

Online Checking Accounts:

  • Low Fees: One of the obvious benefits of an online checking account is that it can help you save on fees. It’s like mortgage shopping: The more variables you can remove the better you can assess your options. If you’re a knowledgeable saver, you can probably find one with waivered or even no fees. Online banks may not offer you the highest interest rate, but choosing an account with no monthly fees is a better deal for someone who is looking to save money on fees. Just keep in mind that you may face monthly fees for actual services you use, say overdraft protection.
  • Security: Another major advantage is that online checking accounts are more secure, because your information does not need to be physically handled by bank employees.

ATM Access

Although there are banks that will allow you to go into a storefront to access your money, the vast majority of bank products are offered online. Most bank accounts offer both a nation-wide ATM fee reimbursement and a network of no-fee or low-fee ATMs, most of which are within a few miles of the bank’s branch locations.

In most cases, you won’t be able to access your money in the next town over or at a national chain location, but there is a chance that you’ll be able to find an ATM within a few miles or in the immediate area of your bank.

To be sure, the best bank products won’t have any ATMs fees, but the second best will at least have a large network of no-fee ATMs and convenient ATM locations.

Mobile Bill Pay Features

Checking accounts are the lifeblood of your finances, so it’s no wonder that more and more banking and financial institutions are trying to offer the best checking account features. And although there might be a few unique things in each bank’s arsenal, the number of features that most banks share in common are pretty close.

Here, we’ll take a look at the top ten features that every checking account should have, as well as a few features that we think banking institutions should consider in hopes of helping their customers get more out of their checking accounts.

How to Choose the Best Checking Account

Most people have a checking account. Whether it’s their primary account for income and bills, or simply a backup if the paychecks don’t hit the bank like they’re supposed to … banks provide convenient access to your money in one place. In addition to being convenient, a checking account can offer a hefty amount of rewards, depending on which account you have.

But not all checking accounts are created equal. It’s important to not only research which one has the Best Checking Account Rates, but also which ones fit your financial life. Maybe you’re a left-brained type, or maybe you value balance in all areas of your life, especially money. Knowing whether you’re going to want to use your checking account to pay your bills might make your options a little more limited … it just depends on your priorities.

If you’re wondering how to find the best checking account for you, the first step is to not get overwhelmed by all of the choices out there. After all, a checking account does more than just pay your bills.

Check ATM Networks in Your Area

There are very few things in life as annoying as getting to the ATM, punching in your PIN and tapping that little green "Withdraw Cash" button, only to get some kind of message back that your bank can't honor your request. This ATM was too full, or the network is down or maybe the ATM was even out of order.

When this happens, it's time to get angry.

That's why it's so important to know in advance if that's ever going to happen to you. This is where ATM networks come into play.

The good news is that unless you're a complete hermit, isolated from the rest of the world, at least occasionally you have to venture outside of your house and go to an ATM. Because of this, you can take a look at the ATM networks in your area ahead of time to know exactly which ATMs your bank has access to.

If you’re already planning a shopping trip or any other reason to hit up the ATM, take the opportunity to get a sneak peak of which ATMs you can access on this particular day and how far they are away from you. Google Maps usually includes a comprehensive list of all the ATMs nearby so you can check things out right from your phone.

Know Which Features You Want the Most

When finding the best checking account, it’s important to know what you’re looking for! Depending on your preferences, you may prioritize a low-fee account, a large interest rate, or online banking. Since checking accounts are so abundant, you may find the best account for you no matter what floats your boat.

Many people assume that all checking accounts have the same features. But they are surprised to learn that there are important differences between the accounts. One account may offer a substantial interest rate, and another accounts may charge lower fees. The key is finding the right combination of features that work for your lifestyle.

Fortunately, checking accounts are standardized, and there are clear product features and benefits that you can read about on each account's product page. If you’re considering an account with a low interest rate but hefty fees, you probably don’t want to read much past the rate and fee information. But if you’re checking out a high-interest account, you probably want to spend some time doing some reading.

Decide If You Need Branch Access

Traditional banks typically require you to do all of your banking online or through a mobile app. This puts customer service a little out of reach for some people. You can also be a little more restricted when it comes to the accounts you can open.

Although this may seem like a downside, many online-only banks regularly offer higher interest rates on savings accounts and lower interest rates on checking accounts. This may make up for the convenience of having those accounts accessible anywhere.

Near

If you want to continue banking in a branch but still want to use your current ATM card, consider joining a credit union. Credit unions generally offer more robust member services, like 24/7 customer service. You could also potentially get your car loan or home loan through the credit union, which would make it even more beneficial.

Non-Branch Access

If you want your checking account at a bank but would like it to be accessible outside of a branch, consider a bank that still has banking centers. These banks will still offer lots of conveniences: appointment-based services, ATMs you can access at anytime and lots of facilities you can use while you wait.

Figure Out Your Average Monthly Balance

The first thing you need to figure out when looking into a new checking account is how much money you have to keep in that account.

To determine this amount, you can multiply the number of paychecks you get per month by your average monthly expenses. This will give you a starting point about how much you might need to keep in checking.

If you already see several hundred dollars coming in per month, then you can afford to have less in checking. However, if several hundred dollars disappears from your account on a regular basis, then you need to think about increasing your balance.

The best checking accounts of 2021 will give you the flexibility to deposit and withdraw larger amounts of money. Some accounts will even allow you to write as many checks as you want without any other fees.

So once you figure out what you might need in the future, you can start to look at the different checking accounts available.

The Bottom Line

The age of checks is over. Not only did checks decline in popularity, but they are increasingly becoming unnecessary. The reason? The rise of electronic bill payments. It has been a long time since we’ve seen any improvements to checking accounts and banks seem to be doing a great job of meeting all of our needs. But with a few changes to their product line-up, change could be in the wings.

Fortunately, the major banks have made a big effort to meet the needs of their customers and introduce a wide variety of checking products to the market. It’s just that, for the most part, the checking products available today are not that different from what was available in the past … or what’s available today. There is still a lot of catching up to do.

Why isn’t the checking account world more exciting? If you’re a bank, it’s probably a bit of a headache to be constantly improving. The reason is that, for the most part, banks are working on the same core functions … depositing checks and withdrawals, and providing overdraft protection. Creating a truly revolutionary product in this field is likely to take years to come to fruition.