By Cameron Huddleston, Columnist
If all your checking account has done for you lately is charge you fees to store your money, then it's time to move on to a new account that doesn't sap your balance with numerous surcharges and actually pays interest so your money can grow. Yes, no-fee, interest-bearing checking accounts really do exist -- and GOBankingRates has found the best ones.
GOBankingRates identified the top 10 checking accounts in the U.S. based on five criteria: annual percentage yield, minimum deposit, monthly maintenance fee, nonsufficient funds (NSF) fee and minimum balance required to avoid fees; APY and minimum balance were weighted double in our methodology. The accounts reviewed were the most basic checking accounts offered by the financial institutions surveyed for our Best Banks of 2016 rankings.
Here are the 10 best checking accounts currently available. If your bank isn't on the list, and you're unhappy with your current checking account, you might want to consider switching.
Best: Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking
Why: Bank5Connect, which earned the top spot in GOBankingRates' 2015 Best Checking Account ranking, is still the best checking account provider because it continues to offer one of the highest rates, no monthly fees, an NSF fee of just $15 and a minimum deposit of $10.
Review: This online-only bank is able to offer a competitive rate of 0.76% APY on its High-Interest Checking account because it has lower overhead costs than brick-and-mortar banks. The minimum balance to earn interest is $100.
This account includes several free features: online banking, mobile banking, bill pay and the first order of checks. Plus, Bank5 Connect won't charge you for using any ATM and will reimburse other banks' ATM fees up to $15 per statement cycle. It also offers a UChoose Rewards program that lets you earn points when you use your debit card. The points can be redeemed for gift cards, vacation packages and other items.
How to open: You can open an account online or by calling 855-55BANK5. The process takes about 10 minutes, and you'll need your Social Security number, valid ID and previous home address if you've lived at your current address for less than two years. You can fund the account with a credit card, debit card, checking account or savings account.
Related: 10 Best Savings Accounts of 2016
Banks That Rounded Out the Top 10
Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking
Why: This account charges no monthly maintenance fee or NSF fee and offers a 0.42% APY. It doesn't have a minimum monthly balance requirement, but it does require a minimum deposit of $100.
Review: Although the minimum deposit required is higher for the Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking account than most of the other accounts in this top 10, it offers several attractive features. For example, you can boost the rate you earn up to 1.25% APY if you use your Rewards Checking Visa debit card at least 10 times a month and if your account receives monthly direct deposits of $1,000 or more.
The account also offers unlimited ATM fee reimbursements, free bill pay, cash-back purchase rewards and free FinanceWorks money-management software. You can deposit money using the bank's free mobile app or by scanning checks from your computer using the free MyDeposit option on the bank's website.
How to open: You can open an account on Bank of Internet's website. You'll need your Social Security number, a valid ID and a valid U.S. address.
Capital One 360 Checking
Why: There are no fees and no minimum deposit or minimum balance requirements on the Capital One 360 Checking account. It offers a 0.20% APY, which is higher than what many brick-and-mortar banks offer.
Review: The Capital One 360 Checking account's base APY of 0.20% increases to 0.75% APY on balances of $50,000 to $99,999.99 and to 0.90% on balances of $100,000 or more. Instead of overdraft fees, Capital One charges an interest rate of 11.50% on the amount you overdraw.
With this account, you have access to Capital One's network of more than 40,000 ATMs nationwide. Your first order of checks is free, as is online bill pay and the mobile app.
How to open: You can open an account online or by calling 800-289-1992. It takes about five to 10 minutes, and you'll need a check from an existing account to fund your new account.
FNBO Direct Online Checking
Why: This online account has no monthly services fees, offers a 0.65% APY and has several free features. The minimum deposit to open an account is just $1.
Review: The FNBO Direct Online Checking account doesn't charge a monthly service fee, but it does charge a relatively hefty $33 NSF fee. However, it does offer one overdraft forgiveness per year. It also has free online banking, bill pay, account alerts, stop payments, debit card fraud monitoring and person-to-person payments with Popmoney, among other features.
How to open: You can open an account online. You'll need your Social Security or tax ID number, valid ID, employment information and information about any loans or mortgages you have to confirm your identity. You'll need your current bank account and routing numbers to transfer funds electronically to your new account.
Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking
Why: This online account from Charles Schwab Bank has no minimum deposit or balance requirements and no monthly maintenance fee or NSF fee. The APY is just 0.06%, but the account is linked to a no-fee, no-minimum balance Schwab One brokerage account.
Review: Standard features on the Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Checking account are similar to those offered by other accounts in the top 10: free bill pay, unlimited ATM fee rebates and free standard checks. The big draw of this account, however, is that it allows you to open a Schwab One brokerage account without the usual minimum deposit of $1,000 and link it to your checking account.
How to open: You can open an account online in 10 minutes or download an application form, which you can send by mail. You'll need your Social Security number, driver's license and employer information. There's no minimum deposit to open an account.
iGOBanking.com High Interest Checking
Why: This online account requires a minimum deposit of just $1, has no monthly maintenance fee and has a 0.25% APY.
Review: The iGOBanking.com High Interest Checking account's $33 NSF fee is a drawback compared with some accounts on this list that offer lower fees. However, this account offers several attractive features, including free bill pay and a presentment tool that lets you import an unlimited number of bills and pay them online. You also can transfer funds electronically to others using iGoBanking.com's Pay People service. You can access your money without incurring fees at more than 43,000 ATMs in the Allpoint network.
How to open: You can open an account online in about 10 minutes. You'll need your Social Security number, valid ID, previous home address if you lived in your current location less than two years, and your current bank account and routing number to transfer funds electronically to your new account.
Related: 10 Best Online Banks of 2016
Ally Bank Online Interest Checking
Why: There is no monthly maintenance fee or minimum deposit requirement for this online account, which pays a 0.10% APY.
Review: The Ally Bank Online Interest Checking account has an overdraft fee of $25 and a tiered interest rate. The 0.10% APY jumps to 0.60% APY on balances of $15,000 or more.
Other perks include free online and mobile banking, bill pay and standard checks. You can use any Allpoint ATM for free and get reimbursed up to $10 per statement cycle for surcharges from ATMs outside the network. You also can send money electronically to others with Popmoney.
How to open: You can open an Ally Bank account online or by calling 877-247-2559. You'll need to provide your address, date of birth, Social Security number and valid ID. There's no minimum deposit to open an account.
Simple Bank Simple Checking
Why: This online checking account from Simple Bank doesn't charge a monthly maintenance fee or NSF fee and doesn't require a minimum deposit. However, the APY is just 0.01%.
Review: Although Simple Bank's Simple Checking account has the lowest APY of the accounts on this list, it offers unique features that can help you stick to a budget and save money. The account lets you set savings goals and will show you how much is safe to spend based on those goals, your account balance, upcoming bills and pending transactions. You can access your money through the bank's network of 55,000 fee-free ATMs.
How to open: You must provide your email address to start the application process online. Then you must provide your name, birth date, occupation and Social Security number.
EverBank Yield Pledge Checking
Why: This checking account offers the highest rate on this list -- 0.95% APY -- but it's applicable only during the first year after opening an account. The ongoing rate is 0.30% APY on balances under $10,000.
Review: The EverBank Yield Pledge Checking account offers a bonus interest rate of 1.60% APY on balances up to $100,000 in the first six months of opening an account. Although its APY offer is attractive, its minimum deposit requirement of $1,500 and the $30 NSF fee are high compared with other accounts in this top 10.
There's no monthly maintenance fee, and the account comes with features such as free mobile banking, bill pay and funds transfers with People Pay. Everbank doesn't charge ATM fees but only reimburses other banks' ATM surcharges if you have an account balance of $5,000 or more.
How to open: You can open an account online by providing your Social Security or tax ID number and proof of address if you've lived in your current location less than three months.
Arvest Bank Free Blue Checking
Why: This checking account has no monthly maintenance fee and a relatively low NSF fee of $17, but it also has no APY.
Review: The Arvest Bank Free Blue Checking account made it into the top 10 even though it doesn't earn interest because its minimum deposit of $50 and $17 NSF fee are lower than the fees charged by many of the other accounts surveyed for GOBankingRates' 2016 Best Banks rankings. The account also includes free online and mobile banking, free notary services and free checks for customers 62 and older.
How to open: You can open an account online, by calling 866-952-9523 or by visiting a local Arvest branch. You'll need a government-issued ID and Social Security number. You can transfer funds electronically from an existing account, mail a check, or deposit cash, a check, or a money order at a branch.
Keep Reading: How to Know If Your Bank Is Giving You a Good Deal
Compare the Best Checking Account Features
|Bank||Account||Minimum Deposit to Open||Monthly Maintenance Fee||Minimum Balance Required||APY||NSF|
||High Interest Checking Account||$10.00||$0.00||$0.00||0.76%||$15.00|
||High Yield Investor Checking Account||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||0.06%||$0.00|
||High Interest Checking Account||$1.00||$0.00||$0.00||0.25%||$33.00|
||Interest Checking Account||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||0.10%||$25.00|
||Yield Pledge Checking||$1,500.00||$0.00||$0.00||0.95%||$30.00|
||Free Blue Checking||$50.00||$0.00||$0.00||0.00%||$17|
Methodology: To compile its list of the top 120 banks, GOBankingRates surveyed the FDIC's list of banks sorted by asset size, excluding non-active institutions, those with less than $1 billion in assets, investment banks and any institutions that require customers to use investment services to access commercial bank accounts. This list of 120 banks includes 90 brick-and-mortar banks and 30 online-only banks according to the GOBankingRates database. No asset threshold was consulted for online-only banks.
Criteria for ranking: To determine its Best Checking Accounts category ranking, GOBankingRates scored each bank's basic, personal checking account from most to least favorable for the following factors: (1) minimum deposit to open the checking account, (2) monthly maintenance fee, (3) minimum balance to avoid a fee, (4) annual percentage yield and (5) nonsufficient funds fee. Minimum balance to avoid a fee and APY were weighted more heavily than other ranking factors, and accounts were then ranked by overall score. In the case of a 10th-place tie, tiebreakers were used in the following order: APY, monthly maintenance fee and then minimum deposit required to open the account.
Data was compiled via the GOBankingRates interest rate database and verified against the individual institutions' websites between Oct. 29 and Nov. 23, 2015. Rates, terms and conditions are subject to change at the discretion of the individual financial institutions. APY was based on the minimum deposit required to open the account. Some interest rates might be short-term or promotional offers only, and it is possible additional terms and conditions must be met in order to obtain the interest rates listed. Rates and availability might vary by region. Please verify terms and conditions before opening an account.
GOBankingRates is a personal finance and consumer interest rate website owned by ConsumerTrack, Inc.an online marketing company serving top-tier banks, credit unions, and other financial services organizations. Some banks mentioned in the Best Banks of 2016 survey are clients of ConsumerTrack, Inc., which serves more than 100 national, local and online financial institutions. Rankings are completely objective, and no institution, client or otherwise, paid for inclusion or specific placement.
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