The Best Free Internet Checking Accounts
In June I did an updated comparison of the free checking accounts of Ally Bank and ING DIRECT. These might be the two most popular free internet checking accounts, but there are others that have some advantages. In today's review I compared 7 internet checking accounts. I've only included free checking accounts which require that the checking accounts have no monthly service charge regardless of the balance.
All of the checking accounts in this review pay interest, and unlike interest checking accounts at brick-and-mortar banks, these have interest rates that are close to and in some cases higher than the savings account rates. In fact, you may only need one of these internet checking accounts. You may have no need for an additional savings or money market account.
Not all of these internet checking accounts are better deals than the banks' savings or money market accounts. This is often the case for those who don't have a large balance but still want the highest interest rate possible. Many of these checking accounts are tiered-rate accounts in which large balances are required to qualify for the top rate. As I described in my post on the best liquid accounts, the highest yields can come from savings, money market or checking accounts. So you should consider all of these accounts if you're looking for the best rates.
In the table below I included one credit union with the 6 internet banks. That is Alliant Credit Union, and I included it since it has many of the attributes of an internet bank. Joining the credit union and managing the account can be done all online, and anyone can qualify to join Alliant via an association membership. One minor downside with Alliant's checking account is that it has some minor activity requirements to qualify for the interest rate.
Out of the 7 internet checking accounts on the list, one is Bank of Internet USA's Rewards Checking account. This is the only reward checking account that I included. The reason is that it's the only internet bank that offers a reward checking account, and it has no balance cap. Like all reward checking accounts, monthly debit card usage and other activity are required to qualify for the top rate.
If I left out a free internet checking account that compares favorably to these 7 accounts, please leave a comment.
The Best Free Internet Checking Accounts
Yields Shown are APYs as of 8/23/2012
|Bank/CU checking name||APYs & Tiers||Paper Checks||Notable Features|
|Ally Bank Interest Checking||0.75% ($15K) 0.40% ($0)||Yes. Standard checks are free.||Nationwide ATM fee refunds, PC check deposit, limited mobile banking (new features scheduled for late 2012), ACH xfer service, account review|
|Alliant Credit Union High Rate Checking||0.75% (requires opting out of paper statements and at least 1 monthly electronic deposit)||Yes. Free first box of checks||ATMs free within nationwide networks, PC & mobile check deposit, mobile banking, ACH xfer service, account review|
|Bank of Internet USA Rewards Checking||1.25% all balances (monthly usage required to receive top rate)||Yes. First order checks free (50-pack)||Nationwide ATM fee refunds, PC & mobile check deposit, mobile banking, ACH xfer service (small limits of $2K/day and $5K/mo), account review|
|Clear Sky Accounts Checking||0.80% ($25K), 0.65% ($10K), 0.60% ($1) (0.25% for portion over $250K)||No paper checks||ATM fee refunds up to $20/mo, mobile banking, ACH xfer service, account review|
|EverBank Yield Pledge Checking||0.76% ($100K), 0.71% ($50K), 0.61% ($25K), 0.56% ($10K), 0.39% ($0) (1.25% 6mo intro rate for up to $100K)||Yes. Checks can be ordered for a fee.||ATM fee refunds & free online bill pay require $5K balance, mobile banking, PC check deposit, ACH xfer service, account review|
|Incredible Bank Checking||0.88% (0.45% for portion over $250K)||No paper checks||ATM fee refunds, mobile banking, ACH xfer service, account review|
|ING DIRECT Electric Orange checking||0.90% ($100K), 0.85% ($50K), 0.20% ($0)||Yes. $5 for book of 50 paper checks||ATMs free within Capital One and Allpoint network, PC & mobile check deposit, mobile banking, ACH xfer service, account review|