Yesterday I reviewed the five best reward checking accounts. In this post, I thought it would be useful to review the five best regular checking accounts available nationwide. By regular I mean that they are not a reward checking account. A regular checking account should have no debit card usage requirements and no small cap on the balance that can qualify for the top rate. For those who don't like debit cards and prefer to use cash-back credit cards, you might prefer a regular checking account over a reward checking account.
If high interest is not the main concern for your checking account, Ally Bank's Interest Checking Account is hard to beat. It has the following useful features:
- No minimum balance and no monthly fees
- Free paper checks
- You can use any ATM worldwide and Ally will automatically refund ATM fees charged by other banks
- Overdraft transfer service with no fees. If you exceed your checking balance, funds will automatically be transfered from your Ally savings account to cover the transaction with no fee.
Ally Bank's interest rate may not put it on the top list, but it is competitive for regular checking accounts with a top rate of 1.05% APY for a $15K minimum balance (0.50% for under) as of 7/22/2010.
Another alternative to a checking account if a high yield is a top priority is to use a money market account. The main downside with money market accounts is that you're limited to 6 checks per month (only 3 if the bank hasn't updated its policy to the new regulation). In addition to the check writing limitation, most money market accounts lack online bill pay. If you don't write many checks and don't need online bill pay, an online money market account like what Ally Bank offers may be good enough. Its money market rate is currently 1.29% APY as of 7/22/2010.
The money market account may sound like a better deal, but there aren't that many internet money market accounts with check writing. There are actually more internet checking accounts, and the rates are higher. Perhaps it's the debit card that is allowing banks to pay more on their checking accounts. There are no requirements on using the debit card, but if a large percentage of the customers do use it, that can help pay for the high interest in a way that's similar to reward checking accounts.
Below is the list of the five best interest checking accounts in terms of interest rates that are available nationwide. Rates are as of 7/22/2010:
- Incredible Bank - 1.53% APY for up to $250K. I first reviewed Incredible Bank and its checking account on November 2009 when the rate was 2.02% APY. So they have been able to keep the rate competitive for a while. One downside is that they don't allow paper checks.
- Alliant Credit Union's High Rate Checking - 1.50% APY. Alliant started this checking account in January 2009 and has kept rates very competitive (It was just reported that 1.50% will continue through August). It does require monthly electronic deposits and e-statements.
- Acacia Federal Savings Bank's Top Choice Checking - 1.50% APY (min $5K). I first reported on this account in March of 2010 so it doesn't have the rate history of the others. Another downside is that it has a monthly fee if your balance falls below $5K.
- Clear Sky Accounts's Checking - 1.35% APY $25K-$250K (1.15% under $10K, 1.25% $10K-$25K). I first reported on Clear Sky in January 2009. Both the savings accound and the checking account were launched at that time, but the savings account with the high-yield guaranteed for 3 months received the most attention. Rates for both accounts have remained competitive. It's also a paperless checking account that requires the use of online bill pay instead of writing paper checks. If you're concerned with hackers breaking into your online account, Clear Sky has an extra layer of protection through the use of a secure token.
- FNBO Direct's Online BillPay - 1.10% APY up to $1M. FNBO Direct first launched its internet checking account in November 2007, and it has kept the rate competitive. This is also a paperless checking account in which online bill pay replaces paper check writing.
Other High-Yield Checking Accounts
Please refer to the checking accounts section of DepositAccounts.com for both nationwide and local deals. If you don't mind using your debit card, you might want to consider reward checking accounts. We have many nationwide and local ones in the reward checking section of DepositAccounts.com.