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High-yield earnings doesn’t have to be limited to your savings accounts. Your checking account can earn interest at rates competitive to high-yield online savings accounts. And while the average checking account rate has seen a general decline over the years (reaching 1.35% in 1998 and dipping to 0.06% in 2019), there are still a number of accounts today with standout interest rates. These high rates, paired with low fees, allow you to save even more money all around and not just in a traditional savings account.
All rates are current as of 8/2/2019
The best national checking accounts
How we chose the best national checking accounts
Gone are the days when your checking account was just a place to hold and spend your money — the best checking accounts will grow your money at the best rates, offer low fees and provide the best access to your money. To find the best checking accounts, we considered the following criteria:
- High interest rate: We looked for those with the best APY offerings available nationwide, including those from our partners.
- No monthly fee and low minimums: We then looked for the accounts with low fees and minimum balance requirements, to ensure wider customer availability.
- Accessibility of funds: In addition to an account that saves you money, we also checked for ease of online, mobile and ATM access.
A new player in this space, Empower offers the best checking account rate available nationwide. Plus, it doesn’t require any minimum deposits or balances to earn at its competitive rate. By using the included Visa debit card, you can also earn 1% cashback on the first $1,000 in debit card transactions each month.
Empower also offers the chance to boost your interest and cashback rate through referrals. For every person you successfully refer to Empower, you will receive a 30-day boost that increases your cashback to 2% and your savings to 4.30% per year.
Empower is mobile-first experience. It offers a live financial coach and a 24/7 AI assistant to help you manage your money. It also provides access to over 25,000 free ATMs worldwide.
MIN TO EARN: $0Learn More
#2 Simple Bank
Simple, an internet only bank, started in 2009 as a way to simplify the banking experience by eliminating fees and helping you budget your money more easily. Now, the Simple Checking Account has grown to offer the highest checking account rate in the industry, furthering your opportunity to save money. There is no minimum deposit required, nor is there a monthly fee.
To earn this competitive rate, you’ll need to create a Savings Goal within a Simple Protected Goals Account (a savings account to prevent accidental spending). Your Savings Goal can be anything you want to save towards, like a car or a house. All Savings Goal balances will earn interest at 2.02% APY.
Simple is an online bank with a mobile app optimized for on-the-go banking. You’ll have access to over 40,000 fee-free Allpoint® ATMs, too. — and if you ever have to pay an ATM surcharge, Simple will refund the fee for you. Simple Bank’s banking services are provided by BBVA.
MIN TO EARN: $0.01Learn More
It’s easy to get started with Aspiration’s Save & Spend with only a $10 deposit. The Spend part of the account earns unlimited cash back rewards when you use your Aspiration debit card for purchases. Aspiration offers 1% cash back on purchases made at businesses with a high Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) score. This score, found on Aspiration’s mobile app, ranks businesses based on their social and environmental impact. Purchases from businesses with a low or nonexistent AIM score will earn 0.5% cash back.
One way to earn the 2.00% APY through Aspiration Save is to have an end-of-day balance of $10,000 or more for at least one day per month. Your second option is to make at least one deposit of $1 or more into your Aspiration Account, or at least one $1 investment into any investment account from a linked, external bank account.
Aspiration expects its customers to Pay What Is Fair — that is, you can choose a monthly account fee that you think is fair to pay, even if that’s $0. Having an Aspiration Account also means you get to avoid ATM fees worldwide and can receive unlimited ATM fee reimbursements when you use any Mastercard, Interlink, Cirrus or Maestro ATMs.
Aspiration Financial, LLC was founded in 2017. It is an SEC-registered broker-dealer and a member of FINRA/SIPC. FDIC insurance is provided on your Spend & Save deposits through partner banks, disclosed on your Aspiration account statements.
MIN TO OPEN: $10Learn More
#4 Axos Bank
True to its name, the Axos Bank Rewards Checking account allows you to earn interest on your balance according to a rewards-based structure. You need to complete three requirements to earn at the highest rate. To start, if you set up your account to receive monthly direct deposits of at least $1,000, you’ll earn an APY of 0.4166%. If you also use your Axos Visa® Debit Card for a total of 10 transactions per month (at least $3 per transaction), you’ll earn another 0.4166% (for a total of 0.8332%). Using your debit card five more times, totaling 15 transactions per month, will earn another 0.4166% and the maximum rate on the account.
To meet these requirements and earn the highest rate, you’ll need to use this account pretty regularly. Luckily, there is no monthly fee on the account. Plus, you can access your account at any ATM in the country without facing a fee from Axos — Axos will also reimburse you for any domestic ATM fees you get charged. Downloading the bank’s mobile app is also free.
Founded in 2000, Axos was previously known as Bank of Internet USA. Its holding company is Axos Financial.
MIN TO EARN: $0Learn More
#5 nbkc bank
nbkc bank, or National Bank of Kansas City, builds its Personal Account around total transparency, promising not to hide any fees or requirements that the bank calls “gotchas.” It lists out all the fees you might pay and any limits you should be aware of. This includes a $5 minimum deposit, but there’s no monthly fee and hardly any fees on anything else. Plus, all balances get to earn at a competitive rate.
While it has only four locations in the Kansas City area, nbkc still offers its online products nationwide. You can easily access your accounts online and on mobile, including mobile deposit capabilities on your smartphone. This includes fee-free access to more than 32,000 ATMs in the MoneyPass network in the country. nbkc will also refund up to $12 in fees charged by other ATMs.
MIN TO OPEN: $5Learn More
Ken’s methodology for choosing the top checking accounts
As I was deciding on my top five checking accounts, I became disappointed in the rates from the standard checking accounts. The few internet banks that do offer checking accounts have not been raising their checking account rates as interest rates have been rising in the last couple of years. These include Ally Bank, FNBO Direct, Bank5 Connect, and Alliant Credit Union. Thus, I decided to focus on high-yield reward checking accounts that are nationally available.
High-yield reward checking accounts offer a high interest rate on balances up to some cap if certain monthly activity requirements are met. The primary activity requirement is debit card usage. To qualify for the high yield, between 10 to 20 debit card purchases are typically required. If the monthly activity requirements are not met, only a low base rate is earned for the month.
Most reward checking accounts, and all Kasasa Cash accounts, are free checking accounts that have no monthly service fee even if the monthly activity requirements are not met. In my top checking account picks, I decided to not only focus on interest rates, but also monthly service fees. I excluded any checking accounts that have monthly service fees.
Not only is a high interest rate important, but the high rate should not be limited to only a small balance. All reward checking accounts have balance caps. Only balances under the cap are eligible for the high yield. The portion of the balance over the cap earns a much smaller yield. Reward checking caps range in size from $5k to $50k. I decided to require a cap to be at least $25k.
#1 TAB Bank
TAB Bank just started offering its reward checking account, the Free Kasasa Cash Checking, a few months ago. Even though it has a short history, I decided to include it since its rate and balance cap are so high. With a 4.00% APY for balances up to $50k, TAB Bank Kasasa Cash Checking is the best reward checking account that’s nationally available.
To qualify for the top rate each month, the customer must make at least 15 debit card purchases, with a $5 minimum amount for each purchase. In addition, the customer must make at least one direct deposit, ACH payment, or bill pay transaction.
In the account disclosure, the bank warns that they expect the account be used as the customer’s primary checking account. The bank expects the debit card to be used frequently throughout each month and for transaction amounts to reflect a wide dollar range.
Meeting these requirements also entitles the customer to receive automatic refunds up to $15 per month for domestic ATM fees charged by other ATM owners.
The TAB Bank Free Kasasa Cash Checking has no monthly service charge, and there is no minimum balance to open the account or to qualify for the top rate.
MIN TO OPEN: $0Learn More
#2 Heritage Bank
We’ve been tracking Heritage Bank’s reward checking account, now called the eCentive Account, since 2009. The rates and balance caps have changed quite a bit since that time. A large rate hike occurred in April 2018 when the rate increased to 3.33% APY on balances up to $25k. The eCentive Account continues to offer one of the best reward checking rates for balances up to $25k.
To qualify for the top rate each month, the customer must make at least 10 debit card purchases, have at least one direct deposit or automatic payment (ACH) and receive monthly eStatements. Meeting these requirements also entitles the customer to receive automatic refunds up to $25 per month for domestic ATM fees charged by other ATM owners. There is no monthly service charge.
MIN TO OPEN: $100Learn More
#3 Main Street Bank
Michigan-based Main Street Bank has been offering its Kasasa Cash reward checking account since 2015. In 2019, the rate increased to 3.00% APY on balances up to $30k.
To qualify for the top rate each month, the customer must make at least 10 debit card purchases, log into online banking, and have at least one direct deposit, one ACH, or one bill pay transaction. In addition, the customer must receive eStatements. Meeting these requirements also entitles the customer to receive unlimited reimbursements (up to $4 per single transaction) for domestic ATM fees charged by other ATM owners. As with all Kasasa accounts, there is no monthly service charge.
MIN TO OPEN: $100Learn More
#4 Georgia Banking Company
Georgia Banking Company launched its Kasasa Cash reward checking account in April 2017. In October 2018, the rate increased to 2.95% APY on balances up to $25k.
The Kasasa Cash Account has only two monthly qualifications to earn the top rate. The first is making 12 debit card purchases, and the second is receiving eStatements. Meeting these qualifications will also entitle the customer to receive unlimited refunds on ATM withdrawal fees, nationwide. As with all Kasasa accounts, there is no monthly service charge.
MIN TO OPEN: $100Learn More
MemoryBank EarnMore Checking Account is the only standard checking account on my list. Unlike reward checking accounts, a standard checking account has no monthly activity requirements to qualify for a high yield. The EarnMore Checking Account actually started out as a reward checking account when MemoryBank began in late 2016. However, in early 2018, the requirements were eliminated. With the current EarnMore Checking Account, customers can earn 1.60% APY for balances up to $250k without having to complete any requirements.
The EarnMore Checking Account has no monthly maintenance fees. MemoryBank does not offer refunds on ATM withdrawal fees, but customers have access to 92,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide through major ATM networks.
MIN TO OPEN: $50Learn More
High-yield checking account rates
A high-yield checking account is most likely going to be a rewards checking account. These checking accounts will offer extremely high rates as long as you satisfy certain monthly requirements. If you’re able to meet these requirements, you’ll be rewarded with a high rate, ATM fee reimbursements, and more. Below is a sample of high-yield checking accounts. If you’d like a more comprehensive list, please see Ken’s Bank Account Survey.
|Consumers Credit Union||5.09% (up to $10k)|
0.20% ($10k - $25k)
|Free Rewards Checking (High)||Learn More|
|America’s Credit Union||5.00% (up to $1k)|
0.10% ($1k - $5k)
|Affinity Basic Checking||Learn More|
|La Capitol Federal Credit Union||4.25% (up to $3k)|
2.00% ($3k - $10k)
|Choice Checking||Learn More|
|Consumers Credit Union||4.09% (up to $10k)|
0.20% ($10k - $25k)
0.10 % ($25k+)
|Free Rewards Checking (Medium)||Learn More|
|TAB Bank||4.00% (up to $50k)|
|Kasasa Cash Checking||Learn More|
|Orion Federal Credit Union||4.00% (up to $30k)|
|Premium Checking||Learn More|
|T-Mobile Money||4.00% (up to $3k)|
|Checking Account||Learn More|
|One American Bank||3.50% (up to $10k)|
|Kasasa Cash||Learn More|
|Heritage Bank||3.33% (up to $25k)|
|eCentive Account||Learn More|
|Evansville Teachers FCU||3.30% (up to $20k)||Vertical Checking (Qualifying)||Learn More|
The best checking accounts largely come from online banks, which easily meet each of our above requirements. There was a brick-and-mortar standout in nbkc bank. On the whole, however, if you’re really trying to boost your savings, or simply want to earn some easy money, an online checking account is the way to go.
If you’re not quite convinced to switch to an online checking account, check out the competition from brick-and-mortar banks below. In addition to low rates, you’ll often face a monthly fee, a feature you generally don’t have to worry about with online banks.
|Brick-and-Mortar Bank||APY||Monthly fee|
|Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking||0.01%||$25|
|Chase Premier Plus Checking||0.01%||$25|
|Citibank Account Package||0.03%||$25|
|PNC Bank Virtual Wallet||0.01%||$7|
|Wells Fargo Preferred Checking||0.01%||$15|
Make your money work for you by avoiding low-earning accounts like these. If you’re still holding onto brick-and-mortar banks for their locations, consider the best checking accounts listed above. They all offer widespread fee-free ATM networks, in addition to convenient online and mobile banking features.
The rates and fees mentioned in this article are accurate as of the date of publishing.