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The Best Checking Accounts in April 2020


Written by Lauren Perez and Ken Tumin

Editorial note: Any opinions, analyses, statements, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors' alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any provider of the products listed below.

High-yield earnings don'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 4/08/2020


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.

#1 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 interest, 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. Savings Goal balances $10,000 and over earn at the the advertised APY, while balances under $10,000 will earn interest a slightly lower rate.

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.

1.55% APY

MIN TO EARN: $10,000

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#2 Paramount Bank

Open a Paramount Bank High-Interest Checking Account with just $100 to start earning at its 1.70% APY. There’s no monthly service fee so your savings can grow undisturbed. The account includes a Visa debit card which you can use at ATMs, even foreign ATMs, for free, in addition to virtual banking online and on mobile.

Paramount Bank is a new player in the competitive deposit rates space. Founded in 1970 and based in Hazelwood, Mo., Paramount Bank offers its top accounts to customers all over the country.

1.00% APY

MIN TO OPEN: $100

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#3 First Internet Bank

Truly the first FDIC-insured bank to operate entirely online, First Internet Bank offers straightforward and competitive accounts, including its online Interest Checking account. It requires at least $100 to open, and at least a $500 balance to waive the $10 monthly fee. There is no balance requirement to earn interest.

The account includes free incoming wire transfers and your first box of checks. You can also use your debit card at any ATM for free, plus surcharge rebates up to $10 per month. First Internet Bank is accessible online, as well as on its mobile app and over the phone.

0.70% APY

MIN TO EARN: $100

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#4 FNBO Direct

Another online venture, FNBO Direct’s Online Checking Account has no monthly service fees or paper checks. Still, you can physically access your money with the linked FNBO Direct Visa debit card at over 2 million ATM locations for free. The account includes free debit card fraud monitoring, incoming wires and stop payments. You’ll need at least $1 to open the account and $0.01 to start earning interest.

FNBO Direct is the online banking branch of First National Bank of Omaha.

0.65% APY

MIN TO EARN: $1

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#5 Rising Bank

The Rising Checking account from Rising Bank offers its rate on balances of $5,000 and over, maxing out at $500,000. You’ll need at least $1,000 to open the account. There is no monthly fee and you’ll get your first set of checks for free. Plus, you’ll have access to free Money Pass ATMs and ATM fee reimbursement.

Rising Bank is an online division of Midwest BankCentre, a St. Louis-based brick-and-mortar bank founded in 1906.

0.65% APY

MIN TO EARN APY: $5,000

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Ken's top checking accounts

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 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 3.03% 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.

3.03% APY

MIN TO OPEN: $100

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#2 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.

3.00% APY

MIN TO OPEN: $100

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#3 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, but it decreased its rate to 2.00% in October 2019.

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.

1.50% APY

MIN TO OPEN: $100

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#4 Bellco Credit Union

MBellco Credit Union’s reward checking account is called Boost Interest Checking, and it was launched in 2015 offering a 2.25% APY on balances up to $25k.

To qualify for the top rate each month, the account requires 15 debit card purchases, at least one direct deposit transaction, and logging into online or mobile banking. There is no monthly service fee. The credit union does not offer refunds on ATM withdrawal fees. However, members have access to over 33,000 surcharge free ATMs nationwide through the CO-OP and MoneyPass networks.

2.25% APY

MIN TO OPEN: $0

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#5 MemoryBank

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 0.90% 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.

0.90% APY

MIN TO OPEN: $50

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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.

InstitutionRatesAccount Name
Consumers Credit Union5.09% (up to $10k)
0.20% ($10k - $25k)
0.10% ($25k+)
Free Rewards Checking (High)Learn More
Western Vista FCU4.00% (up to $15k)
0.04% ($15k+)
Panorama CheckingLearn More
One American Bank3.50% (up to $10k)
0.25% ($10k+)
Kasasa CashLearn More
La Capitol Federal Credit Union4.25% (up to $3k)
2.00% ($3k - $10k)
0.10% ($10k+)
Choice CheckingLearn More
Evansville Teachers FCU3.30% (up to $20k)Vertical CheckingLearn More
Signature FCU3.00% (up to $20K)
0.05% ($20K+)
0.05% (non-qualifying)
Choice Checking - High YieldLearn More
First Financial Credit Union3.00% (up to $10k)First Secure CheckingLearn More
Lake Michigan Credit Union3.00% ($1- $15k)Max CheckingLearn More
Garden Savings FCU3.00% (up to $15k)
0.15% ($15k+)
0.01% (non-qualifying)
Platinum CheckingLearn More
INOVA FCU3.00% (up to $15k)
0.07% ($15k+)
0.07% (non-qualifying)
Shield CheckingLearn More

Conclusion

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.

Comments
brian
  |     |   Comment #1
I think of checking accounts as passthrough accounts so to me, having a quality savings account at the same bank as my checking is most important for immediate transfers.
alopecoid
  |     |   Comment #2
In the same vein as Circle, Aspiration, etc, is SoFi Money:
http://sofi.com/money

Currently 2.25% APY, "no" fees, etc. It's technically a cash management account, so it acts as sort of a hybrid between a checking and savings account (without the 6 withdrawal per month regulation limit of a savings account and with a higher FDIC coverage of $1.5M). SoFi has also been building out other services, such as free stock trades with a SoFi Active Investing account, etc.

That said, I find that a lot of these newer internet banks aren't quite up to par if you frequently need to move large-ish amounts of money quickly; they usually have fairly low ACH limits.

Depending on your use case, Alliant Credit Union is pretty good in the sense that you can easily (a few seconds of clicking) open many supplemental savings accounts, each with its own 6 withdrawals a month limit, so you can almost use it as a high yield checking alternative. However, even Alliant has low-ish ACH limits when initiated from within Alliant. Ally, for example, has much higher ACH limits.
DBourrie
  |     |   Comment #3
Heritage Bank, https://www.heritagebankna.com/current-interest-rates/#ecentive, announced:
"*Due to Federal Reserve rate reductions in March, our eCentive rate will be reduced as of April 1, 2020. Our current rates remain in effect through March 31, 2020. Rates advertised here are updated daily."
DCGuy
  |     |   Comment #4
Paramount Bank's checking account rate has dropped again to 1.00%.

Bank of Blue Valley checking account has plunged to 0.01%. Note that I inquired about opening an account when the rate was 2.00% last year. The CSR told me that they only accept customers who reside close to their branches. So not accepting any out of state customers.

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