Best free checking accounts of 2019

Checking accounts

Most people use their checking account as a main tool to receive income, pay bills and make purchases. For many, it represents the foundation of personal finances. The checking account has a link to other financial accounts that people use for money transfers. What people tend to forget is the fact that in the beginning, most of the checking accounts were fee-free. However, this changed and today, account holders from almost every large bank face a hefty amount of fees. These fees cover monthly maintenance, overdraft, card replacement, ATM and international ATM transfers and many more. Here, we will cover the details of what makes a free-checking account free and explain how the banks are actually taking our money to give us our money. As strange as it sounds, this is the way banks function and that is why billions of dollars of profit are reported each year by those same banks just from fees alone. This article will research and compare several fee-free checking accounts that might look best and could be a good account option for the upcoming year of 2019.

Advantages of a free checking account

The banking system in the US currently seems to be using the old traditional ways of banking. Burdening the common consumer with unnecessary fees is one of the things banks do to increase their profit. The only way to avoid the fees is if you have thousands of dollars in your account. Because this is not acceptable to many people, there came a need for alternative ways people can use and manage their finances. Monthly maintenance, overdraft and many other fees are becoming outdated as free checking accounts are making their way to the market. These free checking accounts are designed to have zero fees and have no hidden charges or conditions that complicate your financial life. Some of the benefits provided by the traditional banking system are still tempting to people but after reviewing the terms and conditions, one might come to the realization that it is just not worth it. The need for a free checking account is real, and it is only a matter of time until these types of accounts replace the ones burdened with fees. If you are searching for an account that you can use for paying bills, receiving paychecks, transferring money across accounts, withdrawing cash from a large number of fee-free ATMs and receiving cash-back rewards from several thousands of locations without all the fees, then you need to read this article to examine the best available options.

Highest Annual percentage yield (APY)

Before we begin the comparison, it is important to mention APY and what it represents in the world of banking. You earn this interest by having money in your debit account, or in your savings account. It does require a bit of complex math to do the real calculations but the focus should be on one thing. If the APY is bigger, you earn more money. There are people who judge this as a valuable advantage for a bank, but truthfully, for a checking account, this is not very important. A checking account is a core structure for our in and out flow of cash. With it, we pay our expenses, we receive paychecks, so it is not exactly a main tool we would use to increase our financial balance. There are many different savings accounts and options where we can deposit our money and slowly watch it grow. Searching for a checking account that has the highest APY only makes sense if we can keep the balance on that card around $20000 or more. This means only a minority of people should actually pay attention to the highest APY while most should focus on which banks offer accounts with no fees or those with easily avoidable fees.

Bank offers for checking accounts in 2018

Let us look at options from several large US banks that offer for fee-free checking accounts. It is not rare to see that one bank offers two or even more checking accounts, each with unique specifications that a customer would need. Below, in the offers for Citibank and PNC, you can see that these are not completely free checking accounts but there are great benefits for elderly citizens, so take note if you are of age 62 or older and additionally, check on these two banks.


Based on the latest research from September 2018, Chase Total Checking Account gives customers many benefits. Because of the $12 monthly maintenance fee, it is not exactly free, but Chase Bank does offer ways to avoid this fee. For the bank to waive the fee, the account holder must have monthly direct deposits totaling $500 or more made to this account or keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more in your checking account. One more way to waive this monthly maintenance fee is to keep an average daily balance of $5,000 or more in any combination of qualifying Chase checking, savings and other balances, but this implies that the person already has accounts affiliated with Chase. Pros for Chase are 5000+ physical branches, solid mobile app for banking online and a $200 sign up bonus. As for the ATMs, the 16000 ATMs does not sound bad, however, always check if there are ATMs available near your place of residence. The APY is low and similar to the rest of traditional banks so the chance to earn through interest with this account is not great.

BBVA Compass

The BBVA Compass ClearConnect Free Checking account has a minimum opening deposit of $25. There is no monthly maintenance fee, but to avoid the $3 fee for this service, be sure to opt out the Paper Statements. In addition, with this account you have access to over 55000 AllPoint and BBVA Compass ATMs worldwide so this would be a great choice if you are looking for a checking account with the most fee-free ATMs available.

The BBVA Compass ClearChoice Free Checking account is more suitable for customers who still need access to physical branches. Of course, this means they will be limited to only a portion of states as BBVA Compass has branches in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. This account has additional features that all come at a cost but if you choose to opt out, these features of your account will remain with no monthly fee. The number of fee-free ATMs you can use with this account is 12,000 but there is an option for opting to use non-network ATMs free. This comes with a price of $5 per month and returns us to a loop of paying money to get our money. Neither one of these offers any APY rates, so there is no ability to earn interest using the BBVA Compass free checking accounts.


One of the best free checking accounts available is the Chime account. It is widely popular with the generation that wants to do as much as they using their smartphones. It has great online banking options and easy to use mobile apps. With a Chime account, you actually have a checking account and a savings account. There is access to over 30,000 fee-free ATMs and there are over 30,000 cash-back locations you can use. The pros for Chime are numerous. There is no monthly maintenance fee, no minimum balance requirements, no overdraft fees and no minimum opening deposits. Same as the banks mentioned above, Chime provides a low APY of 0.01% for the saving account but as we mentioned before, this should come secondary when looking for an optimal fee-free checking account. Still, even without earning interest and increasing balance, Chime does have a way to help account holders to save through each purchase by rounding up the remaining cents to a dollar and sending them to a savings account. Additionally, there is a free option to transfer a percentage of the paycheck to the savings account each month automatically. One more thing worth of mentioning is the ability to receive your paycheck up to 48 hours earlier.


The PNC Standard Checking account has a $7 monthly service fee, but if you can meet a certain requirement, you avoid this fee. These requirements include making a $500 amount in direct deposits per statement year, or has a $500 average monthly balance on the standard checking account; or if they are of age 62 or older. The overdraft fee is similar as other banks $36 and there is an option for overdraft protection but this feature comes at a price. When opening the standard account, there is a $25 dollars deposit. With this account, you have access to around 9000 ATMs from the PNC network that are fee-free so be sure to check if you live in a place where you can easily find an ATM machine connected to your bank.


Citibank gives people an option to open a basic banking package called Simple Checking. This account has a $12 monthly service fee and there are three options to avoid it. To waive this fee, make one qualifying direct deposit and one qualifying bill payment per statement period, or maintain a $1500 combined average monthly balance in eligible linked accounts. The final option is to fulfill the 62+ age requirement. There is an overdraft fee of $34, but there is a $10 per month charge option to activate the overdraft protection system. Citibank has a large amount of ATMs all across the US and with close to 35,000 ATMs, there should be no problem in finding one.

Bank Checking Comparison

Chase Total Checking Account

Monthly service fee: $12 (none if you fulfill one of the needed requirements)

Overdraft fee: $34 (Chase will not charge this insufficient funds fee if the account balance at the end of the business day is overdrawn by $5 or less, and the overdraft fee can be avoided if the account holder makes a deposit or transfers funds to cover the overdraft before the business day ends)

Mobile app: iOS & android (rated good)

Minimum opening deposit: $25

Earn interest (APY): 0.01%

Access to ATMs: 16000 ATMs and 5000+ physical branches

The BBVA Compass ClearConnect Free Checking

Monthly service fee: none

Overdraft fee: $38 (there are overdraft safety measures but these all come at a price)

Mobile app: iOS & android (rated solid)

Minimum opening deposit: $25

Earn interest (APY): none

Access to ATMs: No ATM fees at 55,000 AllPoint and BBVA Compass ATMs worldwide

The BBVA Compass ClearChoice Free Checking

Monthly service fee: none

Overdraft fee: $38 (there are overdraft safety measures but these all come at a price)

Mobile app: iOS & android (rated solid)

Minimum opening deposit: $25

Earn interest (APY): none

Access to ATMs: 12000 BBVA Compass fee free ATMs (available option for $5 per month to use non-network ATMs)

Chime Account

Monthly service fee: none

Overdraft fee: none

Mobile app: iOS & android (rated excellent)

Minimum opening deposit: none

Earn interest (APY): 0.01%

Access to ATMs: 30,000 fee free ATMs (interesting to note that Chime will not charge for using an ATM out of its network, but there is chance the ATM service provider will)

PNC Standard Checking

Monthly service fee: $7 (waived if account holder meets one of the requirements)

Overdraft fee: $36 (price account holders can activate overdraft protection)

Mobile app: iOS & android (excellent for iOS, average for android)

Minimum opening deposit: $25

Earn interest: 0.01%

Access to ATMs: 9000 ATMs from PNC fee-free network

Citibank Simple Checking

Monthly service fee: $12 (waived if account holder meets one of the requirements)

Overdraft fee: $34 (option available to activate overdraft protection for $10 per month)

Mobile app: iOS & android (rated very good)

Minimum opening deposit: none

Earn interest: 0.01%

Access to ATMs: 3500 ATMs from the Citibank network (as mentioned above, special perks for elderly citizens ages 62 or older – no ATM fees for non-network transactions)

No Monthly Fee Results

From this, we can see that for the year 2018, there is a clear difference between traditional banks and their alternatives. More online banking accounts are becoming available and Chime is one of them. From the beginning, Chime stands out as an account with zero fees and no hidden charges. Compared to many others where you must meet loads of requirements, there are options that do not force us to calculate until our head starts to hurt. As time goes by, more and more free checking accounts will become available and in the future even traditional banks will have to turn to completely free checking accounts. For now, however, they are slowly starting to catch up to the new and improved banking systems. Among the online banking accounts, new options are appearing and will need to be researched further. For Chime, it is clear it has solidified a strong position in the world of online banking with no fees, which will continue into the next year where the Chime account will definitely remain in the top 10 free checking accounts.

Free Checking Comparison

For the comparison and choosing of the best option for a free checking account for the following year, we used several services that the banks provide for their checking accounts. We did however mention that some banks have special no banking fee offers for citizens that are age 62 or older but there are many more we did not mention. Bank offer these specific accounts that apply and provide benefits only for a selected group that do not represent the majority. Certain banks offer great bonuses and higher APY for local residents of a specific state or part of the state. Others offer possibilities to waive all fees for military veterans. Some even offer special treatments for those enlisted in certain colleges or have sport scholarships. To include all of these would complicate things and make the research impractical. It is already hard enough to determine which option is actually best for each individual, but with this comparison above, we can observe the pros and cons of alternative banking options compared to the traditional ones.


Even though we are in an era of vast technological breakthroughs, there is still a large window for banking expansion and improvement. The banking system should be working for the people and not using tricks and hidden fees to take money from a person that chose it. Better options are arising, new financial systems are appearing and people are not limited to pick one out of only five existing national banks. Truth is, we can never be completely certain if we make a good choice, but if we do our research, we can lessen the damage. Always make sure you know what your priorities are and choose your account according to that. Pick the best bank account that suits you and always plan ahead. It is not the worst thing if you are not satisfied with your initial choice, the worst thing is not trying to correct the mistake. Just be careful not to switch to a new bank too soon as some of the large traditional banks like PNC still have a $25 fee for closing their account before the first 180 days from opening. Good luck!

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