Best Online Checking Accounts 2018

Tired of jumping through hoops just to avoid paying fees for your traditional checking account? Online checking accounts provide a relatively hassle-free alternative to the traditional options. This ranking of the top online checking accounts features companies that offer fantastic fully-featured accounts. Most of them have no minimum balance, no monthly fee, allow you to earn interest–and those are just the basics. The online banks are where you’ll find the most innovation in the banking world. Between cash back programs, competitive interest rates, innovative solutions for problems like overdrafting, ATM fees, and countless convenient features, these companies are looking to improve your banking experience from every angle.

This ranking features a wide variety of online checking accounts that meet a diverse set of needs, from basic but innovative accounts like Capital One 360 to checking services designed to compliment brokerage accounts at Fidelity or Schwab. Maybe you will maintain a strong enough balance to earn 1.5% interest from Memory Bank, or maybe earning up to $120 per year cash back with a Discover checking account is a better option for you. Do a lot of traveling? Check out Ally Bank and Schwab. They reimburse ATM fees no matter where in the world you find yourself. Need to send regular checks but hate writing and tracking them? Simple will write and mail the checks for you. Many of these accounts also offer convenient person-to-person payment systems that allow you to easily transfer money to anybody for any reason.

You can find more information on our methodology and the benefits of online checking at the bottom of the page. But first, check out the top ten online checking accounts and what they have to offer.

#1. Capital One 360

Rating: 12

Website

Capital One 360-Top Online Checking Accounts

Capital One’s innovative overdraft line of credit means that even with no linked savings account or credit card you won’t have to worry about overdraft fees. Instead the overdraft line of credit simply charges an interest rate on the overdrafted funds until you pay back the amount owed. No more $35 fees for a two dollar overdraft! Capital One 360 online checking also has no minimum balance or deposit. Person to person payments can be made through Zelle. Capital One ATMs and Allpoint ATMs are free to use when checking with Capital One 360. The interest rate for the checking account is competitive with other top checking accounts ranked here.

  • Interest Rate: 0.2%-0.90%
  • Overdraft Protection: Exceptional Overdraft protection line of credit with 12% interest rate
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Moderate.
  • Miscellaneous Features: 5

#2. Simple

Rating: 11

Website

Simple-Best Online Checking Account

Simple requires no minimum balance. Paying with your smartphone is easy with apps enabling both Apple Pay and Android Pay. The Apple Pay app is 3d touch-enhanced for extra security. If you have friends who bank with Simple you can all friend each other on the site and transfer money without any hassle, making splitting the check easier than ever. Simple also works with Paypal, Square Cash, and Venmo, which simplifies person-to-person transactions. Writing checks is a hassle, and thankfully it’s pretty rare to have to do it these days. But if you do end up in a situation where you have to write and mail a check, Simple will do it for you. Customers receive fee-free ATM transactions at over 40,000 Allpoint ATMs. You can find Allpoint ATMs at Walmart, Costco, Dunkin Donuts, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Safeway, Sunoco and more. Simple won’t charge you for out of network ATM usage, but the owners of the ATM you use may still charge a fee. Simple manages your account to minimize the chances of an overdraft happening, and will decline transactions that would overdraft your account. However, in the rare case an overdraft does happen, Simple won’t charge you a fee.

  • Interest Rate: N/A
  • Overdraft Protection: Exceptional
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Moderate
  • Miscellaneous Features: 6

 

#3. Bank of Internet USA

Rating: 11

Website

Bank of Internet USA-Best Online Checking Accounts

Bank of Internet USA is the oldest internet bank in the market. As a customer you get a cashback program tailored to your personal spending habits. Don’t like the hassle of figuring out which ATMs are free to use? No worries! Bank of Internet USA reimburses all domestic ATM fees. As long as you have enough money to cover an overdraft in a linked account, you don’t have to worry about overdraft fees either. Bank of Internet USA partners with Popmoney to make person to person transfers painless.

  • Interest Rate: .41%-1.25%
  • Overdraft Protection: Moderate
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Exceptional
  • Miscellaneous Features: 3

 

#4. Memory Bank

Rating: 10

Website

Memory Bank-Best Online Checking Accounts

Memory Bank customers have access to 85,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the country. Tailored money back rewards make sure you’re rewarded for shopping at your favorite places. Memory Bank is compatible with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Person to person payments can be made through Popmoney. Memory Bank offers a fantastic interest rate with qualifying customers earning up to 1.5% APY, which is roughly 30x the national average for checking account interest. In order to maintain that interest rate, however, customers must meet certain activity requirements.

  • Interest Rate: 1%-1.5%
  • Overdraft Protection: None
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Exceptional Coverage
  • Miscellaneous Features: 4

 

#5. Ally Bank

Rating: 10

Website

Ally Bank-Best Online Checking Accounts

Ally Bank partners with Allpoint ATMs to provide customers with surcharge-free ATM access. For situations where you can’t find an in-network ATM, Ally Bank provides $10/month reimbursement for ATM fees. Person to person transfers are available through Popmoney. Another feature offered by Ally Bank is that cashier’s checks, incoming domestic wires, and incoming international wires are all free of any fees. Overdraft protection is available as long as you have a savings account linked to your checking account that can cover the charges.

  • Interest Rate: 0.10%-0.60%
  • Overdraft Protection: Moderate.
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Exceptional
  • Miscellaneous Features: 4

 

#6. Aspiration

Rating: 9

Website

Aspiration Summit-Top Online Checking Accounts

Aspiration offers a 1% APY interest rate for accounts with a $5,000 or more balance. Aspiration provides customers a chance to donate money every month rather than pay fees. There is no monthly minimum balance, no monthly service fee, no minimum monthly deposit. Overdrafting will cost you $25, but that’s at least $10 less than the industry standard fee. Customers never have to worry about ATM fees because Aspiration provides unlimited ATM reimbursement internationally. That’s no fees on any ATM, anywhere, ever.

  • Interest Rate: 0.25%-1.00%
  • Overdraft Protection: Minimal
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Exceptional
  • Miscellaneous Features: 3

 

#7. Bank5 Connect High Interest Checking

Rating: 9

Website

Bank5 Connect-Best Online Checking Accounts

Bank5 Connect doesn’t charge an overdraft fee if the charge is covered by funds in a linked account. If the worst should happen and the overdraft isn’t covered, the overdraft fee is only $15. Customers can use ATMs in the SUM network surcharge-free. Bank5 Connect reimburses up to $15 in ATM fees per month. Customers aren’t charged any fee for incoming wires either. The UChoose Debit Rewards Program lets you decide where you get your cashback rewards. The minimum balance to open a checking account with Bank5 Connect is just $10, and you can earn interest by maintaining a $100 balance.

  • Interest Rate: 0.76% APY
  • Overdraft Protection: Moderate
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Exceptional
  • Miscellaneous Features: 2

 

#8. Charles Schwab

Rating: 8

Website

Charles Schwab-Best Online Checking Accounts

The online checking account offered by Charles Schwab is designed to be linked to a brokerage account, simplifying your finances. Checking accounts linked to a brokerage account or savings account that can cover the occasional overdraft won’t incur an overdraft fee. Charles Schwab is also one of only two checking accounts in this ranking that offers unlimited ATM reimbursement worldwide. There are no foreign transaction fees, and there’s no minimum balance if linked to a Schwab One brokerage account.

  • Interest Rate: 0.15%
  • Overdraft Protection: Moderate
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Exceptional
  • Miscellaneous Features: 3

 

#9. Fidelity

Rating: 8

Website

Fidelity-Best Online Checking Accounts

Fidelity’s Cash Management account is similar to Schwab’s in that it’s also designed to go hand in hand with a brokerage account. Fidelity fully reimburses all ATM fees incurred in the United States. Customers who plan to maintain a large balance might want to consider that Fidelity is FDIC-insured up to $1.25 million, about five times the industry standard. There is no minimum balance and no overdraft fee so long as the charge can be covered by a linked account.

  • Interest Rate: .07%-0.14%
  • Overdraft Protection: Moderate
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Exceptional
  • Miscellaneous Features: 3

 

#10. Discover CashBack Checking

Rating: 5

Website

Discover Bank-Best Online Checking Accounts

Discover’s cashback checking offers a different take on interest. Instead of earning on your deposit, you can earn up to $120 cash back per year on what you spend. That’s equivalent to an interest rate of 1% if you maintain a balance of $12,000 for one year. The caveat is that you have to use your debit card many times per month in order to maximize your cash back, but under the right circumstances Discover’s system can be of great benefit to their customers. Discover’s overdraft is $30, slightly less than the industry standard. Customers get free withdrawals from allpoint and money pass ATMs–over 60,000 total ATMs in both networks combined.

  • Interest Rate: N/A
  • Overdraft Protection: None
  • ATM Forgiveness, Reimbursement, or Coverage: Moderate
  • Miscellaneous Features:1

Online vs. Traditional Banks

Many of the major banks have, in recent years, betrayed the trust of their customers. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and J.P. Morgan Chase have had numerous massive scandals. During the recession, many banks relied on hidden fees to make money instead of doing so through handling their customers’ money responsibly. This left many in a frustrated catch-22. Big banks are nationwide, convenient, and have good ATM coverage. But in recent years, they’ve also proven to care less and less about their customers, and staying with them seems an ever riskier proposition. But what do you do? In our interconnected world, keeping your money under the mattress isn’t a great solution. Local credit unions can be a great alternative, but they aren’t available in every location.

Enter the online bank, particularly the online checking account. Lower fees, vast ATM networks, innovative solutions, competitive interest rates, and best of all, a renewed focus on customer service make these an attractive alternative to the traditional big bank. The online banking market is a mixture of established finance companies and innovative newcomers. There are firms that cater to the average working and middle class customer, and those whose services are geared toward wealthier clients. The bottom line is that chances are, there’s a great online banking alternative that meets your needs.

How Online Checking Solves the ATM Problem

Believe it or not, many of the online banking companies have ATM networks that compete with and dwarf the networks of larger banks. Partnerships with companies like SUM, Allpoint, and Moneypass mean customers will have many surcharge-free ATMs available to them. Even better though is that many of the online checking accounts offer either limited ATM fee reimbursement or unlimited reimbursement. A couple even offer unlimited international ATM fee reimbursement. This benefit can really add up and makes getting your cash even more convenient.

Overdrafting and You. How Online Checking Can Ease Your Mind

Overdrafting is a big issue for a large portion of the country. Traditional banks were revealed to be making much of their income during the recession on overdraft fees. Many online checking companies have taken note of the unreasonable fees often charged by traditional banks. Ever experienced the feeling of overdrafting on a $4 coffee and paying a $35 fee? Nobody is happy about $39 coffees. Dealing with the overdrafting problem is where many companies in our ranking have done great innovation. The most noteable is Capital One’s overdraft line of credit, which simply charges monthly interest on the negative balance until the account is positive again. There are other methods, like allowing linked accounts to cover excess charges with no fees attached. Or the way Simple deals with overdrafting, which is to decline transactions when there are insufficient funds, and in the rare instance of an overdraft, Simple doesn’t charge any fees.

How Online Checking Companies Benefit Customers Across Socioeconomic Class

While many of the features of online banking are geared toward the needs of the average person, companies like Fidelity and Schwab offer solutions geared towards people looking for an all-inclusive finance management system. Fidelity and Schwab checking accounts are designed to tie into and compliment their brokerage accounts. Many of the other online checking companies offer high interest rates to people who can maintain higher balances of $5,000 or $15,000 or more.

Methodology

Our ranking methodology evaluated each bank based on essential features: interest rate, overdraft protections, ATM forgiveness and coverage, and miscellaneous features.

Interest Rate

While most interest rates offered by online checking accounts aren’t high, earning some money on your balance rather than none is great. So we awarded points based on the companies that offered the best interest rates. Points were awarded based on the maximum interest rate available from the company.

0-0.2%=0
.21%-0.75%=1 Point
.76%-1.25%=2 Points
1.26%-2.0%=3 Points
2.1%-2.75%=4 Points
2.75% or more=5 Points

Overdraft Protection

Overdraft fee policies are an area of banking sorely in need of innovation, and online checking companies have delivered. The overdraft policies were rated based on the level of protection the policy offers the customer. This takes the form of charging lower fees, handling overdrafts in an innovative manner, or preventing overdrafts from happening in the first place.

None=0 Points
Minimal=1 Point
Moderate=2 Points
Exceptional=3 Points

ATM Forgiveness or no-fee ATM Coverage

ATM fees have become ridiculous, with many ATMs charging $2 or $3 for out of network withdrawals. This a 10%-15% surcharge if you’re just taking out $20. We rewarded online banking companies for having large, surcharge-free nationwide ATM networks, and for policies that reimburse the use of out-of-network ATMs.

None=0
Minimal=1
Moderate=2
Exceptional=3

Miscellaneous Features: This category was included so we could give companies credit for non-standard special features offered to customers.

MC Staff
January 2018

This concludes our ranking of the best online checking accounts for 2018.