Finding the best free banks in South Carolina depends on your banking needs. Whether your priority is interest-bearing checking accounts, high-yield savings, a variety of banking products, digital banking or physical branches, there is a bank in South Carolina that can meet your requirements.
However, if you’re unable to open a checking account due to ChexSystems or Early Warning Services (EWS) records, we also compiled a list of second chance banks in South Carolina that offer an opportunity to build a new banking history. Keep in mind there will likely be a monthly service fee associated with second chance banking accounts.
10 Best Free Banks in South Carolina
1. First Citizens Bank
First Citizens Bank was originally founded as the Bank of Smithfield in 1898. Headquartered in Raleigh, NC, First Citizens Bank has branches in 21 states. They offer a wide range of financial services to individuals, businesses, and organizations including checking, savings, trust services, mortgage loans, credit cards, investment services, insurance, and more. The Free Checking account has many features including the following:
- $50 Minimum opening deposit
- Pay your bills from any device, transfer funds to other accounts and send money with Zelle®
- Manage and monitor your funds with free online banking tools
- Link your debit card to digital wallets like Apple Pay® and Samsung Pay®
- Choose the right level of overdraft protection coverage for your account.
2. SoFi Bank
SoFi Bank is a bank headquartered in California with membership open to anyone regardless of where they live or work. Financial products and services include checking, savings, personal, student and mortgage loans, investments and retirement planning. The monthly free checking account is combined with savings account with the following features:
- $100 Minimum opening deposit.
- Welcome Bonus up to $250 when you set up direct deposit.
- Get paid up to 2 days early with direct deposit.
- 55,000+ fee-free ATMs within the Allpoint® Network.
- Members with direct deposit can earn 4.50% APY on their savings and Vaults balances, and 1.20% APY on their checking balances.
- Deposits are insured up to $2M through a network of participating banks.
3. OneUnited Bank
OneUnited Bank’s Online Checking Account is a free checking available to people in ALL STATES. OneUnited Bank is a Black-Owned Bank that offers the Black Wall Street Checking account with no monthly fee. If you’re looking for second chance banking options, OneUnited Bank’s U2 E-Checking Account is available but it has a monthly fee of $12. With OneUnited Bank customers can add cash to the OneUnited Bank Debit Card at over 90,000 locations across the country through a partnership with Green Dot®.
Here are the checking account features:
- $25 minimum opening deposit
- No monthly fee.
- Get paid up to 2 days early with early direct deposit.
- Free Online & Mobile Banking.
- Obtain Cash, Surcharge Free at Over 35,000 ATMs Nationwide.
- Deposit checks through the mobile app.
- Free Bill Pay
4. Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus
The Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus is best for debit card spending. Customers get up to 2% cash back on common everyday expenses for active accounts with a monthly $1,000 direct deposit 1 plus many features including the following:
- $0 Minimum Opening Deposit.
- Up to 2% cash back on common everyday expenses for active accounts with monthly $1,000 direct deposit, and up to 1% cash back for other purchases2.
- Optional savings account that earns 5.21% APY3.
- Customers with direct deposit can get paid up to two days early4.
- No monthly fees, no overdraft fees5, and get reimbursed for ATM fees with an active account.
- FDIC-Insured Up to $250,000.
Upgrade is a financial technology company, not a bank. Checking and savings accounts provided by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC.
5. Consumers Credit Union
Consumers Credit Union is a credit union based in Illinois with membership open to anyone regardless of where they live or work. Financial products and services include checking, savings, CDs, personal, auto and mortgage loans, small business banking, investments and financial education. The monthly free checking account is called Rewards Checking with the following features:
- Unlimited reimbursement for any and all ATM fees**
- Over 30,000 ATMs & over 5,000 shared branches
- Online & mobile banking plus bill pay
- Get paid as much as two days early with early direct deposit**
- No monthly maintenance fees, for anything
6. BMO Harris Bank
BMO Harris Bank is a well-established financial institution with over 500 branches across U.S. and access to over 40,000 ATMs. As the 8th largest bank in North America by assets, BMO Harris Bank has $852 billion in total assets. Financial products and services include checking, savings, CDs, personal, auto and mortgage loans, HELOCs, small business banking, investment and retirement accounts. The monthly free checking account is called Smart Advantage Account with the following features:
- $25 Minimum Opening Deposit
- Unlimited Transactions at 40,000+ fee-free ATMs nationwide
- $0 Monthly maintenance fee
- BMO Digital Banking – pay bills, transfer money and more
7. First National Bank
First National Bank (FNB) was founded in Greenville, Pennsylvania, as The First National Bank of West Greenville. In 2022, FNB completed mergers with Howard Bancorp, Inc. and UB Bancorp while maintaining focus on its customers and communities by engaging in projects, organizations and decisions that shape the regions where they do business. FNB provides various types of deposit accounts, such as checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit. The monthly free checking account is called FreeStyle Checking with the following features:
- $50 Minimum Opening Deposit
- Unlimited check writing
- No minimum balance
- No monthly fees when you sign up for free Online Statements2
- Free Visa® debit card with free Apple Pay®, Samsung Pay® or Google Pay™
- Fast and free Online Banking, Mobile Banking and Telephone Banking1
- Surcharge-free cash access at more than 1,350 FNB ATMs
- Fast and free Online Banking, Mobile Banking and Telephone Banking
1 Online Banking, Bill Pay, Mobile Banking and Telephone Banking are free to customers with an eligible account; however, there may be a fee for certain optional services. Mobile data and carrier fees may apply.
2 There may be a fee for paper statements which you can avoid by signing up for electronic delivery of your monthly account statement.
Synovus is a financial institution with locations in several states including South Carolina. Some of the financial products and services offered include checking, savings, CDs, loans, small business banking, investments and insurance. They offer an account called “Free Checking” with the following features:
- $100 Minimum Opening Deposit
- Free online bill pay
- Digital banking app
- No monthly service fee no matter how much your account balance changes
9. Truist Bank
Truist Bank is a financial institution headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, with branches located throughout South Carolina and other states in the Southeastern United States. The bank was formed in 2019 through the merger of BB&T Corporation and SunTrust Banks, Inc. Truist Bank offers a range of financial products and services to individuals, businesses, and organizations. These include checking and savings accounts, credit cards, loans, mortgages, wealth management services, and insurance products. They offer several free checking accounts as long as you meet the following requirements:
- Make $500 or more in total deposits per statement cycle OR
- Make 10 or more qualifying transactions per statement cycle OR
- Be a student under the age of 25
10. Bank OZK
Bank OZK is a regional bank headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, with branches located throughout several southeastern and southwestern states, including Florida. The bank was founded in 1903 and has since grown to become one of the largest banks in the region. Bank OZK offers a wide range of banking and financial services, including personal and business banking, lending, wealth management, and investment services. One of the key strengths of Bank OZK is its focus on real estate lending. The bank has significant expertise in commercial real estate lending, including construction, development, and acquisition loans. They offer several free checking accounts as long as you meet the following requirements:
- Direct deposit totaling $500 or more OR
- Avoid the monthly service fee by maintaining a $2,500 average daily balance OR
- Maintain an average daily balance of $500 or more
Second Chance Banks in South Carolina
The Bankon Checking Account requires a $25 opening deposit and a $4.95 monthly service fee. You’ll have free access to online banking, mobile deposit, bill pay and account alerts.
The Fifth Third Express Account requires a $0 opening deposit and a $0 monthly service fee. You’ll have free access to online banking, mobile deposit, bill pay and account alerts.
The Bank On Certified Anywhere Checking Account has a minimum opening deposit of $10 and the monthly service fee is $0.
The PNC Foundation Checking Account has a minimum opening deposit of $25 and the monthly service fee is $5.00.
The Regions Now Checking® Account has a minimum opening deposit of $10 and the monthly service fee is $5.00.
The Simple Access Account requires a $25 opening deposit and a $5 monthly service fee. You’ll have free access to online banking, mobile deposit, bill pay and account alerts.
The TD Essential Banking account requires a $0 opening deposit and a $4.95 monthly service fee. You’ll have free access to online banking, mobile deposit, bill pay and account alerts.
The United Essential Banking Account has a minimum opening deposit of $25 and the monthly service fee is $5.00.
Second Chance Credit Unions in South Carolina
The Access Checking Account requires a $0 opening deposit and has a $5 monthly service fee. You’ll have free access to online banking, mobile deposit, bill pay and account alerts.
The Freedom Checking Account requires a $0 opening deposit and a $5 monthly service fee. You’ll have free access to online banking, mobile deposit, bill pay and account alerts.
The Resolution Checking Account is designed to help re-establish financial stability for members who have had previous credit problems and are not eligible for other checking accounts. You must speak with Georgia’s Own representatives for details and important account features.
A Fresh Start Checking Account is available to people in ChexSystems. You must visit a branch representative for details and important account features.
South Carolina Unbanked Numbers
According a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) 2021 Survey, 5.5% of South Carolina’s residents were unbanked. It’s estimated that unbanked people pay up to 10% of their salary for check cashing services. South Carolina fares better than the national average of unbanked or underbanked households in America, but there are still too many South Carolinians without access to traditional banks that offer free checking accounts.
- Banks That Don’t Use ChexSystems – Take a look at our list of banks that do not use ChexSystems for a new checking account.
- EWS (Early Warning Services) – EWS is similar to ChexSystems and can prevent you from opening a checking account.
- Check your ChexSystems Report – Unsure what information exists in your ChexSystems report? Learn how to find out.
- ChexSystems Scores – Did you know that you have a ChexSystems score similar to a credit score? Find out how to get yours.
- Account Abuse – Find out why ChexSystems often reports customers for account abuse with no real explanation of what that notation means.
1 Active Accounts with a monthly direct deposit of $1000 are eligible for additional benefits on Rewards Checking Plus such as additional cash back rewards, ATM fee reimbursement, and more. See the Active Account page for more information.
2 Rewards Checking Plus customers who set-up monthly direct deposits of $1,000 or more earn 2% cash back on common everyday expenses at convenience stores, drugstores, restaurants and bars – including deliveries – and gas stations, as well as recurring payments on utilities and monthly subscriptions including phone, cable, TV and other streaming services, and 1% cash back on all other debit card purchases. 2% cash back is limited to $500 in rewards per calendar year; after $500, customers earn 1% cash back on all eligible debit card purchases for the remainder of the year. Rewards Checking Plus accounts with less than $1,000 in monthly direct deposits 60 days after account opening will earn 1% cash back on common everyday expenses and 0.50% cash back on all other eligible debit card purchases. Some limitations apply. Please refer to the applicable Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.
3 The 1.5% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) for the Performance Savings account is effective as of June 1, 2023. The APY for the Performance Savings account is variable and may change at any time. Active Accounts qualify for 5.21% APY with monthly $1000 direct deposit. The APY for Active Accounts is effective as of September 1, 2023, is variable, and may change at any time. Please refer to the applicable Cross River Bank Performance Savings Deposit Account Agreement and Truth in Savings Disclosure. To earn APY, you must open and fund a Performance Savings account. Rewards Checking Plus accounts do not earn APY.
4 Early direct deposit requires set up of recurring electronic direct deposit from your employer, payroll, or benefits provider and is limited to direct deposits under $5000. Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing in which we receive notice of impending direct deposit, which is generally up to two days before the scheduled deposit date.
5 There are no overdraft fees or annual fees associated with Rewards Checking Plus accounts. Rewards Checking Plus charges no ATM fees, but third-party institutions may charge you a fee if you use their ATM/network or if you use your Upgrade VISA® Debit Card internationally. For Active Accounts, Upgrade will rebate ATM fees charged by another institution for debit card withdrawals in the United States, up to five times per calendar month. To be eligible to receive third-party ATM fee rebates in any calendar month for eligible ATM withdrawals made during that month on a Rewards Checking Plus account, the account must be an Active Account in the prior calendar month. See the Active Account page for more information. As a courtesy to new customers, Upgrade will provide third-party ATM fee rebates for 60 days after account opening regardless of account user status. Some limitations apply. Please refer to the applicable Cross River Bank Checking Deposit Account Agreement and Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.