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Online Bank Accounts For Free: Why pay when you don’t have too

Advertiser Disclosures

Online bank accounts for free can be a good fit for people that prefer digital banking and who don’t need to visit a physical bank branch.

Digital banking offers customer-friendly access to finance and money management tools and is probably why 82 percent of Millennials, ages 18 to 24, use mobile-only banking according to a PWC Survey.

People tend to like free online bank accounts not only for no-fee checking accounts but also for higher savings rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks.

The money saved by not having to operate branch locations is passed onto the customer which means banks can offer online free checking along with savings accounts.

Our Favorite Online Bank Accounts For Free

SoFi Bank – Welcome Bonus up to $325

The Checking Account at SoFi offers no overdraft fee and no monthly fees. Members can use their SoFi debit card to access 55,000+ fee-free ATMs within the Allpoint® Network. Members with direct deposit can earn 1.80% APY on their balances or 1.00% APY without direct deposit.

Here’s how to earn the $25 bonus:

  • To earn the $25 bonus you must make an opening deposit of $50 by using a debit card or by linking to a different bank account.

Here’s how to earn the additional $300 bonus (A member may only qualify for one bonus tier):

SoFi Bank Welcome Bonus

Qualifying Direct Deposit

Cash Bonus: $50

Total Qualifying Direct Deposits: $1,000 – $1,999

Cash Bonus: $100

Total Qualifying Direct Deposits: $2,000 – $4,999

Cash Bonus: $300

Total Qualifying Direct Deposits: $5,000+

SoFi Checking Account Features

  • No monthly maintenance fee.
  • Minimum opening deposit of $50 with a debit card or by linking a different bank account.
  • Earn 1.80% APY on all your cash with direct deposit. Without direct deposit, you will earn 1.00% APY.
  • 55,000+ fee-free ATMs.
  • Get paid up to 2 days early with direct deposit.
  • No-fee Overdraft Coverage with qualifying monthly direct deposit.
  • Organize your money, set savings goals, and save your change with Vaults and Roundups.
  • Deposit checks, get real-time alerts, freeze or unfreeze your card, change your pin, and more—all from your phone.
  • FDIC insured.

Upgrade Banking – Best for 1.00% Unlimited Cashback on Debit Charges

The Upgrade Rewards Checking Account offers up to 2% cash back on common everyday expenses.

How to earn 2% cash back

  • Convenience, grocery, and drug stores – Merchant examples: CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid.
  • Gas stations – Merchant examples: Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobile, Speedway.
  • Monthly subscriptions – Merchant examples: Netflix, SiriusXM, Spotify, DisneyPlus.
  • Restaurants – Merchant examples: McDonalds, UberEats, Chipotle, Starbucks.
  • Utilities, phone – Merchant examples: AT&T, Tmobile, VerizonWireless, Cricket Wireless.

Unlimited 1% cash back on all other debit card charges

More Upgrade Rewards Checking Features

  • No ATM fee.
  • Zero Monthly Fees.
  • Zero Overdraft/Insufficient Fees.
  • 2% cash back on common everyday expenses and recurring payments and unlimited 1% cash back on every other debit card charge.
  • Use your Rewards Checking card wherever Visa® is accepted.
  • FDIC-insured up to $250,000.
Rewards Checking customers 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 charges. 2% cash back is limited to $500 in rewards per calendar year; after $500, customers earn 1% cash back on all eligible debit card charges for the remainder of the year. Some limitations apply. Please refer to the applicable Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.
Upgrade is a financial technology company, not a bank. Rewards Checking services provided by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC. Upgrade VISA® Debit Cards issued by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Personal Loans made by Upgrade’s bank partners. Personal Credit Lines are issued by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. The Upgrade Card is issued by Sutton Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.

Current Banking – Best for Earning 4.00% APY on balances up to $6,000

Current Account does not use ChexSytems or a credit report to open accounts. One unique feature Current offers are no-holds on debit card gas purchases. Some gas stations may apply a hold of up to $100 when you use a debit card. These holds lock the amount being held, making it unavailable for spending. The Current debit card will immediately refund the hold so that you don’t have available funds locked for days.

Current Account Features

  • $10 minimum opening deposit.
  • Savings feature that pays 4.00% APY on balances up to $6,000.
  • No overdraft fees when you overdraw by up to $200 with Overdrive™.
  • Get your paycheck up to 2 days early with direct deposit.
  • Earn points for unlimited cashback at participating retailers.
  • Gas station holds immediately credited to your account.
  • Send money instantly for free.
  • 24/7 member support.

Quontic Bank – Best for High Interest Checking

With the Quontic High-Interest Checking account, you can earn 1.10% APY on all balance tiers when you make at least 10 qualifying debit card point of sale transactions of $10 or more per statement cycle.

You don’t have to worry about overdraft or monthly service fees with this account. Plus customers have access to over 90,000 surcharge free ATMs across the nation.

Quontic High-Interest Checking Features

  • Earn 1.10% APY on all balance tiers.
  • $100 Minimum Deposit Requirement.
  • Zero monthly maintenance fees.
  • Money can be transferred using Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Zelle.
  • Access to tens of thousands of free ATMs nationwide.
  • Online debit card management, for example: Option to lock/unlock the card if lost or stolen.
  • No charge on incoming domestic wire transfers.

Axos Rewards Checking – Best for $100 Bonus without requiring direct deposit

With the Axos Rewards Checking account, you can earn up to 1.25% APY* while enjoying a suite of digital tools for smarter money management. You don’t have to worry about overdraft or non-sufficient fees with this account plus get mobile banking and nationwide ATM access with no maintenance fees.

To earn the welcome bonus you must have qualifying direct deposit(s) that total at least $1,500 and use promotional code “SUMMER” when applying. You’ll find more financial products in the Axos Bank review that you may find beneficial to growing your finances.

Axos Rewards Checking Account Features

  • Up to 1.25% APY.
  • Zero monthly maintenance fees.
  • Zero overdraft or NSF fees.
  • Zero minimum monthly balance.
  • Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements.
  • Online debit card management.
  • Only $50 to open an account.

Why Banks Charge a Monthly Service Fee

Despite free checking being wildly popular, the reason most banks charge a monthly fee is simple ⏤ Banks are for-profit businesses with the goal of making money. Monthly services fees at major banks can range from $5 to $25.

But to be fair, profit is not the sole reason for monthly services fees.

It may seem problematic that you may have to pay in order to use your own money, but banks need to cover operating expenses such as personnel costs and utilities.

Online-only banks don’t have to worry about costs associated with running local bank branches, but there are still operating costs involved.

Banks may offer customers ways to avoid monthly services fees  like:

  • Combining a checking and savings account like at CIT Bank where not only free checking is offered but a Combo Checking/Savings earns customers 0.50% APY.
  • Maintaining a minimum balance in your account.
  • Setting up a monthly direct deposit to waive the monthly fee.
  • Discount on a monthly service fee to switch to online statements instead of getting monthly paper statements.
  • If you have other qualifying products, services, or accounts from the same bank, such as a home mortgage, personal loan, or even a credit card.

Free checking can save you money

The money that you save on not paying a monthly service fee can add up to a nice chunk of change. Take a look at the monthly service fee at five major banks.

Checking Account Fees at 5 Major Banks Monthly Fee
Chase Total Checking® $12
Citibank Basic Banking Account $12
Bank of America Advantage Plus $12
Wells Fargo Everyday Checking $10
U.S. Bank Easy Checking $8.95

Once you’ve opened a free checking account, it’s important to manage it in the best way possible by avoiding unnecessary costs like overdraft fees. This ensures you’re getting the most out of what free checking has to offer. Overdraft fees can knock out a checking account balance unless you have some type of overdraft protection or a feature like Current Banking that will cover overdrafts up to $200 free of charge as long as you have direct deposit set up.

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