Most financial institutions offer many options when it comes to choosing a checking account. Many people might think a choosing a checking account isn’t a major decision but it definitely is — and the difference between a good choice and a bad choice can be hundreds of dollars in extra fees per year (and wasted time on your part).

A checking account is used almost every day with money constantly going in and out, so it is essential to choose the right account for your own to tailor your own individual  needs .

This article will guide you in the right direction and ensure you know everything there is to know about checking accounts, which will help you decide if you are in the right account.

If we want to break down the most important things to look for in a good checking account:

  • no fee accounts (and the minimum balance required for the no fee status — often called free checking accounts)
  • minimum account deposit for new account openings
  • ATM fees reimbursed 
  • overdraft protection and  interest paid on it
  • interest given on account balance
  • online bill pay / money transfer features / mobile access

And some other nice features that may be good to have, depending on what your activities are:

  • no charge for foreign ATM withdraws

Here’s a breakdown of the most important features:

No fee checking accounts

Free checking accounts are definitely on the rise as all financial institutions are competing with each other. This benefits the consumers with many attractive options. No fee checking accounts can sometimes come with a stipulation that you have to meet a minimum required balance in order for the fee to be waved.

For example some accounts might specify that you must keep a balance of $1500 dollars per month in your checking account or else you will be charged a set monthly fee. It is best to stay clear of these types of accounts as you can find many checking accounts that do not have this stipulation. Furthermore, some accounts rather then having to meet a specific balance will specify that a specific amount be direct deposited into your account.

Note, if you want to pick your checking account based on having no fees or being FREE, then check out our detailed Best Free Checking Accounts of 2015 for a more specific list with banking accounts that center around that feature.

ATM Fees

When an out of network ATM is used to withdraw money there is usually a fee accompanied in the range of $1.50-$3.00. This can add up over the course of a month and be an uncalled for expense. Some checking accounts are offering ATM reimbursements up up to a specified amount, this means they will cover the costs of the out of network ATM usages for the month. This is a great benefit benefit that must be highly considered when choosing  a checking account.

Overdraft Fee Protection

With some checking accounts, as soon you your account is overdrawn even if its just for a few hours you can still get hit with an overdraft fee. There is no reason to really choose an account that does this unless your are positive that you will not overdraw your account. These fees can be really high  as its not uncommon for some of the fees to be $30! Stay well away from these .

Interest Rates

An increasing trend can has developed over the recent years  with checking accounts paying interest on the balances in the checking account. The interest may not be very high but it’s better then getting no interest at all. Some of the the interest rates range from 0.2% to .80% APY depending on the bank.

Now checking account A may pay more interest but that same account might not have some of the features of checking account B ,  which pays little interest but includes a few quality features checking account A doesn’t have . So you really have to go through the different accounts and find the best match for you.

It is time to explore the the top checking accounts available which offer the most value. They will all be covered in depth to specifically increase your knowledge on the different types of checking accounts offered and the best one for you. When going through these accounts  read them with your  financial state in mind so you can get a better picture to determine the right checking account for you.

Best Checking Accounts in 2015

Here’s our top picks for the best checking accounts offered in 2015. We give the exact details about WHY each account is a good (arguably one of the best) choices over the competitors.

 Schwab Investor Checking Account (Best All Round Checking Account)

Key Checking Account Features

This may come as a surprise however  they offer everything you really need:

  • Interest on your deposits
  • No fees
  • No minimum balance needed
  • No-fee overdraft protection
  • Free checks
  • Deposit checks via pre-paid envelopes or via iPhone app (snap photos of your check — no need to go into branch)
  • An ATM card
  • Unlimited reimbursement of any ATM usage

Why it’s a top pick

You cant really go wrong with this account, as it really is the ultimate package and our pick for the best checking account, all round. They offer everything (and more) that you want in a checking account — no fees, no fee overdraft, free checks, unlimited ATM reimbursement, mobile friendly with apps, good interest rates, and more.

The one downside to this is Schwab is an online bank. Older, more traditional people might see this as a black spot and a major inconvenience as there is less peace of mind knowing there is no physical branch for you to go to. However that is only a smaller portion of people and most people wont find this an issue at all.

Bank 5 Connect (Featurific AND Reward Points)

Key Checking Account Features

This is another online financial institution that offers a great checking account package:

  • The high interest account offers a whopping 0.76 APR interest, which is great value
  • No monthly fees to worry about
  • Minimum opening deposit is just $10.
  • The bank reimburses $ 15 of out out network ATM fees.
  • 15 worth of out of network ATM fees
  • Overdraft fee is $15

Why it’s a top pick

There is the option to enroll in Bank5’s UChoose debit rewards program, where you can earn points that can be redeemed for online items. So for reward point collectors and mile hacker types, this account is a good deal. Additionally, when you count the host of other features such as no monthly fees, high interest rate, refundable $15 on non-bank branch ATM’s, cheaper overdraft fees, PLUS the reward miles program, this is a very attractive checking account. Attractive enough in fact to be our second pick on the list.

So this account is ideal for the average person who has enough money to reap the benefits of the  high paying interest with reward programs and all the other features.

The Capital One 360 (Best Interface & Overall Account)

There is a lot of value with this checking account and it’s also an incredibly popular option (it’s one of the most popular bank accounts, especially with the younger and tech savvy crowd). This account has the big bank feel to it unlike they others we’ve discussed which are a smaller, well known institutions. The interests pays %.20  APY and can be as high as %.80 APT for balances over the $100,000 mark.

Key Checking Account Features

There are several great features that can be seen here:

  • 38,000+ free ATMs
  • Mobile app
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Only fee is $25 for stop payment on a check , and stop payments are not used often

Why it’s a top pick

This account would really benefit somebody who has a lot of money they can afford to leave in their checking account to receive the higher interest, although with that amount of money I would leave it in a savings account which pays more interest. Also not that the no foreign transaction fees can save you quite a bit if you are travelling.

Typically, this is a pretty good account for just about everyone. Yes, if you need a specific feature, there are better checking accounts that offer a better deal in one or two areas, but when looking at the big picture and all the features, Capital One 360 does stand out as one of the best.

Alley Interest Checking (Best for Students / First Time Checking Accounts)

Ally Interest is unique in that it combines with Ally savings. They eye catching feature here is something called “Pop Money” which you can use to move  money between  different Ally accounts or transfer to non Ally accounts. Pop money also serves as a micropayment solution, allowing you to pay anyone though email or text regardless of their location.

Key Checking Account Features

Here are more features from this checking account:

  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • No minimum balance to open
  • 24/7 live customer care – talk to a real person
  • No ATM fees from Ally, nationwide.
  • eCheck Deposit?
  • Send someone money with Popmoney®

Why it’s a top pick

This is a great account for a younger person opening their first checking account. It’s free, no fees to worry about etc. Most students do not have a lot of money in their checking account so this account is ideal for them. The echeck deposit service is also useful as well as is their PopPayment which allows cheap easy money transfers for smaller amounts, sort of like a paypal.

FNBO DIRECT (Cheap Wire Transfers)

Yes another online bank, they just love to offer value. In reality the reason these online banks can offer such great benefits is because they have much lower costs since they don’t have any active physical branches so they save on cost.

Key Checking Account Features

The checking account features include:

  • No monthly service fees
  • pay %0.65 APR
  • Minimum deposit of only $1
  • NSF fee is $30 which is a bit high so be aware of that
  • Free income wires and stop payments , which makes up for the high NSF fee.
  • debit card fraud warning

Why it’s a top pick

This is a good account for the average person looking for some interest on their balance . It is also ideal for people who know they will  be doing  wire payments as these can be expensive at a price of around $15- $30 dollars per wire. So for those who will be getting a lot of wire payments, you save on the 20-30 USD fee you end up paying for this service. Particularly, if you do a job where you are paid via wire transfers (such as an online job where you are paid via paypal wire transfers, or other such service), you can really save a lot of fees, particularly if you get more than 1 wire transfer a month into your account.

Bank of Internet USA (Best Rewards Program for Reward Mile Hackers)

Key Checking Account Features

This is called the rewards checking account as they have an in depth rewards program.

  • The interest starts at 0.47% APY however customers can earn up to 1.25% a month by meeting requirements such as using the banks reward visa card 10 times a month
  • Minimum opening deposit is $100 dollars which really isn’t that bad especially when you consider the next few points.
  • Unlimited ATM reimbursements
  • Uniquely members get free finance Finance Works money management
  • software which mo other institution offers.

Why it’s a top pick

This is a good account for  someone who will actively participate in the rewards program they will get the most benefit out of it. If you collect reward points or are a mile hacker, then consider this as one of the best checking accounts that will support your reward collecting habits. It is also ideal for individuals who really want to benefit from the interest it pays which is quite high as checking accounts go. The ATM reimbursements is another valuable feature which will definitely save you some money over the long run in small ATM fees which can add up.

Chase Total Checking (Reliability & Feature Rich) 

This checking account offers a great incentive for signing up with Chase. When opening an account you are eligible for $150 in cash when you open a new account and set up a direct deposit to your checking account.

Key Checking Account Features

Some of the highlights include :

  • No monthly service fees with at least $500 in direct deposits per month or a daily minimum balance of at least $1500
  • Access to 15,500 ATMs and 5,400 branches nationwide
  • 24/7 live customer service$0 debit card fee
  • Free Chase Debit card with chip technology
  • Free online account access
  • Free online mobile banking and bill pay
  • Free account alerts via text

In addition, Chase offers many convenient services such as:

  • QuickDepositSM : feature that lets you deposit checks by taking a picture
  • Chase QuickPaySM: that allows you to send money virtually without the use of cash or checks.

Why it’s a top pick

This is a great choice for anyone who has no problem meeting the daily minimum balance of $1500, and the free $150 in cash bonus for  signing up is very attractive. For someone who can keep the minimum balance, you get a lot of bang for your buck such as access to a huge national network of ATM’s across the US, online bill pay, mobile-friendly access and notifications, and no monthly fees (provided you meet the minimum balance criteria).

EverBank Yield Pledge (Best High Interest Checking Account)

Key Checking Account Features

EverBank pays by fair the highest interest rates on a checking account that you will find. The first year you own the account it pays a whopping %1.10 which is  a lot higher then all the other banks. Some savings accounts don’t even pay that much! Typically, checking accounts don’t pay very high interest (it’s not the sort of account you shove a lot of money in that you don’t touch), but if you need an account where you can touch the money at need that also rewards you for keeping a high balance for long periods of time, well this is the best account for that.

In addition, on their mobile app you can pay bills, send transfers, and even deposit cheques. You gotta think theres gotta be a catch to all this and yes there is: you have to maintain a balance of at least $5000,  and if you do EverBank will reimburse all your ATM fees for the month. You also need a $1500 opening balance. Some more features include:

  • $1,500 minimum opening balance
  • $0 minimum balance to earn interest
  • No debit-card fee
  • No EverBank ATM fee
  • Unlimited ATM reimbursements with minimum balance
  • Free online & mobile banking
  • Free deposits from home

Why it’s a top pick

We put this one here because of the offered perks AND the high interest rate. Do note the fairly high minimum opening balance needed ($1500) though. This is likely not a suitable account for someone’s first checking account or someone who will keep a low balance. But someone who knows they will always have a higher balance will benefit most with this account because they’ll be eligible for the ATM fees to be waived. But others who know they will have a steady income to the checking account will also benefit.

TIAA Direct (Best No-Frills Account)

Key Checking Account Features

This account features a  0.05% starting APY isn’t very high, but its tiered rate system helps customers earn up to 0.15% APY as their balance grows. Plenty of perks offset the low interest, as follows:

  • no monthly maintenance fee,
  • no minimum balance requirement,
  • $25 opening deposit,
  • free checks and free eBills online bill-paying service.

Why it’s a top pick

This account has all the basics and is ideal for someone who will not have a lot of money in the account. And for many people who need something basic with no associated headache, this is one of the better accounts out there. It’s also an easy account to open up as well. So to sum it up a very good account for someone opening up their first checking account (i.e. students or teenagers).

Key Checking Account Features

Some of its features are:

  • No Fees
  • no minimum balance
  • 1$ opening deposit
  • 25% APY
  • 30$ NSF Fee

Why its a top pick

IGOBanking have some innovative tools that allows customers to input bills right into their accounts and pay them. Also all ATM withdrawals are free at all All Point ATM locations. This a very basic checking account, an ideal account for for anyone really — especially someone who want a cheap, no-frills account. The no minimum  balance is great for younger  people with small incomes, just be careful of the $30 NSF fee!

The Final Word

What’s the best checking account? Well this really depends on WHAT you are looking for.

You need to decide on some of the following:

  • what is your minimum balance you will be able to keep in per month and daily
  • will you be receiving wire transfers on a regular basis
  • do you often withdraw from ATM’s (and keep in mind if you ever withdraw from ATM’s not in your bank network)
  • do you want to send payments to other people easily
  • do you access banking on your phone
  • do you keep a high balance in your account and want high interest rates
  • do you want to collect reward points for banking activity
  • do you mind paying monthly fees
  • are you travelling abroad

Based on what you will be doing, the choice of your checking account may vary widely. In general, we recommend the top couple checking accounts on this list as the BEST OVERALL checking accounts for all the features they give (with emphasis particularly given to higher interest rates, refundable atm fees, and no monthly fees), However, if you want something specific like lower wire transfer fees, reward points, highest interest rates, and other specialized features, then you’ll need to look at a specific checking account that offers the best deal on that feature. However, there likely will be some compromise as the bank may offer a very good deal on THAT one or two features you most want, but a mediocre deal on all the other features. So keep this in mind.

So as we can see there are many different checking accounts to choose from and each one differs from the other making it slightly difficult to choose one. You should now have a good understanding of all the different features and benefits the checking account offer, and know which one is right for you.

Ultimately, it is wise to  talk to the financial service representative to get more advice on the specifics of a bank account before opening one (in fact, we highly recommend you do before signing up). But whatever the case, DO YOUR RESEARCH before committing to a bank account.