5 Best Online Checking Accounts of 2022

Rangely García / Money
Rangely García / Money
  1. Best for ATM Access

    Axos Bank

    Our Partner

    • Company Highlight:

      Unlimited reimbursement on all domestic out-of-network ATM fees

    • Monthly Fees:

      $0

    • Minimum Opening Balance:

      $50

    • Est. APY:

      Up to 1.00%

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  2. Best for Overdraft

    Ally

    Our Partner

    • Company Highlight:

      Allows deposits of up to $50,000 per day and $250,000 per month with mobile deposit

    • Monthly Fees:

      $0

    • Minimum Opening Balance:

      $0

    • Est. APY:

      0.10%-0.25%

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  3. Best for Cash Back

    Discover Bank

    Our Partner

    • Company Highlight:

      Customer service is available 24/7 by phone

    • Monthly Fees:

      $0

    • Minimum Opening Balance:

      $0

    • Est. APY:

      N/A

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  4. Best for College Students

    PNC Virtual Wallet Pro

    Our Partner

    • Company Highlight:

      3-in-1 account offers budgeting and savings tools for students

    • Monthly Fees:

      $0

    • Minimum Opening Balance:

      $0 if online, $25 at branch

    • Est. APY:

      N/A

    Open an Account

  5. Best for Low Fees

    Varo

    Our Partner

    • Company Highlight:

      No monthly account fee, minimum balance transfer or foreign transaction fees

    • Monthly Fees:

      $0

    • Minimum Opening Balance:

      $0

    • Est. APY:

      N/A

    Open an Account

Opening an online checking account is an easy and safe way to manage your hard-earned cash.

Online banks have many advantages over traditional brick-and-mortar banks, including attractive interest rates, little or no fees, and the added benefit of being able to manage your finances anytime, anywhere and from any Web-enabled device.

Read on to learn more about Money’s top 5 picks for the best online checking accounts.

Our Top Picks for Best Online Checking Accounts

  • Axos Bank – Best for ATM access

  • Ally Bank – Best for overdraft protection

  • Discover Bank – Best for cash back

  • PNC Bank – Best for college students

  • Varo – Best for low fees

Best Online Checking Account Reviews

Pros

  • Large ATM network

  • Unlimited reimbursement on domestic out-of-network ATM fees

  • No maintenance or minimum balance fees

Cons

  • May be challenging for account holders to meet all the requirements needed to earn the maximum interest rate

  • Has an opening deposit of $50

HIGHLIGHTS

Monthly fee:
$0
Balance to open:
$50
ATM network:
91,000
APY:
Up to 1.25%

Why we chose it: Axos Bank is our top pick for best ATM availability thanks to its extensive 91,000 ATM network and unlimited reimbursement on all domestic non-Axos ATM fees.

Axos’ Rewards Checking Account has no monthly maintenance fee, no monthly balance requirement and no overdraft or non-sufficient funds fee.

Additionally, you can earn up to 1.25% interest with this account—a higher annual percentage yield (APY) than most high-interest checking accounts.

To unlock all the interest-earning opportunities, you must use it as a deposit account, with programmed direct deposits every month. To earn the first 0.40%, you must receive a monthly direct deposit of $1,500 or more.

If you use your Axos Visa Debit Card for 10 transactions per month for more than $3 per transaction or sign up for a Personal Finance Manager (PFM) program, you can earn an additional 0.30% interest.

To get the remaining 0.55%, there are three actions you can take which will increase your rate by 0.20% and 15% respectively: keeping an Axos Invest Managed Portfolios Account with an average daily balance of $2,500; keeping an Axos Invest Self Directed Trading Account with an average daily balance of $2,500, and making a monthly consumer loan payment using your Rewards Checking Account.



Pros

  • Overdraft Transfer Service and CoverDraft both protect from overdraft

  • No maintenance or minimum balance account fees

  • Reimburses up to $10 for non-network ATM fees

Cons

  • No cash deposits

HIGHLIGHTS

Monthly fee:
$0
Balance to open:
$0
ATM network:
43,000
APY:
0.10%-0.25%

Why we chose it: Ally Bank is the best online checking account for overdraft protection because of its Overdraft Transfer Service and CoverDraft features. The former uses your savings account as a backup and the latter is a fee-free safety net starting at $100 in temporary coverage for accidental overdrafts.

Ally’s Interest Checking Account offers no monthly or minimum balance fees and access to over 43,000 Allpoint ATMs in CVS, Walgreens, Target, and other convenience stores and retail locations.

The Interest Checking Account has a return of 0.10% APY on balances under $15,000 and 0.25% on balances of $15,000 or more.

With Overdraft Transfer Service, Ally uses your savings in increments of $100 as a backup if you accidentally overdraft your account. The other overdraft coverage program, CoverDraft, serves as a safety net starting at $100 to cover your purchase with no fee.

Ally stands out for its $0 monthly service fees and electronic payment fees. It has also gone further than other free checking accounts by eliminating the fees on incoming domestic or international wire transfers, official and cashiers checks, overdraft fees, and having the lowest fees for outgoing wire transfers and account research fees.


Pros

  • Earn 1% cash back on debit card purchases

  • Discover has a high customer satisfaction rating in the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Direct Banking Satisfaction Study

  • No account balance minimum fee

Cons

  • Account doesn't earn interest

  • Cash deposits are not available

HIGHLIGHTS

Monthly fee:
$0
Balance to open:
$0
ATM network:
60,000
APY:
NA

Why we chose it: We chose Discover Cash Back Debit Checking as the best online checking account for cash back because of its 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in monthly debit card purchases.

Discover’s online checking account provides access to a network of over 60,000 ATMs and has no minimum balance or activity requirements.

Use the Discover app to instantly send and receive money with the Zelle feature and freeze your debit card if lost or stolen.

The Cash Back Debit account allows you to get 1% cash back for debit card purchases. However, Discover does exclude ATM withdrawals, peer-to-peer payments, money orders or other cash equivalents, loan payments and account funding.

Finally, although this isn’t an interest-bearing account, Discover’s online savings account offers a 2.75% APY.

Pros

  • No service fees when you provide qualifying proof of enrollment

  • Option to keep the monthly-fee waiver active up to six years after graduation

  • Reimbursement of first two non-PNC Bank ATM fees per statement cycle

Cons

  • Doesn't come with free paper checks

  • Has a non-PNC Bank ATM surcharge and overdraft fee

HIGHLIGHTS

Monthly fee:
$0
Balance to open:
$25 ($0 if opened online)
ATM network:
9,000
APY:
NA

Why we chose it: PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet Student is our top pick for college students because the checking account (Spend) comes with both an interest-bearing checking account (Reserve) and a savings account (Growth).

We chose PNC Bank for college students because its Virtual Wallet Student is more than just a checking account; it’s three accounts in one.

The Spend account functions as the primary checking account. Students who work can receive their paychecks here or receive transfers from parents.

The Reserve account functions as an interest-earning account that helps with short-term savings goals, such as saving up for spring break or getting a new iPad.

The Growth account, on the other hand, serves as interest-bearing savings for long-term goals, like moving to a new city post-graduation or putting a down payment on a mortgage.

There’s a $25 minimum deposit to open a Virtual Wallet Student account. However, if you open the account online this requirement can be waived.

Virtual Wallet Student offers an automatic refund on your first overdraft or returned item fee, reimbursement of up to two non-PNC Bank ATM transactions and a free wire transfer per statement period.

This account also has budgeting and spending tools to help students manage their money.

Pros

  • No monthly, minimum balance, or foreign transaction fees on ATM use

  • Deposit cash at 90,000+ retail locations using Green Dot Reload at the register

  • Early paycheck available with direct deposit

  • Borrow up to $100 with the Varo Advance feature

Cons

  • This account doesn't earn interest

  • Has limits and fees on cash deposits

HIGHLIGHTS

Monthly fee:
$0
Balance to open:
$0
ATM network:
55,000 + fee-free AllPoint ATMs around the world
APY:
NA

Why we chose it: Varo is our choice for low rates because it doesn’t have any monthly or minimum balance fees, ACH transfer fees, foreign transaction fees or fees for transfers from Varo to Varo.

Unlike many other online banks, Varo doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee on ATM transactions and doesn’t have any monthly or minimum balance fees.

Another standout factor from Varo is its Cash Advance feature that protects from overdraft fees. With Cash Advance, you can borrow up to $100 interest-free for the first 30 days. If you use the Varo Visa debit card, you can earn up to 6% cash back on selected transactions.

Varo also offers a secured credit card called Varo Believe. The card has no annual fees and no minimum deposit requirements. In addition, it doesn’t require a hard credit check. Secured credit cards like Varo Believe are typically a great option to start building credit.

Varo is also a member of the Allpoint ATM network with over 55,000 fee-free ATMs in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Online Checking Accounts Guide

Whether you’re a first-time user of online banking or looking to open a better online checking account, in this guide we’ll break down everything you need to know.

What are online checking accounts?

Online checking accounts are offered by online banks – financial institutions that operate completely online. These virtual banks make it easy for you to manage your checking directly from your cell phone, computer or touchscreen tablet.

Online banking offers perks like lower fees and higher interest rates than traditional banks because of lower overhead costs. Although you’ll be paying less in fees, you won’t have the ease of stepping into your local branch.

Customer service for online checking accounts is done primarily via the phone, online chat or email. However, with some online checking accounts such as PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet Student, you have the option to step into a brick-and-mortar location.

Difference between brick and mortar and online checking accounts

Traditional checking accounts

Online checking accounts

Easy to deposit cash at brick and mortar locations

You can open accounts entirely online, but cash deposits are more challenging

Typically have higher maintenance, and minimum balance fees

Usually have lower or no monthly maintenance and minimum balance fees

Handling account business at the branch takes longer than doing it online

Deposit checks and order new debit card on the mobile app, saving hassle and time

Many have online banking pages or apps available

Access account information on mobile app

Federally insured up to $250,000

Federally insured up to $250,000

How to open a checking account online?

There are many conveniences in opening a checking account online – you save precious time and a trip to the bank, and the process of opening an online checking account is quick and straightforward.

Here’s what you’ll need to take to get started in four simple steps.

  1. Choose what type of account you’d like to open (i.e., an account with low fees or cash back rewards).

  2. Get all your documents and important information together. You’ll need your Social Security number or an alternative ID number; a valid driver’s license or government identification and your debit card information to fund your new account (if the new account needs to be initially funded).

  3. Go to the online bank of your choice and fill out the application to get ready to fund the new account. Some information you’ll be asked to fill in is your name, date of birth, address and contact information.

  4. Make a deposit. Make sure you have your card information to make a transfer from an existing account.

Difference between checking accounts and savings accounts

Checking and savings accounts are two different financial products. Checking accounts are primary accounts for daily use, while savings accounts are for long-term needs.

Checking accounts

Saving accounts

Funds for everyday use

Funds for long-term goals

Lower interest rates

Higher interest rates

Easily access your cash with a debit card, checks or a digital wallet

You will need to transfer funds, visit the bank to withdraw money or use a debit card if available

If instead of an online checking account, you’re looking to open a traditional checking account, take a look at our top picks for the best checking accounts. We’ve also compiled a list of the best savings accounts of 2022.

How to choose an online checking account

When choosing the best online bank account, consider the following:

Check the fees. Most online bank accounts waive monthly account maintenance fees, although some might require a minimum opening balance. Other standard fees include wire transfers, debit card replacement fees, account statement requests and charges for using out-of-network ATMs. Also check for overdraft protection fees.

Compare cash rewards and APY rates. Although not all online checking accounts offer cash back rewards, some accounts like Discover and Axos offer cash back on select debit card transactions. Note that checking accounts don’t typically have the most competitive interest rates — if you’re looking for better interest rates, you should check out some of the best high-yield savings accounts.

Make sure the bank has a widespread ATM network. Your checking account is typically your main account for depositing and withdrawing funds, so knowing if an account has a vast network of ATMs is crucial.

Best Online Checking Accounts FAQ

How to deposit a check online

To make a deposit with mobile banking, all you have to do is take a picture of the front and back of the check on your smartphone's banking app. With mobile check deposits, you can upload your funds to your account remotely without physically going to the bank.

How to open a checking account online

Opening an online bank account is a safe and easy process. First, decide what bank has the features you're looking for in an account. Then, gather all your important information and documents with your debit card so you can fund your newest account. When you have all the necessary information, fill out the online application and get ready to fund the account.

Are online banks safe?

Yes, online banks insured by the FDIC are government-backed financial institutions. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) backs credit unions with online bank account alternatives. Several online banks are backed or are a subdivision of an FDIC-insured national bank.

How does online banking work?

Online banking operates entirely on the internet without physical branches. However, this depends on the bank since some traditional banks have supplementary online banking. Since online banks avoid the overhead cost of brick-and-mortar locations, they tend to offer lower fees.

How We Chose the Best Online Checking Accounts

To choose the top picks for Best Online Checking Accounts, we:

  • Analyzed over 25 reputable online banks, including neobanks — banks that operate exclusively online and usually offer apps, software and other technologies.

  • Evaluated banks’ account minimums and monthly fees, ATM fees, ATM fee reimbursements, interest rates, overdraft fees, overdraft protection charges, wire transfer fees, among other components.

We valued online banks with no monthly service fees or minimum balance requirements, an extensive ATM network and competitive APYs.

Summary of Money’s Best Online Checking Accounts of 2022

  • Axos Bank – Best for ATM access

  • Ally Bank – Best for overdraft protection

  • Discover Bank – Best for cash back

  • PNC Bank – Best for college students

  • Varo – Best for low fees

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