Best no-fee bank accounts in the US
Everyone wants a way of managing their money which is simple, convenient – and most of all, cheap. Finding a no fee bank account is perfect – but in reality, there are always some costs associated with holding, managing and spending money.
That means that when banks advertise fee-free bank accounts, what they usually mean is that there are no monthly fees, or no fees for the types of transactions you might make often. Despite this, there are probably some costs which apply to certain transaction types, or in certain situations.
Banks aren’t your only option when it comes to managing your money. Online and digital providers like Wise and Revolut can also help. And because they have lower overheads and have been built with customers in mind, they’re often as close as you can get to free – with more flexibility than the cheapest accounts on the market from traditional banks.
This guide covers all you need to know.
Fee free account options in the US:
- Accounts from fintech companies
- Bank checking accounts
Best fee-free account offers in the US
We’ve already said that completely free bank accounts are pretty tricky to find. While many large American banks do offer accounts with no monthly fee, and with only a few transaction fees to pay, these accounts tend to be quite limited in terms of features. And because it costs to offer financial services, there are always some fees which can creep in depending on your usage.
Aside from traditional banks, there are also fintech specialist providers which can be more flexible, with lower fees. As fintech companies are usually regulated in just the same way as banks, they’re also just as safe for the services they offer. Here we’ll look over both options, comparing accounts based on features like:
- Account opening fee
- Monthly charges
- Interest earning opportunity
- ATM withdrawal fees
- Foreign transaction fee
- International money transfer charges
- Account closure fee
Let’s dive in.
Fee-free accounts from fintech companies
Fintech companies tend to operate online or through mobile apps, and offer modern alternatives to traditional banks. They’re licensed like banks are – and as digital first companies, they also have a keen eye for keeping customers and their funds safe while offering a user friendly experience.
Fintech providers don’t always offer all the same services as a bank will – but they may have more flexible options like multi-currency functionality as well as lower transaction fees. Depending on how you use your account, some of the more established providers like Wise or Revolut may also meet all your needs for everyday banking, with online and mobile services, linked debit cards and easy, intuitive service options.
|Account opening fee||No fee||No fee|
|Monthly charges||No fee||Free standard plans are available – or you can upgrade to a fee paid plan up to 16.99 USD/month|
|Interest earning opportunity||Not applicable||0.05% – 0.07% depending on account type|
|ATM withdrawal fees||Up to 2 withdrawals, valued up to 100 USD/month fee free|
1.5 USD + 2% fee after that
|Up to 1,200 USD/month fee free|
|Foreign transaction fee||Exchange currencies from 0.41%|
Free to spend any currency you hold in your account
|Exchange currencies for free, subject to plan limits|
Free to spend any currency you hold in your account
|International money transfer charges||From 0.41%||Charges are shown in the Revolut app when you set up your payment|
|Account closure fee||No fee||No fee|
|Other notable features||Hold and exchange 50+ currencies||Hold and exchange 28+ currencies|
Pros and cons
- Flexible online and mobile accounts
- Accounts with no monthly fees are available
- Multi-currency functionality is common
- Transaction fees tend to be low
- You won’t get all the services you can from a traditional bank
- No cash deposits
- No branches for face to face service
Fee free bank checking accounts
Traditional banks do often offer accounts with no monthly fees – or with easy ways to waive the maintenance fees. However, these accounts may not offer as many features as you’d expect from a regular checking account, which may make them a less attractive option, depending on the type of transactions you prefer to make.
Here we’ve found 3 accounts which are popular because they have no monthly fee to pay, with a rundown of the other services and transaction fees you may need to think about:
|Bank/service||Capital One 360 Checking||NBKC Everything Account||Ally Bank|
|Account opening fee||No fee||No fee||No fee|
|Monthly charges||No fee||No fee||No fee|
|Interest earning opportunity||Interest earning – at the time of writing 0.1%||Interest earning – at the time of writing 0.5%||Interest earning – at the time of writing up to 0.25%|
|ATM withdrawal fees||No fee||No fee||No fee|
|Foreign transaction fee||No fee||No fee||Up to 1%|
|International money transfer charges||Information Not available||Incoming and outgoing fee – 45 USD||Information Not available|
|Account closure fee||No fee||No fee||No fee|
|Other notable features||No out of network ATM fee|
No fee overdraft
|Up to 12 USD in out of network ATM fees reimbursed||Electronic check deposit option|
43,000+ fee free ATMs
Pros and cons of bank checking accounts
- Reliable and familiar
- You can usually get in branch support when you need it
- Access a full range of financial services from one provider
- Some accounts have no monthly fees and few transaction fees
- Fees will still apply on some transactions and services
- Not all features you may expect will be available from all fee free accounts
- Costs can be particularly high when transacting internationally
To sum up: Finding a way to manage your money which involves no fees at all is probably not going to be possible. The ideal is to find an account from a traditional bank or alternative provider, which has no ongoing charges and only low fees for the transactions and services you need to use often.
Traditional banks may suit you if you prefer to manage your money face to face. If not, an online provider may have accounts which have more flexible features with low fees and no monthly charges to worry about.
How to choose a fee-free bank account?
Finding a completely fee free bank account may not be possible but it is definitely possible to significantly cut your banking costs by choosing the right account for your needs, with no ongoing charges and low fees for the transactions you make regularly.
In particular, compare bank accounts looking for:
- Accounts with no monthly maintenance fee and no minimum balance
- Accounts which offer all the features you need, including a linked card and international payment options
- Accounts with low fees for the transactions you make often – like out of network ATM charges or foreign transaction fees
- Account where any interest you earn really outweighs the costs involved in using the account itself
For many customers – especially if you transact internationally at all – specialist providers like Wise or Revolut may be a better option. With flexible accounts with no minimum balance and no ongoing charges.
Documents and eligibility
To open a bank account – or an account with an alternative provider like Wise or Revolut – you’ll need to complete a verification step. This is to comply with legislation in the US and globally, which requires financial service providers to check the identity of their customers.
The exact documents you need will vary based on the bank or provider – usually with a traditional bank you’ll need:
- A government issued ID like a passport or driving license
- A US proof of address
- Other personal information such as your SSN, date of birth and so on
- A minimum opening deposit may also be required
Where specialist providers may take a slightly different approach is that they may well allow you to open an account with a proof of address from outside the US. If the provider is supported in a range of countries, and you’re not a current resident in the US, you may find you can use your home proof of address anyway, without needing to provide US residency.
Online providers don’t usually have a minimum opening deposit requirement – and their onboarding is fully digital for convenience.
When you might need a fee-free basic bank account
Fee free basic accounts can be handy for anyone looking to cut the costs of managing their money. However, this can be especially useful for people who are new to the US, those on fixed incomes, students, and people getting their first USD account for example.
Options when you can’t get a fee-free account with your bank
As we’ve seen, the fee free accounts available from most US banks may be somewhat limited in scope and don’t necessarily offer the full range of services you’d get from a fee-paid account.
You’ll also need a US proof of address which isn’t always convenient or possible, especially if you’re new to the country or if this is your first US account.
In this case – or even if you’re eligible for a fee free checking account from your bank and just want to compare your options – check out alternatives like Wise and Revolut.
As digital providers, these companies don’t have the same overheads as banks do, which means they can cut costs and pass the savings on to customers. They also provide fuss-free ways to manage your money online and with your phone, across a range of currencies.
Fee free banking isn’t really possible. Even if you can find an account which suits you with no monthly fees, there will usually be some costs which are applied based on the transactions you make, and the accounts with the lowest fees also tend to have some limitations, such as no international transaction options.
Use this guide as a starting point, and compare the accounts we’ve reviewed from fintech companies as well as banks, to see if any meet your personal needs.
Fintech options tend to be flexible with low transaction fees, no minimum balance requirements, and low or no monthly charges – making them a big hit with anyone looking to cut the costs of managing their money online.
- Which banks have no monthly fees?
The range of traditional bank accounts with no monthly fees does vary over time, as different providers change their offerings. At the time of writing, we’ve picked out Ally Bank, Capital One and NBKC as the banks with the best accounts with no monthly fees – but do compare a few to find the right one for your needs.
- How to keep a checking account fee free?
Review the fees of your specific account carefully. If your account has no monthly fees that’s a great start but to make sure it’s really fee free to use you’ll also have to avoid any transactions with service fees attached – which may mean no out of network ATM withdrawals, overseas spending or international transfers.
- Do checking accounts pay interest?
Many of the checking accounts from traditional US banks do pay interest, although the amounts paid can be fairly low. If you’re looking to maximize your interest you may be better off with a fee free savings account, although this will often have less flexibility than a checking account.