What's the Best Online Checking Accounts 2021? Check and Compare this List

Is it time to open your first online checking account - or are you looking for assurance that you’ve got the best account out there for your needs?

You’re in the right place. We analysed 10 of the best online checking account providers in the US, including their fees, features and interest rate options.

The pros and cons of online checking accounts

There are an increasing number of options for online checking accounts, as we move to managing our money online more and more. However, if you’re more familiar with using a traditional bank you’ll want to do some research into the benefits and disadvantages of switching to online banking services. Here are some points to think about:

Pros of online checking accounts

  • Online checking accounts often have lower fees and higher yields than traditional bank accounts
  • You can access and manage your money 24/7 from your computer or mobile device - no need to stand in line or visit a branch
  • Fast and efficient services are the norm thanks to less bureaucracy and smart technological solutions

Cons of online checking accounts

  • Face to face service not usually available
  • Not all providers offer a full range of account types, so you may not be able to cover all your financial needs from one service
  • New or unfamiliar brands - check the trustworthiness and security levels of any provider you’re considering

Looking for Free Online Checking Accounts?

The best online checking account for you will depend largely on your specific needs and preferences. Comparing a few accounts is the best way to build a picture of which providers offer the services you want, for the fairest fees. Here’s an overview of some of them. We’ll explore each account in more detail later.

*Features, fees and rates correct at time of research (13 July 2021)

Now let’s take a closer look at some of the features of each of these online checking accounts - and why we chose them.

1. Axos

Axos' services include banking, lending and investment, with full FDIC protection where relevant, and industry-level security protections. We’ve picked out the Axos Reward Checking account as a strong choice here - but there are also several other online checking options available from them.

Why it made the list:

  • Established bank with good reputation for service and support 
  • Range of online checking options - and other financial products available should you need them
  • High interest checking option available

Features to know about:

  • The Reward Checking Account offers up to 1.25% interest on a tiered basis according to account use
  • Deposit 50 USD to open - no minimum balance after that
  • No monthly fees
  • Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursement

2. Ally Bank

With Ally Bank you can open checking and savings accounts, IRAs and CDs, as well as accessing loans and other investment and brokerage services.

Why it made the list:

  • Full service bank which covers most financial needs 
  • Long established company with strong record
  • Low fee options with flexible money management tools

Features to know about:

  • No minimum balance or monthly fees
  • No fees for checks or incoming wires
  • 0.25% interest on savings - and an award winning online banking experience

3. Varo Bank

Varo is a bank with a mission to make banking open to all. From no fee accounts to their zero tolerance on any form of discrimination, Varo aims to help underbanked people get set up with financial products that suit them.

Why it made the list:

  • Range of financial products and services including checking and savings accounts, and cash advance options which are fee free when repaid according to the pre-agreed conditions
  • 55,000+ in network ATMs, with many at popular stores and retailers for convenience
  • No credit checks when you open an account

Features to know about:

  • Varo bank account is not interest bearing, but comes with no monthly account fees or transfer fees
  • Get a linked debit card which you can use for free at thousands of ATMs at locations like Target and Circle K
  • No foreign transaction fees apply

4. nbkc bank

nbkc bank is an online bank with a brick and mortar presence for local customers in Kansas City. If you happen to be in Kansas City you can pop into a branch to get your account set up and talk to a customer service team member - and otherwise, you can get all you need, online or on your mobile device.

Why it made the list:

  • nbkc Everything Account is interest bearing but has very few fees, making it suitable for both saving and spending
  • You can also find other products, running from credit cards and loans to smart ways to save and invest

Features to know about:

  • Interest bearing account with access to online and mobile banking - earn on every cent of your balance
  • Free ATM withdrawals from 34,000+ networked ATMs, plus 12 USD/month of out of network fees reimbursed
  • Free debit card automatically - and a free checkbook if you want one

5. Quontic Bank

Quontic is a community-based bank based in New York, with a range of products and services available to all. As part of the US government CDFI (Community Development Financial Institutions Fund), Quontic takes a flexible approach to underwriting and approving accounts and products.

Why it made the list:

  • Innovative online bank with several checking accounts including a bitcoin reward account and a cashback reward account
  • Broad range of products including savings, CDs, mortgages and more
  • Network of over 90,000 ATMs around the country

Features to know about:

  • Quontic High Interest Checking Account offers up to 1.01% interest on the first 100,000 USD of balance, subject to meeting eligibility criteria
  • Open an account in minutes online
  • No monthly fees - and you’ll be paid interest on your balance monthly

6. Discover Bank

Discover offers a range of online banking services, from checking and savings accounts, to investing options

Why it made the list:

  • Choose from 60,000+ ATMs to make withdrawals
  • Cashback account offers an alternative to interest based accounts, for people who may not hold a balance in their checking accounts
  • No fees for lots of features like replacement debit cards, checks or if you have insufficient funds for a transaction

Features to know about:

  • Discover’s checking account has no fees, but you can still earn 1% cashback on up to 3,000 USD spend per month
  • Make easy payments with Zelle, right from your online banking
  • Manage your account and card on the go with online and mobile banking features

7. Bank5 Connect

Bank5 Connect came about as the online and digital banking arm of Bank 5 - a community bank from Massachusetts which has been in operation since 1855. Products include checking, saving and CD accounts.

Why it made the list:

  • Trusted bank with a long history
  • Live US based customer service when you need it
  • Several different classes of products so you can both manage your money day to day, and save with the same bank

Features to know about:

  • Earn both interest and cashback on debit card spending
  • Free in network ATM withdrawals, with up to 15 USD of out of network fees a month reimbursed
  • No maintenance fees and free external transfers

8. First Internet Bank

First Internet Bank has been around for 20 years. You can open checking, saving and CD accounts, accounts for kids, and IRAs. There are a couple of checking account options available - we’ve picked the high interest option. Although this comes with a monthly fee, it can be avoided with a relatively low 500 USD minimum balance.

Why it made the list:

  • Different checking account options available, including a fee free non-interest bearing account
  • Range of other banking products and ways to save

Features to know about:

  • Hold a balance of 500 USD to avoid monthly fees, and earn interest on your balance
  • Up to 10 USD in out of network ATM fees a month reimbursed
  • Use Zelle from your internet banking for easy person to person payments

9. FNBO Direct

FNBO Direct is the digital arm of the First National Bank of Omaha. There’s a range of account options and products available including checking and saving accounts and credit cards. Deposits are FDIC insured in line with legal limits.

Why it made the list:

  • Established bank with both physical locations and a modern digital presence
  • Get a checking account, saving account and credit card from the same provider if you wish to

Features to know about:

  • Over 2 million ATM locations to choose from, thousands of which are fee free
  • Accounts can be used with Apple Pay and similar services for easy mobile payments
  • No monthly fees, with the opportunity to earn interest on your balance

10. Radius Bank

Radius has a range of product options for customers to choose from. We’ve highlighted the Rewards Checking account as a good choice for earning both interest and cash back while you manage your money day to day.

Why it made the list:

  • Get checking and saving accounts, credit cards, loans and mortgages from the same provider if you want to
  • Rewards Checking is a good flexible account option thanks to having both the opportunity to earn interest and cash back on your spending

Features to know about:

  • Unlimited cashback on debit card spending and unlimited ATM fee reimbursements
  • Earn both cashback and interest on your account
  • No minimum deposit once you’ve opened the account with 100 USD

Online only banks - including those that have grown out of banks with a physical presence - are here to stay. With an increasing range of products and services available through online and mobile banking they can be a good choice to get decent interest and lower fees. Check out the options we have picked out here as a starting point for your research, and you're sure to find an online checking account to suit your needs.

If you need more featured from your checking account, it always pays to make an in depth comparison between what banks offer and  money transfer providers specialised in foreign currency payments and exchange.  Compare money transfer services and get the best deal for your money transfer:

Compare money transfer exchange rates and fees

By Ileana Ionescu Updated July 30th, 2021