Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, banks and credit unions were closing branches at a rate of over 100 per month. Since March 2020, one report says that branch closure rate has doubled as consumers become accustomed to doing more of their financial transactions online. This, coupled with more and more financial institutions with strong online banking and financial management tools, has led another study to find that 45% of respondents said the way they conduct banking has changed permanently due to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 public health crisis has introduced more consumers to the benefits of online banking, whether as part of their traditional brick-and-mortar banking relationship or with an online-only bank. Digital and online banking seems to be the new normal.
Today, almost every bank offers online banking options, but did you know that there are banks that operate either solely online or with a very limited branch network? Without the overhead of a large branch operation, they can offer a variety of banking products while passing the savings to their customers, who will enjoy lower fees and added benefits, including protection from bank fraud. Opening an online checking account could be the solution for you.
The Best Free Online Checking Accounts: Our Selection Process
We reviewed over 1,000 checking accounts found at banks and credit unions across the country and found several that top our list of The Best Online Checking Accounts with No Opening Deposit Required.
We wanted full-featured checking accounts with all the bells and whistles and without ANY limitations. Importantly, our finalists all offered checking accounts that are truly free: no hidden fees or monthly charges. Our search included banks that required no account balance minimums and all of them had to have an outstanding customer reputation for their online and mobile apps as well as human customer service availability.
10 Features of The Best Online Checking Accounts
Comparing online banks can be confusing and downright frustrating. We tried to simplify the process by removing financial institutions that had confusing offers, monthly balance or usage minimums, gimmicks to get you to use your account, and a host of other nonsensical add-ons. Instead, we chose institutions that help you keep your finances simple and understandable. Most of all, these banks don’t charge fees or engage in silly promotions. The best free online checking accounts offer:
- Free debit card
- No NSF/overdraft fees
- No or low monthly or annual fees
- No account balance minimums
- Free use of ATMs
- Powerful mobile tools
- Free online banking and bill pay
- Strong customer service
- Very high acceptance rates, no matter your financial history
- Available in all 50 states and Washington D.C.
Banks offering the most features and lowest fees rose to the top of the list, as did those with a low minimum deposit, low or no balance requirements, and a broad ATM network. Banks with high customer satisfaction and an intuitive digital banking experience also earned higher scores. To appear on this list, the bank must be available in all 50 states.
And, best of all, Chime accepts almost all customers who apply. Even if you have bad or poor credit or have been blacklisted by ChexSystems or the credit bureaus.
Features include mobile deposits, direct deposit, online bill payment, NO monthly or annual fees, NO overdrafts fees1, NO credit check, and NO CheckSystems. Opening an account is super easy. It takes about 2 minutes and you don’t have to make an initial deposit. Here’s what we like:
No Monthly Fees
For the past couple of years, Chime’s huge growth has come at the expense of the big banks and their outrageous fees. And it’s one of the best features of a Chime account. There are no monthly or annual service charges, no minimum balance requirement, no foreign transaction fees, no fees at over 60,000 ATMs2, and no fees for mobile and online bill pay.
Deposit Cash for FREE at Over 8,500 Walgreens
Having access to a physical location for cash deposits is important to Chime members. And now it’s easy. All you have to do is go into a Walgreens store, hand the cashier the cash you want to deposit along with your Chime card, and the deposit will show up in your account immediately. This offers Chime members more walk-in locations than any other bank in the U.S. With over 78% of the country within 5 miles of a Walgreens, this is a significant benefit for millions.3
Unlike big banks, Chime was created during the smartphone era and, therefore, features an app that is more than just a way for customers to review their bank accounts.
You can transfer funds to friends and family, Chime members or not… and they can claim their money instantly4 without any additional apps. The Chime app also has a series of notifications that you can turn on or turn off so you stay in complete control. Misplaced or lost your card? You can instantaneously turn off your card using the app. No wonder over 300,000 customers have given the app a 5-star review.
Chime was one of the first to offer a “round up” option. If you use your Chime card on a purchase of $10.65, Chime gives you the option of automatically rounding up to $11.00 and putting the remaining $.35 in your free Chime savings account. And that adds up over time! Plus, Chime pays 0.50% Annual Percentage Yield (APY)5 in interest on that savings account.
If you use direct deposit with your Chime account, you can get your paycheck up to 2 days early6. And Chime is just saying no to big bank NSF charges with a fee-free overdraft program up to $200. Finally, Chime just recently launched their Credit Builder credit card with no interest and no annual fee. We don’t think there is another company innovating for their customers like Chime.
Why are we featuring Current on our website? It’s simple: they don’t use ChexSystems or your credit report to open a new account. Sign-up takes about 2 minutes and Current has extremely high acceptance rates. But what’s really cool are the incredible features offered with this account:
- NO minimum balance
- NO deposit required to open an account
- NO overdraft fees when you overdraw by up to $100 with Overdrive™
- NO fees at over 40,000 ATMS in the U.S.
- Get your paycheck up to 2 days early with direct deposit
- Earn 4.0% interest on your balance up to $6,000
- Earn points for unlimited cashback at participating retailers
- Send money instantly for free
- An elegant but simple smartphone app
- 24/7 member support
Current offers a really unique service it calls Gas Hold Removals. What’s a gas hold? Some gas stations may apply a hold from $50 to $100 when you use a debit card to pump gas. If you only pumped $10 of gas, but the gas station places a $100 hold on your funds, you won’t have access to the $90 difference for up to 3 business days!
The Current debit card will immediately refund the hold so you have access to all your funds. We haven’t found that benefit anywhere in the marketplace.
Here’s what’s really important, though. Deposits are FDIC-insured up to the highest possible amount allowed: $250,000. We love the features, we love the smartphone app, and we love Current. That makes us think you’ll love them too.
For many people, having access to a local bank branch is paramount when setting up a checking account. With over 16,000 ATMs and 4,700 branches across the country, the Chase Secure Banking account might be the perfect fit.
Here are some of our favorite features with this account:
- NO credit check
- NO ChexSystems
- NO minimum deposit to open
- NO overdraft fees
- FREE access to over 16,000 Chase ATMs
- FREE Chase Online Bill Pay
- FREE money orders and cashier’s checks
Highly Rated Mobile App
Available for iOS and Android, the Chase Mobile app offers 24/7 access to your account. The app is highly rated, earning 4.8 stars out of 5 on the App Store and 4.4 stars out of 5 on Google Play.
You can transfer funds, deposit checks, send money with Zelle, set up account alerts and notifications, and lock your card if it’s been lost or stolen.
The app also has incredibly helpful budgeting tools, personalized insights, and the ability to check your credit score for free.
How The Account Works
Opening the Chase Secure Banking account is easy. They verify your name, address, and social security through Experian, but don’t pull a credit report or credit score. Chase doesn’t use ChexSystems for this account, either. Account approval is immediate, there’s no opening deposit requirement, and you’ll receive your Chase Secure card within a matter of days.
Chase doesn’t offer overdraft services with this account as you can only spend the money you have available and the account does not include paper checks. You should also know that using non-Chase ATMs can cost from $3.00 to $5.00 per transaction.
Chase Secure Banking carries a $4.95 monthly service fee that cannot be waived. But combined with all the free services and the $100 cash bonus when you use the card for 10 purchases within 60 days, the monthly fee doesn’t pose a problem for most customers. And, you’ll have peace of mind with Chase’s Zero Liability Protection if you detect and report unauthorized transactions.
Banking With A Leader
Chase claims to be involved with 40% of Americans in some way or another. There can be comfort in size, reach, and stability. Chase has all of that and the assurance they will be there for a long, long time.
If you’ve wanted to bank with Chase and wondered if you’d qualify, we think you’re going to be really happy with the Chase Secure Banking account.
Lili offers a checking account and Visa debit card with no initial deposit or minimum balance requirement, no hidden fees, no credit check, and no ChexSystems. Lili makes getting your account easy! Here’s more of what we like:
- FREE business VISA debit card
- FREE (and very user-friendly) mobile app
- NO minimum balance
- NO NSF charges or fees
- NO credit check or ChexSystems
- Receive direct deposit funds 2 days earlier than many banks
- Mobile check deposit
- Unlimited fee-free transactions
- Takes 3 minutes to apply
The Lili smartphone app gives you access to tools to manage your expenses and taxes. You assign a category for each expense by swiping left for “life” or personal expenses and right for “work” or business. You can also add receipts to transactions, download quarterly and annual expense reports, and track spending in real-time. Lili will automatically assign an expense category based on the merchant, but allows you to edit the category as needed.
Lili has an optional feature called “buckets” that allows you to set aside money in a savings account. The first of these is called a “Tax Bucket”, where you specify a percentage of your direct deposits you want to be saved for future tax payments. You can easily make adjustments and changes along the way and move the money back and forth from your checking account and tax bucket savings account. That way, you know the money will be there when you need to make tax payments.
The second of these buckets is called the Emergency Savings Bucket. You can automatically transfer at least $1 a day to this savings account to use for any larger purchase or unforeseen expense.
Robust for Most
Lili is best for small business owners who want a no-frills, no cost, no minimum balance bank account. You can run all your business and personal expenses through the account and can easily identify and separate them out for accounting and tax purposes. After your account is set up, you can add a business name or DBA name to the account. And you manage everything from the touch of your smartphone.
But there are some limits, too. Lili doesn’t offer checks and you can’t set up your account with an employer identification number. Depositing cash at Green Dot locations can cost up to $4.95 and mobile check deposits are limited to $6,000 per month.
Lili recently announced a new set of features called Lili Pro. The cost is $9 per month and includes a no-fee overdraft up to $200 on debit card purchases and a robust and unlimited invoicing capability built into the smartphone app. On top of that, users receive 1.00% APY on savings account balances and a more robust expense tracking capability. The Pro version also offers cashback when you make purchases at over 14,000 merchants. If you’re not sure you want to sign up for Lili Pro, get Lili Standard (no cost) and you can upgrade later.
You can set up an account online. If you’re a freelancer, you should receive approval and account access almost instantly. All others (Sole Proprietor, Single-Member LLC, Multi-Member LLC, General Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership, or S Corp) can take a couple of days to get approved. You can fund your account using a mobile check deposit, direct deposit, ACH transfer, or by linking your Venmo, PayPal, or Cash App account.
Lili is open for business. Anyone who is their own boss: a sole proprietor, gigsters (ie. Uber and Lyft drivers), contractors, freelancers, or part-time entrepreneurs – you all qualify! Whether you opt for the fee-free Lili Standard account or the upgraded Lili Pro account, we think you’re going to like the way Lili helps you manage your growing business!
You get a debit MasterCard and a very slick smartphone app. You can make deposits, write checks, utilize electronic bill pay, and transfer money. There are no monthly fees or overdraft fees. Plus, you earn interest on all the money in the account! The sign-up process can take less than 60 seconds. With over 2.5 million members, SoFi is a bank you can count on!
The $275 bonus comes in two parts. When you deposit at least $10, SoFi will credit your account $25. When you set up direct deposit from an employer, SoFi will credit your account up to $250 (depending on the amount of your direct deposit) and bump the interest rate you earn to 2.50% APY. The bonus and interest rate are some of the highest we’ve seen.
- No account fees
- No minimum balance
- No overdraft fees
- No fees at over 55,000 ATMs
- Access to SoFi member benefits like career coaching and financial advising
- Automated bill pay
- Freeze debit card on-the-go
SoFi Money has been great! The account was easy to open and I got my debit card a few days later. The smartphone app is easy to use and I can check everything from my computer, too. I’ve had some issues with ChexSystems in the past and SoFi Checking & Savings seems to be the perfect account.
Kevin M., SoFi Customer
Opening an account is easy and Varo doesn’t check your credit or use ChexSystems. Varo doesn’t even require an initial deposit to open an account, either. There are never any monthly maintenance fees, account balance minimums, overdraft fees, foreign transaction fees, transfer fees, or debit card replacement fees.
Varo’s recent bank charter has them innovating more than ever. They have a very strong cashback program, a payroll advance option, and have started to offer their customers a secured credit card called Varo Believe.
Finally, if Varo receives a payroll notification before your payday, it can deposit your money more quickly than many banks.
Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card issued by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC. Credit Builder card issued by Stride Bank, N.A.
1Eligibility requirements apply. Overdraft only applies to debit card purchases and cash withdrawals. Limits start at $20 and may be increased up to $200 by Chime. See chime.com/spotme.
2Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees may apply except at MoneyPass ATMs in a 7-Eleven, or any Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATM. Cash deposit or other third-party fees may apply.
3Customers are limited to three $1,000 cash deposits at Walgreens each day and $10,000 each month.
4Sometimes instant transfers can be delayed. The recipient must use a valid debit card to claim funds. See your issuing bank’s Deposit Account Agreement for full Pay Friends Transfers details.
5The Annual Percentage Yield (“APY”) for the Chime Savings Account is variable and may change at any time. The disclosed APY is effective as of November 17, 2022. No minimum balance required. Must have $0.01 in savings to earn interest.
6Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. We generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.