Online checking accounts are becoming increasingly more popular, and for good reason. Most online checking accounts offer a low fee structure. Additionally, the interest rate these accounts provide are typically higher than the interest rate a large brick and mortar bank will provide.
With so many options to choose from, it can be a bit difficult to find the right online checking account. We’ve scanned the landscape and reviewed five common options below.
How Do Online Checking Accounts Work?
For those not familiar with online checking accounts, it’s important to note they function like a traditional checking account at a brick and mortar bank. The account owner can directly deposit money, and can spend that money via a debit card or checkbook as they please.
The main differences are; these online checking accounts do not have a physical location to visit and withdrawing or depositing cash can be challenging.
What Makes a Good Online Checking Account?
A good online checking account has a few key factors.
Low Fee Structure
The first factor is a low fee structure. No one likes fees, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Overdraft fees, account minimum fees, maintenance fees – they all take money out of your account each month or year. Finding an online checking account with a low fee structure, or even no fees, is very important.
Higher Interest Rate (APR)
The interest rate, or annual percentage rate (APR), is another key factor when selecting the right online checking account. The APR rate is the money a bank gives the account owner for keeping money in the checking account.
For example, if you have $10,000 in your checking account and the bank provides a 1% APR, you’ll receive $100 per year.
Customer service is important. You never know when you’ll need to get someone on the phone and discuss banking matters, transaction concerns, or general questions. Considering there is no brick and mortar location to visit, you must rely on the customer service support the bank provides over the phone.
Finding an online bank with customer service hours that fits your needs cannot be neglected.
Best Online Checking Accounts
Now let’s dive into some of the most common online checking account options.
Ally Bank was founded in 2009 and they offer 100% online checking accounts. They are a leader in the industry and well known for their low fees and outstanding customer service.
Ally’s checking accounts cater to a wide range of people. The fee structure and interest rate is attractive, and far superior to the vast majority of brick and mortar banks.
There are numerous benefits to an Ally checking account. These are some of the most appreciated benefits:
- 24/7 customer service
- No minimum opening deposit requirement
- The bank and account is fully FDIC insured
- There are no monthly maintenance fees
- You can withdraw cash from over 43,00 Allpoint ATMs scattered across the country
- Last but not least, the annual percentage rate Ally Bank provides is far superior to the annual percentage rate most brick and mortar large retail banks provide
Pricing or Fees
Ally Bank has no monthly maintenance fee! Depending on your account size, you may have to pay for checks, and there is a $25 overdraft fee as well.
All things considered, Ally Bank offers an incredibly attractive online checking account. With all the benefits considered, the overall star rating is 4 stars!
Chime bank was founded in 2013 and is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing online banks in the United States.
Chime Bank is great for anyone who doesn’t need to deposit or withdraw cash often. If you like controlling your money from your smartphone, a checking account from Chime Bank is likely an option worth considering.
There is a long list of benefits to a Chime Bank checking account. These benefits include:
- Early payday. Eligible members can receive their paycheck up to 48 hours before the actual payday.
- No overdraft fees for the first $100
- Over 38,000 fee-free ATMs throughout the United States
- No monthly fees or maintenance fees
Pricing or Fees
The Chime Spending Account has zero monthly fees! This is a great benefit that keeps more cash in your pocket each month.
Chime Bank is a newer online only bank, and throughout the years they have continued to make improvements year over year. All in all, the Chime Spending Account receives a 4 star rating.
For two decades, AXOS Bank has been a go-to in the online banking sector. AXOS Bank provides a full service online banking experience, and their checking accounts are growing in popularity.
If you want to consolidate all of your banking needs under ‘one roof’, consider using AXOS Bank!
AXOS Bank has numerous benefits, including:
- It’s a full service online banking option. Not only can you choose from numerous checking account options, but a savings account, small business banking options, commercial banking and lending, personal loans and even mortgages can all be done with AXOS Bank.
- Customers enrolled in the Essential Checking Account can receive early direct deposits
- No monthly maintenance fees
- There are no monthly balance requirements
- There are no overdraft or non-sufficient fund fees
- AXOS Bank is fully insured by the FDIC
Pricing or Fees
There are numerous checking account options to choose from, but their most common option is the Essential Checking Account. If you choose this option, you will be rather pleased with their fee structure. Overdraft fees, maintenance fees, and minimum balance requirement fees do not exist!
Considering everything AXOS Bank offers, it ranks high on our list. All in all, AXOS Bank receives a 4.5 star rating!
Varo Bank launched in 2017 and is an online only bank. Despite being a new bank, Varo packs a strong punch.
Varo Bank is aimed at a younger customer base who is comfortable handling their banking matters online.
Varo Bank provides numerous benefits, including;
- Early pay day for those enrolled in direct deposit
- No hidden fees
- Rewards for spending money at specific stores
- Varo is fully FDIC insured
Pricing or Fees
There are no fees for; monthly maintenance, debit card replacement, foreign transactions, ACH bank transfers, closing your account, or even ATM withdrawals at any Allpoint ATM.
All in all, Varo Bank is a solid choice. Given all the benefits, and fee structure, a Varo Checking Account receives a 4 star rating.
Discover is well known for it’s credit card options, but Discover also offers a very competitive checking account option.
Discover credit card option is really created for anyone who feels comfortable banking 100% online.
Opening a checking account with Discover comes with a large list of benefits. These benefits include:
- No monthly maintenance fee
- Access to over 60,000 ATMs nationwide where you can withdraw money without paying a withdrawal fee
- No insufficient funds fee
- Regular checks and official bank checks
- And $0 to expedite a replacement debit card
- Discover is FDIC insured
Pricing or Fees
The fee structure with Discover is minimal. One of their biggest advantages is the fact that Discover charges $0 for a majority of fees whereas most banks charge something, even if it’s low.
All in all, considering the low fee structure and hours of customer service, Discover offers a very competitive checking account option with a 4.5 star rating.
Disadvantages of Online Checking Accounts
Despite the tremendous benefits an online checking account provides, there are a few disadvantages that can be a challenge to look past.
- There is no in person branch you can visit. If you’re not a fan of over the phone customer service, banking 100% online may be something you can’t adjust to.
- If you deposit or withdraw cash frequently, that can be a hassle. Most ATMs limit how much money you can deposit or withdraw in a given day. It would still be possible to get cash into your online checking account, but extra steps are required.
Foundational Piece to a Solid Financial Plan
A checking account is a foundational piece to any sound financial plan. How you spend and manage your day to day finances is very important. You must find a checking account that works for you and also provides a great deal of convenience.
Many checking accounts come with hidden fees that can quickly add up and take money out of your wallet each month. If you’re in the market for a new checking account, consider making the switch to an online checking account!
A proper financial plan not only looks at your standard bank accounts, but also where else you should be saving or investing money. This is where managing money becomes more complicated. Working with a professional financial advisor will help you reach your financial goals, and will also help keep you on track every step of the way. As with most things in life, working with a professional certainly makes a difference!