One of the most common and flexible types of bank accounts you can get is a checking account. Checking accounts let you deposit your paychecks, store your cash safely, earn interest, write checks, buy things and make withdrawals at ATMs.
While there are many different criteria that go into finding the best checking account, the accounts with the highest interest rates always seem to rise to the top. Earning more money just by having your money in a bank account is an attractive reason many people open checking accounts.
What the best checking accounts offer
The best checking accounts not only have high interest rates, but the accounts also have added perks and features. These features can include no monthly fees, low or no account minimum to get started, superior customer service, extensive ATM access, unique overdraft protections and are FDIC- or NCUA-insured (backed by the government).
Additionally, some banks and credit unions offer checking accounts that have special perks for different groups of people. Some of the most popular options are interest-bearing checking accounts and student checking accounts.
How to choose the best checking accounts
Most banks and credit unions offer some form of a checking account, so it can feel a little overwhelming when trying to pick the best option for you. It can also be tempting to look at the checking account rates and nothing else when deciding on an option.
When you’re trying to figure out what checking account is best for your needs, start by creating a list of what is most important to you based on your financial habits. If you withdraw a lot of cash, access to an extensive network of ATMs could be most important. If you are just starting out or money is tight, account minimums and fees could be the most important. If you are a student looking for added perks with a student checking account, that could change your priorities, too.
By examining your needs and priorities, you’ll know exactly what you are looking for when checking out the different available options. From there, start comparing the options that are available and find the ones that meet all or most of your criteria. Once that’s done, choose the account with the highest interest rate that meets your needs, and you’re ready to open your account.
Opening a new checking account
To open a new checking account, you will need government-issued identification. Some financial institutions will require two forms of ID and some only one. The exact requirements and forms of ID that will be accepted will be clearly laid out on each bank or credit union website.
If the bank or credit union has a minimum account balance, you will need to have the minimum amount ready to make your first deposit. The requirements for specialty accounts, like student accounts, may call for additional documentation to prove that you meet the criteria for acceptance.
Undocumented people can also open a checking account using different forms of account verification at some banks and credit unions. The financial institution may allow you to use a government-issued ID from another country, an unexpired passport, a birth certificate or a municipal ID that is given out in some areas of the country. Additionally, undocumented immigrants can obtain an ITIN number from the IRS that can be used in lieu of a social security number to open an account. Some banks that may accept these forms of ID include Bank of America, Citibank, TD Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.
Tips to maximize your checking account
1. Open an interest-bearing checking account.
Banks and credit unions reward customers for choosing to store their money with their companies. The reward comes in the form of interest. Interest is additional money that you earn just for having your money in an account. When selecting a checking account option, look for accounts labeled as high-yield checking or that offer more impressive checking account rates.
For example, Ally offers a high-yield checking account that offers between 0.10% and 0.50% APY, depending on the amount you have in your account.
2. Pick an account that offers unique perks.
Many checking accounts will come with a small interest rate, lower fees, and either a low or no account minimum. However, many banks and credit unions differentiate from others by offering unique perks to customers in addition to these factors.
For example, Wells Fargo has over 16,000 ATM locations. Other banks that are part of the Allpoint Network offer customers access to over 55,000 ATMs. But the perks aren’t just with ATMs. Another example is Bank of America’s Keep the Change program. This tool helps you grow your savings every time you use your debit card from your checking account. Your transactions are all rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the difference is deposited into a savings account.
The list of different perks and unique features available is expansive. Take the time to see what is available and find what is most important for you.
3. Choose the right type of account.
Many financial institutions have different types of checking accounts that you can choose between. The differences usually involve rates, account minimums, benefits, fee structures and more. For example, Chase Bank has Chase Total Checking, Chase Premier Plus Checking and Chase Sapphire Checking. They’re all checking accounts, but the account details vary slightly from the others. In order to get the most out of your online checking account, you need to ensure you start right by selecting the proper account.
Point of interest
The best checking accounts have the highest interest rates but also meet additional important criteria. These factors include things like no fees, low or no account minimums, unique overdraft protections and special perks for special groups.
Meta description — In the market for a new checking account? Many banks and credit unions offer checking accounts with high interest rates and other perks to help customers get more out of their invested funds.