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Home » Banks, Credit Cards

4 Banks where Checking Accounts & Debit Cards are Still Free

Last updated by on 18 Comments

The large banks have started charging (or have increased) monthly fees for checking accounts and debit cards. They are begging to lose your business. I’ll highlight some banks and other alternatives that you can switch to in order to avoid the fees, but first I wanted to give a recap of why this is happening.

Bank of America ($5 monthly debit card fee) and CitiBank ($15 or $20 monthly checking account fee) started adding new fees to help replace billions of lost revenue that resulted from an amendment to the Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act that cuts debit card swipe fees by the banks 44 cents to 23.9 cents on an average transaction. This change, lobbied by merchants, was intended to lower the costs for merchants and ideally consumers. The change kicked in October 1.

The other, unspoken agenda in adding these fees is that these banks are hoping that those who use their debit cards will simply switch to a credit card, which will be more profitable for the bank if these customers end up paying interest on their debt.

Is this the start of a bigger fee-happy trend? Absolutely. Banks will look to increase their fees to replace the lost revenue, estimated to be around $1.3 billion per month. They threatened Congress prior to the passage of the legislation that they would retaliate by increasing fees and they have delivered.

Did you expect anything less? These greedy banks still get 23.9 cents per swipe, ATM fees, and the needed liquidity that you allowing them to hold your cash provides. And now they want to charge you to use your own money so that their executives can maintain the same ridiculous bonuses? NO. EFFING. WAY!

So where can you take your business?

free debit card

You can protest by taking your business elsewhere. In the process, you might start wondering why you haven’t done so earlier. Reader, Sandi, writes to me in response to that post:

It’s for that reason that I plan on leaving Bank of America before the end of this year. The $5/mo debit card fee is the last straw. I’m looking into alternative banking options and am strongly considering Charles Schwab. What do you know about their checking accounts and do you recommend any others. I’ve been spoiled by Bank of America’s online bill pay, and most other banks aren’t as good. I’d love your input.

Awesome to see readers standing up for themselves. Fortunately, there are still plenty of alternatives out there for free checking accounts and debit cards. Offers with credit unions can vary, but the four banks that made the list all offer:

  • free debit cards
  • free checking accounts
  • no minimum balance to avoid fees
  • free online banking & bill pay

1. EverBank

This was a late addition, but EverBank has perhaps the best offering right now with no fees, an interest bearing account, reimbursed ATM fees and they’ll even pay you $60 to switch to them!

  • everbankMonthly Account Fee: $0
  • Debit Card Fee: $0
  • Opening Deposit: $1,500 deposit to open
  • Checks: free checks
  • ATM Fees: zero ATM fees – if your balance is over $5,000 they will reimburse you the ATM fees from other banks.
  • Interest: EverBank guarantees that you will earn interest that is in the top 5% of what all banks offer.
  • Cashback Rewards on Debit Card: n/a

2. USAA

USAA offers financial services to active members of the military, veterans, or their family members (here is a list of parties that can become a USAA member). USAA’s free checking account offers:

  • usaaMonthly Account Fee: $0
  • Debit Card Fee: $0
  • Opening Deposit: $0 deposit to open
  • Checks: free checks
  • ATM Fees: no charge on first 10 withdrawals and they’ll refund up to $15 per month that other banks charge.
  • Interest: you earn interest on your balance if over $1,000.
  • Cashback Rewards on Debit Card: n/a

3. Capital One 360

Capital One 360 Checking account offers:

  • capital one 360 checkingMonthly Account Fee: $0
  • Debit Card Fee: $0
  • Opening Deposit: $1 deposit to open
  • Checks: free checks
  • ATM Fees: No fees at 38,000 Allpoint ATM’s.
  • Interest: you earn interest on your balance.
  • Cashback Rewards on Debit Card: n/a

4. Ally Bank

I’m a big fan of Ally Bank because they don’t do business like other large, national banks. They create appealing products that don’t take advantage of their customers. Ally Bank Interest Checking offers:

  • ally bankMonthly Account Fee: $0
  • Debit Card Fee: $0
  • Opening Deposit: $0 deposit to open
  • Checks: free checks
  • ATM Fees: zero ATM fees – they actually pay for fees charged by other banks!
  • Interest: you earn interest on your balance.
  • Cashback Rewards on Debit Card: n/a

Don’t Forget Credit Unions

U.S. credit unions are not-for-profit, cooperative, tax-exempt organizations. As decisions are not driven for profit and shareholders, credit unions typically offer members lower interest rates on their loans than banks while paying out higher interest rates on savings products. They also tend to have lower fees on their products. This is not always the case, but can often be. This usually includes free debit cards and free checking accounts.

To find credit unions in your area, do a Google Maps search for “credit union” or do a Google search for your state’s credit union league.

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


18 Comments »
  • Fact check says:

    Um… you forgot PNC Bank

    • G.E. Miller says:

      This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of every free checking account and debit card, rather a highlight a few of the better alternatives out there. Please feel free to share what PNC’s offer is if you think it’s as good or better than what I’ve highlighted. Thanks.

  • Leah says:

    I love Charles Schwab and it’s what I use. Checking earns a small percetage interest and I’ve never had a problem with bill pay features.

    It’s also nice to have all my brokerage, savings & checking in one spot!

    • G.E. Miller says:

      I haven’t looked into Schwab yet. Is checking/debit cards 100% free? How is their ATM network and surcharge policy?

      • Rudy says:

        I’ve used Schwab checking for a few years now. All ATM fees worldwide are refunded. Checks are free (unlimited). No monthly account fees, no minimum balance, no debit card fees. They have an easy to use app that allows you to deposit checks using your phone. The interest rate doesn’t really qualify as “high-interest checking” anymore (0.2%), but the other features and the excellent customer service I’ve received has made it worth it for me to stay with them.

  • phil says:

    I switched from Bank of America to Capital One because of their premier rewards checking. I avoid fees as long as i have $1000 in direct deposit each month and their reward miles add up and can be used in addition to my normal Capital One Credit card rewards.

  • Chris says:

    PNC Bank is still free (unless I’m about to get a nasty surprise)…. Actually, this bank has been pretty decent I must say.

  • Ben says:

    G.E. – You have n/a listed for cashback under ally, are you not familiar with ally perks? It is cashback at specific locations and it’s not just online only most of the time.

  • Dividends For The Long Run says:

    USAA is a great all-in-one bank. Can’t beat the customer service either. I have zero complaints with them.
    -Dave

    • Tyler says:

      Agreed. I recently switched from Suntrust to USAA. I couldn’t be more impressed with the customer service and financail advice they provide. They also offer 50 free trades when you open up an investment account.

  • Not2Big2Fail says:

    I haven’t heard anything about Chase charging fees? Anyone?

    Looking into online banks now because Citi wants to charge its customers $15/month for accounts less than $6000 in average balance. I have a real problem with the principle of it. That’s 3% a year of your own money just to have access to it!

    I’m unfamiliar with online banking…how do you deposit cash? is that not an option? Do all online banks accepts checks via some form or fashion?

    Credit Unions seem out of the question for me. Just googling ones in the local area bring up websites reminiscent of those back when it was called the World Wide Web.

    • Natalie says:

      I use a combination of Chase and Ally for my banking needs. I like to have one local bank account. I don’t pay any fees for my Chase account and I have been generally happy with the service provided. I believe there is some restriction on use of your account to not pay fees. I’m not sure the exact details, but it’s something like a single direct deposit of $500 or more per month or over $1000 in pos purchases. I’ve never had an issue with meeting the requirements for free checking. It’s worth looking into if you want a large, recognizable bank with local branches. They process ACH transactions in 3 days or less (which is important to me), and deposits are available next business day.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    Thanks for sharing your good & bad experiences, guys & gals.

  • Warren says:

    Walk into just about any bank, and look at the rate that they pay when you put your money in a CD. Then look at what the same bank will charge you to borrow that same money with a credit card. The spread is unreal. The whole banking system is out of kilter.

  • George P Burdell says:

    I don’t understand why people use a debit card over a credit card anyway. If it’s a problem with spending then use cash or prepaid cards. Otherwise, credit cards offer better protection, perks, etc.

    I don’t like debit cards as I don’t like any 3rd party pulling directly from my personal account. With debit card fraud; there is no buffer and you instantly lose money.. Who knows when the bank is going to get it back or refund you.

    With credit cards; if there is fraud then it’s the credit card company that is out the money and not you personally.

  • Pat J says:

    George P Burdell: I use debit cards because I don’t qualify for credit cards. I do use American Express and two Visa cards. I don’t usually use cash because I loose it. Some fell out of my pocket and desk the other day. I can’t easily replace cash. At the restaurants I use cash so that a waiter can’t skim my American Express card.

    I like PNC bank. They offer a free checking account. They also have many branches and ATMs in Pennsylvania. Some of the local banks offer free checking accounts and surcharge free ATMs via the Moneypass ATM network.

    Zion Bank in Utah and Idaho offer free checking accounts and their debit cards use the Moneypass ATM network too.

    ok, bye

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