3 Banks where Checking Accounts & Debit Cards are Free

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 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 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 3 banks that made the list all offer:

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


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: $25 deposit to open
  • Checks: free checks
  • ATM Fees: no charge at 60,000 USAA preferred ATM’s.
  • Interest: you earn interest on your balance if over $1,000.
  • Cashback Rewards on Debit Card: n/a

2. Capital One 360

Capital One 360 Checking account offers:

  • capital one 360 checkingMonthly Account Fee: $0
  • Debit Card Fee: $0
  • Opening Deposit: $0 to open or keep open
  • Checks: free checks
  • ATM Fees: No fees at 39,000 Capital One and Allpoint ATM’s.
  • Interest: you earn interest on your balance.
  • Cashback Rewards on Debit Card: n/a

3. 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: Use any Allpoint ATM in the U.S. for free, plus they’ll reimburse up to $10 per statement cycle for fees charged at other ATMs nationwide.
  • 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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