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The Best Online Checking Accounts, April 2014

This article was written by in Banking. 28 comments.


As consumers grow increasingly frustrated by the checking account options offered by traditional banks, more are seeking out the best online checking accounts for better interest rates and service. Large banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America are continuing to add fees, such as debit card fees, and are not concerned with scaring the less profitable customers away. This is part of a larger plan to increase profitability, which includes firing the customers who don’t have large balances and sending them to online banks, small banks, and credit unions. If these customers remain unprofitable at their new institutions, those organizations may be forced to enact fees, as well.

Regardless of the larger situation, including industry-directed changes and regulations, the best thing a customer can do is find the best checking account that meets his or her needs at that particular time, with the information that is currently available. Here are my picks for stable, convenient online checking accounts.

Ally BankAlly Bank. Ally Bank (formerly GMAC Bank) offers a checking account with no monthly fees and no minimum balance. The no-fee, no-minimum accounts are becoming increasingly rare, and even those banks that have held out with these accounts, very few offer interest on the accounts, as Ally Bank does.

Ally Bank EverBank. EverBank’s Yield Pledge Checking Account comes with the unique promise that the account will always offer a rate within the top 5 percent of comparable accounts. Other perks include a lack of monthly fees, unlimited ATM fee reimbursements as long as the minimum balance is met, and mobile check deposits. The minimum to open this account is $1,500.

ING DirectCapital One 360. The ING Direct “Electric Orange” online checking account was my primary online checking account for almost as long as the account had been offered by the bank, but ING Direct is now Capital One 360. Like Ally, this account charges no fees, requires no minimum balance, and offers interest to account holders. Rather than overdraft coverage from a linked savings account, the 360 Checking account takes advantage of a line of credit offered to approved customers and also offers paper checks.

FNBO DirectFNBO Direct. FNBO Direct offers a savings account with a competitive interest rate, and the Online BillPay Account is a competitive offer as well. FNBO offers a high interest rate on their BillPay Account and integrates PopMoney, a system that allows you to easily transfer money to and from your friends (or anyone else who uses PopMoney).

I’ve had an FNBO Direct savings account for a long time, and it has consistently offered high rates.

USAUSAA. USAA is taking advantage of banks charging $5 debit card fees, heavily advertising that their debit card is free to use. The USAA checking account is certainly a favorite among experts, earning its place as a finalist at the 2nd Annual Plutus Awards. USAA was also named one of CNN Money’s least evil banks.

The bank serves primarily members of the military, but membership is open to the public. The checking account has no fees and does not charge for up to the first 10 AM withdrawals each month. USAA also reimburses customers for up to $15 in ATM transactions each month, making any convenient location an “in-network” ATM. USAA also offers remote deposit, a convenient way to deposit checks into the account by scanning or taking a photograph of both sides of the check.

With the largest banks finding ways to eliminate the least profitable customers through the addition of fees, as of today, there are still plenty of options available for people who are interested in sticking with an institution that generates revenue in another manner. If the above options don’t work for you, there are credit unions that would be happy for an influx of customers. Every financial institution is a business, however, and if new customers end up being unprofitable in the future, free checking will become extinct.

Updated April 1, 2014 and originally published October 10, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Ceecee ♦796 (Dime)

But can you transfer money into these online accounts without having a local checking account to deposit the money into first? This has been the problem for me with some of the accounts I’ve looked at.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,372 (Platinum)

Having a local checking account makes everything a lot easier, but it’s not necessary. You can send in a check when opening any of these accounts, which slows down the opening process. If you have paper checks for deposit, you can send them to the bank or use an ATM that accepts deposits.

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avatar cubiclegeoff ♦896 (Dime)

Most offer deposit through mail or online deposit with a scanner or sometimes your smartphone. I’ve had USAA for over a decade, and have depended on deposit through the mail (and now with my smartphone), and have never had an issue.

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avatar Todd

Do you have insurance through them to qualify for smartphone deposits? I was told I had to, in order to meet their requirements.

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avatar Sun

If you take PerkStreet as an example, new accounts can fund via their current checking account, or up to $500 via credit card. Once you have a checking account, you can go to any UPS Store and deposit your checks via UPS Overnight for free. The cut off for Overnight is around 5pm for most UPS Stores.

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avatar Tinman

I’ve been a loyal and satisfied USAA customer for over thirty years and plan on many more.

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avatar jane

Apart from the above banks, is there any other online bank i can link my local bank account with??

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avatar Richard

Recently, I changed from Wells Fargo Bank to a local credit union; which I am delighted with. My credit union treats me like family. After banking with Wells Fargo for several years; their attitude changed. They became very unhelpful; when I needed to see a banker they would keep me waiting for no reason 45 minutes to an hour before they would acknowledge that I was there. I spoke to the manager several times and nothing changed. A few months ago I changed to my current credit union before the banks started charging all these fees; and I would not go back to any commercial bank again.

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avatar jane

thanks for the reply, i dont mean local credit union, i mean other online financial institutions that could be opened online, like usaa, perkstreet, where u just pay and they send u an atm, no need to go into the bank…can i get any help??…

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avatar qixx ♦1,815 (Half-Dollar)

Thanks. Great timing. Between this article and the Plutus Awards it looks like i might be moving to ING Direct. I just hope they get the remote deposit setup soon.

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avatar TeeB

Do your research first. I was a faithful member of ING Direct and am in the process of leaving them to bank with another company. Since their transition of ownership to Capitol One their services and customer service has seriously changed. Please research in depth before finalizing your decision to move to this bank. Also, their APY has went down significantly since 2010.

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avatar John Collins

Agreed. ING Direct is now changing their name to “Capital One 360″ by Feb. 2013. Capital One is an inept company, so I will be switching (which is why I’m on this website).

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

Am I just an old fogie because I want to see my money and access it when I want to???? I get the creepies when people talk about online banks.

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avatar Edmund Hoelker

St Martin Bank checking is the best of them all. 3.51% APR up to 10K.

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avatar Richard

I recently closed all my accounts at USAA after being with them for over 25 years; once they were personal and helpful – now they are the opposite. My credit rating is just over 700 but that did not stop them from raising my credit card rate after telling me their review did not let them lower it. Federal funds wires credited my account days after it was sent and they would charge me an overdraft fee for money that was sitting there but not credited to my account. I have sent money to even larger institutions and had it credit within hours of that transaction. Phone services became endless lines of automation – all these things disappeared when I moved to Navy Federal Credit Union.

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avatar Allen Haddock

Great roundup. I’m actually planning to switch to PerkStreet by the end of the week. I’ve been using ING for a few years, but the lack of cash back is enough to switch. I’ll probably keep my ING checking open, though, just in case they decide to bring it out.

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avatar Eric Morey

Allen,

Did you have problems using the free Allpoint network of ATM’s with ING? They seem to be located in every CVS, Walgreens, Target and 7-11. Also any free ATMs like Wawa in PA/NJ are free for ING customers too.

My problem with INGdirect is just prior to their sale to Capitol One they changed their customer service, raised interest charges on overdrafts and dropped interest rates paid on savings accounts. I may switch to TIAAdirect.com (paying 1.25% APY on savings and 0.05% to 0.15% on checking). But remain on the fence for now.

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avatar Todd

I’ve been having problems over the past few months with USAA’s checking. I have to send paper checks via USAA’s pre-paid envelopes. Deposits are taking a over a week now to occur, as opposed to ~three days in the past. One deposit this month has been lost, I even tracked it. USAA is taking their sweet time getting back to me. I’d appreciate it if they’d simply tell me that they can’t find it. I’m looking to take my business elsewhere, after ten years with them. I like their product, but c’mon. I’m not sure I want to take out insurance to qualify for deposit@home, etc.

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avatar Will Hoover

How can you not list Charles Schwab Bank? Free checking with interest, free checks, reimbursement fro using any ATM anywhere.

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avatar amurphygirl

ING is not the same – I would not recommend them. They are sneaky and non-communicative. I recently made a deposit, had a popup tell me that 200 of it would be available the following day, and the rest in 2 business days. I sent a $150 check out for the following day. They drew the check the night before and then showed me in arrears. When I asked if there were fees associated that, or whether my Overdraft protection had kicked in, they wrote back some drivel about how creative, fun people like myself would appreciate their thoughtfulness. When I wrote back again, asking for clarification on whether fees or penalties had been assessed, they wrote back and told me to call them. Very evasive, sneaky, and basically dishonest. Their website popups should match their actions, and they don’t. I would advise to approach with a LOT of caution.

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avatar cnowlen

Ally Bank is great but unfortunately not much info is given on them here. In addition to having no minimum balance, no monthly fees, and giving interest regardless of balance, they also provide free checks, charge NO atm fees, and reimburse other bank’s atm fees. They also have AllyPerks, which is a program that gives you money for using your debit card at certain retailers, both in-store and online. For example, you get $5 back for spending $50 at Target or $3 for spending $25 at Walgreens (including prescriptions). You don’t even need to do anything, they automatically deposit the cash into your account.

You can also transfer money between Ally accounts, between your Ally account and an account you hold elsewhere (with cash going either to the Ally account or the other account), and via Popmoney (where you can transfer money to whoever you want). Again, at no charge.

Deposits can be made via transfer from another account, by scanning checks and uploading online, or via mail. I deposit checks online all the time and have never had a problem.

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avatar sunnyslopedude

Ally Bank and Bank of Internet have minimum credit score requirements. If you have qustionable credit, they will deny you.

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avatar Sun W Kim

You really want to do business with a bank that can’t pay back TARP money? Granted your funds are FDIC insured (paid into by the bank), but I wouldn’t do business with them because 1) they can’t pay back money they owe, 2) they are not financially stable internally to do business with.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ally_Financial

As of January, 2012, TARP had about $12 billion invested in Ally.[16] The government stake represented a 74% ownership interest in Ally. In March, 2012, Ally failed the Federal Reserve’s so-called financial “stress test” for capital adequacy. The company said in a statement that the Fed’s “analysis dramatically overstates potential contingent mortgage risk”. A possible outcome would be a requirement to raise additional capital.[17]

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avatar cnowlen

My mistake, I thought we were discussing what different online banks offer, not having a political discussion. By the way, I would be hesitant in using Wikipedia for any citation.

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avatar Kelly Webster

ING now offers a feature that enables you to use your mobile app or your computer to deposit checks from anywhere with CheckMateSM. A very cool feature to save you time. No more trips to the bank to deposit checks. So cool.

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avatar Stretch55

No mention Fidelity Cash Management. Just curious to what you think!

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avatar sunnyslopedude

WATCH OUT FOR USAA.
The online and cell phone deposits are not available to non-miitary members. You have to have a USAA credit card or a USAA auto insurance policy.
If you deposit your money using the Quick Deposit via UPS store USAA wlll hold on to all but $100.00 of your money for FIVE BUSINESS DAYS (that’a week).
(It’s faster to deposit the money in a local bank and wire transfer it to USAA).
If you depsiting money and don’t need it right away that’s fine, but if you live pay check to pay check and need your funds as soon as you deposit them THIS IS NOT THE BANK FOR YOU.!!!!

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avatar linkbar5

I’d encourage anyone looking for a new bank to check the Bankrate and Bauer Financial star ratings for all the institutions which interest you. If you’re willing to go up a step, you can pay a modest fee and get a complete analysis of the bank’s condition from either of these rating organizations. Make an exploratory phone call to the bank’s toll free customer service line, and pay close attention to wait times, electronic menus, and how professional and polite the representative is. All banks like to tout their supposed advantages, but nothing takes the place of a bit of digging, and gathering your own personal impressions. Be like a fox walking on new ice: Circumspect and cautious.

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