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Best Rewards Checking Accounts February 2024

Rewards checking accounts are one of those things that inexplicably fails to find a spot on the to-do list of the average person. But if you’re one of the many who aren’t funneling money through a rewards checking account, you’re lighting dollar bills on fire.

This is one of the easiest changes you can make to your financial strategy to combat inflation. Many come with hundreds of dollars in welcome bonuses—and even more than 4% annual percentage yield (APY). Here are our top picks for the best rewards checking accounts in November 2023.

Best rewards checking accounts compared 2024

Up to $250 welcome bonus after receiving direct deposits of $5,000+ within 25 days.

Between $1,500 and $4,000; Offer expires Mar. 27, 2024

New Chase checking customers enjoy a $300 bonus when you open a Chase Total Checking® account with qualifying activities

Use promo code AXOS300 and apply by June 30, 2024, to earn up to a $300 bonus!

Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus

Quontic High Interest Checking

Free pay ring (otherwise $29) upon account opening

Discover® Cashback Debit

1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.**

BMO Relationship Checking

$400 cash bonus with a total of at least $7,500 in qualifying direct deposits within the first 90 days. Offer expires May 3, 2024.

Best overall: SoFi Checking

Overall

Overall

Sofi Online Checking Account

Special offer

Up to $250 welcome bonus after receiving direct deposits of $5,000+ within 25 days

The SoFi Checking account is more than just a checking account. If you’re not interested in opening a checking account with savings account features, this may not be your favorite option, but it can net some substantial rewards.

For starters, you’ll receive up to 4.50% APY* on your savings account when you use direct deposit for your paycheck or add $5,000 to your account every 30 days. Otherwise, you’ll earn 1.2%. You’ll earn 4.60% APY* for your checking account balance. There’s no cap on the amount you can earn from the 4.5% return on your savings account.

Beyond that, you’ll receive a up to $250 after you receive direct deposits of $5,000+ within 25 days. If your deposits are less than $5,000, you’ll receive a $50 bonus. SoFi will also award up to 15% cash back when you use your debit card at select local merchants, which vary depending on location.

Pros:

  • High APY.
  • No cap on interest you can earn.
  • Solid welcome offer.

Cons:

  • You must open both a checking and savings account.
  • Out-of-network ATM fees not reimbursed.

Why we picked it: With a respectable APY and low fees, this bank account does what most folks need without the nickel-and-diming. Plus, its welcome bonus is worth writing your mother about.


Best for large balances: HSBC Premier Checking

Large balances

Large balances

HSBC Premier Checking

Special offer

Between $1,500 and $4,000; Offer expires Mar. 27, 2024

HSBC Premier Checking is best suited for those with at least six figures in the bank. With a sizable balance like that, it’s wise to park that money in an account with a high APY. And while HSBC Premier Checking offers a paltry APY, it offers a screaming intro bonus.

When you open an account and deposit the following amounts (and keep the money there for three months), you’ll receive:

  • $100,000 to $199,999.99—$1,500 bonus.
  • $200,000 to $299,999.99—$2,000 bonus.
  • $300,000 to $499,999.99—$2,500 bonus.
  • $500,000 or more—$3,500 bonus.

You’ll also get another $500 after you set up recurring monthly direct deposits totaling at least $5,000 for three months. That’s potential for up to $4,000 in bonus cash. Unfortunately, the account incurs a $50 monthly maintenance fee—but you can get that fee waived as long as you do one of the following:

  • Maintain balances totaling at least $75,000 in deposits and investments.
  • Receive at least $5,000 in monthly direct deposits from a third party.
  • Have an HSBC U.S. residential mortgage loan with an original loan amount of at least $500,000 (excluding home equity products).

If you’ve got the money to float, it’s worth throwing the funds into an HSBC account for a few months. Plus, opening a Premier Checking account gives you the ability to “gift” Premier status to up to four family members by linking their qualifying accounts at HSBC. This gives them access to benefits like no foreign transaction fees, waived fees for qualifying international money transfers, receive improved rates with select HSBC accounts, and more.

Pros:

  • Enormous welcome bonus.
  • Available nationwide.

Cons:

  • To earn a bonus requires a balance of at least $100,000.
  • $50 monthly maintenance fee (avoidable with qualifying activity).

Why we picked it: When a bank is offering a welcome bonus of up to $4,000, it’s headline news. The fact that it requires such a large deposit will make it a nonstarter for many—but those who qualify can make out like bandits. And the ability to share HSBC Premier status with up to four family members means you can help others with financial perks like a variety of waived fees and more favorable account terms.


Best for customer support: Chase Total Checking

Customer support

Customer support

Chase Total Checking®

Special offer

New Chase checking customers enjoy a $300 bonus when you open a Chase Total Checking® account with qualifying activities

Chase is likely the most recognizable brand in our list of top rewards checking accounts. Recognition comes from ubiquity, which is accompanied by customer service benefits. Chase is well known for its support network, and its 4,700+ nationwide physical locations are helpful if you’d prefer to do your banking in person.

Chase Total Checking offers a $300 bonus to new Chase checking customers after making direct deposits totaling $500 or more within 90 days of enrollment. 

This checking account charges a $12 monthly service fee which is waived if you achieve at least one of the following:

  • Receive at least $500 in electronic deposits
  • Begin each day with at least $1,500 in your account
  • Keep a daily average balance of at least $5,000 between this account and other linked qualifying deposit accounts

Also note that you’ll be charged a $3 fee when using an ATM not managed by Chase.

Pros:

  • Lots of physical branches.
  • High welcome bonus with no minimum direct deposit .

Cons:

  • ATM fees.
  • $12 monthly maintenance fee (can be avoided with specific activity).

Why we picked it: If you’re the kind of banker who wants the ability to reach a human quickly, Chase is one of the best banks for you. It’s got the customer service infrastructure that most other banks—specifically online banks—don’t have.


Best for free ATM use: Axos Rewards Checking

Free ATM use

Free ATM use

Axos Rewards Checking

Special offer

Use promo code AXOS300 and apply by June 30, 2024, to earn up to a $300 bonus!

For those that make heavy use of ATMs and don’t want to be tied to using in-network ATMs to avoid fees, the Axos Rewards Checking account is a great option. All domestic ATM fees will be reimbursed, no matter how often you use them. The tradeoff is that the bank only has five brick-and-mortar locations in the country.

Axos offers a $300 intro offer when you use the code AXOS300 by June 30, 2024. It also comes with a higher-than-average potential APY among rewards checking accounts at Up to 3.30%(for up to $50,000). But a handful of qualifying activities are required to earn this full interest rate:

  • Direct deposits totaling $1,500+ each month — 0.4%
  • 10 point-of-sale transactions of at least $3 each month using your debit card (or enrolling in “Account Aggregation/Personal Finance Manager) — 0.3%
  • Keep an average daily balance of $2,500+ each month in an Axos Self Directed Trading Invest account — 1%
  • Keep an average daily balance of $2,500+ each month in an Axos Managed Portfolio Invest account — 1%
  • Make a monthly payment to an open Axos Bank consumer loan by transferring from your rewards checking account (excluding commercial and business loans) — 0.6%

If you can manage to achieve all that, you’ll escape with Up to 3.30% APY. If you’re not all-in on Axos products, you’ll likely get a meager return.

Pros:

  • All domestic ATM fees reimbursed.
  • Above-average APY.

Cons:

  • Potentially prohibitive monthly direct deposits to qualify for the intro bonus.
  • Many steps to ensure you achieve the highest APY.
  • Very few physical locations.

Why we picked it: The ability to use any domestic ATM as often as you want with no financial repercussions is extremely rare. Those who contract tennis elbow from inserting their card into the ATM can save big with this feature.


Best for budgeting: Ally Bank Spending Account

Ally Bank’s checking account is a dream for those who like to micromanage their balances. You can create secondary accounts within your checking account to help you allocate money for certain bills, goals, and so on. For example, you may create an account for your grocery spending and another for restaurant spending to better manage budgeting.

Beyond that, the account isn’t spectacular for ongoing earnings from interest (though it’s markedly above the national average). You’ll receive 4.25% APY for account balances less than $15,000, and 0.25% APY for balances above $15,000.

Pros:

  • Easy to allocate money.
  • No monthly fees.

Cons:

  • No welcome bonus.
  • Unmemorable APY.

Why we picked it: The spending buckets this card offers are its main draw over other accounts. It’s fairly well-rounded, with perks such as early direct deposit and limited reimbursements for out-of-network ATMs—but these are common among rewards checking accounts.


Best for debit card purchases: Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus

Debit card purchase

Debit card purchase

Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus

Upgrade is one of the few companies that offers a cash back rewards program for debit card spending. If you’d like to earn cash back for everyday purchases but you don’t want to (or can’t) open a cash back credit card, the Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus is a simple solution.

Direct deposits of at least $1,000 each month makes you eligible to earn 2% cash back when using your debit card for:

  • Convenience/drug store purchases
  • Gas stations
  • Monthly subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, etc.)
  • Restaurants (including eligible delivery services)
  • Phone bill
  • Utilities

You’ll also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. With no monthly fees, all the cash back you earn is pure profit.

Pros:

  • Excellent return for everyday debit card spending.
  • No monthly maintenance fees.

Cons:

  • No welcome bonus.
  • No overdraft protection.

Why we picked it: If your credit history isn’t the best, you may think that your inability to be approved for a credit card precludes you from participating in cash back rewards. But this account comes with a debit card that is more rewarding than a fair number of proper cash back credit cards.


Best for a simple and reliable APY: Quontic High Interest Checking

Simple and reliable APY

Simple and reliable APY

Quontic High Interest Checking

Special offer

Free pay ring (otherwise $29) upon account opening

Other high-interest checking account offers tend to require minimum balances, a complementary savings account, or multiple hoops to jump through. The Quontic High Interest Checking account combines simplicity with a respectable (though not outlandish) return rate.

You’ll earn 1.10% on all balances, no matter the size. The only catch is that you must make at least 10 qualifying debit card transactions totaling $10+ each month—otherwise, you’ll earn just 0.01%. You must also deposit at least $100 to open an account.

You won’t be charged any monthly or overdraft fees, either. However, if your account is left dormant for a month, you could incur a $5 fee.

Pros:

  • Solid APY that’s easy to achieve.
  • Sparse fees.

Cons:

  • Highest APY requires monthly activity (albeit easy).
  • Minimum $100 direct deposit.

Why we picked it: You’ll sometimes find that the higher the APY, the more effort is taken to attain it. Quontic finds the balance between a good interest rate and reasonable activity to achieve the highest payout.


Best for no fees: Discover Cash Back Debit

No fees

No fees

Discover® Cashback Debit

APY*

1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.**

Discover is known for charging very few account fees. The Discover Cash Back Debit account is no different. There are no monthly maintenance fees and no fees for insufficient funds, bank checks, expedited debit card replacement, etc.

The downside is that the bank account doesn’t earn APY. BUt it more than makes up for this by rewarding you with 1% back for all purchases made with your account’s debit card (on up to $3,000 in purchases each month). In other words, you can earn up to $360 per year just from making purchases you planned to make, anyway. Not bad at all.

Pros:

  • Extremely few fees.
  • Debit card earns up to 1% cash back.

Cons:

  • No APY.
  • Debit card rewards are capped at $30 per month.

Why we picked it: The last thing you want to deal with when searching for a rewards checking account is a barrage of fees. You’re trying to earn rewards, and seemingly arbitrary fees can eat into your profit in a big way. This account has virtually no fees.


Best for a welcome bonus: BMO Relationship Checking

Welcome offer

Welcome offer

BMO Relationship Checking

Special offer

$400 cash bonus with a total of at least $7,500 in qualifying direct deposits within the first 90 days. Offer expires May 3, 2024.

There are three BMO checking account types.

Most popular is the BMO Smart Advantage Checking. There are no monthly maintenance fees, and you’ll benefit from customer-friendly policies such as fee-free transactions at 40,000+ ATMs and no required minimum balance.

Next is the BMO Smart Money Checking — Benefits are similar to the Smart Advantage Checking account, but without overdraft fees. There is a $5 maintenance fee — unless you’re under age 25, in which case there is no fee.

The most valuable account is the BMO Relationship Checking. There are four account tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Premier. The amount of your combined eligible deposit accounts and investment balances will dictate which tier you qualify for. All account members will get perks like free incoming wire transfers, mortgage and home equity autopay discounts, and a quarterly spending bonus for BMO credit card holders.

Among its other virtues, the account offers an excellent bonus of $400 cash after receiving at least $7,500 in qualifying direct deposits within the first 90 days from account opening (this offer expires May 3, 2024). This isn’t the biggest bonus on the market, but it’s the most valuable when compared to the effort necessary to achieve it.

Pros:

  • Sizable (and accessible) welcome bonus.
  • Various mortgage discounts.
  • Up to $75 in quarterly spending bonuses with a BMO credit card.

Cons:

  • To qualify for the best rates, you’ll need $250,000+ in eligible deposit/investment accounts
  • $25 monthly maintenance fee (avoidable with qualifying activity).
  • Low APY.

Our methodology

TIME weighed a variety of characteristics in choosing the current best rewards checking accounts. We’ve taken into consideration current welcome bonuses, APY rates, accessibility, customer service, and hidden fees. We also factored in common restrictions that may prevent the average person from maximizing what at first glance would appear to be a top-notch offer.

Should you apply for a rewards checking account?

Most folks should absolutely apply for a rewards checking account. You’re almost certainly going to have a checking account anyway, so why not get rewarded for it? Opening a rewards checking account is one of the easiest steps you can take to put a bit of money back in your pocket without altering daily life.

Note that there are some downsides to rewards checking accounts, depending on the bank. You may be subject to stricter standards. For example, some may charge monthly fees—or even prevent you from opening an account at all—if you’re unable to maintain a high balance.

How to choose a rewards checking account

Return rate

The rewards you receive from your rewards checking account should be one of the most important factors in deciding which option is best for you.

Rewards checking accounts can work in various ways. You may earn interest daily based on your account balance. Or you may be provided a debit card that earns cash back for everyday spending.

Go for the account that’ll give you the biggest return for your situation. If you’ve got a massive account balance, it probably makes sense for you to focus on a high APY option.

Requirements

Among your favorite rewards checking account preferences, read the fine print to learn if there are any requirements you can’t meet. For example, some accounts stipulate that you receive a certain amount of money via direct deposit to earn a welcome bonus. Others may require that you keep a minimum account balance of $5,000 to earn the highest ongoing rewards rate. This could turn what seems like the best option into the absolute worst.

Restrictions

All bank accounts, rewards-earning or not, have unique restrictions that can impede the way you like to handle your finances. If you utilize ATMs regularly, research to see if there are in-network ATMs near you or if it participates in a national ATM network. If you’re in the habit of using paper checks, be sure that your prospective bank offers them.

Also ensure that the account doesn’t enforce a limit to the rewards it earns. For example, the account may earn 4% APY for balances up to $20,000—but just 0.1% for anything above that threshold.

Fees

Expect monthly maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees, paper statement fees, and more with rewards checking accounts. You must decide if you can avoid these fees altogether or if the rewards you earn are worth paying those fees.

How to apply for a rewards checking account

Opening a checking account is similar to applying for a loan, but not quite as probing. You’ll need to provide information such as:

  • Proof of address, which can be a rent statement or utility bill
  • Phone number
  • Birth date
  • Social Security number
  • Photo ID

Most banks won’t perform a credit inquiry when approving you for an account, though they may examine your previous banking practices through an agency called ChexSystems. In other words, if you’ve got a history of bad habits (bounced checks or overdrafts), that could play a factor in being approved.

You’ll generally need to fund your bank account soon after you open it. Depending on the bank, you may have the option of using a credit card, check, or direct deposit.

Alternatives to rewards checking accounts

Credit cards

Rewards credit cards often come with welcome bonuses that are equal to (or significantly greater than) the bonuses you’ll receive for opening a checking account. You’ll even earn cash back or travel points for everyday purchases, which can add up in a hurry.

For example, the card_name comes with a bonus_miles_full. It also earns 5% cash back for your top eligible spending category (up to $500 each month, then 1%). Eligible categories include:

  • Drugstores.
  • Fitness clubs.
  • Gas stations.
  • Grocery stores.
  • Home improvement stores.
  • Live entertainment.
  • Restaurants.
  • Select streaming services ( Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, and so on).
  • Select transit.
  • Select travel.

You’ll get 1% back for all other eligible purchases.

High-yield savings accounts

If you’re looking for ways to profit from the money sitting in your bank account, consider opening a high-yield savings account. Savings accounts routinely offer exponentially higher returns than checking accounts—and you can simply open a checking account from the same establishment for the ability to instantly employ your money when you need it.

As an example, the Valley Direct offers a whopping 5.25% APY* with no required balance to start earning.

Money market account

A money market account is essentially a savings account with checking account features. It offers APY similar to what you’ll find with savings accounts, too. However, you may find that the best MMA interest rates are only available for those with big balances.

Quontic Bank’s money market account is currently one of the best, offering 5.00% APY with a $100 minimum deposit. You’ll even get a debit card with the account.c

TIME Stamp: Rewards checking accounts are an easy financial win.

You’re losing money if you don’t use a rewards checking account. As long as you don’t incur fees that offset your earnings, applying is a no-brainer. Find a rewards checking account that complements your lifestyle, and it’s the closest you’ll come to a free lunch.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Are rewards checking accounts worth it?

Rewards checking accounts are worth it as long as they don’t prevent you from banking the way you normally do. If you like visiting a brick-and-mortar branch, even the most generous rewards account from a strictly online bank won’t deliver what you need.

What bank has the best checking account benefits?

The best checking account benefits depend on your preferences. However, if you’re apprehensive about trying rewards checking, you may benefit from an offering from Chase due to its customer service infrastructure alone. You can visit a nearby branch to speak face to face with a representative if you have questions.

What banks give you a bonus for opening an account?

Many banks offer welcome bonuses for opening a rewards checking account, including Axos, Chase, PNC, U.S. Bank, and more.

*APYs are subject to change. APYs are updated as of Dec. 1, 2023.


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