The best rewards checking accounts of October 2021
In many cases,
are just places to hold your cash until you spend it. But a rewards checking account can work just as hard for you as a savings account can.
A good rewards checking account should offer a promotion that’s enticing enough to make you choose that account over any other. The reward should also be relatively easy to obtain, whether it’s cash back, interest, or a sign-up bonus.
You also don’t want to sign up for a checking account that offers a great reward, only to be bogged down by high fees or poor customer support once you’ve opened the account. It’s important that a rewards checking account be a good fit overall.
Below we’ve listed our picks for the best rewards checking account right now. We know “best” means something different for everyone, so we’ve listed each bank account’s strengths, as well as its limitations.
Our expert panel for this guide
We consulted banking and financial planning experts to inform these picks and provide their advice on finding the best rewards checking accounts for your needs. You can read their insights at the bottom of this post.
We’re focusing on what will make a checking account most useful, including rewards, costs, and more.
How our list compares to other publications
Research is an important part of choosing a rewards checking account, and Insider isn’t the only website looking for the best rewards. To help you make a decision, we’ve compared our top picks with lists from other publications.
Keep in mind that each publication has different methodologies for identifying the “best” rewards checking accounts. We included a checkmark under each publication name if it also recommended an account we chose in its roundup.
We looked at the rewards when choosing our top picks — but we also looked at factors like how easy it is to get the reward, fees associated with accounts, and other perks or limitations.
Best for cash back rewards
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
Why it stands out: You’ll have free access to over 60,000 ATMs. There are no monthly service or overdraft fees. There is a mobile check deposit feature. You’ll earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases every month. Unlike with many cash back checking accounts, you don’t have to maintain a minimum balance to earn cash back.
How to get the reward: You’ll earn cash back on most of your regular debit card transactions. Here are the types of transactions that do not qualify for cash back:
- ATM transactions
- Money orders
- Loan payments
- Account funding
- Purchases made with Apple Pay Cash, Venmo, or PayPal
- If you pay for something partly with cash and partly with your debit card, then you won’t earn cash back on the cash portion
Monthly fee: $0
What to look out for: Location restrictions. You can only use your Discover debit card in the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Best for sign-up bonus
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
Why it stands out: While the $100 sign-up bonus isn’t fantastic, it is easy to qualify for and available in 37 US states. Bank of America is also highly regarded by the Better Business Bureau, which gives the bank an A+ grade in trustworthiness.
How to get the reward:
- Open a Bank of America Advantage SafeBalance, Plus, or Relationship Banking Checking Account through the bank’s promotional page by December 31
- Receive at least two recurring direct deposits of at least $250 within 90 days of opening the account
What to look out for: You can find accounts with higher sign-up bonuses, if you live in certain areas and can meet loftier requirements. Read about those accounts in our best bank account bonuses guide.
Best for big spenders
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
Why it stands out: While you may prefer using a well-known brand like Discover for cash back rewards, Quontic is another great choice — especially if you make large purchases with your debit card. You’ll earn 1.50% cash back on debit card transactions, on up to $2,000 in purchases per day. You can use 90,000 ATMs nationwide for free, and there are no monthly service fees.
How to get the reward: As with Discover, you’ll only earn cash back on regular debit card purchases. You won’t get rewards on transactions like ATM withdrawals or PayPal transfers.
What to look out for: Opening deposit. You’ll need at least $100 to open an account.
Best interest rate for banks
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
Up to 1.00% APY
Why it stands out: You can earn up to 1.00% on your money, regardless of your balance. Axos also offers unlimited reimbursements for out-of-network ATM fees charged by operators.
How to get the reward: With the Axos Bank Rewards Checking account, you earn interest in stages — with each goal you accomplish, you earn a little more interest. Here are the goals:
- Earn 0.40% when you receive at least $1,500 in direct deposits in a month (this requirement must be met to be eligible to earn any interest during the statement cycle, regardless of whether the other interest-earning requirements are met)
- Earn 0.30% when you make 10 Axos Visa® Debit Card transactions in a month (minimum $3 per transaction) or sign up for Account Aggregation/Personal Finance Manager (PFM) in Online Banking
- Earn 0.10% by maintaining an average daily balance of $2,500 per month in an Axos Managed Portfolios Invest Account
- Earn 0.10% by maintaining an average daily balance of $2,500 per month in an Axos Self Directed Trading Invest Account
- Earn 0.10% by using your account to make your full monthly Axos consumer loan payment
If you accomplish all the goals in a month, you earn a total of 1.00% APY.
Monthly fee: $0
What to look out for: Opening deposit. You need at least $50 to open an Axos Bank Rewards Checking account.
Best interest rate for credit unions
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
0.10% to 4.09% APY
Why it stands out: You have the ability to earn up to 4.09% on your checking account balance. Consumers Cred Union (Federally insured by NCUA) also pays unlimited refunds on fees charged by out-of-network ATM providers.
One of the main differences between banks and
is that you must meet certain qualifications to join a credit union, such as living in specific US states, working for a given company, or having a family member who is already a member. It’s easier to join Consumers Credit Union than many credit unions — you just have to pay a one-time fee of $5 to the Consumers Cooperative Association.
How to get the reward: Here are the APY tiers:
- Earn 2.09% on balances up to $10,000 when you sign up to receive eDocuments, make 12 debit card purchases per month, and receive $500 per month in direct deposits, mobile check deposits, or transfers from other banks.
- Earn 3.09% on balances up to $10,000 when you meet the qualifications to earn 2.09% and spend $500 per month with your Consumers Credit Union credit card.
- Earn 4.09% on balances up to $10,000 when you meet the qualifications to earn 3.09% and spend $1,000 per month with your Consumers Credit Union credit card.
- Earn 0.20% on balances between $10,000.01 and $25,000 when you receive eDocuments, make 12 debit card purchases per month, and receive $500 per month in direct deposits, mobile check deposits, or transfers from other banks.
- Earn 0.10% on balances of $25,000.01 and more when you receive eDocuments, make 12 debit card purchases per month, and receive $500 per month in direct deposits, mobile check deposits, or transfers from other banks.
Monthly fee: $0
What to look out for: Balance tiers. You need a Consumers Credit Union credit card to earn the maximum APY, and if you don’t meet any of the qualifications listed, you won’t earn interest at all.
Other rewards checking accounts we considered
We looked at over 30 rewards checking accounts before choosing our favorites. But depending on your needs, you still may decide one of these accounts is a better fit:
- Quontic Bitcoin Rewards Checking (Member FDIC): This is like a cash-back account, but you’ll earn Bitcoin instead. You can exchange Bitcoin for cash later if you prefer.
- Quontic High Interest Checking (Member FDIC): This is a good high-interest checking account, but you can earn more with Axos.
- Cheese Account (Deposits are FDIC insured): This is a great option for Asian Americans and immigrants. It pays a decent interest rate and has generous cash-back rewards.
- HMBradley (Deposits are FDIC insured): You’ll earn a high interest rate if you save a large percentage of your direct deposits.
- OnJuno Metal (Deposits are FDIC insured): This account pays a high APY on balances up to $30,000, but there’s a $9.99 monthly fee after the first six months.
- Axos Bank™ CashBack Checking (Member FDIC): You’ll earn 1% cash back, but you must maintain a $1,500 minimum balance.
- LendingClub Bank Rewards Checking (Member FDIC): You need a minimum balance of $2,500 to receive cash back or earn interest with LendingClub. But if you qualify, then you can earn cash back on an unlimited amount.
- Redneck Bank Rewards Checkin’ Account (Member FDIC): You’ll earn a high APY on balances up to $10,000, and a decent APY on any amount over $10,000 — but you need an opening deposit of at least $500.
- Bethpage Free Checking (Federally insured by the NCUA): This is a good option if you want a credit union rather than a bank, but you can earn more with Consumers.
- Blue Extreme Checking (Federally insured by the NCUA): You have the potential to earn a great rate with Blue FCU, but there are complicated criteria for each APY tier.
- Connexus Xtraordinary Checking (Federally insured by the NCUA): This is another good high-yield checking account, but you can earn a better rate with Consumers.
- PenFed Access America Checking (Federally insured by the NCUA): PenFed is a good credit union overall, but this checking account doesn’t pay as high of a rate as our top picks do.
- Wings Financial High-Yield Checking (Federally insured by the NCUA): You can earn a good APY if you meet certain criteria.
- Porte Account (Deposits are FDIC insured): This is a good rewards checking account for anyone who want to support charities.
- Kasasa checking accounts: Kasasa is a company with partner banks all around the United States. You’ll likely find a good rewards checking account if there is a partner bank near you, but rewards vary from bank to bank.
- Lake Michigan Credit Union Max Checking (Federally insured by NCUA): You’ll earn a high APY on balances under $15,000, but only residents of certain parts of the US can join this credit union.
- HSBC Premier Checking (Member FDIC): You can earn a $450 bonus when you set up this account, or earn a 3% cash bonus up to $600, but you’ll pay a $50 monthly fee unless you meet some lofty qualifications.
- Associated Bank (Member FDIC): You’ll earn a $200, $300, or $500 sign-up bonus, but there are only branch locations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois.
- PNC Bank Virtual Wallet (Member FDIC): You may be eligible for a $300 sign-up bonus, but you might not like this account if you prefer traditional bank accounts.
- HSBC Advance Checking (Member FDIC): You can receive $200 sign-up bonus or earn a 3% cash bonus (up to $240), but there’s a $25 monthly service fee.
- Huntington 5 Checking (Member FDIC): There’s no minimum deposit, and the $5 monthly fee is relatively easy to waive — but it’s a little harder to qualify for the bonus than with other banks.
- Huntington Asterisk-Free Checking (Member FDIC): There’s no opening deposit or monthly fee with this checking account, but the $150 bonus is less than what you’ll get with some other banks.
- City National Bank (Member FDIC): You’ll receive a $100 bonus when you open one of several checking accounts, which is less than what you’ll earn with some other banks.
- Investors eAccess Checking Account (Member FDIC): You’ll earn a $250 sign-up bonus if you meet certain criteria, and the earnings are spread out over 10 months.
- PNC Bank Virtual Wallet (Member FDIC): You could earn a high sign-up bonus, but you must meet specific requirements.
Which bank is the most trustworthy?
All our top picks have strong trustworthiness grades from the Better Business Bureau:
A good BBB grade indicates a company responds effectively to customer complaints, advertises honestly, and is transparent about business practices.
However, a good BBB grade won’t guarantee that your relationship with the bank will be great. Make sure to also get other people’s perspectives and reviews.
Something you may also consider is whether a bank has been involved in a scandal. In 2020, the Department of Justice said Bank of America was unfairly refusing to give home loans to adults with disabilities, even if they did meet the qualifications. The Department of Justice required Bank of America to pay $300,000 to the people who were denied the loans. In 2019, the Department of Labor required Bank of America to pay 4.2 million to people who claimed that the bank’s hiring process had discriminated against Black, Hispanic, and women applicants.
If these scandals bother you, you may want to choose one of the other banks on our list.
Frequently asked questions
Why trust our recommendations?
Personal Finance Insider’s mission is to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We understand that “best” is often subjective, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product or account — a high APY or sign-up bonus, for example — we outline the limitations, too. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of various products so you don’t have to.
How did we choose the best rewards checking accounts?
We reviewed over two dozen rewards checking accounts to identify the strongest options. We also cross-referenced our list against popular comparison sites like SmartAsset and NerdWallet to make sure we didn’t miss a thing.
We looked at the reward offered by a checking account — such as a high APY or sign-up bonus — but we also considered how easy or difficult it is to receive a reward. And we considered other factors that make a checking account strong or weak, including opening deposits, monthly fees, and ATM accessibility.
What is a rewards checking account?
Typically, you have to meet certain qualifications to receive a reward, like maintain a minimum account balance or use your debit card a certain number of times per month. Or there are limitations — for example, you can earn cash back up to a certain dollar amount per month, or you earn a high rate on balances up to $10,000.
What bank has the best rewards program?
Right now, the banks that offer the best rewards programs are Discover Bank, Quontic Bank, Axos Bank, and Consumers Credit Union. However, you can check our “Other rewards checking accounts we considered” section to see if another bank has a rewards program that suits your needs.
What is a cash back checking account?
You’ve probably heard about
, but there are a few cash back checking accounts, too. When you swipe your debit card, you earn a percentage of the money you spend back into your checking account — it’s sort of like getting a discount on every purchase you make with your debit card.
Do debit cards earn rewards?
Typically, debit cards do not earn you rewards — but debit cards attached to rewards checking accounts are the exceptions.
Many rewards checking accounts link your reward to your debit card in some way. You may earn cash back when you swipe your debit card or qualify for a higher APY if you swipe your debit card a certain number of times per month. However, not all checking account rewards are tied to debit cards.
Are interest checking accounts worth it?
It depends. Most banks place more emphasis on earning interest with a savings account than with a checking account. Because you probably spend from your checking account and deposit money into your savings account, your checking account balance gets smaller and smaller (at least until payday), and your savings account ideally gets bigger and bigger.
If you tend to keep a lot of money in your checking account, then an interest-bearing checking account could be worth it. If your balance typically stays low, you may want to look for a reward other than a high APY, like cash back or a sign-up bonus.
The experts’ advice on choosing the best rewards checking account for you
To learn more about what makes a good checking account and how to choose the best fit, four experts weighed in:
Here’s what they had to say about checking accounts. (Some text may be lightly edited for clarity.)
What makes a checking account good or not good?
Roger Ma, CFP:
“I would look at the ATM branch locations and then minimum balance amounts to not incur a monthly fee … I think there’s other stuff that could make life easier, whether it’s free checks, online bill pay, are they in the Zelle network?”
Laura Grace Tarpley, Personal Finance Insider:
“I would make a list of the top three to five things you want out of a checking account. Is it a great mobile app, 24/7 customer support, no ATM fees? Then research the
for those features.”
How can someone determine whether a bank is the right fit for them?
Tania Brown, CFP:
“Obviously, you want to make sure it’s FDIC insured. Also, your banking experience — do you like walking into a bank? Well, then you need someone local. Do you just not care if you ever see your bank? Then you’re okay online. Do you write checks? Do you not write checks? So it’s thinking through how your experience with it is going to be before you make that decision.”
Mykail James, CFEI:
“The No. 1 thing about a checking account is you should know what provider the debit card is coming from. And a lot of people don’t think about that, because there are places that don’t accept MasterCard or don’t accept an Amex.”
How should someone decide whether to choose a rewards checking account with a high APY, cash sign-up bonus, or cash back?
Tania Brown, CFP:
“I have checking accounts with all the above, because I use checking accounts for different purposes. I would tell someone, think through the experience of how you’re going to use it. So I have my account strictly for bills and I don’t attach a debit card to that. Well, I’m not going to get a lot of cash rewards out of that, because I rarely use that debit card, but I keep a pretty decent balance. So that one I use in particular for interest. I have a spending checking account. That one, I don’t care if the balance is zero, the money that goes in there, I expect for it to go out. But because I use that often, that is the one I attached to a cash reward. And then I have another one that I use just for travel, and I actually have a travel reward attached to that one.”
Roger Ma, CFP:
“I think if you’re someone who is responsible with credit, then instead of focusing on a checking account that rewards you, look to a credit card that rewards you for the areas where you spend money. I wouldn’t recommend people waste their time with a rewards checking account. Get the fundamentals right with fewer checking or savings accounts, and then start to move toward using a credit card to build your credit.”