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In the debate over banks vs. credit unions, the latter can pose a few challenges — namely the smaller geographic footprint making it harder to bank in person compared to the big brick-and-mortar institutions with locations from coast to coast.
However, online banking makes it easier for people to manage their bank accounts without having to go to an ATM or into a branch. Consumers can therefore shop around outside their local region and even sign up for credit union checking accounts that charge zero monthly maintenance fees.
The Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking Account offers users a top-rated mobile app along with a higher-than-average 0.25% APY (with some conditions).
Users also get access to over 80,000 in-network ATMs, despite there being only one physical Alliant location in Illinois, and up to $20 in monthy refunds for going out-of-network.
Since Alliant is a credit union, you have to be a member in order to open an account. The easiest way to join is to support Alliant's partner charity: Foster Care to Success. You can submit your application online through Alliant's website and find out if you are eligible to join. You do not need to pay the charity directly — Alliant pays $5 on your behalf when you apply.
Monthly maintenance fee
Minimum deposit to open
Annual Percentage Yield (APY)
0.25% with paperless and recurring monthly electronic deposit
Free ATM network
80,000+ Alliant network ATMs
ATM fee reimbursement
Up to $20 per month
Mobile check deposit
Unlike many checking accounts, the Alliant Checking Account offers 0.25% APY. In order to earn interest you have to opt-in to paperless statements and set up a recurring monthly electronic deposit (such as direct deposit, payroll deposit, ATM deposits, mobile check deposits or transfers from other financial institutions).
You will not receive a dividend (the distribution of interest on your balance) during months where there aren't any deposits to your account.
Customers can access over 80,000 in-network ATMs and receive up to $20 per month in refunds for out-of-network ATM fees.
Alliant offers mobile check deposits through its award-winning phone application. You can also monitor charges to your account and hold or replace your missing debit card.
Alliant is a primarily online bank with only one physical branch in Illinois.
Alliant reimburses ATM fees you pay at out-of-network ATMs up to $20 each month and there are no requirements to benefit from this perk. The rebates will be deposited to your account by the end of the business day.
There is no minimum balance required to open this account.
There are no monthly service or minimum balance fees on this account. There is also no maximum balance limit on this account.
Alliant offers a couple of options to manage overdrafts:
Option 1: Users can opt-into overdraft protection. Overdraft Protection plans cover items when there is an insufficient balance in the account. An Overdraft Protection plan transfers money from another account to cover your overdrafts. There is no cost to enroll in Overdraft Protection.
Option 2: Users can qualify to enroll in Courtesy Pay, where Alliant may step in and cover checks, electronic payments, transfers as well as debit card transactions when your account has insufficient funds. If enrolled into the Courtesy Pay option, accounts are charged $28 per occurrence which is due, along with the balance, within 17 days.
A Nonsufficient Fund (NSF) fee of $25 will only be applied if users are not enrolled or do not qualify for the options above and do not have sufficient funds to cover a transaction.
Users should also note a $1 charge for paper statements and a $35 fee when you deposit a check from any non-U.S. bank.
Incoming wire transfers are free, but you are charged $25 on any outgoing wire transfers going to banks within the U.S. and $50 for wire transfers directed to foreign banks.
The Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking Account offers a nice 0.25% APY with easy ways to make your account eligible for earning interest.
This account is also well suited for people who find it hard to stick to in-network ATMs, since you can get up to $20 per month in ATM fees automatically refunded to your account.
If you are looking to open a new checking account with a quick financial incentive, check out the Chase Total Checking account which currently offers a $200 sign-up bonus.
Students should also check out the Chase College Checking℠ Account, which provides zero monthly service fees for up to five years for 17 to 24-year-olds who show proof of student status at account opening. CNBC Select ranked this account as the best for college students.
To determine which checking accounts provide the best place to deposit your money at no monthly cost, CNBC Select analyzed dozens of U.S. checking accounts offered by online and brick-and-mortar banks, including major credit unions. We narrowed down our rankings by only considering checking accounts that charge no monthly maintenance fees (and no catches to benefit from zero monthly fees).
While the accounts we chose in this article consistently have no monthly maintenance fees, we also compared each checking account on a range of features, including:
- No minimum balance requirement
- Low initial deposit of $0 to $50
- Available nationwide
- Physical branch locations and/or online accessibility
- Large ATM network
- Ease of use and account accessibility
- Customer reviews, when available
All of the accounts included on this list are Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) insured up to $250,000. This insurance protects and reimburses you up to your balance and the legal limit in the event your bank or credit union fails.
The rates and fee structures for checking accounts are subject to change without notice and they often fluctuate in accordance with the prime rate.
Your earnings depend on any associated fees and the balance you have in your checking account. To open an account, some banks and institutions may require a deposit of new money, meaning you can't transfer money you already had in an account at that bank. However, the five accounts listed above currently don't require any deposit during account opening.
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