Best High-Interest Checking Accounts

These checking options pay more than even the best savings accounts

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Holding enough money in a checking account to cover your bills and then stashing any surplus cash in a savings account is the traditional model for boosting the bank interest you can earn. But for those willing to regularly use a debit card, significantly higher earnings are available from high-interest checking accounts.

Best High-Yield Checking Accounts

  • La Capital Federal Credit Union - 4.25% APY
  • Consumers Credit Union - 4.09% APY
  • Devon Bank - 3.50% APY
  • Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union - 3.30% APY
  • Garden Savings Federal Credit Union - 3.00% APY
  • Lake Michigan Credit Union - 3.00% APY
  • Industrial Bank - 2.50% APY
  • Presidential Bank - 2.25% APY
  • TAB Bank - 2.00% APY

These accounts, sometimes called rewards checking, offer a trade-off: If you meet a handful of transactional requirements in any given statement cycle, the bank or credit union will pay you an interest rate for that month that is well beyond what even the best savings accounts offer.

The catch is that you need to follow all of the requirements to the letter, and if you miss even one, you'll be paid little or no interest for that month.

Still, for many consumers, the requirements aren't difficult, and the pay-off can be quite lucrative. Indeed, our ranking of the best high-interest checking accounts that are available nationwide all pay at least 2%, with the top-paying accounts exceeding 4% APY. Compare that to high-yield savings accounts, even the best of which are paying only a bit above 1% right now.

Credit unions are significant players in the high-interest checking account arena, populating the majority of our ranking slots. But don't let the name or location of a credit union fool you into thinking you can't bank with them. Many credit unions -- and all of the ones we've included in our rankings here -- offer a pathway for anyone in the country to join, usually for a modest fee or donation.

Note that all of the high-interest checking accounts listed below require signing up for electronic statements, and most also stipulate that you enroll in online or mobile banking.

Below you'll find the top checking account rates available from our partners, followed by our complete ranking of the best checking account rates nationwide.

La Capitol Federal Credit Union, Choice Checking - 4.25% APY

This is the highest-APY nationwide checking account that we've found. But with its limited balance threshold, it's best for customers keeping relatively minimal funds on hand.

  • Maximum balance for top APY: 4.25% APY on up to $3,000, then 2.00% APY from $3,000 to $10,000. Balances above $10,000 earn 0.10% APY.
  • Debit card transactions required per month: 15
  • Direct deposit required? No
  • ACH required? No
  • Bill payments required? No
  • APY if qualifications not met: 0.10% APY on full balance for that month
  • ATM fee reimbursement: Up to $25/month
  • Monthly maintenance fee: If you meet the monthly debit transaction requirement or keep your average daily balance above $1,000 for the month, no fee. Otherwise, an $8 low balance fee will apply.
  • Cost to open: Anyone who doesn't qualify for this Louisiana credit union through its standard avenues can become eligible by donating $20 to the┬áLouisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement (ACHIEVE), and keeping $5 or more in a La Capitol savings account.

Consumers Credit Union, Rewards Checking - 4.09% APY

This second option paying above 4% APY offers a higher balance threshold and fewer required debits. But earning the top rate requires opening and actively using a credit card from the credit union.

  • Maximum balance for top APY: 4.09% on up to $10,000. Balances between $10,000 and $25,000 earn 0.20% APY, and balances in excess of $25,000 earn 0.10% APY.
  • Debit card transactions required per month: 12
  • Direct deposit required? One direct deposit, ACH deposit, or mobile deposit of $500+ per month
  • ACH required? See direct deposit above
  • Bill payments required? No
  • Other requirements: Holding a Consumers CU Visa card and spending $1,000 on it per month. If credit card spend is at least $500 but doesn't hit $1,000, APY on the account will be 3.09% APY.
  • APY if qualifications not met: 0.01% APY on full balance for that month
  • ATM fee reimbursement: Unlimited refunds in months where qualifications are met
  • Monthly maintenance fee: None
  • Cost to open: If not otherwise qualified, anyone can join Consumers by paying a one-time membership fee of $5 to the Consumers Cooperative Association, and keeping at least $5 in a member savings account.

Devon Bank, Free Kasasa Cash Checking - 3.50% APY

As the highest-paying rewards checking account we found from a bank, opening an account with Devon won't require any of the costs or steps associated with joining a credit union. And its interest rate is top-notch.

  • Maximum balance for top APY: 3.50% APY on up to $10,000. Higher amounts earn 0.77% APY. In addition, Devon Bank offers a "F.ree Kasasa Cash with Saver" option, which provides a linked savings account paying 1.25% on up to $50,000. Beyond that maximum, it pays 0.75% APY.
  • Debit card transactions required per month: 12 ($3 minimum)
  • Direct deposit required? One direct deposit or ACH deposit per month
  • ACH required? See direct deposit above
  • Bill payments required? No
  • APY if qualifications not met: 0.05% APY on full balance for that month
  • ATM fee reimbursement: Fees refunded up to $25 per month
  • Monthly maintenance fee: None
  • Cost to open: None

Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union, Vertical Checking - 3.30% APY

This account offers a nice blend between a high APY and a generous maximum balance for those who can set up a direct deposit, and anyone is eligible.

  • Maximum balance for top APY: 3.30% APY up to $20,000. No interest paid on amounts beyond that.
  • Debit card transactions required per month: 15
  • Direct deposit required? Yes
  • ACH required? No
  • Bill payments required? No
  • Other requirements: At least one online or mobile banking login
  • APY if qualifications not met: No interest that month
  • ATM fee reimbursement: Up to $15 in fees refunded when monthly qualifications are met
  • Monthly maintenance fee: None
  • Cost to open: Membership isn't limited to Evansville or to teachers; anyone who donates $5 to the Mater Dei Friends & Alumni Association and keeps at least $5 in a savings account is eligible to join.

Garden Savings Federal Credit Union, Platinum Rate Rewards Checking - 3.00% APY

Direct deposit not a great option for you? Garden Savings offers one of the best APY's and a generous maximum earning balance, while allowing you to qualify without establishing a direct deposit.

  • Maximum balance for top APY: 3.00% APY up to $15,000. Balances above that pay 0.15% APY.
  • Debit card transactions required per month: 12
  • Direct deposit required? One direct deposit OR one ACH deposit
  • ACH required? See direct deposit above
  • Bill payments required? No
  • APY if qualifications not met: No interest that month
  • ATM fee reimbursement: Up to $20 in fees refunded in monthly qualifications met
  • Monthly maintenance fee: None
  • Cost to open: Anyone can join Garden Savings by signing up for a free membership in the nonprofit American Consumer Council and keeping at least $5 in a member savings account.

Lake Michigan Credit Union, Max Checking - 3.00% APY

At just 10, the number of monthly required debit card transactions for this account is one of the lowest requirements out there, with a maximum APY balance and interest rate that are among the best.

  • Maximum balance earning top APY: 3.00% up to $15,000. No interest paid on balance amounts above that.
  • Debit card transactions required per month: 10
  • Direct deposit required? Yes
  • ACH required? No
  • Bill payments required? No
  • Other requirements: At least four online banking logins per month
  • APY if qualifications not met: No interest that month
  • ATM fee reimbursement: Up to $10 in reimbursed fees per month
  • Monthly maintenance fee: None
  • Cost to open: Residents of Michigan's lower peninsula plus Florida are automatically eligible for LMCU membership, but anyone else can join by donating $5 to the ALS Foundation and maintaining $5 or more in a member savings account.

Industrial Bank, Kasasa Cash Checking - 2.50% APY

This is one of the easier high-yield checking accounts to qualify for, with no direct deposit requirement, no extra costs or steps to join a credit union, and a generous limit on ATM fee refunds.

  • Maximum balance for top APY: 2.50% APY up to $15,000, then 0.25% APY beyond that
  • Debit card transactions required per month: 12
  • Direct deposit required? No
  • ACH required? No
  • Bill payments required? No
  • Other requirements: Log into online banking at least once during the month
  • APY if qualifications not met: 0.01% on full balance for that month
  • ATM fee reimbursement: Up to $25 in fees reimbursed if monthly qualification met
  • Monthly maintenance fee: None
  • Cost to open: None

Presidential Bank, Advantage Checking - 2.25% APY

Though this isn't the highest APY on the list, the high yield is extended to a much higher balance amount than with other accounts. It's also the only top-paying checking account that doesn't absolutely require debit card transactions, offering other electronic withdrawals as alternate qualifiers.

  • Maximum balance for top APY: 2.25% APY up to $25,000, and a generous 1.25% APY on balances beyond $25,000.
  • Debit card transactions required per month: Seven or more electronic withdrawals per month, which can be by ATM, debit card, ACH, or bill pay
  • Direct deposit required? Yes, at least $500 per month
  • ACH required? See debit card requirement above
  • Bill payments required? See debit card requirement above
  • Other requirements: Write up to three paper checks per month at no charge, but incur a $3 charge per check thereafter
  • APY if qualifications not met: 0.30% APY
  • ATM fee reimbursement: Up to $8 in refunded fees per month
  • Monthly maintenance fee: None with a $500 minimum balance
  • Cost to open: None

You May Be Able to Earn Even More

As with all banking products, it can pay to shop locally. Our rankings focus on banks and credit unions that are open to customers nationwide, allowing for accounts to be opened online. But with credit unions being strong players in the rewards checking realm, it's possible that a credit union in your community or state, or that serves your employer, may pay as much or more than the best nationwide options we've laid out. Or perhaps you'll find one with slightly easier requirements.

The nationwide leaders above will be hard to beat in most markets. But it's always worth checking the local and regional options available specifically to you before locking into a choice.

What is Kasasa?

If you do only a little research on rewards checking accounts, you'll notice the word Kasasa popping up from time to time, and the odd word may leave you scratching your head.

That's because Kasasa is a fabricated branding word, and the name of a company that offers checking account infrastructure to banks and credit unions. What all Kasasa accounts have in common is that they offer some sort of reward, whether exceptional interest rates, cash back on debit card purchases, or more unconventional perks, and they carry no fees.

Tips for Succeeding with High-Yield Checking

By now you understand that with a high-interest checking account, you have to actively earn your reward. For most people, these are not accounts you can just leave on auto-pilot and expect to receive the maximum interest payment each month. A little bit of due diligence -- both up front and on a monthly basis -- is required if you want to maximum your earnings.

Be Sure You Thoroughly Understand the Requirements

As you research options, be sure you fully understand what each account will require of you. Thinking through how you normally use a checking account, and what behavior modifications you're willing to make (if any), will help lead you to the best rewards checking account for your needs and style.

Then, once you've chosen an account, make the time investment of a phone call to a customer service representative at the bank or credit union to ask questions about the specific rules of qualifying transactions. One of the most important things to clarify is what types of debit card transactions will qualify toward the minimum number. Do they have to involve a signature? Can they be PIN-based? Do they have to be at least some minimum dollar amount?

But don't stop at debit questions. Also familiarize yourself with any requirements about direct deposit or ACH transactions. And learn where to review the monthly qualification calendar, which will indicate the first and last days for posted transactions to count towards each monthly rewards cycle.

Set Some Monthly Reminders

Now that you know your marching orders for earning top dollar on your checking account balance every month, turn that information into some automated ticklers that will help ensure you don't blow it, since being deprived of a whole month of interest due to a single misstep can be frustrating.

Adding a reminder to your phone or calendar for the same day every month, perhaps 7-10 days before the closing date for qualifying transactions, is a best practice that can help you complete any necessary actions while you still have time.

The date a transaction will count towards your monthly qualification requirements is the posted date, not the actual activity date. Since it can take a day or two for pending transactions to post, be sure to initiate any needed activity a few days before the end of your qualification period.

Watch Out for Account Maximums

If your account has a maximum that you may sometimes bump up against, regularly pay attention to your balance. If you go a few dollars over and it's expected to be a temporary surplus, don't sweat it. But since the interest rate many of these accounts pay on the portion of your balance that exceeds the high-APY threshold is zero or close to it, you won't want to regularly keep more than the maximum in your account.

To see how much difference this can make, take the example of an account with a $10,000 maximum for earning 3.00%. At amounts above $10,000, the account pays just 0.10% APY. If you were to keep a balance of about $20,000 in the account on a regular basis, you'd essentially be lowering your APY on that account to just 1.55% APY (the average of 3.00 plus 0.10).

Pair Your High-Yield Checking with High-Yield Savings

For those who do find they're being constrained by the maximum balance threshold on their high-yield checking account, a savvy move is to pair it with a high-yield savings account.

The savings account can be at the same institution or an entirely different one. You can find our ranking of the top-paying national savings accounts here. The key is simply to create an electronic link between your two high-yield accounts, so that you can easily transfer surplus funds that exceed your checking account's maximum allowance into a savings account that may pay ten times as much as the surplus funds would earn in checking. Conversely, if your checking account balance falls below the high-APY threshold, you can transfer funds from savings back to checking in order to maximum your high-yield earnings.