Best Rewards Checking Accounts

Credit cards aren’t the only way to earn cash back

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If you prefer using debit over credit, you may find yourself suffering rewards envy, given the constant parade of ads and offers for cash back and travel reward credit cards. But earning perks on your purchases doesn't have to mean buying on credit. Checking accounts with cash back debit cards do exist. You just have to hunt a little harder for them.

Important

In the credit card industry, "rewards" is ubiquitously used to indicate a monetary bonus given on qualified purchases with the card. These rewards generally consist of cash back, travel bonuses, or mileage awards.

Best Rewards Checking Accounts

  • Discover Cashback Debit: Best for Low Balances
  • Radius Bank Rewards Checking: Best for Those With Direct Deposit
  • Radius Bank Superhero Checking: Best for Donating Rewards to Charity
  • Axos Bank CashBack Checking: Best for Heavy Debit Users
  • USAA Cashback Rewards Checking: Best for Military Individuals & Families

Warning

Be sure you understand and remember the specific rules and requirements of your account so that you use it in such a way that maximizes your potential rewards. Violate any of the requirements and you may find yourself surprised by having no cash back at the end of the month.

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

Discover Cashback Debit: Best for Low Balances

Like its popular credit card, Discover's cash rewards checking account is similarly focused on a no-fee promise and an easy way to earn rewards. It's a good choice for those who sometimes carry a low balance and whose monthly debit spending falls below $3,000.

  • Cash back formula: 1% on all debit card purchases up to monthly limit
  • Limits or restrictions: Rewards paid only on the first $3,000 of debit purchases each month (i.e., maximum cash back is $30 per month).
  • Minimum balance: No minimum
  • Features: An extensive network of 60,000 ATMs nationwide, free checks, mobile check deposit, online bill pay, and the ability to freeze debit card.
  • Monthly Maintenance Fee: None

Radius Bank Rewards Checking: Best for Those With Direct Deposit

Radius is an award-winning online bank established in 1987. It's ideal for those who receive at least $2,500 in direct deposits each month (or are able to keep their balance above that level at all times).

  • Cash back formula: 1% on all debit card purchases
  • Limits or restrictions: Radius places no limit on how much cash back can be earned in a month. However, rewards are only paid in months when a) the account's daily minimum balance was $2,500 or more, or b) at least $2,500 in direct deposits was received.
  • Minimum balance: No minimum balance, but there's no cash back if the above requirements are not met.
  • Features: Unlimited ATM fee refunds worldwide, early direct deposit, free first order of checks, mobile check deposit, online bill pay, and interest paid on your balance.
  • Monthly Maintenance Fee: None

Radius Bank Superhero Checking: Best for Donating Rewards to Charity

Radius' Superhero Checking is identical to its Rewards Checking above except that instead of 1% of your purchase amounts being paid to you as cash back, Radius will donate the 1% to March of Dimes.

  • Cash back formula: 1% on all debit card purchases to March of Dimes
  • Limits or restrictions: Radius places no limit on how much cash back can be earned in a month. However, rewards are only paid in months when a) the account's daily minimum balance was $2,500 or more, or b) at least $2,500 in direct deposits was received.
  • Minimum balance: No minimum balance, but no cash back if the above requirements are not met.
  • Features: Unlimited ATM fee refunds worldwide, early direct deposit, free first order of checks, mobile check deposit, online bill pay, and interest paid on your balance.
  • Monthly Maintenance Fee: None

Axos Bank CashBack Checking: Best for Heavy Debit Users

Axos offers both cash back and high-yield checking options as well as a Top 10 national rate on its accompanying savings account. With its generous cap on rewards, it's a great choice for those who do all or most of their monthly spending with a debit card.

  • Cash back formula: 1% on debit card purchases
  • Limits or restrictions: Rewards paid only on signature-based debit purchases, but the rewards limit is set at a lofty $2,000 maximum cash back per month.
  • Minimum balance: $1,500 minimum daily balance in order to earn 1% cash back each month. If balance falls below $1,500, the cash back percentage drops to 0.5%.
  • Features: Unlimited ATM fee reimbursement in the U.S., mobile check deposit, and online bill pay.
  • Monthly Maintenance Fee: None

USAA Cashback Rewards Checking: Best for Military Individuals & Families

Although USAA isn't open to everyone, its reach is wide in that it includes all members and veterans of the military, plus their spouses and children. It would be best for those with a military affiliation in the family and whose debit purchases typically average $10 or less.

  • Cash back formula: 10 cents per debit transaction (equal to 1% on a $10 transaction, but 0.5% on a $20 transaction)
  • Limits or restrictions: No limit on the amount of cash earned.
  • Minimum balance: No minimum
  • Features: Zelle instant payments, ATM fee reimbursements up to $15/month, mobile check deposit, and online bill pay.
  • Monthly Maintenance Fee: None

How to Choose a Checking Account

Among checking accounts you'll find two very different types of accounts carrying the name "rewards checking." The first are those that pay cash back, as we're discussing here. But some banks and credit unions use "rewards checking" to indicate a high-yield checking account. Instead of rewarding you with a certain amount of cash back per transaction, these accounts reward you by paying a high interest rate on your balance if you meet certain account requirements.

For those who prefer earning cash on individual debit transactions, here's what to look for in choosing an account:

  • Cash back formula: How much will you earn each month? Is it a percentage of your purchases or a fixed amount on each transaction?
  • Maximum earnings: Are there any limits on how much cash you can earn?
  • Minimum balance: Do you need to keep your checking account balance above a certain minimum? If so, what happens if you drop below that threshold?
  • Checking account features: Does the account carry the checking features you value most? Favorites include mobile deposit, free checks, access to a wide network of ATMs, and online bill pay.
  • Fees: Will you incur any fees given your typical use of this account?

Key Takeaways

  • Though far less common than rewards credit cards, debit cards that pay cash back are an option if you pick the right checking account or card.
  • Every cash back checking account is structured differently, so it's important to carefully review each account's features, fees, and requirements in light of what's most important to how you'll use the account.
  • Be aware that the term "rewards checking" is used to for two different types of checking accounts: those paying cash back and those offering a high interest rate on your balance.

Alternative Ways to Earn Debit Cash Back

Going beyond the basic cash back structure, the three debit cards below offer slightly different takes on earning your rewards.

Bank of America BankAmeriDeals

Bank of America offers its BankAmeriDeals on both its checking account debit cards and its credit card accounts. Rather than earn a modest cash back percentage on all card purchases for the month, BankAmeriDeals allow you to earn 10% or more on select purchases (e.g., 15% back on your Starbucks purchase or 10% on your Olive Garden check). You can always view the current available offers using online banking or the Bank of America mobile app, and you'll need to select your offer prior to making the qualifying purchase.

PayPal Business Debit for Debit Card

Any sole proprietor, freelancer, or side gig earner can apply for a PayPal Business Debit card, which pays 1% cash back on all purchases with no limit. What's more, you don't need to open a special checking account to get and use the card. Instead, the rewards are earned on purchases made using your PayPal balance or any linked bank account.

Aspiration

The Aspiration debit card, and its premium sibling, the Aspiration Plus, are taking a socially conscious approach to checking accounts and cash back purchases. The fees for the basic card are "pay what you think is fair," and they'll donate 10% of the fee you pay to charities. They also pledge that none of the deposits they take in will fund fossil fuel exploration or production, while also offering an option to plant a tree for every swipe. As for cash back, the basic card pays 3%–5% on purchases from members of the Conscience Coalition, including TOMS, Warby Parker, and Blue Apron. Meanwhile, the Aspiration Plus pays 10% back on Conscience Coalition merchants as well as offers additional checking account benefits, in exchange for a fixed monthly fee.