Best Rewards Checking Accounts

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

We publish unbiased product reviews; our opinions are our own and are not influenced by payment we receive from our advertising partners. Learn more about how we review products and read our advertiser disclosure for how we make money.

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
  • 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 monthly average 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

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

FAQs

What is a Rewards Checking Account?

Rewards checking accounts are normal checking accounts that reward you every time you make purchases or payments with your debit card. You earn cash back on all the purchases you make with your debit card. In exchange for these benefits, many rewards checking accounts charge you a monthly fee. This fee might easily outweigh the benefits you’ll receive if you make a lot of purchases with your debit card. 

How Does a Cash Back Checking Account Work?

A cash back checking account allows you to accumulate cash rewards for every purchase you make with your debit card. Every time you use your debit card, a certain percentage of that transaction generates a cash reward that you receive at a later date—typically the next month. Unlike a rewards credit card, there are no additional charges associated with a cash back checking account. Your account is debited automatically for the purchase or payment price, which means you don’t have to worry about interest, late charges, or other fees in the future.

What is APY?

APY stands for annual percentage yield. This is the real rate of return that is earned on financial accounts where you hold money for long periods of time, such as savings or investment accounts. Rewards checking accounts typically have a very low, or no, APY because they are checking accounts. But remember, the upside is that you get the cash back bonus as a benefit. The rewards cash can pay you back a lot more over time if you use your debit card frequently compared to the normal APY on a checking account.

How Much Can I Earn With a Checking Account?

You typically don’t earn very much money just by keeping your cash in a checking account. If that’s your goal, consider opening a savings account or a more active investment account. If you have a rewards checking account, though, you could earn up to 1% of all your debit card purchases, depending on the bank and account you choose. Keep in mind, though, that many banks cap the amount you can earn to the first $3,000 or $5,000 you spend each month. 

How We Chose the Best Rewards Checking Accounts

We looked at nearly two dozen of the best rewards checking accounts nationwide and narrowed the list down to our top five accounts and our top four banks. We evaluated all the accounts on factors such as the total payout reward, how easy it is to earn the reward, whether you’re capped on the number of purchases that earn the reward, what the monthly fees are if applicable, what additional features the accounts have, along with any minimum balances or deposit requirements associated with each account. The limits and restrictions were an important piece to the puzzle in deciding which rewards checking might be best for you.