6 best second-chance bank accounts: What you need to know

Young couple smiling and looking at tabletImage: Young couple smiling and looking at tablet

In a Nutshell

If you’ve run into problems with managing your bank account in the past, a second-chance bank account can offer you another shot when you’re ready. Look for bank accounts like these with low fees and better features.
Editorial Note: Intuit Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Information about financial products not offered on Credit Karma is collected independently. Our content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

More than 5.9 million people didn’t have a bank account in 2021, according to the FDIC.

Having a bank account can make it a lot easier to manage your money. Without one, you might have to pay extra fees to cash your checks, for example, and you might not be able to make payments on your bills or buy things as easily.

In the U.S., most banks use a system similar to credit reporting called ChexSystems in order to see if they trust you with a bank account. If not, they might deny your application.

But luckily, if you’ve been denied for a bank account, there are other options: second-chance bank accounts. You should shop around for a bank account carefully to be confident you’re getting a good fit. Know that these accounts often come with extra restrictions and fees.

What is a second-chance bank account, and why should I use one?

Banks typically report account activity, including negative actions such as frequently overdrawing your balance, to a company called ChexSystems. ChexSystems works like a credit report — but for bank accounts.

When you apply for a new bank account, the bank will generally look up your ChexSystems report first. If the bank doesn’t approve of your bank account management, it may deny you an account.

In that case, you may need to look for a second-chance bank account. These are more readily available if you’ve been denied from getting a bank account in the past. Since second-chance banking accounts are designed for people who’ve had problems with their bank account in the past, they’re usually not quite as desirable as regular bank accounts. Still, if you don’t currently have a bank account, they may be necessary.

Best second-chance bank accounts

Some second-chance bank accounts have better policies than others. Here are our top picks.

Best for no-fee banking: Chime

Why Chime stands out: Online-only neobanks are relatively new. Chime was one of the first on the scene, and it’s still one of the best. If you’re a fan of using online apps, you might prefer using Chime. And while Chime doesn’t advertise exclusively as a second-chance bank account, it still doesn’t use ChexSystems — so you may be able to get an account if you’ve had problems in the past.

  • Fees — Chime doesn’t charge many of the common bank fees, like overdraft fees and monthly account-maintenance fees. It does charge $2.50 for out-of-network ATM withdrawals. But Chime’s ATM network has more than 60,000 ATMs around the country.
  • Overdraft program — If you have at least $200 in direct deposits per month, you’re eligible for Chime’s free SpotMe program. The program starts you off with a $20 overdraft limit and gradually increases it to $200 if you show you can repay it.
  • Early paychecks — If you enroll in direct deposit, Chime will make deposits available for you to use as soon as it receives notice from your workplace’s bank — which is often two days sooner than you’d otherwise be able to use it.

Learn more about Chime’s checking accounts in our review.

Best for in-person branch availability: Wells Fargo Clear Access

Why Wells Fargo Clear Access account stands out: Wells Fargo has been embroiled in a number of consumer protection battles over the years. But it remains a strong contender if you prefer to do your banking in person.

  • Number of branches — Wells Fargo operates more branch locations than almost any other bank, with more than 4,000 different locations across the country.
  • No overdrafts allowed — You’re not eligible for overdraft services with this account. If a purchase would overdraft your account, it’ll simply be declined. But then again, if you’ve run into problems racking up overdraft fees in the past, this may be a better option for you.
  • Fees — Unless you’re age 24 or under, you’ll owe a $5 monthly fee with this account, which isn’t ideal.

Best for ATM access: Capital One 360 Checking

Why Capital One 360 Checking stands out: Since Capital One doesn’t use ChexSystems as a banking report, it may be easier to get approved if you’ve had past problems. As long as you don’t mind banking online, it can be a better-than-average option.

  • ATM access — Capital One has more than 70,000 ATM locations to choose from.
  • Fees — You won’t pay any monthly fees or overdraft fees with this account. Aside from less-common fees for items like wire transfers or cashier’s checks, you may face a $2 ATM fee if you use an out-of-network machine.
  • Overdraft options — You’ll have three options for how to deal with overdrafts, each of which is free. You can have overdrafts declined outright, have money transferred over from your savings or money market account to cover the shortfall, or give Capital One the option to cover the difference on a case-by-case basis (which you need to pay back right away).
  • Early paychecks — Capital One will make your paycheck available to spend up to two days early if you set it up as a direct deposit.

Best for tracking your credit: Varo

Why Varo stands out: Checking accounts don’t affect your credit scores. But if you’d like to have easy access to view your credit, Varo lets you view your credit score within its app. This can be a helpful feature if you’re trying to improve your credit and would prefer to use fewer services to monitor your finances.

  • Early paychecks — Setting up direct deposit with Varo allows you to access your paycheck up to two days early.
  • ATM access — Varo doesn’t charge ATM fees if you use an Allpoint ATM in the U.S. But be aware that using an out-of-network ATM could result in a charge.
  • Fees — Varo doesn’t charge card, transfer or monthly fees. It also doesn’t charge overdraft fees, but you typically won’t be able to complete any transactions that would put your balance in the red.

Best for earning interest: Dave Spending

Why Dave stands out: The Dave Spending account boasts an annual percentage yield of 4.00% (as of April 2024) — which is much higher than most checking accounts. Dave has additional built-in features to prioritize saving over spending, like an option to “round up” your purchases to send money toward a linked Dave savings account.

  • Fees — Dave doesn’t charge overdraft or minimum deposit fees.
  • Get paid early — Once you set up direct deposit, you can access your paycheck up to two days early.
  • ATM access — If you use ATMs within the MoneyPass network (typically found in 7-Elevens), you won’t be charged a fee.

Best all-inclusive finance package: Acorns

Why Acorns stands out: You can use the finance company Acorns as your primary checking account if you like, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s designed as a complete all-in-one system for you to save and invest too. If you’ve been putting that off for a while and you need a shiny, well-designed system to help you get started, Acorns might be the right choice for you.

  • Many ways to save — Acorns offers creative ways to help you funnel more money towards your investment account. You can set up recurring deposits or even round up your purchases and deposit the difference in your investment account.
  • Quick investment picks — If you want help choosing investments, Acorns will guide you into one of five portfolios based on a good mix of low-cost funds.
  • Fees — Acorns charges $3 per month ($5 for a family plan) to access all of its features, including managing your investments and using your checking account.
  • ATM access — Acorns uses the Allpoint ATM network, meaning you’ll have access to more than 55,000 ATMs around the world. If you need to use one that’s not in-network, there’s no fee to do so on Acorn’s side but the machine’s owner might charge you a third-party fee.
  • Early paychecks — If you set up direct deposit of your paycheck into your Acorns checking account, it’ll be available for you to spend up to two days sooner than with other banks.

What to consider when looking for a second-chance bank

Second-chance bank accounts aren’t quite as widespread as regular bank accounts. It’s a good idea to spend some time shopping around.

Here’s how to compare your options.

  • Low monthly fees — Second-chance banks may charge monthly fees. Shop around to find a bank with fees that you’re comfortable paying.
  • Ability to upgrade — Some second-chance banks allow you to upgrade to a regular bank account after you’ve gone a certain number of months without any problems.
  • Ease of use — If you prefer to bank in person, check with local banks to see if they offer second-chance accounts. If you prefer using an online bank, you’ll have plenty of options.
  • Restrictions — Make sure you know what the limits are on your account. For example, some accounts won’t let you overdraft your account or write paper checks.

Next steps

Having a bank account can ease fundamental aspects of your financial life, like storing and accessing cash — so it can feel unfair when the info collected by consumer-reporting agencies like ChexSystems makes it harder to open an account. But if you’ve had trouble finding a bank that will let you open a checking account, you may still have options.

The banks on our list are a good starting point, but make sure to consider your needs and goals before committing to an option.

About the author: Lindsay VanSomeren is a freelance writer living in Kirkland, Washington. She has been a professional dogsled racer, a wildlife researcher, and a participant in the National Spelling Bee. She writes for websites such a… Read more.