Best rewards checking accounts

A woman holding her mobile phone and debit card smiles after buying groceries with her rewards checking account.Image: A woman holding her mobile phone and debit card smiles after buying groceries with her rewards checking account.

In a Nutshell

If you’re looking for a checking account that goes beyond the basics, opening a rewards checking account could be a good way to earn some extra perks. From cash back to interest rates, we’ve compared rewards checking accounts and picked our favorites. 
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Rewards checking could make your banking more rewarding.

Looking for a checking account that offers more than the basics? Whether you want to use your checking account to get cash back or earn interest, a rewards checking account could be the answer.

But not all rewards checking accounts are created equal. They tend to come with different features, perks and sometimes fees. So before you give up on your basic checking account, it’s important to understand and compare your options.

Let’s take a closer look at what rewards checking accounts are and what they typically offer. We’ve also rounded up our top picks for best rewards checking accounts so you can start looking into what might be best for your financial situation.

What are rewards checking accounts?

A rewards checking account is a type of checking account that offers incentives, or rewards, that are designed to keep you engaged with your bank.

Like a regular checking account, you’ll be able make deposits, write checks, access ATMs or pay with a debit card. Depending on the bank, you could also earn cash back, interest on the money you keep in the account or other rewards and perks.

But in order to take advantage of these benefits, you may have to meet some requirements like making a certain number of debit card purchases, spending a minimum amount of money each month or keeping a certain amount of cash in the account at all times.

How do rewards checking accounts work?

Get cash rewards

The simplest type of rewards checking comes in the form of cash back. Just like you would with a cash back credit card, you’ll earn cash back when you make purchases with your debit card.

Some banks offer a smaller amount of cash back on every purchase, while others may offer a higher amount of cash back, but only in certain bonus categories.

Earn interest

You might also come across rewards checking accounts that offer unusually high interest rates, or APYs, but they tend to require more effort on your part. To qualify, you might have to meet  certain requirements such as setting up direct deposit, making a certain number of debit card transactions, spending a minimum amount of money or scheduling online bill payments or other automatic withdrawals.`     

But spending money just to earn a higher interest rate could cancel out any gains if your balance is shrinking while you’re earning rewards.

Another note of caution: Some rewards checking accounts limit how much interest you can earn by establishing a maximum balance. So even if you have a lot of money just sitting there, only a small portion of it might qualify for that higher rate.

Get unique rewards

In addition to cash back or earning interest, with a rewards checking account you could also earn welcome bonuses when you open a checking account, enhanced credit card rewards, airline miles instead of interest or Bitcoin instead of cash back. Some might offer the chance to win a sweepstakes or allow you to earn cash back while supporting causes that are important to you.

Best rewards checking accounts for cash back

Here are few cash-back rewards checking accounts to consider:

Discover Cashback Debit

Discover Cashback Debit, the rewards checking account from Discover, offers simple cash back with no fees. You’ll earn 1% back on up to $3,000 each month in purchases that you make with your debit card.

That might not sound like much compared to a cash back credit card, but it’s more than most checking accounts offer. There are also no monthly service charges or insufficient funds fees.

This could be a good option for people who want a simple, no hassle rewards checking account.

Quontic Cash Rewards Checking

Quontic’s Cash Rewards checking account gives you even more cash back. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on debit card purchases.

While there’s no monthly service fee, you could be hit with a dormant account fee. So Quontic may be better suited for people who are actively spending and have enough money in their rewards checking account to cover their purchases.

They also offer Bitcoin rewards through their Bitcoin Rewards Checking. You could earn 1.5% back in Bitcoin on your debit card purchases. This could be a good option for someone who is curious about cryptocurrency and looking to dip their toes in the water.

OnJuno checking accounts

OnJuno’s checking accounts combine the ability to earn and invest in crypto currency with a checking account.

You can earn 6% on crypto that’s sitting in your checking, buy and sell crytpo without having to pay fees — and you’ll get 10% back when you use your debit card to spend cash or crypto and opt for cash back. Plus, you can cash out your crypto instantly.

If you opt to have your paycheck direct deposited into your OnJuno checking account, you can get your funds paid in crypto and split it across coins with no fees. And you’ll get a $100 bonus on your first deposit.

OnJuno is FDIC-insured, and it offers standard features like bill payment and fee-free ATM access at major retailers including CVS, Walgreens and 7-Eleven. Plus, there are no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, and you won’t get charged if you overdraft.

If you have OnJuno’s Basic Checking account, you can earn a 1.20% bonus rate on balances up to $5,000 and 5% cashback on up to $500 in spending each year. The premium account, called Metal Checking, offers the same 1.20% bonus rate but on balances up to $30,000. And you can earn 5% cashback on spending of up to $3,000 annually.

Credit Karma Money™ Spend

Credit Karma Money™ Spend offers cash back rewards from various retailers, similar to some credit cards — but without taking on debt. Merchants vary, but you can see cash back offers by logging into your Credit Karma account.

This could be a good option for people who want to get cash back rewards for purchases they already plan to make.

Best rewards checking accounts for high interest rates

Some rewards checking accounts offer high interest rates that are intended for people who want a better way to save.

KaiPerm Credit Union Direct Advantage Checking

KaiPerm Credit Union’s Direct Advantage Checking account offers a whopping 6% APY— but there’s a catch. To qualify, you have to set up direct deposit. And the 6% APY only applies to balances up to $1,000. Any remaining balance will only earn 0.11% APY.

Considering that more than a third of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a $400 expense, according to the Federal Reserve, this could be a good option for people who are interested in building an emergency savings account.

Best rewards checking accounts for unique rewards

Some bank accounts reward you in other ways. While you might not think of them as rewards checking accounts because they don’t come with the typical cash back or high interest rates, they offer unique incentives to keep you engaged.

Qualifying Bank of America deposit accounts

The Bank of America Preferred Rewards program offers enhanced credit card rewards for those who have certain deposit accounts with the bank, including checking accounts.

Gold members, who have an average daily balance in their bank accounts of $20,000, receive a 25% rewards bonus on Bank of America credit cards. Platinum members, who have an average daily balance of $50,000, receive a 50% credit card rewards boost. Platinum Honors members with an average daily balance of $100,000 receive a 75% credit card rewards boost.

If you like to have your banking and credit cards at the same bank and tend to keep a high balance, this could be a good option for you.

How we picked the best rewards checking accounts

To find the best rewards checking accounts, we looked at the different types of rewards they offer and the various requirements to earn them. That helped us establish a baseline to determine the best offers. From there, we identified the bank accounts that excelled at each type of reward.

About the author: Tim Devaney is a personal finance writer and credit card expert at Credit Karma. He’s a longtime journalist who prides himself on being a good storyteller who can explain complex information in an easily digestible wa… Read more.