If you’ve ever tried to pay an electric bill, apply for a lease, or even get your paperwork set up at a new job, you know it’s true: you need a bank account. Cash may be king, but there are some instances where getting official is simply safer.

What’s more, some people without a bank account turn to even costlier alternatives, like prepaid debit cards that assess fees.

Although the solution seems simple, for many, their bad credit gets in the way. A history of unpaid overdrafts or bounced checks can get you blacklisted at major banks, or make you not-so-proud new owner of a ChexSystems record.

Why You Need a Bank Account

Along with keeping you from accessing basic financial products like checking accounts, bad credit can also wreak havoc on your day-to-day life. Here are some of the reasons why you need a bank account:

  • You can pay your bills online.
  • You can cash checks without any fees.
  • You can easily take out cash at ATMs with a debit card.
  • You get access to money market accounts, CDs, savings accounts, credit cards, loans, and much more.

Not having a bank account can be costly. Not only is it inconvenient, but can also be unsafe. Being able to store your money where it’s insured is much better than hiding it elsewhere.

7 Fresh Start Checking Accounts for Bad Credit

Opening a checking account is one of the first things you need to do to get back on top of your finances. Fortunately, plenty of banks offer checking accounts for bad credit, sometimes referred to as “fresh start checking” to get you back on your feet.

Here are the seven best on the market.

1. BBVA

Our Top Pick
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on BBVA's secure website

One of the most well-recognized banks in the country, BBVA has a suite of Second Chance Banking services designed to help you get your cash under control, no matter what your financial past looks like.

BBVA offers a fee-free checking account with online and mobile app access, but that’s just the beginning. You’ll also have access to a prepaid debit card, the credit-rebuilding Optimizer Credit Card, and a basic savings account to help you build up your emergency fund.

Features and Benefits

  • Only $25 initial deposit to open an account
  • No monthly or hidden fees
  • 24/7 Phone Support and Fraud Prevention
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2. Chime

Our Second Pick
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on Chime's secure website

Sometimes, it pays to go digital only. This online bank offers an uber-flexible Second Chance Banking program, which doesn’t use ChexSystems and requires no credit check to open.

You’ll have access to more than 38,000 surcharge fee-free ATMs to access your stash of cash, and best of all, there are absolutely no hidden fees to make that stash dwindle. From monthly service fees to overdraft fees, Chime has done away with all of them.

Features and Benefits

  • No minimum deposit required
  • No monthly fees
  • Additional services: Easy-to-use online and mobile banking, a totally-fee-free-policy, automatic savings round-ups, fast-process direct deposit
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3. GoBank

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on GoBank's secure website

A property of Green Dot Corporation, GoBank is an online checking service designed to take the stress out of managing your finances. The account doesn’t assess overdraft fees, and if you maintain a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more, your maintenance fees will also be waived.

Its award-winning mobile banking app and online management tools allow you to easily manipulate your budget to help you get your money where you want it: in your pocket!

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: $20 if you open in person, or free to open online
  • Monthly fee: $8.95, though this is easily waivable with direct deposit; fees may be assessed when you deposit cash in person at retail locations
  • Additional services: No credit check or ChexSystems, free access to your cash at its nationwide network of ATMs, top-tier mobile banking, and more
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4. Axos Bank

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on Axos Bank's secure website

The oldest digital bank in the book, Axos Bank (formerly known as Bank of Internet) has been in operation since 2000, which is essentially the stone ages in millennial time. Their Second Chance Checking option offers overdraft protection and gives those with a shaky banking history the chance to recapture financial control.

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: $50
  • Monthly fee: $6.95 monthly with direct deposit, $8.95 otherwise
  • Additional services: Free VISA debit card, overdraft protection, easy-to-use online banking tools including bill pay and mobile check deposit
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5. Wells Fargo

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on Wells Fargo's secure website

If it’s been awhile since you’ve had a checking account, Wells Fargo’s Opportunity Checking is a great way to ease back in. With low monthly fees, free online banking, and an application process designed for those with not-so-perfect banking history, this checking account will put the reins firmly back into your hands.

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: $25
  • Monthly fee: $10, which can be waived via qualifying direct deposits or maintaining a $1,500 daily balance
  • Additional services: Liability protection and fraud monitoring, platinum debit card with chip technology, and more
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6. Aspire Federal Credit Union

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on Aspire FCU's secure website

Aspire Federal Credit Union understands that sometimes, you just need a fresh start. This is why they offer a fee-free Fresh Start Checking account to help you rebuild a positive checking and credit history.

Joining the credit union is easy; you can get in by donating as little as $5 to one of its participating organizations, such as the Land Trust of North Alabama.

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: None, but you must set up direct deposit allocating 100% of your paycheck to the account
  • Monthly fee: None
  • Additional services: Free online and telephone account access, accompanying debit card, access to a network of more than 70,000 no-fee ATMs
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7. First American Bank

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on First American Bank's secure website

Even if you’ve had trouble applying for a checking account in the past, you may be eligible to open a Fresh Start Checking account at First American.

With free digital tools, a low minimum opening deposit, and no minimum balance requirement, this midwestern financial firm might be the perfect fit for your second chance checking needs. (Most branches are in the Chicago area, but they’ve also opened a location in Coral Gables, Florida.)

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: $50
  • Monthly fee: $9.95
  • Additional services: No fees at a network of more than 64,000 ATMs, free online and mobile banking, accompanying Mastercard debit card
Learn More →

Can Bad Credit Be Fixed?

Although it may be a challenge, with patience and persistence, you can rebuild your credit history and improve your credit score! Creating positive change starts with enacting small, sustainable habits, like meeting your minimum payments on time each month.

You could start your debt-repayment project by chipping away at the account with the highest interest, to save cash over time, or start a debt snowball by paying off your lowest revolving balance and riding the motivation train all the way to a debt-free life.