Contrary to the popular statement, in some cases, there is such a thing as a free lunch. When you sign up for a cash-back rewards checking account, you earn back a percentage of every dollar you spend, which is kind of like getting an automatic discount on everything. (Hey, that discount might only be 1%, but it still counts!)

What’s more, certain banks and credit unions will actually pay you a hefty bonus just for opening your account. You could get a sign-up bonus of $200, or a whole lot more, just for becoming a customer. That isn’t a bad way to earn an extra couple hundred bucks, if you ask us.

Both the long-term earning potential of a cash-back rewards account and the instant-gratification windfall of an opening bonus are great ways to make free money just by finding a place to keep the money you already have. In this post, we’ll go over the very best bank and credit union offerings in 2019 to help you earn money just by having money.

5 Best Checking Accounts with Rewards Programs

They say you have to spend money to make money. And while that may be true in a broader sense, these rewards checking accounts make it easy at a granular level, too. And better yet, each and every one of these accounts are totally fee-free when you meet certain minimum stipulations.

1. BBVA

Our Top Pick
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on BBVA's secure website

BBVA is one of our favorite banks overall, and for good reason. It offers totally-free, full-service accounts without any monthly fees, as well as an accessible second-chance banking option for those with ChexSystems or EWS records.

What’s more, account holders can earn cash back on everyday purchases through its easy-to-use Simple Cashback system. This rewards program is available to Online Checking account holders, who aren’t charged monthly service fees or required to keep a minimum account balance.

You’ll also get access to your cash through a network of more than 64,000 fee-free ATMs, as well as enjoying mobile and online banking including remote check deposit capabilities. BBVA also offers great interest rates on money market accounts and CDs.

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: $25
  • Monthly service fee: none
  • Details: Earn cash back by activating offers on everyday debit card purchases through BBVA Compass's Simple Cash Back program. Offers are based on your existing spending habits, so they're tailor made for your specific needs and desires, and the rewards are deposited directly into your account.
Learn More →

2. Aspiration

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on Aspiration's secure website

If saving cash is important to you, Aspiration’s Spend & Save Account is a great option. It’s a combination checking and savings account done entirely digitally, which means a greener future for both your pocket and the planet.

You’ll earn a generous 2% APY in interest on savings account deposits, and unlimited cash back of up to 1% on everyday purchases.

They also offer users fee-free access (or fee reimbursements) to every ATM on Earth. It also offers its users $1,000 in expense reimbursement in the case of identity theft or fraud.

Aspiration works on a pay-what-you-want model, which means you can access its generous suite of financial tools and rewards entirely free, or choose to kick a buck or two their way on a monthly basis.

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: $10
  • Monthly service fee: none
  • Details: Up to 1% cash back is earned on all debit card purchases, with additional cash back being offered on purchases made from certain merchants. Cash-back percentages are subject to change at any time.
Learn More →

3. Axos Bank

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on Axos Bank's secure website

Originally known simply as Bank of Internet and having been in business since the turn of the century, Axos Bank is the OG when it comes to digital banking.

So it’s no surprise that it brings the big guns when it comes to stellar online-only banking options, our favorite of which is its CashBack Checking Account: users earn up to 1% cash back on all transactions that require a signature. (You do have to maintain a $1,500 balance to qualify for the offer, however.)

No matter which checking account you open with Axos Bank, you’ll have access to tools like free mobile banking, and unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements so you can always get your hands on your money. Axos also takes your security seriously with its two-step user authentication system and 128-bit SSL encryption.

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: $0, but you must maintain a $1,500 balance to qualify for cash-back rewards
  • Monthly service fee: none
  • Details: Earn up to 1% cash back on regular transactions that require a signature, so long as you meet minimum balance requirements.
Learn More →

4. Discover Bank

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on Discover's secure website

With no monthly service charges, no minimum account balances, and no minimum deposit to get started, Discover’s free online checking account is one of the best.

Plus, you’ll get 1% cash back on up to $3,000 of debit card purchases per month, there’s plenty of incentive. You’ll also pay no ATM fees at more than 60,000 fee-free ATMs, and if you happen to lose your debit card — no problem. There’s no fee to replace it.

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: none
  • Monthly service fee: none
  • Details: Earn 1% back on up to $3,000 of regular debit card purchases per month. Offer does not extend to ATM transactions, peer-to-peer payments like Apple Pay and Venmo, or the purchase of cash equivalents like money orders.
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5. Consumers Credit Union

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on Consumers' secure website

If you can maintain a relatively high daily balance, you could put your money to work for you at Consumers Credit Union. Their free high yield checking accounts earn up to 5.09% APY, depending on which set of requirements you meet.

However, even the lowest tier earns 3.09%. (Keep in mind that the average interest-earning checking account earns only 0.06%, according to the FDIC; even savings accounts only bring in 0.09% on average.)

You can open and fund a deposit online in just minutes, or, if you’re in the state of Illinois, walk into one of more than a dozen branches the credit union has in the state. Best of all, the account carries no monthly maintenance fees or balance minimums. Although if you drop below $10,000, it’s only 0.01% APY, which is still something!

Features and Benefits

  • Minimum deposit: none, but $10,000 to earn high-level rewards
  • No monthly fees
  • Details: Earn 3.09%, 4.09%, or 5.09% APY on your account balance depending on the level of activity requirements you meet each month. See the website for full details.
Learn More →

5 Best Bank Account Sign-Up Bonuses

Cash-back rewards can help you rack up spare change in the long run. But if you’re looking for a windfall sooner rather than later, sign-up bonuses are where it’s at: you can earn as much as $750 just for opening a new bank account, so long as you can meet certain opening deposit requirements.

6. Chase - up to $350

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on Chase's secure website

Chase allows you to choose the bonus offer that best fits your needs: earn $200 by opening a Chase Total Checking account and setting up direct deposit, $150 by opening a Chase Savings account and depositing $10,000 within 90 days, or do both to cash out with a whopping $350 bonus.

Monthly service fees for both accounts are waivable with relatively minor stipulations; you’ll also get access to free mobile and text banking, real-time fraud monitoring, and more.

If you’re looking for a credit card, Chase also offers some of the best travel and cashback rewards credit cards.

Features and Benefits

  • Maximum sign-up bonus available: $350
  • Minimum bonus requirements: Varies by account; see website for details
  • Monthly fees: $12 for checking or $5 for savings, but both are waivable
Learn More →

7. Wells Fargo - up to $400

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on Wells Fargo's secure website

Nationwide giant, Wells Fargo, is offering a generous welcome bonus right now: open an Everyday Checking Account with a minimum deposit of $25 and receive at least $3,000 in direct deposit funding per month over the next 150 days, and you’ll be $400 richer.

Your $400 bonus will be deposited directly into your checking account within 45 days of meeting all the requirements. The offer is good through December 31 of 2019, but the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll see that nice, fat bonus check.

Features and Benefits

  • Maximum sign-up bonus available: $400
  • Minimum bonus requirements: Deposit at least $25 to start, and then receive direct deposit funding of a cumulative monthly total of $3,000 over then next 150 days
  • Monthly account maintenance fees: $10, which is avoidable by maintaining a daily account balance of $1,500, making 10 or more debit card transactions per fee period, or receiving $500 or more per fee period in qualifying direct deposits
Learn More →

8. Citi Bank - up to $500

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On Citi Bank's secure website

If you need a new checking account and a new savings account, opening them at Citi Bank could pay big time. They offer an opening bonus of up to $500 when you become a new customer and complete required activities.

What are those required activities, you ask? Well, you’ll need to deposit a minimum of $15,000 between your two new accounts and maintain that balance for at least 60 consecutive calendar days.

That’ll get you a bonus of $400; for the extra $100, complete one qualifying direct deposit each month for the first two consecutive months after opening the accounts. Voila: $500!

Features and Benefits

  • Maximum sign-up bonus available: $500
  • Minimum bonus requirements: Deposit and maintain $15,000 across your checking and savings accounts for two months, and also receive one qualifying direct deposit into your account per month for the first two months after opening
  • Monthly fees: $25, which is waivable if you maintain an average monthly balance of $10,000+ across your linked Citi Bank deposit, retirement, and investment accounts
Learn More →

9. HSBC - up to $750

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on HSBC's secure website

Depending on what tier of checking account you open, you could earn up to $750 (no, that’s not a typo) just by becoming a customer with HSBC.

While this super-generous bonus is only available to Premier Checking account holders (who must deposit a minimum of $100,000), Advance Checking customers could earn $350 when you deposit $10,000, and Choice Checking offers $200 when you deposit just $1,500.

No matter which account is right for you, you’ll get access to HSBC’s top-of-the-line banking tools and services, such as 24/7 online and mobile banking, and a suite of helpful planners, calculators, and budgeting tools built right into your banking interface.

HSBC also offers a personal line of credit to its customers, which can help borrow money as you need it at a competitively low interest rate.

Features and Benefits

  • Maximum sign-up bonus available: $750
  • Minimum bonus requirements: Deposit and maintain a certain minimum account balance for 90 days after opening your account. (Minimums vary depending on tier of checking account; see paragraph above and website for details.)
  • Monthly fees: $50/$25/$15 based on your checking account tier; waivable by maintaining minimum account balances or with recurring direct deposit
Learn More →

10. PNC Bank Virtual Wallet - up to $300

Apply Now

on PNC's secure website

PNC Bank calls their digital-only checking account a “virtual wallet” and you’ll earn up to $300 when you open one, depending on how much you can add via direct deposit.

For this highest-tier reward, you’ll need to stash $5,000 into your new account via direct deposit within the first 60 days, and also make 10 qualifying purchases with your new, free VISA debit card.

If you deposit $2,000, you’ll get a reward of $200, and if you deposit $500, you’ll get $50 — both of which still require the debit purchases to be valid.

Paychecks, pension payments, social security deposits, and other sources of regular monthly income all count as qualified direct deposits. The account also offers fee reimbursements when you visit other banks’ ATMs, as well as $10,000 worth of ID theft reimbursement coverage.

Features and Benefits

  • Maximum sign-up bonus available: $300
  • Minimum bonus requirements: Make qualifying direct deposits of $5,000 (or $2,000, or $500) and complete 10 purchases with your debit card within the first 60 days of opening the account.
  • Monthly account maintenance fees: $7, waivable if you maintain a $500 monthly average balance or make $500 in qualifying direct deposits on a monthly basis -- or if the user is over 62 years of age
Learn More →

Rewards checking accounts and opening bonuses are great ways to earn back a little (or a lot) just by finding and signing up for the banking services you already need. But keep in mind, these offers are subject to change at a moment’s notice. So, if you see one that suits your financial situation, it’s best to jump on it as soon as possible!