13 Best Checking Accounts for Bad Credit

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Updated: 21st Sep 2020
Written by Kim Pinnelli
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September 21, 2020
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In this Article: The best checking accounts for bad credit. Find out when a second chance checking account makes sense and how to open an account.

Checking accounts are important, but not everyone can get one. If you have bad credit, you may run up against more turned down requests than approvals.

Does this mean you’ll never have a checking account until you fix your credit?

Fortunately, you have options, including the second chance bank account. Don’t let the term ‘second chance’ turn you off – if you find the right option, it can be a great way to get back on your feet.

What is a Second Chance Checking Account?

Just like the name says, a second chance checking account gives you a ‘second chance.’ Banks still run your ChexSystems report, but they know you have bad credit. Just like a subprime lender that offers loans to borrowers with bad credit – they know what they’re getting into.

Prepare yourself for higher fees and some limitations, but with a positive history (usually after a few months), most banks will offer an option to upgrade your account to a standard checking account.

However, if you are like most of America, then opening a second chance checking account is a great way to start improving your credit, form good habits, and get your personal finances squared away.

To help you find the best second chance checking account, our team did the research, so you don’t have to. We vetted the entire market and found the best of the best. These second chance checking accounts are the ones you need to consider and sign up for.

Best Checking accounts for Bad Credit

Without further ado, our selection of the best second chance checking accounts.

#1 Best Second Chance Checking Account: Axos Bank

Axos is mostly a digital bank, but it does have a few physical locations. Aside from a variety of standard checking accounts, Axos offers the best second chance checking account and savings account for consumers with bad credit.

Axos Bank: Best Second Chance Checking Account.
Source: Axosbank.com

As one of the first digital banks, Axos has come a long way since its founding in early 2000. If you are looking for a low fee checking account that has won numerous financial awards, then look no further. Axos is the best checking account for bad credit.

Key Features:

  • Includes an ATM/Visa debit card
  • You may open a second chance savings account alongside your checking account
  • $50 minimum opening balance
  • $8.95 monthly maintenance fee (without direct deposit)

Pros:

  • You can lower the maintenance fee to $6.95 with direct deposit
  • Axos offers a second chance savings alongside the checking account
  • Robust Mobile Banking Experience
  • Offers overdraft protection
  • Top Notch Customer Service
  • Auto Alerts so you never miss a beat. Monitor your second chance checking out anywhere, anytime.
  • Bill Pay – Automate paying bills so you never miss one again.

Cons:

  • The account doesn’t earn interest
  • Strict daily withdrawal limits, including $310/day for ATM withdrawals and $500 per day at a point-of-sale (register).
  • Second checking account does not earn interest.

As you can see, Axos is the best option if you are on the market for a good second chance checking account. Regardless of your credit situation, Axos Bank will allow you to open up a checking account.

2. BBVA

BBVA believes in second chances and offers consumers that are turned down for a standard checking account, access to the second chance products. BBVA has 650 branches in select states, but consumers in any state have access to online banking.

Key Features:

  • $25 minimum opening deposit
  • $13.95 monthly fee
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Mobile deposit
  • Bill pay
  • Free Visa debit card

Pros:

  • All Easy Checking Account holders have unlimited check writing privileges
  • You can receive instant transaction alerts with mobile banking
  • You can earn cashback rewards on your Visa debit card purchases

Cons:

  • You’re automatically enrolled in paper statements for $3 a month; you must opt into electronic statements to avoid the extra fee
  • $3 fee if you use an ATM outside the BBVA network

3. Acorns Spend Checking Account

Acorns ‘Spend’ isn’t necessarily a second chance checking account, but since they don’t use the ChexSystems, anyone can qualify for the checking account. Not only do you get a quality checking account, but also access to their investment services too.

Acorns Spend: Best Checking Accounts for Bad Credit.
Source: Acorns.com

Acorns rounds up any purchases made with your Acorns debit card to the nearest dollar, sweeping the spare change into a cash account. After you accumulate $5, Acorns invests the funds for you.

Key Features:

  • All banking features are online including mobile deposits
  • Access to 55,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Free debit card
  • Manage your checking, investment, and retirement account in one place

Pros:

  • Earn up to 10% bonus investments with certain purchases
  • Acorns will reimburse you for any non-network ATM fees
  • No minimum balance requirements or overdraft fees

Cons:

  • There aren’t any physical branches, everything is online
  • Acorns charges $3 a maintenance fee for the Acorns Personal account

4. Chime

Chime is a 100% digital bank. They have no physical branches, but they have all ‘typical bank features’ including FDIC insurance. Chime doesn’t even check your credit or use the ChexSystems, so anyone can get a checking account here.

Chime Spend Account. A second chance checking account.
Source: Chime.com

Key Features:

  • No minimum opening deposit
  • 32,000+ fee-free ATMs
  • Get paid up to 2-days early with direct deposit
  • Online bill pay
  • Mobile deposit
  • Free Visa debit card

Pros:

  • No fees including monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance fees
  • No overdraft fees
  • Chime automatically rounds up your purchases (on Chime debit card) to the nearest dollar and transfers the change to your savings account

Cons:

  • $2.50 fee for use of non-network ATMs
  • No physical branches

#5 Best Checking Accounts for Bad Credit: Radius Bank

Radius Bank helps you rebuild your record with its second chance checking account, ‘Essential Checking.’ Radius Bank is an online-only bank that’s FDIC insured and offers a variety of features for consumers with less than perfect records.

Key Features:

  • No minimum balance requirement to open an account
  • $9 monthly maintenance fee
  • 24/7 mobile banking including bill payment
  • Easily send money to friends and family when splitting a bill or when you owe money

Pros:

  • After 12 months of a positive history, you can upgrade to a Rewards Checking account
  • The Radius debit card includes Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay
  • You can schedule bill payments to avoid late fees

Cons:

  • Maximum debit card limit per day is $500
  • Mobile check deposit limit of $1,000 per day and $2,000 every 10 days

6. GoBank

GoBank is a mobile-only bank offered by the full-service Green Dot Bank. They will not do a hard credit pull nor will they review ChexSystems. If you are looking for a bank with a vast fee-free ATM Network, then this bank is worth considering.

Key Features:

  • No opening deposit requirement if you open the account online, otherwise $20
  • Monthly maintenance fee of $8.95 waived if you have at least a $500 monthly direct deposit
  • Pay bills or send money to friends and family online
  • Each account includes a ‘vault’ where you can safely stash money and not touch it
  • Set up a budget in the GoBank app and use its Fortune Teller feature to help make buying decisions

Pros:

  • Has a large free ATM network (42,000 +) despite being a mobile-only bank
  • Get access to your direct deposit funds up to 2 days early
  • Offers mobile deposit

Cons:

  • You can make deposits at 7-Eleven, CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens, but there is a $4.95 fee
  • $3 fee for all non-network ATM transactions

7. Wells Fargo

The Wells Fargo Clear Access Banking account is perfect for anyone looking for a second chance. You must use the account for one year before you can transfer to any other Wells Fargo account (and have a good history). Wells Fargo is a popular bank with many features including both in-person and online features.

Key Features:

  • $25 minimum opening deposit
  • $5 monthly service fee
  • Includes online bill pay and a Visa debit card
  • Text banking to check balances or transactions
  • Offers a variety of budgeting and cash flow tools online

Pros:

  • Wells Fargo doesn’t charge overdraft or NSF fees
  • Use mobile deposit from anywhere and/or send money electronically to friends and family
  • Access to more than 13,000 fee-free ATMs

Cons:

  • $2.50 ATM fee for non-network ATM transactions
  • No paper checks, everything is done electronically or with the debit card

#8 Best Second Chance Checking Accounts: Bank of America

Bank of America offers a second chance checking account called ‘Advantage SafeBalance Banking.’ As the name infers, it helps you stay within your account balance by only allowing you to spend money in your account. Say goodbye to overdraft fees and spending more than you have. It’s a great way to start over.

Key Features:

  • $25 minimum opening deposit
  • $4.95 monthly maintenance fee
  • No overdraft fees – B of A turns transactions down if you don’t have the funds
  • Mobile deposits
  • Set up instant alerts for account changes, low balance, and pending deposits

Pros:

  • $0 liability fraud protection with funds returned as soon as the next business day
  • Add your debit card to your digital wallet for more convenient and safe spending
  • Offers ‘Better Budgeting’ tools to help you stay on track

Cons:

  • No paper checks
  • Declined transactions can be embarrassing

9. Aspire Federal Credit Union

Aspire Federal Credit Union offers a ‘Fresh Start’ checking account that offers you a chance to build a successful future by rebuilding your record. With only two requirements to qualify, almost anyone qualifies for the account.

Key Features:

  • You must direct deposit 100% of your paycheck into the account
  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • Access to 70,000+ free ATMs
  • Free online and phone access to your account

Pros:

  • Free debit card with a large free ATM network
  • Send payments to anyone whether creditor, friend, or family online without checks
  • Offers both online and mobile banking for convenience

Cons:

  • To join, you must donate to one of their non-profit partners
  • You can’t deposit your paycheck anywhere else or split it up

10. First American Bank

First American Bank is located in Illinois, Florida, and Wisconsin (it’s physical branches), but they are available nationwide online. They offer a second chance account called ‘Fresh Start Checking.’ If you don’t live in one of the three states they’re located, you can bank 100% online.

Key Features:

  • $50 opening balance requirement
  • $9.95 monthly maintenance fee
  • Free online and mobile banking
  • Offers unlimited check writing, and a free Mastercard debit card

Pros:

  • Access to 55,000+ fee-free ATMs
  • Access to free eStatements and check images online
  • You don’t have to worry about a monthly minimum balance

Cons:

  • You don’t earn interest
  • If you don’t live in one of the 3 states mentioned, you must bank online

#11 Best Checking Accounts for Bad Credit: Peoples Bank

Peoples Bank offers a second chance for people turned down for a traditional checking account. They offer an FDIC insured checking account for anyone regardless of their ChexSystems history (except for fraudulent activity).

Key Features:

  • $30 opening balance requirement
  • $4.95 monthly maintenance fee
  • You’ll receive a debit MasterCard and checkbook
  • Offers free online bill pay
  • Offers free online banking

Pros:

  • Set up direct deposit to have immediate access to your paycheck without fees
  • Offers paper checks
  • Easily transfer funds to pay a bill or pay friends or family members

Cons:

  • Peoples Bank must approve you for online bill pay after 30 days of opening your account
  • Peoples Bank charges a lot of fees including a $27.50 overdraft fee

12. Fifth Third Express Banking

Fifth Third is primary a midwestern bank, but it has branches, which is great for those that prefer in-person banking. Fifth Third’s Express Banking program doesn’t require a credit check, so many people use it as a second chance account.

Key Features:

  • No opening balance requirement
  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • Check cashing and deposits at local branches
  • Access to more than 50,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Access to online banking

Pros:

  • You can get immediate access to deposited checks for a fee
  • No overdraft fees
  • Access to physical branches

Cons:

  • Doesn’t allow the use of online bill pay
  • No check deposits at ATMs

13. Woodforest National Bank

Woodforest National Bank operates in 17 states and offers in-person banking. Their second chance checking account is great for those with a blemished financial past. So, if you are looking for a second chance checking account and want the luxury of visiting one of their 747 branch locations, then Woodforest National Bank is worth considering.

Key Features:

  • $25 minimum opening balance
  • Monthly maintenance fee $9.95 with a direct deposit or $11.95 without
  • Includes a debit card (for a $15 fee)

Pros:

  • Has a large ATM network
  • eStatements are free
  • ATM transactions are free if you stay in-network

Cons:

  • Woodforest has a lot of extra fees including a high overdraft fee
  • There’s a one-time $9 account set-up fee

How to Pick the Best Checking Account for Bad Credit

Choosing the right second chance checking account requires careful consideration. If you aren’t careful, you could end up paying excessive fees and/or having limited features. Look for the following:

Low or No Fees

Many second chance checking accounts don’t charge fees. Look for those with the features you need, and/or the chance to waive the service fee in exchange for a specific balance.

Service Offerings

Second chance checking accounts often have limited features. Don’t sacrifice what you need, as there are numerous options available. Think about what you need in a checking account, such as paper checks, online banking, or online bill pay, and look for the right account.

Low Minimum Opening Balance

Most ‘bad credit’ checking accounts have low minimum balance requirements or none at all. If you’re worried about keeping a balance, look for those that don’t require a specific balance, but watch the fees.

Mobile and Online Banking Features

Most second chance checking accounts have online features, but not all offer online bill pay. If that’s a feature you need, pay close attention to the features offered.

Premium Banking Services

You typically won’t find premium banking services available to you until you have a second-chance account for 6 – 12 months and prove you’re worthy of other features.

Pros and Cons of a Second Chance Checking Account

Like all financial accounts, there are benefits and downsides of opening a second chance checking account. Here are our findings.

Benefits of a Checking Account with Bad Credit:

  • Provides an option for consumers that can’t get a regular checking account
  • Easier to use than prepaid cards or cash: The best checking accounts for bad credit allow you to easily maintain and monitor your account. Whether you want to bank online or visit an instore branch, these second chance checking accounts allow you to do just that.
  • Affordable.Other services, such as a prepaid debit card or a money order are expensive. These fees tend to add; however, with the right second chance account you can avoid these fees altogether and enjoy the luxury of having a checking account.
  • Provides You with a Fresh Start: A second chance checking account allows you to hit refresh with a financial institution and start building your banking history the right way. Make sure to practice good financial habits and you will be well on your way to a clean bank history.

Cons:

  • May have more requirements or stipulations than a regular checking account
  • You may have to take a money management class to have it
  • Usually has higher fees

Can You Open a Checking Account if You Have Bad Credit?

Today more banks offer checking accounts without using ChexSystems or pulling your credit. Some banks still pull your credit but offer a checking account with limited features and/or higher fees.

Is there a Credit Check to Open a Checking Account?

Some banks pull your credit to open a checking account, but most use the ChexSystems, which is the banking industry’s version of the credit report.

Alternatives to Second Chance Bank Account:

Prepaid Debit Cards

A prepaid debit card, as the name suggests, is a card you load with funds to use wherever Visa or MasterCard is accepted. You may only spend the amount on the card and they often have high fees, so be careful.

Secured Credit Card

If you have ‘decent’ credit, you may apply for a secured credit card. Your credit limit equals the size of the deposit you put down. If you default on your payments, the credit card company keeps your deposit. While you don’t get checking privileges or anywhere to deposit your paycheck, it’s a safe way to pay for purchases and/or pay bills.

Repair Credit

You can fix your credit in a few months with concentrated effort. Pay your bills on time, pay your credit balances down, and take care of any collections to get your credit back on track. With ‘decent’ credit, you may be eligible for a standard checking account. Credit repair companies, like Credit Saint, can help you repair your credit and increase your credit score.

Credit Builder Loan

If you have no credit rather than bad credit, consider a credit builder loan. It works like a forced savings account where the lender keeps your ‘loan’ on hand, and you make regular payments. The creditor reports your payments to the credit bureau, and you receive the full amount once you ‘pay the loan off.’ With a credit history, you may find a standard checking account.

Improve Your Credit Score (4 Quick Tips)

Pay Bills on Time

Your payment history is 35% of your credit score. Don’t miss your due dates and you’ll fix your credit.

If need be, find a budgeting app that automatically alerts you when an upcoming bill is due. This will ensure you do not miss a payment and will hold you accountable as you begin to repair your credit.

Pay Off Debts

Your credit utilization (amount of credit card balances) is 30% of your credit score. Keep your balances at less than 30% of your available credit at all times.

Try Experian Boost

Experian Boost uses your utility and cellphone bills as tradelines to help build your credit score by increasing your credit history length and positive payment history.

Related: Experian Boost Review.

Dispute Errors

Check your credit report often and dispute any errors to the reporting agency in writing. They have 30 days to respond.

That’s a Wrap: Best Checking Accounts for Bad Credit

You have many options for checking accounts with bad credit, but make sure you read the fine print. Many accounts look good at first glance but have incredible fees or limited features. Try fixing your credit first. If that doesn’t work, find the account that costs the least and offers the features you need in a checking account.

Kim Pinnelli
Kim Pinnelli
Kim is a personal finance expert with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been freelance writing for 13 years for a number of large publications. Kim thoroughly enjoys helping people take charge of their personal finances.