Axos Bank Review–Top Online Bank with Free Checking and High-Yield Savings

Woman using a laptop with debit card

Among online banks, Axos Bank has been around the longest–more than 20 years. It offers consumers three checking account options, high-yield savings, and virtually no fees. So a typical banking customer can utilize the range of checking account services totally free while earning solid interest on savings.

This article reviews the key components of Axos Bank’s checking and savings accounts and how they stack up to other online and traditional accounts.

Axos’ Three Checking Account Options

Axos offers three primary checking account options–Essential Checking, Rewards Checking, and Cashback Checking. All offer all of the same primary banking features. The primary differences are that the Rewards and Cashback Checking accounts offer valuable perks, but they require a minimum initial deposit (albeit, only $50). The Essential Checking is a no-frills account without the interest or cashback, but it doesn’t have an initial deposit requirement.

Rewards Checking

Axos Rewards Checking might be more accurately called high-yield checking because the rewards are interest–up to 1.25%. That’s far higher than most high-yield savings accounts and right around 100x a checking account with a typical brick and mortar bank.

Your account balance earns interest based on your account activity. That’s the rewards part. Rewards Checking balances earn interest if you use direct deposit or use your debit card for everyday spending. The rate is tiered–so if the rate of interest increases for each rewarded activity.

CashBack Checking

Axos CashBack Checking allows you to get up to 1% cashback on signature purchases using your Axos debit card. You earn 1% cashback if you maintain an average daily balance of $1,500 and .5% if your balance falls below $1,500. Earned cash back is deposited to your Axos account monthly.

Essential Checking

Although it doesn’t have the interest or cashback, the Essential Checking account still has all the account management features of the other accounts. And it has no minimum initial deposit.

Axos’ High Yield Savings

With savings accounts, it’s all about the yield. The Axos High Yield Savings is among the highest yields available among online banks, at .61% for balances up to $25,000. For higher balances, the yield does drop but still stays well above its brick and mortar competitors.

There are no maintenance fees and no minimum balance. But there is a minimum initial deposit of $250 to open the account.

Spending and Payments with Your Axos Account

The core purpose of any checking account is spending, whether that’s daily spending or paying the bills. All of Axos Bank’s three checking account options check all the boxes.

Debit Card

Axos’ checking accounts come with a Visa debit card that customers can use for daily spending and online purchases like any Visa card.

Bill Pay

And all of Axos’ checking accounts offer online bill pay with hundreds of preloaded vendors, like utilities and credit cards, that you can select with a click. But online bill pay isn’t limited to the preloaded companies. You can add any other vendor, whether or not they accept electronic payments. For those that don’t, Axos will send a paper check. For bills that stay the same each month, like your rent or mortgage payments, you can set up automatic, recurring payments.

Checks

Paper checks. Who needs ‘em? While these relics are rapidly going extinct, there are still those (me included) that need to write paper checks. I regularly have to pay contractors for work on rental properties. They’re often individuals without the ability to take electronic payments and unwilling to wait for a check to be sent from my bank. That’s the recipe for paper checks.

Whether you have some need for paper checks or just a preference, Axos Bank still has them, unlike some online-only banks. As with most checking accounts, you’ll still need to pay the cost of printing the checks, whether through Axos or a third party, but there’s no fee for using them.

P2P Payments

If you’re not into Venmo or find it too restrictive on who you can send money to, Axos Bank offers a great alternative. You can send money to any individual directly from your Axos Bank mobile app by entering some basic information about the recipient. Your payee doesn’t need to have an Axos account to receive the money, and all of your banking information stays with your bank.

Fees and Minimums

None of the Axos accounts have a minimum balance. And none of them have fees. Well, at least not fees that most people would encounter.

There are no monthly fees, transaction fees, maintenance fees, NSF (or non-sufficient funds) fees, or ATM fees. Axos even reimburses you for any fees charged by an ATM owner if you make an out-of-network withdrawal. The only fees Axos charges are unusual items like outbound wire transfers or expedited mail processing–items you generally have to initiate and are fairly unlikely to ever encounter.

ATMs and Deposits

So what about deposits and ATMs? If you’ve had an online bank account before, you might have encountered some obstacles making deposits or accessing cash due to the absence of branches. Axos Bank largely solves these problems.

Cash Access at ATMs

Axos has an extensive ATM network, with over 91,000 ATM locations. While Axos doesn’t charge any ATM fees, whether the network is in-network or out-of-network, the owner of out-of-network ATMs may. However, Axos reimburses you for all fees charged by any ATM every month. So, you end up paying no fees for any ATM, whether in-network or not.

Deposits

Like most online-only banks, Axos makes check deposits easy through mobile check deposits through their app. And of course, you can use direct deposit for paychecks or benefit checks and transfer money from an external bank account. That covers the bases for most people.

As for cash deposits, you can use some in-network ATMs, but not all in-network ATMs can take deposits. Axos Bank offers an ATM search here, so you can check the location of network ATMs and those that take deposits in your area.

If you make cash deposits, you have one other option. Axos allows cash deposits through Green Dot’s retail network. You basically take cash and Axos debit card to the register at a retailer like Walmart or Walgreens. Axos doesn’t charge a fee for the deposit, but the retailer will–typically, $4.95.

Money Management and Customer Service

Axos Bank provides the types of money management tools through its online portal and mobile app that you would expect from a top online bank. The mobile app features a customizable dashboard to let you decide what’s important to see at a glance, such as account balances and recent transactions. It also provides mobile deposits, transaction history, and an easy way to contact customer service within the app. The features resonate with customers. Its iPhone app has earned 4.7 stars on the App Store and 4.5 stars on Google Play.

The web portal has all the basics, including bill pay and transaction history. But it also goes beyond the basics with some nice money management additions, such as a single view of categorized transactions with a quick graphical view of your spending and cash flow.

Axos Bank dashboard of spending categories and income
Axos Bank dashboard

Axos offers over-the-phone customer service 24/7, secure messaging, and a chatbot that can answer many banking questions quickly.

The Bottom Line on Axos

Axos meets or beats brick and mortar banks on virtually every point of comparison. Its checking and savings account options provide greater flexibility by eliminating minimum balances and maintenance fees. With a large ATM network and fees reimbursements for out-of-network ATMs, getting cash is easy and free.

Axos Bank’s high-yield savings is among the highest, even among online banks, for those with moderate balances. And it’s still competitive (and higher than traditional banks) for larger savings balances.

The online and mobile offerings allow Axos customers to accomplish virtually any banking transaction without missing the branch.

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