How to Open a Free Checking Account in California

There are many banks in California that offer free checking accounts to consumers. With free checking, there is no monthly fee to maintain the account. Depending upon the bank, other free features are also offered, such as online banking, online bill pay, mobile banking and debit/check card. Before opening a free checking account, be sure to compare features to determine which bank best suits your needs. You need a government-issued photo ID and a social security number to open an account.

Visit a state-chartered bank that offers free checking. Complete an application for a new “free checking” account. Submit a deposit to fund the new account. A few of the state-chartered banks that offer free checking are Bank Of The West, Gilmore Bank, American Riviera Bank, Union Bank and Bank Of The Sierra. For a complete list of California-chartered banks, see the link that is located in the “Resources” section of this article.

Apply for a free checking account by visiting a national bank, instead of a California-chartered bank. National banks are regulated by the federal government, whereas state banks are regulated by the state. A couple of the national banks in California that offer free checking or “conditional” free checking are Bank Of America and Wells Fargo. To see a list of all the national banks located in California, search the Federal Reserve System's National Information Center (see Resources).

Apply for a free checking account through one of California's credit unions. As a courtesy to it's members, most credit unions do not charge fees for checking accounts. In order to apply with a credit union, you must have an affiliation with the union or have a family member who is affiliated. Some of the credit unions in California are California Credit Union, Credit Union Of Southern California and California Coast Credit Union.


  • If you don't want to visit the bank in person to open a free checking account, some of the banks will allow you to open an account online.