Best Online Bank
Online banks are known for being high on earnings and low on fees, thanks in part to their low overhead. But sometimes not having a branch to go to might seem inconvenient. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for the online banks that give you the best of both worlds: the benefits of low overhead and the convenience of physical bank branches.
Our Pick: Ally Bank
- Best Feature: One-stop online banking
- Consistently high Savings & CD rates
- Interest checking
- Minimal to no fees
- Limited ATM reimbursement
Ally Bank receives top honors alongside the other best online banks. Ally provides a full suite of deposit accounts - top savings account, money market, CDs (Certificate of Deposit) and checking account that don’t charge monthly fees and they come with impressive interest rates. These are the two most consistent traits that has helped Ally to grow into one of the largest online banks today. Ally is a great choice for someone looking to replace branch banking with a comprehensive online banking platform.
Ally Bank Pros & Cons
Best National Bank
National banks can be some of the most convenient banks out there since they typically have a large presence throughout the country. But which national banks are the most trustworthy - and which offer the best services? We evaluate each national bank for health, benefits, and fees to find out who has the most to offer.
Our Pick: Chase Bank
- Best Feature: Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Credit Card
- More than 5,300 branches and 15,000 ATMs
- Financially Strong
- Focused on innovation
Chase Bank is the big winner in the best national bank category. Chase stands out because of its full range of deposit accounts, lucrative credit cards, and extensive financial services and investment offerings. The Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ credit card is arguably the most popular travel rewards credit card right now. When it comes to convenience, Chase has a large branch and ATM network, highly rated customer service, and an intuitive mobile app. Chase even offers a program that provides free credit scores to everyone.
Chase Bank Pros & Cons
Best Regional Banks
If you’re looking for the convenience of a national bank with the more personalized service of a credit union, regional banks could be a great choice for you. We sorted through the regional banks with the highest customer satisfaction to help you see which consumer bank might be the best for you. See our winners for this quarter below.
Northeast: Popular Community Bank
- Best Feature: Free checking account with widespread ATM access
- Regional bank that offers free checking and pushes new tech
Popular Community Bank wins as one of the best consumer banks in the Northeast. Primarily, the bank is a winner because of its low-cost accounts, competitive interest rates, and its convenience. It’s also one of the few midsized banks in the region to offer a completely-free checking account. Through its online division, Popular Direct, you also have access to high interest rates on savings and CD accounts. Also, customers can access the Allpoint ATM network, which has more than surcharge-free 55,000 ATMs. Popular embraces cool, new tech in the form of cardless ATM withdrawals through its mobile apps (just scan the QR code).
Popular Community Bank Pros & Cons
South: BBVA Compass
- Best Feature: Free checking with personalization options
- Customer Service Call Scheduling
- Fingerprint Authentication
- Apple & Android Pay
BBVA Compass get its spot as one of the top banks in the South for pioneering in new banking trends and technology.
With BBVA Compass, you can get a free checking account that can be upgraded with features that you would like. Plus, all accounts come with a dedicated team of concierge bankers, who you can contact over text, email, chat, or phone. You also get access to a mobile app that allows you to manage BBVA credit card rewards and lock your credit cards should you need to. One of the more innovative tech features is the ability to video conference with a virtual teller.
BBVA Compass Pros & Cons
West: Bank of the West
- Best Feature: Bank of the West Cash Back World MasterCard®
- 530+ branches
- Mobile banking
- Great basic checking and cash back credit card
Bank of the West shines because of the combination of its large network through the West and Midwest and attractive consumer accounts. The basic checking account has a monthly fee, but it takes any single deposit of any amount to get it waived. And, the bank offers a top-notch credit card that lets people earn plenty of cash back on very common purchases.
Bank of the West Pros & Cons
Midwest: Huntington Bank
- Best Feature: Extra business day to avoid overdraft fees
- Competitive rewards
- Long hours
- Extensive product offerings
Huntington Bank is a top bank in the Midwest because of its well-rounded list of great products and services, large physical presence, and intuitive mobile apps. Two noteworthy products include a free checking account and a credit card that lets you choose the bonus rewards category.
To help you minimize fees, Huntington offers a 24-hour grace period to avoid overdraft fees. You have more time to bring your account back to the positive - and they accept all day deposits so you won’t be held back by branch closing times.
Huntington Bank Pros & Cons
Bank With the Best Mobile Experience
Everyone’s on their phones these days, whether it’s to read email, take pictures, or manage their money. That’s why it’s so important to know which banks have the most cutting-edge mobile experience, offering things like mobile deposit, payments to friends, and more. We reviewed the best rated mobile banks by consumers to see who’s leading the pack on technology and user experience. See our winners for this quarter below.
Our Pick: Capital One
- Best Feature: Capital One 360 Money Market Account
- Customizable layout
- Free Credit tracking
- Fingerprint authentication
- Apple & Android Pay
Capital One has one of the most comprehensive mobile banking experiences. With Capital One’s mobile app, you get swipe-recognition security (in addition to fingerprint authentication), the ability to redeem credit cards rewards, the ability to lock Capital One cards, and access to CreditWise (a credit score tool). It’s a good thing that Capital One has such great mobile apps because the bank offers some of the most popular bank accounts and credit cards. It's important that Capital One have one of the best mobile banking apps because they offer some of the most popular bank accounts and credit cards.
Capital One Bank Pros & Cons
Credit unions may not have the presence of larger banks, but they make up for it with highly personalized services and support. Even still, not all credit unions are alike. We analyze the best of the best to determine who delivers the highest earnings and benefits at the lowest fees. See our winners for this quarter below.
Our Pick: Alliant Credit Union
- Best Feature: Free online checking and ATM refunds
- Easy credit union membership with low account fees and high rates
Alliant Credit Union is a top-rated credit union due to its consumer-friendly fee policies. None of its deposit accounts have monthly fees. You can use any ATM and Alliant will refund up to $20 per month in ATM fees. Alliant credit cards make great tools for consolidating high-interest credit card debt. And, it’s easy for anyone to join Alliant. All you have to do is donate $10 to Foster Care to Success, a nonprofit organization.
Alliant Credit Union Pros & Cons
How We Picked
Minimum Balance Requirements
Fees for Special Services
Charges Per Transaction
Promotions & Teaser Rates
How to Choose
How We Picked
How did we decide what makes a great bank? We researched around 5000 banks, credit unions and their accounts for this guide.
The Best National Bank category includes banks or credit unions with 1,000 or more branches. The Best Regional Bank category includes banks or credit unions with fewer than 1,000 branches. The Best Online Bank category includes online-only banks that do not operate physical branches. Banks eligible for best mobile apps or most innovative mobile experience were selected based on breadth of features and ease of use.
The overall rank for each institution within each category was dependent on how many days in the quarter the institution's score was among the top 10.
On the surface, choosing a bank seem simple, but there are a number of things you need to pay attention to when picking a bank and we track it for you:
It may come as a surprise to you, but this is one of the top money-draining factors. You may pay from as little as $0.99 cents and as much as $5.00 per withdrawal when using an ATM that's out of the bank's network. On top of that, the owner or operator of the out-of-network ATM could impose a surcharge too. Here are the fees from the top national banks:
Out-of-Network ATM Fees at the Top U.S. Banks
|Bank||Out-of-Network ATM Fee||International ATM Fee||Foreign Exchange Fee|
|Bank of America||$2.50||$5||3%|
|Citizens Bank||$3||$5||2.8% or 3%|
|Fifth Third Bank||$0||$5||3%|
|BMO Harris Bank||$3||$3||3%|
Minimum Balance Requirements
After opening an account with a bank that is offering promotional rates, customers forget to check for qualification conditions during the promotion or conversion fees or minimum balances after the promotion ends. You may be offered an excellent rate but high transaction fees negate the benefit you are receiving. Always confirm the total cost of banking not just one part. Also, make sure that when you open an account with a minimum balance restriction that you are prepared to satisfy that obligation to avoid monthly maintenance fees.
Basic Checking Account Fees at Top Banks
|Account||Monthly Fee||Minimum Balance to Waive Fee||Direct Deposit Amount to Waive Fee|
|Bank of America Core Checking||$12||$1,500||$250 (single)|
|Wells Fargo Everyday Checking||$10||$1,500||$500 (total)|
|Chase Total Checking||$12||$1,500||$500 (total)|
|Citibank Basic Banking Account||$12||$1,500||Any amount + one bill payment|
|U.S. Bank Silver Checking||$8.95||$1,500||$1,000 (total)|
|PNC Bank Virtual Wallet® Account||$7||$500||$500 (total)|
|Capital One 360 Checking® Account||$0||$0||N/A|
|TD Bank TD Convenience Checking||$15||$100||N/A|
|BB&T BB&T Bright Checking||$12||$1,500||$500 (total)|
|SunTrust Essential Checking||$7||$500||$500 (total)|
Banks may offer what’s called “Relationship Banking”. This is a type of banking where they encourage customers to hold several different types of accounts, such as checking, credit card accounts, CD’s, Money Market, etc., by offering attractive rates, savings plans and package transaction fees for a portfolio of services. These plans may allow customers to combine account balances to avoid maintenance charges or offer better rates and benefits. It is important to compare plans with more than one bank. Also, it may be more beneficial to hold individual accounts with different banks to maximize savings that combined offer better rates and fees than a single bank offering.
Many deposit accounts offered by banks will pay interest on customer balances. They include savings accounts, money market accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), and even some checking accounts. Banks use customer balances to offer loans that produce profit for them. In turn, the banks pay interest on customer deposits.
Not surprisingly, you'd want to earn the highest interest rate possible -- often denoted by the annual percentage yield (APY). The APY means the percent return that you'll get on your balance every year. Large national banks that operate physical branches and ATM networks are less likely to provide extremely high APYs on their bank accounts. Online banks tend to offer higher APYs because they don't have to pay the costs -- such as real estates, utilities, and employee salaries -- of running brick and mortar locations. Furthermore, you'll find that online bank accounts will generally come with lower and fewer account fees, which just means more money in your pocket again.
We investigate whether a bank offers special accounts. Many banks offer special accounts for senior citizens, teens, and children with reasonable APY rates, no minimum balances, and no fees. There are also Christmas/holiday accounts, vacations accounts, military accounts, and health benefits accounts to look into.
Fees for Special Services
Before you sign up with a bank, it’s important to consider whether you’ll need to get printed copies of canceled checks or if you will be writing many checks. Most banks now destroy the original canceled check and keep records digitally. If you need to retrieve these, some banks may charge as much as $5 per copy.
If you need to write many checks, it may be worth looking into the bank’s online banking options. Most banks will give you a certain number of checkbooks when you open an account, but customers will have to purchase subsequent checks. It may be cheaper to view canceled checks online and to print checks directly from a printer.
Customers have to be wary of overdraft fees and protection options. It’s important to check the individual bank’s terms of the agreement for overdraft protection. Some are offering a line of credit feature, which offers rates high or lower than overdraft protection. There can also be additional fees for using the protection if you bounce a check. It’s important to find out how much it costs for this protection and the options the bank offers to use these services.
Because of the cost savings achieved by banks through direct deposit transactions, some banks will offer incentives for customers to use direct deposit. They may offer reduced or waived maintenance fees or free ATM usage among other things.
Charges Per Transaction
Besides a monthly maintenance fee, your bank may charge you a fee for individual transactions such as check writing, transfers between accounts, checking balances, and using ATM’s. These can add up significantly per month. Also, remember that just because an account is offered as “Free Checking”, it may not be completely free from fees above certain levels or it may be conditionally free on maintaining a minimum account balance.
Good online banking features are becoming more and more important for discerning customers these days. It saves on time, money, and on paper. However, your bank may charge you a monthly fee for these services, although many banks offer these for free. Also, verify that these services are being offered from a secure site.
There are great opportunities to save and get great rates through virtual online banks. These banks can offer customers some advantages in lower fees or better rates, however, it’s important to evaluate how convenient or cost-effective these are if you need to conduct physical transactions.
Also, make sure these online banks are FDIC-insured or member of the FDIC. This means that your deposits are insured by the FDIC. Some overseas banks may not be able to offer you this coverage. There also may be some restrictions on how much of your deposit is insured if your online bank actually has an FDIC-insured parent bank.
Promotions & Teaser Rates
Customers can benefit from looking for banking promotions. Banks run different types of promotions for different types of account year-round. They are a great way to get started with any type of account. Banks will sometimes offer higher rates, free features, discounts, waived fees, free gifts, cash, etc. We make sure to read the fine print and track what fees or features will come into play once the promotion period ends.
We track locations, extended hours, local, national or international branches and online capabilities that are also considerations when selecting the right bank.
How to Choose the Best Bank for Your Needs
The most important thing for a prospective customer is to do your homework. You should not just compare different banks, but also different types of account products offered by each bank. Do this, and you’re bound to get a great deal, or at least be far more educated and conversant in negotiating through the hundreds of options that banks offer.
When you’re shopping for a new bank, make sure you understand a few things before stepping into the bank around the corner from your home. You should consider whether you are willing to pay higher fees for the convenience of the location, or if you are prepared to make a little extra travel or go with an online bank to eliminate the fees.