We review the most important things to look for when choosing the best bank in America so that you can pick one that best suits your needs.
Since keeping your money under your mattress isn’t the most secure or profitable option, it’s almost impossible to avoid using a bank. But, with several hundred online, traditional, and new brick and mortar banks in the US, it’s difficult to know which one to choose. We review the best banks in America, looking at factors such as interest rates, monthly fees, and available banking tools. Learn how to choose the best bank in the US for your needs.
Monthly Bank Account Fees
Free banking is always attractive, so one of the first things to check is the monthly fee for both checking and savings accounts, although it’s far more common for checking accounts. Citibank and Bank of America head the list with an average monthly checking fee of $12.
Many banks waive or reimburse the monthly fee if you maintain a certain minimum balance. US Bank waives its $7 fee if you keep a minimum monthly balance of $1,500 or make at least $1,000 per month in direct deposits. Bank of America similarly allows you to skip the $12 monthly fee as long as you make a direct deposit of at least $250 each month or keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500. Interestingly, Wells Fargo rescinds the variable monthly fee for customers who make ten debit card purchases each month as well as those who keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or direct deposits of $500 or more each month.
For a completely free checking account, you’ll usually have to go to one of the many online banks. Ally Bank doesn’t charge fees for its checking or savings accounts, and although it has a small ATM network, it will reimburse customers for their ATM fees. The Bank of Internet USA also doesn’t charge any monthly fee and refunds any ATM costs. Finally, Capital One is the only big national brick and mortar bank that doesn’t charge any monthly fee for its checking account.
High Interest Rates
Along with low fees, the most popular item demanded of banks is the highest possible interest rate. Although interest rates are fairly low across the board, you’ll still find a huge range. Most checking accounts don’t pay any interest, and some savings accounts only begin paying interest once your balance is above several thousand dollars, making them very impractical for savers with low balances.
In general, you’ll get the best interest rates from the internet banks. Ally Bank is a rare find that pays interest on your checking account balance with an APY of between 0.1% and 0.6%. Its savings account offers a high rate of 1.25% APY, although this rate is variable, and the one year CD carries rates of 1.75% with no minimum deposit. The online-only Bank of Internet USA also offers up to 1.25% APY on balances in its Rewards Checking account, as long as you use your debit card for a minimum of 15 purchases worth over $3 each month and have direct deposits of over $1,000 monthly. It also gives cashback to customers who activate the offers on its website, and the Smart Savings account pays 1.05% APY, still far higher than the average interest rate at the big banks.
Among traditional big banks, Capital One has the best interest rates with 0.2% APY on balances in its 360 Checking account and 0.75% APY for its 360 Savings account, both without fees.
After considering the fees and rates on offer by different banks, consider how easy it is for you to manage your money. The best rates might be less important than being able to pop into a nearby branch on your lunch break or quickly handle your accounts online.
Online-only banks have the advantage of being always open and always close at hand, but smaller banks can have a very limited network of free ATMs. If there are none in your area, you could find yourself paying a lot in ATM fees. Fortunately, both Ally Bank and Bank of Internet USA have 24/7 online accessibility and also pay back the fees you pay for using non-network ATMs. Ally Bank reimburses you up to $10 per month, while Bank of Internet USA has no cap on reimbursing monthly ATM fees. Ally Bank also enables mobile check deposits and mobile banking, while Bank of Internet USA is one of the few internet banks to accept remote cash deposits.
When looking at traditional banks, it’s good to check the number of branches nationwide and in your own area. Wells Fargo has the biggest network of branches and ATMs, with well over 6,500 branches and 13,000 ATMs. Not far behind is Bank of America, which has 4,500 branches in 37 states and thousands of ATMs. Many traditional banks also have online banking and mobile banking options, including Wells Fargo and TD Bank.
Useful Banking Tools
The financial tools offered by some banks are an extremely useful bonus that may just tip the balance if you’re trying to decide between 2 banks. PNC stands out with its virtual wallet, which allows you to divide your money into three categories—spend, reserve, and grow—and manage them all online and from your phone. It helps you to create budgets, use a bill payments calendar, and keep track of your money. Chase has useful mobile apps for daily banking tasks like depositing checks, paying bills, and transferring money, while Capital One also offers intuitive mobile check deposits, text alerts, and an ATM finder. Wells Fargo provides customers with budgeting tools for managing cash flow and tracking spending as well as mobile check depositing and money transfers.
Best Customer Service
It would be nice to think that you’ll never need to use a bank’s customer support, but the chances are good that you’ll need it at some point. If you fall victim to identity fraud, for example, it’s good to know that you have a bank that will help you deal with it. Citibank goes the distance when it comes to helping customers deal with identity theft or fraud. They’ll give you a dedicated Citi Identity Theft Solutions Specialist to help with your case, monitor your credit report, and update you about any changes until the case is closed.
Bank of America also stands out for excellent customer service. Between its thousands of branches, call centers that are manned by live customer support representatives from 8am to 11pm on weekdays and from 8am to 8pm on the weekends, and an active Twitter support channel and live online chat, you know that you can always get help from a real person fast, no matter what time it is. TD Bank’s 24/7 live customer support telephone line has a toll-free number and gets a lot of appreciation from customers, too.
Join the Best Bank in America for You
Ultimately, you're the only one able to decide which is the best bank in America for your needs. You might give more weight to the bank with branches near you, prefer internet banking, want the lowest fees, or be willing to pay higher fees if it also means higher interest rates. Whatever your preferences, you’ll find the best bank for you with one of these 10 best banks in America.