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2021's Best Banks in America

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We maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments. This post contains links from our advertisers, and we may receive compensation when you click these links. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone. | Advertiser Disclosure
We maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments. This post contains links from our advertisers, and we may receive compensation when you click these links. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone. | Advertiser Disclosure

Finding the Best Banks in 2021

At SmartAsset, we pored over the various banking options throughout the country to determine which were the best for 2021. We chose banks that make it easy to access your money, do not charge you to maintain your account and have good interest rates. Below, we breakdown which are the best banks in six categories: online bank, major bank, credit union, small business, students and savings account.

Bank APY Minimum Deposit Highlights
Ally Bank Ally Bank logo Read More 0.50% $0
  • Best Online Bank
  • Competitive account options and interest rates
Chase Bank Chase Bank logo Read More 0.01% $25
  • Best Major Bank
  • Mobile friendly
Alliant Credit Union Alliant Credit Union logo Read More 0.55% $5
  • Best Credit Union
  • No monthly fee
Wells Fargo Wells Fargo logo Read More 0.01% $25
  • Best Bank for Small Business
  • Thorough online and mobile features 
PNC Bank PNC Bank logo Read More 0.01% $25
  • Best Bank for Students
  • No monthly fees
Chime Chime logo Read More 0.50% $0
  • Best Bank for Savings 
  • No monthly fees or APY minimums
Charles Schwab Bank Charles Schwab Bank logo Read More 0.03% $0
  • Best Bank for ATMs
  • Global access to fee-free ATMs

How We Determine the Best Banks

SmartAsset’s team of personal finance experts rounded up an exhaustive list of the banks most available to you. We scored each according to their account access, charges for maintaining your account, interest rates, customer support, product offerings and customer experience.

Best Online Bank: Ally Bank

Ally Online Savings Account

Ally is an online-only bank offering an array of banking, auto, home loan and investing products. The company’s key products include savings accounts, checking accounts, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) certificates of deposit (CDs) and money market accounts.

Ally’s online savings account boasts a 0.50% APY that comes without monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements. But this account comes with a $25 overdraft fee and an excessive transactions fee of $10. The bank’s website also shows it charges users for expedited delivery, outgoing domestic wires, account research and returned deposit items. 

Ally makes up for its lack of physical presence through its mobile offerings, online banking tools and 24/7 customer service support. The bank’s mobile app, which has a 4.8 rating on the iOS app store, allows users to make transfers, deposit checks and much more.

Best Major Bank: Chase

Savings

Chase bank offers the most exhaustive banking experience in America for those who prefer in-person banking. You can find Chase in 28 states and the District of Columbia, with more than 5,100 branches and over 16,000 free ATMs. The only comparable bank is Wells Fargo (which has the most branches). Chase has a slight edge, however, for several reasons. 

For one, even though it has fewer branches, Chase has more ATMs. Being able to access your money easily is an important consideration when choosing a bank. You’ll have more opportunity for free withdrawals with Chase - especially if you live in New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles. Another reason is the mobile app. Chase’s app has 4.5 stars on the app store and is arguably the most intuitive and easy to use banking app available. You can manage every one of your accounts on the go - including savings accounts, checking accounts, credit cards and even your mortgage.

Furthermore, if you’ve never banked with Chase before, you are also eligible for a $200 bonus when you make a qualifying deposit in a basic checking account. For that reason, we recommend you consider Chase if you have less than $2,000 to deposit. Even at a 1.30% APY, it would take almost eight years to make more than $200 in interest at another bank. The only downside to Chase checking is the $12 monthly fee. Therefore, we would not recommend Chase if you have less than $1,500 to deposit since that is the threshold to avoid the fee ($500 monthly deposits also waive the fee).

Best Credit Union: Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union

Alliant is the best credit union in the U.S. The rates and fee structures equal, and in some instances even surpass, what other banks we list offer. You’ll find a 0.55% APY on the savings account and a 0.25% on the checking account. Both of those accounts also come with no minimum balances or monthly maintenance fees. 

Alliant also provides the flexibility big banks offer, despite only having branches in five states. Alliant not only has an ATM network of 80,000 - five times greater than that of Chase - but also reimburses you up to $20 for out-of-network ATM fees. For the most part though, Alliant will be an online institution for the majority of members.

Furthermore, unlike most other credit unions, Alliant makes it easy to become a member. Alliant has a list of organizations and communities you can be a part of to become a member. However, if you do not qualify through those means, you can still join by just donating $10 to the Foster Care to Success organization. Lastly, given that credit unions are non-profits, they tend to have stronger customer service than some banks. Credit unions tend to emphasize the community aspect of their organization and strive to create a positive banking experience for all customers. 

While Alliant stands as the best, SmartAsset's banking experts have further detailed the other top credit unions based on specific account holder needs.

Best Bank for Small Business: Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo Business Savings

Wells Fargo excels at the main bank needs for small businesses: lending, banking accounts and merchant services. In terms of lending, no bank is more active with SBA loans than Wells Fargo. In fact, the bank's closest competitor in Chase has still only managed to give out around 20% less than what Wells Fargo has.

In terms of deposit accounts, we do think the Chase small business checking accounts are slightly better, but you’ll still get a good product with Wells Fargo business checking. You have the choice between four types of accounts: Business Choice Checking, Platinum Business Checking, Simple Business Checking and Analyzed Business Checking. Each one is tailored for small businesses of different sizes and markets. The barrier to waive the $15 monthly fee is low, so it is essentially a free account. 

The final piece that makes Wells Fargo the best bank  for small business is its merchant services, which integrate seamlessly with the checking accounts. Wells Fargo will set you up with a system to monitor your incoming cash flow, as well as access to Clover to accept credit and debit cards. You can connect it with your business checking account so you can easily monitor your inflow and outflow of funds.

Best Bank for Students: PNC Bank

Virtual Wallet Student

PNC Bank is a great bank for students who are looking for a bank that can help them with their finances and offer a solid lineup of banking products tailored specifically to their needs. While PNC is technically a regional bank with branches in just a handful of eastern states, you can bank online or on your phone even if you don’t go to school near a PNC branch location.

Aside from the extensive personal finance and banking education tools it offers for students, PNC also has an all-in-one student checking and savings account. This is called Virtual Wallet Student, and it rolls three accounts into one to help students manage their money. More specifically, it combines an easy-to-use spending account with an account for reserve cash and a growth-oriented savings account.

Virtual Wallet Student comes with no monthly service charges, plus free access to PNC ATMs and a free debit card. The account can remain open for up to six years if you provide proof that you’re still a student. PNC’s University Banking program can make your banking experience even more robust, as the bank has a number of relationships with large colleges. In turn, students will gain access to features like ID card linking, on-campus banking services, co-branded debit cards and more.

Best Bank for Savings: Chime

Chime Savings Account

Chime Bank’s Savings Account is one of our top savings accounts, mostly because of its 0.50% APY and automatic savings features. The online-only bank is available to customers around the country. All you need is a computer or mobile phone capable of running the Chime app in order to gain access to your account. Chime has great customer service and a highly rated app, making it a top online and mobile bank.

In order to open a Chime Savings Account, you’ll need to first open a Chime Spending Account, which is the bank’s equivalent of a checking account. This might be a hurdle for some customers, but, nonetheless, it’s easy to open both accounts alongside each other. This is the sole stipulation for opening this savings account, as there are no minimum deposit requirements or monthly maintenance fees.

Just about the only fee you’ll run into at Chime is a $2.50 fee for using out-of-network ATMs or over-the-counter transactions. Overall, Chime’s APY is what really stands out about its savings account, though the bank as a whole remains a great option for anyone in search of an online bank with robust checking and savings features.

Best Bank for ATMs: Charles Schwab

High Yield Investor Checking

Charles Schwab’s High-Yield Investor Checking account comes with a low APY of 0.03%. However, the bank’s fee-free offerings and global accessibility seems to outweigh its lower rates.

Schwab not only has 24/7 customer service access, but it also grants automatic reimbursements to any users accessing ATMs internationally. You also won’t have to account for foreign transaction fees, and users get the reimbursements back in a lump sum at the end of the month. 

All Schwab users with the High-Yield Investor Checking account earn free standard checks and a free Schwab Bank Visa® Platinum debit card. Another perk that comes with this account is a free Schwab One® brokerage account for investments. All online equity trades come with a $4.95 rate, and there’s no fee to open or maintain the account.

How to Find the Best Bank for You 

Choosing the best bank often comes down to your specific life circumstances, knowledge of savings and geography. If none of the banks we discuss above seem right to you, we would suggest you take the following  into consideration: 

  • What are my financial goals?
  • Do I want to bank online or in-person?
  • Which banks are in my area?

You need to be honest about your financial standing. Do you have a large sum of money you want to store and accrue a small amount of interest, or are you just starting to build wealth? If you are in the former scenario, you should consider a bank with a high interest rate. If you are the latter, you may want to consider a bank that offers educational and planning tools to keep track of your funds. 

Deciding to bank in-person or online is another consideration you need to make. Online banks offer advantages that brick-and-mortar banks cannot - namely high interest rates and no fees. That being said, it is normal to feel uncomfortable with storing your funds with an institution you cannot physically visit. The online banks recommended above have a history of stellar customer service and are all FDIC insured, so the risk is minimal if you choose one of them. 

Ultimately, location may dictate your decision. Access to bank branches or in-network ATMs may be more convenient for you and help you avoid pesky fees. Make sure you check out your local bank and credit unions or the large national banks with branches in your area.

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