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2020'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 2020

At SmartAsset, we pored over the various banking options throughout the country to determine which were the best for 2020. 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 0.60% $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 0.65% $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 
HSBC HSBC logo Read More 0.50% $1
  • Best Bank for Students
  • No monthly fee
Varo Bank Varo Bank logo Read More 0.81% $0
  • Best Bank for Savings 
  • No monthly fees
  • Minimum to earn APY - $0.01
Charles Schwab Bank Charles Schwab Bank logo Read More 0.03% $0
  • Global access to fee-free ATMs
  • No minimum opening deposits

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.

The Best Online Bank: Ally Bank

Ally Online Savings Account

Ally is an online-only bank offering an array of banking, auto, home loans and investing products. The company’s key banking products include savings, checking, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) certificate of deposit (CD) and money market accounts. For example, Ally’s online savings account boasts a 0.60% 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.

The 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).

If You Live Outside of Chase’s Area 

Chase serves a majority of Americans, but there are regions where branches are sparse or non-existent. If you live in the Midwest (beside Chicago) or the South (beside Atlanta and Florida) Wells Fargo does end up being the best option. New England has a dearth of both Wells Fargo and Chase branches, making T.D. Bank the best option there. 

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 0.65% 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. Since 2010, it has issued 37,700 SBA 7(a) loans at an average amount of $322,000. That’s by far the most in the country and 22% more than closest competitor, Chase. 

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: HSBC Bank

Direct Savings

The HSBC Choice Checking account comes with three main banking products that benefit both U.S. students and international students studying in the U.S.. These include the HSBC Choice Checking account, HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card student account and HSBC Direct Savings account. For only $1, students can open the Direct Savings account and build their finances with a 0.50% APY and no monthly maintenance fees. For the checking account, students who are at least 18 years of age receive six years without any monthly fees along with a welcome deposit of $100. The Choice Checking also comes without any minimum balance requirements, but students will have to pay the $15 monthly fee once the six-year, no-fee period ends. You can avoid this if you meet either of the following requirements: (1) maintain a minimum account balance of $1,500 in combined U.S. dollar investment balances and deposit accounts, or (2) receive a recurring, qualifying direct deposit from a third party. 

Though this bank offers branches in fewer than 10 states, customers will have worldwide access to ATMs. This is a great account if you’re a student interested in building your savings. HSBC’s Cash Rewards credit card student account offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and the bank's checking and savings accounts come with competitive offerings. Although you won’t have access to 24-hour assistance, this could be a suitable option for those looking for low-cost and high-yield student accounts.

The Best Bank for Savings: Varo Bank

Varo Savings Account

Varo Bank offers mobile-only banking services for Apple and Android users. Though this bank doesn’t have any physical locations, it makes up for it with its deposit account offerings. For example, the Varo Savings Account comes with a 0.81% APY and no minimums or monthly fees. There is a minimum of $0.01 required to begin earning interest, but after that, there are no balance requirements to earn the base APY. Users can even push this rate up to 2.80% if they fulfill the following conditions: maintain a balance of $10,000 or less, use their Visa Varo® debit card to make a purchase at least five times a month and earn government or payroll direct deposits of at least $1,000 a month. 

Varo offers fee-free access to more than 55,000 Allpoint® ATMs, and the bank’s app even features an ATM locator that pinpoints Allpoint ATMs near you. We mentioned that Varo doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees, but you should note that the bank also excludes foreign transaction fees and transfer or debit card replacement fees. Varo’s savings account comes with competitive rates, but we would advise against using this bank if you prefer a company that has physical locations. 

The 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%, but the bank’s fee-free offerings and global access seem 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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