Finding the Best Banks in Chicago
As the third-largest city in America, Chicago and its surrounding area offer its residents a wide variety of banking options. With so many to choose from, it can be hard to know which are the best banks in Chicago. The guide below can help you find the right bank and the right accounts for your specific financial needs. These will be the ones that provide easy and convenient access, low fees and minimums and high interest rates to boost your savings.
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How We Determined the Best Banks in Chicago
To find the best banks in Chicago, SmartAsset rounded up the top 20 banks in Chicago’s metro area in order of branch access. The best national bank for Chicago residents offers the best access to bank branches, not only in the city but around the world, too. The best regional bank has the most branches after the big banks, offering a more local feel. Then to find the best checking, savings and student accounts, we looked at each bank’s interest rates, fees and features.
Ally Bank: The Top Savings Account
If you’re fine with no branch access, online-only Ally Bank has some significant benefits to offer. Many traditional banks are lowering their interest rates, but the Ally Online Savings Account boasts a 1.00% APY that compounds on a daily basis. This rate can earn you $406 over four years on a starting balance of $10,000. In addition to this, the account comes with no fees or minimums, meaning your money will stay in your pocket.
Ally’s Interest Checking Account is a great pairing for savings customers who make consistent transactions and need ample access to cash. Accounts with a minimum daily balance above $15,000 earn a 0.50% APY, whereas those under that threshold receive a 0.10% APY. All customers receive a free debit card they can use anywhere, including 55,000 fee-free ATMs within the Allpoint ATM network. If you’re forced to use an out-of-network ATM, the bank will cover up to $10 in ATM fees per statement cycle.
As we stated above, Ally is a branchless bank. Therefore Ally’s online and mobile banking platforms are integral to its quality. The bank doesn’t disappoint, as its Apple and Android mobile apps average a rating of 4.35 stars out of 5 across over 20,000 combined customer reviews. Mobile check deposit, an ATM locator and a peer-to-peer money transfer program called Zelle® are some of the app’s highlights. Ally provides 24/7 customer support as well.
Best National Bank With Branches in Chicago: Chase Bank
If having access to thousands of branches and ATMs is important to you, a big bank like Chase should do the trick. In Chicago and its surrounding areas, Chase customers can visit over 300 branches and over 400 ATMs. This makes accessing your money incredibly convenient, not only throughout the Windy City, but around the world, as well. Of course, you can also access your accounts with the bank’s website and mobile banking services. Chase makes it easy to check on your balances, transfer money and open accounts on the go.
Not sure what kind of account to open? Chase offers a variety of them, from a simple savings account to an interest-earning checking account to a long-term CD. Each account will require a minimum deposit to open, ranging from $25 to $1,000. You’ll also want to pay attention to monthly fees, which, depending on the account, you can often get waived.
Chase is also one of the best banks for students. The Chase High School Checking and Chase College Checking accounts are tailored for high school and college students, respectively, to help them manage their money in the most convenient way. Both accounts require a minimum deposit of at least $25. There is also a monthly fee of $6, although there are ways to get this waived. For example, you won’t have to worry about the College Checking fee for five years while you’re in college.
In terms of savings, Chase doesn’t offer the most favorable interest rates. This is the case with most big banks, since they have to keep up with the cost of having thousands of brick and mortar locations. Many Chase accounts do earn at tiered rates, though. This means you can secure better rates with higher account balances or by linking accounts. However, the only Chase account with an APY higher than 1% is its 120-month CD.
Best Regional Bank: BMO Harris Bank
For a more local feel, Chicagoans can turn to BMO Harris Bank, a subsidiary of our northern neighbor’s Bank of Montreal. Headquartered in Chicago, BMO Harris maintains 215 branches in Chicago’s metro area alone. Plus, you can access any of the 40,000+ Allpoint® ATMs in the country along with BMO Harris ATMs, for free. You can also find the bank online, on mobile and over the phone, so you can access your accounts and customer service wherever you are.
The bank’s wide reach extends to its bank accounts, as well. Here, you can find three checking accounts, a savings account, a money market account and CDs ranging from one month to five years. You even have the option of opening a Step Rate CD which gives you a rate boost at certain intervals determined by the bank. A downside of BMO Harris savings accounts, including the BMO Harris Select Money Market®, is that they require a range of minimum deposits. These range from $25 to $5,000. Even higher deposits can get you better interest rates, though, to boost your savings. On the other hand, BMO Harris checking accounts require only $25 to open an account.
Best Savings Account Rate: CIT Bank Savings Builder Account
Saving money is, of course, the main purpose of any savings account. CIT Bank’s Savings Builder account does this excellently. Customers will find themselves with a top-tier 0.95% APY when they either make $100 in monthly deposits or maintain a $25,000 account balance. Your APY will fall to 0.79% if you don’t meet these requirements, though. To get yourself a Savings Builder account, you just need to make a $100 deposit.
Joining your first online/mobile-only bank like CIT can be nerve-racking, as a lack of branches could coincide with lesser customer service. However, when it comes to CIT, this appears to be far from the truth. The bank’s mobile app has a combined rating of 3.85 stars out of 5 across thousands of customer reviews on the Apple and Android app stores. Mobile check deposit, inter-account transfers and digital account statements and transaction histories are the hallmarks of these platforms.
Should you have interest in what else you can take advantage of at CIT, here are the rest of its account options:
- Money market account
- Premier High-Yield Savings account
- 6-month to 5-year term CDs
- 2-year to 5-year jumbo CDs
- 1-year to 4-year “RampUp” CDs
- No-Penalty/11-Month CD
Runner-up for Best Savings Account Rate: PNC Bank Standard Savings Account
Finally, Chicagoans can head to PNC Bank for the best savings account in the area. The bank has two savings accounts available, one made specifically for kids. It’s the PNC Standard Savings account that provides the best deal. For starters, the account’s standard rate lands at a low 0.01% APY. This aligns with even bigger banks like Chase or Wells Fargo. However, you can unlock better rates by either linking a PNC checking account to your Standard Savings or making at least five qualifying purchases each month with your debit card or PNC Visa® credit card. Meeting one of these requirements means you earn at a 0.05% APY on balances below $2,500 and at a 0.10% APY on balances above $2,500. This balance threshold is actually pretty low when compared to other banks that can require $250,000 or more to earn at this rate.
The account requires an opening deposit of at least $25. Once you’ve opened the account, you can set up automatic transfers from another account to keep your savings running.
Best Customer Service: Wintrust Bank
For a bank with prompt and thorough customer service, check out Wintrust Bank. The bank was voted top for overall satisfaction for banks in the Midwest in a customer satisfaction survey by J.D. Power. Wintrust brands itself as a community bank, one that works to build a community with its customers. The bank also prides itself on offering services that more and more banks are eliminating, like coin counting, safety deposit boxes, gift cards and currency exchange.
Despite being on a smaller scale than Chase or BMO Harris, Wintrust immediately answers your phone calls with a human representative. This eliminates the hassle of constantly pressing numbers on your keypad to get yourself through an automated phone tree. To make calling customer service easier, Wintrust offers different phone numbers for general support, online banking help, VISA Gift Card questions and more. That way, you know which number to call to be connected to the right person immediately. You can even choose to bank through the telebank number. On its Contact Us webpage, you can choose to Ask a Question or Provide Feedback. This makes it easier and more straightforward to voice your concerns or inquiries. The bank also provides links to its Facebook and Twitter pages as another form of open communication.
This convenient customer service also comes in handy since you cannot find all of the bank’s interest rates online. You will need to call to find out the rates in your area for accounts like its interest-earning checking accounts or savings accounts.
While a big plus, having good customer service doesn’t mean much if you’re not pleased with the bank accounts. Luckily, Wintrust Bank offers some great account options. To start, the bank offers four checking accounts, two of which have no monthly fee, while the other two earn interest. Wintrust checking accounts do require a high minimum deposit of $100, while its savings accounts don’t have any minimums. Most Wintrust bank accounts have a monthly fee, although you can usually have the fee waived with qualifying activity.
Best Free Checking Account: BMO Harris Smart Advantage™ & Fifth Third Bank Express Banking® Accounts
As the best regional bank for the Chicago area, BMO Harris Bank also offers one of the best free checking accounts. With the BMO Harris Smart Advantage™ Account, the bank’s most popular checking account, you’ll never have to worry about paying a monthly fee as long as you sign up for eStatements. This makes it easy and convenient to receive your statements and avoid a needless $2 fee for paper statements.
You have to open the account with at least $25, which is a standard amount for larger banks. There aren’t any fees for standard account activity like using a BMO Harris or Allpoint® network ATM. You just have to be careful to avoid more rare occurrences like using a non-BMO Harris ATM or overdrafting your account. Those kinds of actions can incur extra fees.
For a more bare-bones free checking account, Fifth Third Bank may have your solution. The Fifth Third Express Banking® account doesn’t charge a monthly fee or require any balance minimums. You won’t even be charged a fee for overdrafts. However, your activity with this account is pretty limited without the ability to write checks or even deposit checks at an ATM.
Best High-Yield Checking Account: MB Financial Bank Red Checking Account
The highest interest rates are often reserved for online banks or credit unions. That’s not the case, however, with MB Financial Bank and its Red Checking account. This high-yield checking account offers its Chicago customers the opportunity to grow their checking account balance at 1% APY. This applies to account balances of $10,000 and below. You must also, for each statement cycle, make at least 15 MB Debit Mastercard® transactions totaling at least $200 and have a direct deposit or auto-debit of at least $250. You have to meet these requirements when your balance is above $10,000, as well. In this circumstance, MB Financial blends the 1% APY with a 0.05% APY. If you don’t meet these requirements at all, your balance will grow according to a 0.05% APY.
Another perk of the Red Checking account is the ability to receive reimbursement for other banks’ fees when you use their ATMs. You’ll need at least $5,000 in your account each month to qualify. MB Financial caps their monthly reimbursements at $20 per account.
Best for Students: Chase Bank
Chase Bank offers a great banking option for students for a few reasons. For one, it’s a big bank with thousands of branches and ATMs across the country. This makes it easier for students to access their accounts no matter where they live or go to school.
Chase also offers two types of student accounts: the Chase High School Checking and Chase College Checking accounts. To qualify for the Chase High School Checking account, you’ll need to be a student between the ages of 13 to 17 and have an adult co-signer. The College Checking account is made for college students ages 17 to 24.
Both accounts charge a monthly fee of $6. However, you can have the fee waived for both accounts. For the High School Checking fee to be waived, you must have a linked qualifying personal parent or guardian checking account, a direct deposit made to the account each statement cycle or an average daily balance of at least $5,000. The College Checking account fee will be waived for five years while the student is enrolled in college, or with a direct deposit each statement cycle or an average daily balance of at least $5,000.
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