Finding the Best Banks in Georgia
The best banks in Georgia are those that combine accessibility, affordability when it comes to account minimums and fees and competitive interest rates on accounts. With these criteria in mind, SmartAsset found the best banks in the Peach State.
|Wells Fargo Open Account Read More||0.01%||$25|| |
|SunTrust Bank Open Account Read More||0.01%||$0|| |
|United Community Bank Open Account Read More||0.02%||$100|| |
|Fidelity Bank Open Account Read More||0.05%||$50|| |
|Renasant Bank Open Account Read More||1.51%||$50|| |
|Fidelity Bank Open Account Read More||0.15%||$50|| |
|Chase Open Account Read More||0%||$25|| |
How We Determined the Best Banks in Georgia
SmartAsset analyzed the top 20 banks in Georgia based on the number of bank branches. We selected the banks with the most branches as the best national and best regional banks. We considered each bank’s account offerings, fees, minimum requirements and interest rates when determining the best individual accounts.
Best National Bank: Wells Fargo
Accessing your bank account with an ATM has never been easier with Wells Fargo’s 725+ ATMs in Georgia alone. Then when you need to visit a representative in person, Georgians have over 275 Wells Fargo branches to choose from. These options paired with the ease of online and mobile banking make banking with Wells Fargo a great option. Plus, as a big bank, you’ll have access to physical locations across the country and even around the world.
Wells Fargo offers a number of bank accounts. This includes two savings accounts, three CD types, five checking account options and IRAs. Monthly service fees range from $3 to $30, depending on the exact account, with a number of ways to waive the fee. You’ll often have to meet a minimum balance or transaction amount in order to avoid the monthly fee.
Despite their convenience, big banks aren’t known for offering high-earning interest rates. Wells Fargo is no different, with most of its account interest rates barely reaching the national average of 0.25%. You can, however, work toward earning at a bonus rate, usually by linking accounts together. Higher balances (think over $100,000) can also get you more favorable rates.
Best Regional Bank: SunTrust Bank
SunTrust Bank offers Georgia customers the second-most physical locations and ATMs. Georgia residents have access to around 230 SunTrust branches and over 115 ATMs. However the bank has locations in only 11 states and the District of Columbia.
SunTrust offers a wide variety of bank accounts, including a basic savings account, IRAs, four checking accounts, five CD terms and money market accounts. Most of these accounts do have monthly maintenance fees, ranging from $3 to $25, depending on the account. However, you can get these fees waived entirely by meeting certain requirements, like maintaining a minimum balance.
The interest rates that come with a SunTrust bank account are pretty standard for a bank of this size. You do have the opportunity to earn at higher rates with certain accounts when you have higher balances. Only SunTrust’s CD rates reach over 1% APYs. However, it is still worth noting that the bank offers higher rates than its big bank counterparts, like Wells Fargo.
Best Customer Service: United Community Bank
In a recent customer satisfaction survey, United Community Bank was voted the best for overall satisfaction in all of the Southeast. Certainly when you enter the bank’s website, it immediately brands itself as “The Right Partner” to help you manage your money and achieve your savings goals. United Community Bank also claims that it has earned an average customer satisfaction rating of 98% from Customer Service Profiles. The bank has 156 branches throughout four states: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. There are 65 locations in Georgia alone, and some branches are open on Saturdays. Plus, with online and mobile banking availability, you can access your accounts no matter where you are.
You’ll have your pick of bank accounts with United Community Bank. From five different checking accounts to a simple savings account to a five-year CD, the bank gives you a number of options to tailor your banking experience to your financial situation. That way, too, you can keep your bank accounts in one place for even more convenience.
Best Free Checking Account: Fidelity Bank
When looking for the best free checking account, you won’t have to look any further than Fidelity Bank’s Totally Free Checking and Direct Free Interest Checking accounts (not to be confused with Fidelity Investments). As their names suggest, neither of these accounts charge a monthly maintenance fee. Each account includes free Visa® Check Cards, eStatements, ATM usage and check card text alerts. You’ll want to take advantage of the fee-free ATM deal, since most banks charge a small fee of around $2.50 when you use an ATM outside of its network. Luckily for Fidelity Bank customers, there is no such fee.
To open an account, you will need to deposit at least $50. This is slightly higher than a typical $25 opening deposit. However, you’ll get to benefit from the lack of fees and minimums after opening. The Direct Free Interest Checking even earns interest at a 0.05% APY. Then once you have an account, you can easily access it through the bank’s website, mobile services and unlimited check-writing abilities. You can also visit 48 Fidelity Bank branches in Georgia to speak with a representative in person.
Best High-Yield Checking Account: Renasant Bank
With small beginnings in Mississippi, Renasant Bank now boasts one of the highest-earning checking accounts we’ve seen. The Rewards Checking account offers its customers the opportunity to earn at a 1.51% APY. This rate significantly outperforms most of its big bank and credit union competitors for both savings and checking accounts.
There are certain qualifications you need to meet to earn at this high rate. Luckily, these requirements should be easy to meet if you plan to use this account as your main checking account. For each qualification cycle, you will need to make at least 10 transactions with your debit card, have at least one direct deposit or ACH automatic payment post and clear and receive your monthly statement electronically. The qualification cycle starts three business days before the beginning of your statement cycle and ends three business days before the end of your statement cycle.
The APY of 1.51% applies to balances up to $25,000. If your account reaches higher than this amount, you’ll earn at a 0.30% APY instead, given you still meet the requirements. Still, that rate beats the national average savings rate. If you fail to meet the given requirements, your balance, no matter the amount, will earn at a 0.03% APY.
Further perks of the Renasant Bank Rewards Checking account include a medium-level opening balance of $50, up to $25 in ATM fee refunds, a debit MasterCard and unlimited check writing. There is a slight monthly service fee of $7.50. However, you can easily waive this by signing up for eStatements or maintaining a daily account balance of at least $500.
Best Savings Account: Fidelity Bank
Whether you’re saving toward a new home or beefing up your emergency fund, Fidelity Bank has a savings account for you. Fidelity Bank’s Personal Savings Account earns interest according to balance tiers, with higher balances earning higher rates. These rates are competitive, ranging from 0.15% to 0.30% and outperforming big-name banks and local counterparts.
You do have to open the account with at least $50, which is an average to low amount compared to other banks. There is a $12 monthly maintenance fee, although you can avoid it with a minimum daily balance of $200.
As a smaller bank, Fidelity Bank offers Georgians around 48 branches, with more branches in Florida. This does limit customers’ physical access to the bank, especially when traveling out of state. You will still have online and mobile banking at your disposal, though.
Best for Students: Chase Bank & Ameris Bank
You’re going to want a bank that makes managing your money as hassle-free as possible, especially when you head off to college. Chase Bank offers a solid option for students no matter where you’re going to school. Chase boasts 16,000 ATMs and 5,100 branches plus the added convenience of excellent mobile and online banking interfaces. This makes accessing your money both at home and at school a piece of cake. Chase allows students to waive the Chase College Checking monthly account fee for five years while in school. If you’re not in school, you can still avoid the fee with a direct deposit made to the account each statement cycle or an average ending day balance of at least $5,000.
Not quite ready for college? Chase also has a checking account for high school students, Chase High School Checking. This is for students from 13 to 17 years old. Each student will need a parent or guardian co-owner with their own Chase checking account. As long as these accounts are linked, the student can avoid the monthly service fee. You can also waive the fee with a direct deposit or an average ending balance of at least $5,000 in each statement cycle. Once the student turns 19, the account will convert to a Chase Total Checking®.
If you’re looking for a more home-grown bank, Ameris Bank offers its Student Banking Solutions. This Georgia-based bank provides checking, savings, credit card and account access resources to help you manage your money wherever you are. Without the reach of a big bank like Chase, Ameris Bank offers locations and ATMs in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. However, the bank will provide its student customers with an Access Checking account with free eStatements. Ameris also provides tips on credit cards, budgets, debt and college spending.
Best Places to Save
SmartAsset’s interactive map highlights the places in the country where people have the opportunity to save money. Zoom between states and the national map to see the best places to save.
Where you live can have a big impact on how easy it is to save money based on several regional factors. Our study aims to find the most suitable places for people to save based on median household income, average living expenses and income tax burden.
First, we calculated the average cost of living in each county for a household with two adults (one working). We then created a purchasing power index for each county. This reflects the counties with the highest ratio of household income to cost of living.
To better compare income tax burdens across counties, we applied relevant deductions and exemptions before calculating federal, state and local income taxes for a family making $50,000 annual income in each location. Next, we created an effective tax rate index for each county, which reflects the counties with the lowest ratio of income taxes to the assumed $50,000 annual income.
Finally, we calculated the weighted average of the indices to yield an overall best places to save score. We used a three-fourths weighting for purchasing power and a one-fourth weighting for tax rates. We indexed the final number so higher values reflect places that are better to save.