This article was reviewed by Marguerita Cheng, a member of the Finder Editorial Review Board and award-winning advocate for ethical financial planning for over 20 years.
The best bank or credit union offers features that make it easy to save and spend money. They’re transparent and don’t try to bury unnecessary fees in pages of fine print. We researched more than 130 financial institutions based on criteria like accessibility, fees, account type offerings, interest rates, and special features. If any banks had associated monthly fees, we made sure there were reasonable ways to waive them.
What’s changed in 2021? We broke up our recommendations by category, so you can clearly see the top institutions for checking accounts, savings accounts and overall. We replaced TIAA Bank with BlueVine as the best bank for small businesses because it has fewer fees and higher interest. We replaced HSBC with American Express as the best bank for savings account rates because HSBC’s rates have dropped quite a bit over the past year. We added new categories for the best bank for signup bonuses and the best bank for CD rates.
14 best banks and credit unions
Use this table to compare the best banks and credit unions and see why they made our list.
BlueVine is a free business checking account boasting unlimited transactions, a $0 opening deposit and a competitive 1% APY on your total balance.
No cap on deposits. Unlike other business checking accounts, BlueVine doesn’t limit how many free deposits you can make each month. There are also no fees for monthly maintenance, incoming wires and non-sufficient funds.
Earns interest. Get a whopping 1% interest on account balances up to $100,000. This APY is higher than most high-yield savings accounts.
Software integrations. You can sync BlueVine up with QuickBooks Online, Wave, Freshbooks, PayPal, Stripe and more.
Fee for cash deposits. BlueVine is one of the only online banks that accepts cash deposits, but you’ll pay a $4.95 fee to the retailer when you do it.
No savings account options. BlueVine doesn’t offer any other bank accounts, but considering its flagship account earns 1% APY, this may not be a dealbreaker.
You may think of credit cards when you hear of American Express, but its High Yield Savings account has one of the best rates in the country. You’ll also enjoy no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements.
Competitive APY. You’ll earn an attractive 0.4% APY on your total balance.
No fees. No monthly fees or minimum balance requirements means your savings can grow unhindered.
24/7 customer service. American Express offers round-the-clock customer support so you can get help anytime you need it.
No ATM access. As with most savings accounts, this one doesn’t come with an ATM card. You’ll need to transfer money to another account first if you need cash.
No in-person support. American Express is online only and therefore doesn’t have any branch locations. However, you can contact customer support 24/7 by phone.
Marcus by Goldman Sachs Online Savings is an online bank offering up some of the best CD rates in the nation. You’ll also find relatively low opening deposits, making this bank a win for anyone who wants to lock in a competitive rate.
Several term options. Marcus CDs start at six months with a 0.15% APY and go up to six years with a 0.6% APY.
10-day CD rate guarantee. This guarantee means you’ll automatically get bumped up to a higher interest rate if APYs increase within 10 days of funding your account.
Marcus no-penalty CD. This 7-month CD earns a competitive 0.45% APY and lets you make penalty-free withdrawals after seven days of opening.
No branches. Marcus is entirely online, which means you can’t visit a branch for support.
No partial withdrawals. You’ll have to withdraw your full balance and close out your account if you need to access funds before your CD matures.
Chase has plenty of enticing signup bonuses to get you in the door, but monthly fees and low APYs may counteract the upfront cash. Before signing up, review the terms and conditions of the account to make sure you can comfortably meet any minimum requirements.
Sign up offers. Get $225 when you open a Chase Total Checking® account with direct deposit, $300 when you open a Chase Total Business Checking with qualifying activities and more.
Convenience. Chase has over 16,000 ATMs and 4,700 branches across the US. You can also manage all your Chase accounts, credit cards and loans in one place using the mobile app.
Low interest rates. Chase does a good job of getting people in the door with attractive signup bonuses, but some of its underlying accounts only earn around 0.01% APY.
Monthly service fees. Most accounts have service fees of $5 to $25 or more.
Below-average customer service. Chase is one of the four largest banks in the nation, which means you may get stuck with long wait times if you need assistance.
TIAA Bank offers a suite of business banking products for commercial, nonprofit and small business use. These accounts go beyond simple cash management with tools that help you stay organized.
Large ATM network. TIAA Bank has over 80,000 free ATMs through the Allpoint and MoneyPass networks.
Low fees. Some accounts don’t have associated monthly fees. Others have fees you can avoid by maintaining a certain account balance.
Earns interest. The only two accounts that aren’t interest bearing are the TIAA Bank Business Checking and Business Analysis accounts.
$1,500 to open. Every TIAA Bank business account has a minimum $1,500 opening deposit.
Limited free transactions. There’s a cap on how many free transactions come with each checking account. Once you hit that limit, you’ll pay a small fee for each deposit.
How do I find the best bank for me?
Ideally, you want to be able to manage all of your finances through one bank. This can simplify your life and increase the likelihood you’ll qualify for loyalty rewards and discounts. To find the best bank for you consider the following:
Products and services. Start by comparing the products and services offered by the institutions you’re considering. Most major banks offer online banking services, but some smaller establishments have yet to catch up. If you’ll be depending on online banking, be sure it’s available.
Accessibility. Ease of application is one of the biggest points of accessibility, but it’s not the only one. If you’re set on being able to talk to a banker in person, having access to branch locations is going to be a strong influencer. You might also want to check the ATM network to see if you’ll be struggling to find a surcharge-free machine. Some banks will even let you use out-of-network ATMs without tacking on an extra fee.
Fee structure. If you’re primarily interested in keeping your fees to a minimum, the best bank might be a credit union. Credit unions don’t need to charge fees for everything, largely because they don’t have the costs of keeping shareholders happy like bigger banks do. Many banks also provide low- or zero-fee accounts — but the requirements tend to be more specific, while credit unions typically offer them more broadly.
Rewards. Being rewarded for credit card purchases is fairly common, but cashback deals when you swipe your debit card are much more rare. Check out the types of deals being offered by banks, and consider whether they fit into your normal spending habits.
Reputation. Check customer reviews and ratings to get a sense of a bank’s reputation. Ask friends and family if they’ve used the bank before and be mindful of any red flags.
3 bank and credit union alternatives
If you’re trying to get away from traditional banks and credit unions, here are some alternatives to consider:
Digital banks. These institutions offer fully digital bank accounts on the cutting edge of technology. Most come with budgeting tools, early direct deposits and ways to automate your savings.
Cash management accounts. Accounts like Betterment Cash Reserve and SoFi Money are offered by brokerage firms and integrate seamlessly with your investment account. They’re typically FDIC insured through a partner bank.
Prepaid cards. With a prepaid card, you can spend money in real-time without having to worry about overdrawing your account or racking up credit card interest. They’re also a good option for those with no credit or bad credit.
11 top banks in the US
Traditional banks offer a wide variety of products, including savings and checking accounts, mortgages, personal loans and credit cards. The table below shows the top 11 banks in the US, along with the location of each institution. The list is ranked by asset size according to the Federal Reserve’s latest findings.
Credit unions are focused on community because they’re owned by their members rather than a group of shareholders. Here are the top 11 credit unions by asset size, along with the number of branch locations owned by each institution.
Online-only banks generally offer a better mobile-banking experience and they can afford to offer more attractive interest rates because they have lower operating expenses than brick-and-mortar banks. On the other hand, physical banks make it easier to deposit cash and access ATMs. Plus, they allow you to meet with bank tellers and bank managers face-to-face.
Ultimately, online banks and brick-and-mortar banks each have appealing features and choosing between them boils down to your specific needs and expectations. But if you want the best of both, look for an online bank that offers many ways for you to get a hold of customer service and allows you to deposit cash and offers mobile check deposits.
Should I use a major bank or a smaller one?
It’s all about finding the one that’s best for you. Consider these pros and cons of big banks when making a decision.
No single bank stands out as the safest bank in the industry, but many banks offer a similar level of security. In general, banks that offer the following features should be considered safe.
FDIC insurance. All reputable banks are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for at least $250,000.
256-bit encryption. Most banks have websites and apps that protect your personal data using this level of security.
Multifactor authentication. The best banks and credit unions require more than simply a password to log in to your account.
Pay attention to the factors that are most important to your financial health when comparing top banks. If you’re still not sure where to get started, use our guide to bank accounts to figure out differences between accounts so you can understand what will work best for your situation.
Compare even more bank accounts
Compare popular banks based on their interest rates, minimum opening deposits, ATM networks and ATM fees.
Cassidy Horton is a writer for Finder, specializing in banking and kids’ debit cards. She’s been featured on Legal Zoom, MSN, and Consolidated Credit and has a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Georgia Southern University. When not writing, you can find her exploring the Pacific Northwest and watching endless reruns of The Office.
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