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Best banks and credit unions in California

Compare the five best places to stash your cash in the Golden State.


Fact checked

Our pick for an online California-based bank: CIT Bank Savings Builder High Yield Savings Account

CIT Bank Savings Builder High Yield Savings Account logo



  • Monthly fees: $0
  • Interest compounded daily
  • Minimum deposit to open: $100
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California is known for its sunshine and coastlines, but what about its banks? As a resident of one of the largest states in the US, you have a ton of options when it comes to storing your money. We rounded up the best five banks and credit unions in California to help you pinpoint which one is right for you.

CIT Bank: Best for online banking

CIT Bank is an online-only institution headquartered in Pasadena, California. Although it serves customers nationwide, its California roots make it a great option for those who want to bank online and support a local institution. As of 2016, the bank has reinvested nearly $5 billion in the Southern California community to promote affordable housing, economic development, education and access to credit.

CIT Bank offers one checking account and a slew of high-yield savings accounts and CDs. Thanks to its low overhead, it has the highest APYs of any bank or credit union on our list. The CIT Bank Money Market Account earns 0.5% APY.

Another attractive perk is that it doesn’t charge monthly fees for any account, so you won’t have to worry about meeting certain requirements every month. The only downside is that you need at least $100 to open most accounts.

Customer experience
CIT Bank doesn’t have an ATM network, but it reimburses up to $15 in ATM fees a month. Because it’s online only, you won’t find any local branches in your neighborhood. But you can reach customer service by phone or email.

It has a robust mobile app, which allows you to e-deposit checks, pay bills, manage your transaction history and more.

Union Bank: Best for locals

Union Bank is a regional institution with a full suite of checking and savings options. You’ll need to visit a branch to open most accounts, so it’s best for locals looking for a personal banking experience.
Union Bank has five checking account options, including a free account, an interest-bearing account, a teen account and two business accounts. Most savings accounts come with an ATM card, making it easy to withdraw cash on the go. Although Union Bank has some monthly fees, you have several options to avoid them.
Customer experience
Union Bank has over 300 branches and 540 ATMs in California, Oregon and Washington. It never charges ATM fees and offers reimbursement for operator fees. Some accounts come with a limited number of monthly reimbursements, while others are unlimited.

This bank has extended customer service hours on the weekdays and Saturdays, which is ideal if you work during normal business hours and don’t have time to get assistance during the day.

Union Bank also has a user-friendly mobile app, which allows you to deposit checks on the go, pay bills and set up customized alerts for your account and debit card.

Golden 1 Credit Union: Best for students

Golden 1 Credit Union is a California-based credit union offering a range of solid checking and savings accounts. It stands out from the pack as the best institution for students thanks to its extensive list of youth, teen and college accounts.

All of Golden 1’s basic checking and savings accounts are free of monthly fees and have a low, $1 opening deposit. Although you’re required to keep a $100 minimum balance to earn dividends for some accounts. The bank’s APYs aren’t the highest, but they’re still better than what you’ll find at most traditional banks.

Customer experience

Golden 1 is part of the CO-OP ATM network, which gives its members free access to over 30,000 ATMs across the country.

As with most credit unions, it’s known for its strong customer service reputation. You can chat with a representative by phone, email or at a local branch — giving you the ability to get help when and how you need it.

As a Golden 1 member, you get access to free financial tools that help you create a budget, organize transactions and track your monthly spending.

Bank of the West: Best for businesses

Bank of the West serves 18 states throughout the west, but it’s headquartered in San Francisco. Over the past three years, it’s won awards for great client service, excellence in consumer retail banking and innovation in private banking.

Consumers and businesses alike can find a wide variety of checking, savings and CD accounts at Bank of the West. It has low opening deposits, with some accounts requiring as little as $0 to get started. There are some monthly fees, but there are fewer hoops to jump through to avoid them.

Businesses may find this regional bank extra appealing thanks to its straightforward checking accounts. It offers one basic account with 100 monthly transactions and a premium account with unlimited transactions.

Customer experience
Bank of the West has 550 branches and 750 ATMs sprinkled throughout 18 states. Its online banking tools give you the power to compare your monthly spending habits, set goals and create monthly budgets.

Its customer service options are convenient. You can chat with a customer support representative by phone, live chat on the bank’s website or face-to-face at a local branch. It even offers in-person appointments for those needing one-on-one help.

East West Bank

East West Bank: Best for ATM access

East West is one of the largest independent banks in Southern California. It opened its doors in 1973 to serve Chinese-Americans in Los Angeles. Today, it has over 125 branches spread throughout the US and Greater China.


East West Bank has a string of checking and savings accounts, including those specifically for students and seniors. Perhaps its biggest perk is that most accounts come with an ATM or debit card, so you can access your money on the go.

Most checking accounts are free to open and maintain. There are monthly fees for some savings accounts, but you can avoid them when you meet certain direct deposit or minimum balance requirements.

Customer experience

East West Bank has over 130 branches in the US and China. It partners with Allpoint and MoneyPass to bring you over 88,000 free ATMs worldwide. This means that even if you bank with this regional institution, you’ll have free access to your money wherever you go.

Customer service is available on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. You can also send a secure message on its website or visit a local branch if you prefer.

How we chose the best banks in California

To find the best banks and credit unions in California, we researched over 20 institutions to find which ones are headquartered in or primarily serve Californians. From there, we looked at factors like account types, features, branch locations, customer service and accessibility to narrow down our list to the top five.

Compare savings accounts from banks and credit unions in California

Name Product Interest rates (APY) Fee Minimum deposit to open Interest earned
CIT Bank Money Market
A savings account with a higher-than-average rate and minimal fees.
CIT Bank Savings Builder High Yield Savings Account

0.45% on $25,000+ or set up a direct deposit of $100+ each month
0.29% on $0 to $24,999
No account opening or maintenance fees. Daily compounding interest. Earn one of the nation's top rates
CIT Bank Premier High Yield Savings Account
Earn a high interest rate with no monthly fees.
Bank of the West Choice Money Market Savings

0.03% on $25,000+ or 0.10% with Premier Relationship Rate (up to $49,999)
0.02% on $0.01 to $24,999 or 0.04% with Premier Relationship Rate (up to $9,999)
$15 per month
(can be waived)
Earns higher interest rates when linked to eligible personal checking accounts. Premier Checking customers earn even more.
Bank of the West Classic Savings
$5 per month
(can be waived)
Offers Bank of the West's lowest opening deposit and makes an easy way for you to put a little extra money away.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

California has a lot to offer when it comes to banking options. Whether you’re looking for high APYs or a personal banking experience, there’s bound to be an institution that’s right for you.

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