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The best banks in California offer access to your money, customer support, low fees. To find the best banks and credit unions in California, we researched over 130 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.
What’s changed in 2021?
We added a list of the best banks in California.
We added new categories to our list, so you now know the best banks in California for CD rates, students, checking and savings accounts.
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 while supporting a home-grown institution. As of 2016, it’s reinvested nearly $5 billion in the Southern California community to promote affordable housing, economic development, education and access to credit.
Plenty of options. CIT Bank offers one checking account and a slew of high-yield savings accounts and CDs.
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.
Plenty of options. Union Bank has five checking account options, including a free account, an interest-bearing account, a teen account and two business accounts.
Accessibility. Most savings accounts come with an ATM card, making it easy to withdraw cash on the go. It never charges ATM fees and offers reimbursement for operator fees.
Extended customer service hours. Union Bank has extended customer service hours on weekdays and Saturdays for those who work during normal business hours and can’t call during the day.
Low APYs. Most of Union Bank’s interest rates are around 0.01%, which is lower than the national average.
In-person applications. You’ll need to visit a local Union Bank branch to open most accounts, which can be inconvenient if you don’t live nearby.
Golden 1 Credit Union is a California-based credit union offering a range of solid checking and savings accounts. It has over 70 branch locations scattered through the state and is open to all California residents.
Competitive interest rates. The bank’s APYs aren’t the highest, but they’re still better than what you’ll find at most traditional banks.
Part of CO-OP ATM network. At Golden 1 Credit Union members free access to over 30,000 ATMs across the country.
Strong customer service. 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.
Minimum balance to earn interest. You only need $1 to open most checking and savings accounts, but you may need to keep a $100 minimum balance to earn dividends.
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.
Good for businesses. Bank of the West has two straightforward options for businesses: a basic account with 100 monthly transactions and a premium account with unlimited transactions.
Banking tools. Its online banking tools give you the power to compare your monthly spending habits, set goals and create monthly budgets.
Convenient customer service. Chat with customer support by phone, live chat or face-to-face at a local branch. It even offers in-person appointments for those needing one-on-one help.
Low rates overall. Bank of the West has low interest rates across the board, so it’s not ideal for anyone looking for competitive APYs.
Some accounts can’t be opened online. You’ll need to fill out an application at a local branch to open some CDs and money market accounts.
Marcus by Goldman Sachs wins the award for Best CD rates in California thanks to its competitive APYs across all terms, including its no-penalty CD option. Although not based in California, all of its CDs can be opened online in minutes from anywhere in the US.
10-day CD rate guarantee. Marcus will automatically bump you up to a higher interest rate if your CD term’s APY increases within 10 days of funding your account.
Low minimum deposit. Most CDs have an opening deposit of $1,000 or more. But you can lock in a Marcus CD rate with just $500.
No-penalty CD option. The Marcus no-penalty CD earns 0.45% interest and lets you withdraw your money after seven days of funding with no penalties.
No branches. Marcus is completely online, so you can’t visit a branch to open your account.
No partial withdrawals. If you need to access your money before maturity, you’ll have to withdraw the full balance as Marcus doesn’t allow partial withdrawals.
High school students can learn to manage money with the Capital One MONEY and Kids Savings accounts. College students looking for an account they can keep beyond graduation may like the Capital One 360 Checking and 360 Performance Savings accounts.
Earns interest. Every single bank account offered by Capital One earns a competitive interest rate that ranks among the best in their respective categories.
No fees. You won’t pay anything for monthly maintenance and overdrafts. Plus, there are no minimum balance requirements.
Savings tools. High school and college students can set savings goals and track their spending with the Capital One mobile app. Parents who are joint-owners can also set up an Automatic Savings Plan.
Miscellaneous fees. Capital One ditches a lot of fees charged by other banks, but you’re still on the hook for stop payment requests and overnight debit card replacements.
No 24/7 support. Unlike other banks of its size, Capital One doesn’t have round-the-clock support. You can live chat during regular business hours and make calls from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET.
Axos Bank takes the cake for Best checking accounts in California thanks to its wide range of low fee options, including those that earn interest, rewards, cash back and other perks. Although not based in California, this online bank is open to any US citizen or resident.
No monthly fees. All personal checking accounts are free to open. Business checking accounts have waivable monthly fees that range from $10 to $15.
Low opening deposits. Personal checking accounts have opening deposits starting at $0 and business checking accounts have opening deposits starting at $100.
ATM reimbursements. Most Axos checking accounts have unlimited ATM reimbursements, giving you the freedom to withdraw cash when and where you need it.
No cash deposits. Like most online banks, Axos Bank doesn’t accept cash deposits, which could be a drawback if you regularly have cash on hand.
Withdraw limits. Teens ages 13 to 17 with a First Checking account can’t withdraw more than $100 a day from ATMs.
Foreign currency conversion rate. You can use your debit card anywhere Visa is accepted, but you may pay a currency conversion fee overseas.
Ally is an online bank offering some of the best savings accounts on the market. You’ll find competitive interest rates, no hidden fees and four separate savings tools to help you grow your nest egg.
Low fees. There are no monthly fees, plus free access to over 38,000 ATMs when you open a checking or money market account.
Four savings tools. Divide up your savings using buckets, save the spare change from debit card purchases, set up automatic payments or have Ally analyze your checking account for spare funds.
Competitive APYs. Ally Bank offers some of the top interest rates across all its accounts. Its checking account earns up to 0.15% interest and its savings account earns 0.5%.
No cash deposits. As with most online banks, Ally doesn’t accept cash deposits. Instead, you’ll need to get a money order and mail it in.
30 days to fund account. Almost all Ally accounts have a $0 opening deposit, but the bank will close your account if it’s not funded within the first 30 days.
No debit or ATM card. Ally Bank may be the best bank in California for savings, but you won’t get an ATM or debit card to access your money.
Compare checking accounts in California
Use this table to explore checking accounts that are available in California.
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.
Frequently asked questions
The California Department of Business Oversight’s Division of Financial Institutions oversees state-licensed banks and credit unions in California. National banks are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).
There’s a total of 191 banks and 423 credit unions in California. Combined, these institutions have nearly 8,000 branch locations spread throughout the state.
Wells Fargo is one of the nation’s largest banks with nearly 986 branches in California. Although it has the largest number of locations in the California area, Chase Bank comes in a close second at 973 locations.
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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