Best Banks in the United States in 2021

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Best Big Bank in the U.S.
When I opened my first bank account, I used the same qualifier most people use – I opened an account at the most convenient location for me. That bank happened to be a Wells Fargo Bank that had a branch inside our local grocery store, which was only a few blocks from my home. This…

When I opened my first bank account, I used the same qualifier most people use – I opened an account at the most convenient location for me.

That bank happened to be a Wells Fargo Bank that had a branch inside our local grocery store, which was only a few blocks from my home. This was convenient because I could get there in a few minutes.

But the account also had plenty of “gotcha” fees and didn’t pay much interest.

I kept that bank account open until I moved and it was no longer convenient to use the account. At that point, I opened another local bank, again, using location as the primary factor.

Thankfully, competition has improved over the last decade and it’s much easier to bank online, avoiding most of the “gotcha” fees and earning much more interest in the meantime.

This overview will list the top banks in the U.S. by several factors, such as the best physical branch, best online bank, etc. We list the qualifying factors we used below our ratings.

Keep in mind that there are over 5,500 different banks in the U.S. and a similar number of credit unions.

So this will focus on the largest and most prominent banks that offer the widest customer base.

Finally, the best bank will vary by individual. The one that works for you and your lifestyle, and that doesn’t charge outrageous fees, may be better than those listed here.

Also, we only list banks in this article, not credit unions.

How many bank accounts should you have? This is an individual preference, but I recommend most people have at least two bank accounts. I use one bank account for my daily spending and money management, and I use another bank account strictly for cash savings. Ideally, your second bank account should be an online savings account that offers higher interest rates than what you will find in most brick and mortar banks. This is a great place to keep your emergency fund or your long term savings, such as saving up to buy a house, car, or other major purchases. This article takes a deeper look at how many bank accounts one needs.

Best Banks in America – Rated by Type

As mentioned above, there are over 5,500 different banks in America, and many banks specialize in certain types of products or services.

In general, your small, local banks will get the job done, but some look at larger ones with an appeal to safety. Of course, virtually any bank is FDIC insured, so this tends not to be a big deal anymore.

Many offer a lot of the same features now, from basic online or mobile app access, counterfeit or overdraft protection, and other common attributes.

But they may lack certain products or services that are only found with the larger banks. Some of the largest banks can cover virtually any financial need, from banking, to insurance, to investing and wealth management, and more.

Here are some of the categories we cover in this rating:

Best Big Bank – Chase Bank

chase logoI know, the best “Big Bank,” is a relative term. In this case, we are referring to a bank that has a large presence with brick and mortar locations, a wide national or regional footprint, and offers a variety of financial services.

We chose Chase Bank as our top-rated bank in the United States. J.P. Morgan Chase also happens to be the largest bank in the United States by assets.

In addition to having more than 4,700 brick and mortar locations, they also offer a full suite of banking services including checking, savings, CDs, mortgages, loans, investments, credit cards, business banking, and much more.

Chase Bank even has targeted programs to meet the needs of certain clients, including College Checking, a military account, and Chase Private Client, which provides banking services of high net-worth clients.

Chase Bank is also expanding and opening new branch locations in cities where they don’t currently have a presence. This is coming at a time when most big banks are contracting, and shutting down branches.

Overall, Chase Bank offers full-service banking that can meet just about any banking need.

Downsides: Chase Bank does a great job for many people, but they aren’t quite perfect. There are two major downsides to Chase Bank:

  • They don’t yet have branch coverage throughout the entire U.S., so some people may not have access to the physical branch location.
  • Their interest rates aren’t very competitive compared to some of the best online banks, which tend to offer a fewer number of services, but much higher interest rates.

I highly recommend Chase Bank. But I also recommend pairing your Chase Bank account with an online savings account to maximize your interest on your savings.

Chase Bank is also known for offering generous sign-up bonuses for new customers.

Here is another list of banks that offer sign-up bonuses.

Chase Bank Pros & Cons

Chase Bank Advantages

  • Large number of physical branches
  • Wide range of financial products and services
  • Excellent rewards credit cards
  • Extensive ATM Network
  • Excellent customer service, website, and smartphone apps.
  • Current Sign-up Bonus for New Customers (when you meet the criteria).

Chase Bank Disadvantages

  • Does not have physical branches in all regions
  • Savings accounts do not pay high interest rates (recommend pairing this with an online savings account for better interest rates)

You can learn more or open an account at the Chase Bank website>>

Best Big Bank (Runner Up) – Bank of America

Bank of America is another great option for those looking for a bank with a strong network of physical branches and a wide range of financial services.

Bank of America offers checking, savings, CDs, mortgages, loans, credit cards, and business accounts. Bank of America also offers wealth management services through Merrill Lynch.

It may seem like a coincidence that Bank of America is the second-largest bank in the United States by assets, after Chase Bank, and these two banks are rated as numbers one and two on our list.

But the fact is that these banks are large for a reason – they offer a wide range of banking services at reasonable costs, and don’t charge outrageous fees. Both of these banks have a large number of physical branches, and they offer other benefits.

Bank of America Pros & Cons

Bank of America Advantages

  • Over 4,900 branch locations
  • Wide range of products and services, including Merrill Lynch wealth management services
  • Extensive ATM Network

Bank America Disadvantages

  • Does not have physical branches in all regions
  • Savings accounts do not pay high interest rates (recommend pairing this with an online savings account for better interest rates)

You can learn more or in our Bank of America review>>

Best Big Banks – Honorable Mentions

The following big banks also offer a wide range of products and services that may meet your banking needs (Listed in alphabetical order):

Best Online Bank – Ally Bank

Ally Bank is an online-only bank that offers some of the highest interest rates around (compare interest rates here).

Ally Bank was formerly the banking arm of GMAC Financial, but they were spun off during the Great Recession and re-branded as Ally Bank.

With that came innovation, including higher interest rates for their checking, savings, and CDs. Yes, you read that right, Ally Bank offers excellent interest rates on their checking accounts (in fact, their checking account interest rate is significantly higher than the interest rates for most savings accounts).

An advantage they have is not having a bunch of buildings, employees, and other brick and mortar expenses some big banks do have. Banks have to make money, too, but Ally can pass those savings along to you.

Ally Invest has a more limited number of services compared to some of the larger and more traditional brick and mortar banks. But they are continually adding to their services.

For example, a few years ago, Ally Bank also merged with the discount brokerage TradeKing, which was re-branded as Ally Invest. This brings one of the best discount brokerages into the same platform as one of the best online banks.

Having these two accounts under one roof make it easy to handle more of your banking and investing needs in one place.

Ally Bank also offers mortgages and a limited number of loans.

Ally Bank Pros & Cons

Ally Bank Advantages

  • Some of the highest interest rates in the U.S.
  • Interest paying checking account that beats the interest rate offered by many brick and mortar banks
  • Mortgages and credit cards
  • Investing through Ally Invest, one of the best discount brokerages.

Ally Bank Disadvantages

  • No physical locations
  • Fewer banking products and services compared to many large banks with physical branch locations

You can learn more in our Ally Bank review>>

Best Online Bank (Runner-Up) – CIT Bank

CIT Bank offers some of the highest interest rates in the U.S., with the CIT Bank Savings Builder account consistently ranking among the highest interest rates for both saving accounts and Certificates of Deposit (CDs). CIT Bank is another online-only bank account.

CIT Bank offers savings accounts, money market accounts, great CD rates, and some small business services. CIT bank also offers mortgages. However, they do not offer a checking account or other services found at many full-service banks.

That said, CIT Bank is a great option if you are only looking for a bank that pays best-in-class interest rates, is easy to use, and doesn’t charge outrageous fees.

CIT definitely meets those criteria and is a great place to stash your emergency fund or cash savings.

CIT Bank Pros & Cons

CIT Bank Advantages

  • Some of the highest interest rates in the U.S.
  • Mortgages
  • Easy to use website and smartphone apps.

CIT Bank Disadvantages

  • No physical locations
  • No checking account
  • Fewer banking products and services compared to many large banks with physical branch locations

You can learn more or open an account at the CIT Bank website>>

Big Online Banks – Honorable Mentions

The following online banks also offer excellent banking services, primarily with a focus on high interest rates (Listed in alphabetical order):

Best Free Checking Account – Chase Bank

We’re going to stick with Chase Bank here since we have them rated as the number one large bank in America.

Chase has several free checking options, and they also offer all the benefits mentioned above, including a large number of physical branches, a wide range of financial products and services, great business checking, and many other benefits.

Chase Bank is also currently offering a sign up bonus for new customers, which is an excellent benefit that can net you a few hundred dollars.

Are there other great free checking account options?

Absolutely.

In general, I recommend choosing the bank that offers you the most overall benefits for your specific situation. So, choose based on your needs.

Other great options include the banks listed on this page, including Bank of America, Ally Bank, USAA, Capital One, and others.

You can learn more or open an account at the Chase Bank website>>

For a full list, check out our Best Free Online Checking Account Page.

Best Bank for Military Members – USAA

United Services Automobile Association, or USAA, was started by a group of Army officers almost 100 years ago.

Due to the danger of their profession, they had difficulty obtaining automobile insurance (remember, this was at a time when automobiles were still very new technology). So, they decided to pool together to insure themselves.

From there, USAA grew into a massive financial services company, offering banking and investing services, various types of insurance, and a variety of other member services.

In fact, if it weren’t for one factor, we could easily rate USAA as our top bank in the U.S.

That factor, however, is a big one – USAA membership is limited to current and former military members and their adult children.

That said, if you qualify for membership, I strongly recommend checking out USAA as a banking option. USAA offers free checking and savings accounts, CDs, ATM reimbursements, mortgages, loans, credit cards, free credit scores, investments, and a full range of insurance products, including auto, home, life, and more.

USAA is one of the few companies you can use for almost all of your financial needs.

USAA Pros & Cons

USAA Advantages:

  • USAA offers almost everything under one roof
  • Excellent checking and savings accounts
  • Wide range of insurance policies
  • ATM fee reimbursements
  • Excellent online website and smartphone apps
  • Excellent customer service
  • Competitive credit cards and mortgage rates

USAA Disadvantages:

  • Membership requirements – Must be current or former military, or be the adult child of a USAA member.
  • Interest rates could be higher. (I recommend pairing USAA with another online savings account such as Ally Bank or CIT Bank).
  • Few physical branches

You can learn more or open an account at the USAA website>>

Best Bank for International Travel – HSBC Bank

Frequent international travelers may have different banking needs than those who primarily live and work in the U.S.

If you live, work, or frequently travel overseas, you will want to consider a bank that can meet your needs in both the U.S. and overseas.

The best bank for many international travelers is HSBC Bank, which has thousands of branches in the U.S. and abroad. HSBC has a strong presence on both the east and west coasts of the United States, as well as a strong presence in Asia and Europe.

One of the best features allows customers to instantly transfer funds from one account and currency into another HSBC account in a different currency. This makes it quick and easy to access cash in your local currency without much hassle.

When you add in the strong network of physical branches and ATMs, the full suite of financial products and services, including checking, savings, CDs, credit cards and loans, mortgages, investment products and wealth management services, you can see why HSBC can meet the needs of many customers.

HSBC Bank Pros & Cons:

HSBC Bank Advantages:

  • Wide range of products and services, including full-banking services, investment services and more
  • The HSBC online savings account offers excellent interest rates
  • Extensive network of physical branches, primarily on each coast
  • Thousands of international locations
  • Investment services
  • Wide ATM network

HSBC Bank Disadvantages:

  • HSBC does not offer physical branches throughout all regions in the U.S.

You can learn more in our HSBC Bank Review>>

Other Banks To Consider

Sometimes, you may actually have better options if you find either a regional bank or credit union, one who stands on its own in a smaller locale.

Sometimes, too, there are banks with super niche specialties which they tend to focus on more than any other.

Here’s a quick list of some of those:

Methodology – How We Chose the Best Banks

There is an amount of objectivity and subjectivity that goes into rankings. With over 5,500 banks and a similar number of credit unions, certain criteria need to be set.

Overall, we considered the following factors:

  • The reach of the banks, including the number of physical branches as well as the regions they service
  • Banking services offered
  • Other financial services offered
  • Fees (banking fees, monthly service fees, ATM fees, etc.)
  • ATM Networks
  • Account minimums (if any)
  • Website and Apps
  • Additional factors

As mentioned above, there is no one-size-fits-all bank for each person. But there are many banks that do come close.

Take some time to consider your banking needs before you open your next bank account.

Doing a little planning up front will help you avoid costly fees, and hopefully make for a better long-term banking solution.

The last thing you want to do is change banks every few years!

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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