The 11 Best Banks for Life’s Biggest Firsts

September marks the beginning of a new school year for millions of children, teens and college students. While the anticipation for back to school is certainly momentous for first timers, there are a lifetime of landmark “firsts” that Americans hope to achieve — or have already encountered — throughout their lives. Each occasion is personally significant for different reasons, but more often than not, these moments signify a badge of earned financial responsibility.

GOBankingRates reviewed the top 25 U.S. banks on the Federal Reserve’s list of largest commercial banks by consolidated assets, and assessed each bank’s products and services offered within four life stages: First checking or savings account for children and young adults, first new car loan, first home mortgage loan and retirement planning. We found that a number of the largest commercial institutions offer great products for life’s treasured milestones, but some institutions go that extra step to offer truly exceptional products, services and tools to their customers.

Here is a list of the best banks to bank with during each of these major life events, including a couple institutions that deserve honorable mentions.

Best Bank: First Bank Account

U.S. Bank

Winner of Money Magazine’s Best Teen and College Student Checking award in 2013, U.S. Bank is known for supporting children’s financial development in a tangible way. Its Student Checking account is available with a low $25 opening deposit to get the account started. Unlike other banks that charge exorbitant fees to maintain an account, U.S. Bank offers students the best bank for checking, because the account doesn’t incur monthly maintenance fees, when customers sign up for electronic statements, or impose a minimum balance requirement on students who have tight budgets as it is.

In addition to its popular Student Checking account, the institution also provides the 17 and under Star Savers Club Account, that also only requires $25 to open a savings account with zero monthly maintenance fees. As students learn how to use their first checking or savings accounts, U.S. Bank also provides a plethora of financial literacy tips and tools for new depositors through its Financial Genius program.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Capital One 360: The online bank’s MONEY checking and Capital One 360 Savings accounts give first-time bank account holders the opportunity to earn interest on their deposits, a fundamental banking concept that kids and teens should be aware of at an early age. Currently, the institution offers 0.25% APY on MONEY accounts and doesn’t charge maintenance fees or burden teens with minimum account balances.
  • TD BankTD Bank has made waves in the communities it serves from LGBT sponsorships to helping educate children on the importance of budgeting and smart money management. Young customers can take advantage the bank’s WOW! Zone site, which tailors personal finance advice to youth in an engaging and interactive way. Plus, its fee-free TD Student Checking account is nothing to scoff at.

Best Bank: First New Car

PNC Bank

Whether you’re 16 years old or 60 when you purchase your first car, there’s something to be said about buying a brand new automobile. While it’s an exhilarating milestone, financing a new vehicle is definitely an achievement that drivers will never forget. PNC Bank ensures that the memories are nothing short of positive. For a standard 60-month new car loan for a 2014-2015 car model, it’s clear that this institution is the best bank to use. 

A low 2.24% APR and the ability to get 115 percent financing for up to $50,000 make PNC Bank’s Check Ready preapproved auto loan offer a reasonable option. Additionally, PNC Bank makes saving up for a down payment as painless as possible with a dedicated Auto Savings account that automatically transfers funds to help customers reach their financial goals.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Chase BankChase Bank auto loans start at affordable rates, in some areas as low as 2.24% APR for a 60-month new dealer auto loan. To help make the car-buying experience easier, Chase offers a direct link to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) value estimator for trade-ins, and helpful checklists so you have all necessary documents on hand for a smooth transaction.
  • BBVACustomers of BBVA start off with a low auto loan rate of 2.99% APR after a 1.00% APR reduction if they sign up for automatic loan payments from a BBVA Checking account. The bank also provides a car-buying service in partnership with TrueCar, which provides car shoppers with exclusive, low up-front pricing that minimizes the stress of haggling on this important purchase.

Best Bank: First Home


Dedicated to helping first-time home buyers realize their homeownership dreams, HSBC provides a number of resources, guides and programs to help novice house hunters get started with home financing. Its online mortgage resources features calculators to determine how much home buyers can afford, articles about the pros and cons of buying versus renting and a comprehensive breakdown of the process involved with purchasing a home, from who’s involved to lesser-known costs associated with homeownership.

What’s even more impressive is that the institution offers a First Home Club, which offers a $4 to $1 match for up to $7,500. This grant fund is then allotted toward qualified HSBC customers’ down payments and closing costs.

Honorable Mentions:

  • BB&TBB&T also goes an extra step to support local communities through its Community Homeownership Incentive Program loans that assist borrowers who have no credit history by waiving private mortgage insurance, among other advantages.
  • Wells FargoWells Fargo goes to great lengths to help prospective home buyers purchase the homes they’ve always wanted. In addition to the number of home buying programs available to its customers, Wells Fargo’s website provides in-depth home buying guides about relevant topics like debt-to-income ratios, how mortgage interest works and what comprises a monthly mortgage payment.

Related: Why Wells Fargo Is Warren Buffett’s Favorite Bank

Best Bank: Retirement

PNC Bank

PNC Bank is among the best for offering helpful products, services and resources to its customers. Not only does the institution offer competitive auto loan products for first-time borrowers, it caters to the needs and aspirations of customers who are nearing or in their retirement years. PNC Bank’s suite of retirement planning tools and resources make understanding retirement choices and next steps easy through its Retirement Center.

This hub provides customers with an interactive interface that offers a customized list of resources, depending on the individual’s breadth of knowledge about retirement. In an easy-to-follow format, customers are guided through basics of creating an investment plan and can calculate how much they need to save toward their golden years to live comfortably.

  • Citizens BankNamed GOBankingRates’ best bank for baby boomers, there’s no doubt Citizens Bank has earned its chops as a best bank to use for retirement planning. Even non-Citizens Bank customers can get a free retirement planning consultation.
  • SunTrust: With SunTrust, customers can get the retirement-planning help they need free of charge. The bank offers a 20-minute consultation with an advisor to ensure soon-to-be retirees, and those already enjoying retirement, are on the right track financially.

Related: The 10 Best Banks for Baby Boomers


GOBankingRates investigated the largest 25 institutions on the Federal Reserve’s list of largest commercial banks by consolidated assets, and assessed each bank’s products, services, tools and user experience as it pertains to four life stages: student checking and savings accounts, first new auto loan, first mortgage loan and retirement. All information was obtained from bank websites, and interest rates are accurate as of Aug. 25, 2014.

Photo credit: moodboard

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Program.

About the Author

Jennifer Calonia is a personal finance journalist covering topics about banking, consumer savings, loans and debt. Her features and helpful savings tips encourage and empower households across America to achieve financial balance.