For our ninth annual Best Banks ranking, the experts at GOBankingRates analyzed over 4,300 data points across more than 120 banks. Banking is more digital than ever, and our finances have been pushed to their breaking point thanks to a global pandemic that is far from over.
We also conducted an original survey, and discovered that 90% of Americans are happy with their banks – even though they also think they could get better fees and higher rates elsewhere. “There is a stigma around banking that it is overly complicated and that it would just be too much of a hassle to change,” says Andrew Murray, content data researcher at GOBankingRates. “So even if [customers] are dissatisfied with their banking choices, they’d rather just stay put than go through a process they believe to be long and difficult.”
The fact is, it’s pretty easy to change banks these days, with almost everything about the process as transparent and accessible as almost any other service. Plus, many banks are going out of their to make banking easier during COVID-19. And when it comes to something as important as growing your money, it literally pays to make sure you’re using the best option for you. We’ve dived into rates, fees, accessibility, products and services and customer service. Now it’s up to you to get your money working for you.
Best Savings Accounts
Competition is particularly fierce in the savings account space, and most of them are pretty low on features, at least compared to checking accounts. That means great savings accounts truly stand out. We looked particularly closely at accounts with low or no fees and no minimums, plus a high APY; if one of them had all three, that made it pretty special.
Our winner – the high yield savings account from Axos – stood out for its 0.81% annual percentage yield or APY (compounded daily!) at the time of research, as well as its low maintenance fees, among other great perks. The bank is a newcomer to multiple categories this year, and its strong showing reveals a lot about its commitment to its customers. When it comes to all the features available, however – from branch locations to customer service – you’ll want to compare and contrast the finalists. For example, NBKC Bank offers the Everything Account with both checking and savings, which is handy if convenience is most important to you.
Best CD Accounts
Ever wonder what a CD is actually good for? A certificate of deposit, or CD, is a savings investment insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., making it a safe way to earn interest at a higher rate than you’d usually get via checking or savings. If you need your money to work really hard for you really fast, a CD is the perfect option for the six-month to five-year range.
Marcus by Goldman Sachs, our winner this year, impressed us as a fresh and user-friendly division of a venerable Wall Street institution. It offers some of the best available CD rates along with seven-, 11-, and 13-month no-penalty CDs plus a 10-day guarantee you’ll receive the best available rate at the firm. But there are lots of other good rates out there and a mix of cool features; for example, Ally Bank lets you “raise your rate” throughout the life of your CD, as well as earn loyalty rewards.
Best Checking Accounts
Checking accounts tend to be most consumers’ entry points into the world of banking, and it’s a space dominated by brick-and-mortar banks. Here you’ll find everything from robust apps at a bank that’s been around for more than a century to online-only banks with checking accounts that offer interest.
Wells Fargo Bank’s Everyday Checking account is a classic, with a low minimum fee to open the account alongside one of the best mobile apps in the business. Discover Bank’s Cashback Debit account, one of our finalists, is hot on its heels – with $0 overdraft fees.
Best Money Market Accounts
Money market accounts are pretty amazing, offering high yield rates akin to savings accounts with all the check-writing power you’ll find in your favorite checking accounts. Rates are all over the place, as are fees, so be sure to review all of our finalists to make sure you’re getting the features most important to you.
U.S. Bank’s Elite Money Market account is a great example of the options a money market account can offer you. Its tiered interest rates let you get more for higher balances – but you only need one cent to start earning that APY. PNC Bank’s Premiere Money Market might also be a great option; its monthly fees are slightly higher ($12 instead of $10) but you only need $5,000 in the account to skip the fees entirely, instead of $10,000.
Best National Banks
There are all kinds of great banks out there, but national banks are famously one-stop shops with more services than local or online banks have the power to provide. These commercial banks offer a lot of security as members of the Federal Reserve System. If the pandemic has seen you travel from state to state, a national bank is a great option for seamless service, as most provide plenty of branches in nearly all states.
This year, U.S. Bank tops our list, with nearly 3,000 branches, a low checking fee of only $6.95, a staggering 12-month CD APY of 0.10% at the time we conducted our research, and a full suite of products including money markets (where the bank also took top prize). Bank of America is another terrific finalist, with locations in 37 states compared to U.S. Bank’s 27.
Best Online Banks
In a year when carrying cash or standing in line to see a teller can feel not only inconvenient but potentially dangerous, online banks are more important than ever. And, just as with national banks, there are some truly venerable online institutions who’ve now been around long enough to perfect their offerings to customers.
Ally Bank, our winner this year, has risen to the top of our rankings many times. We love that it offers 24/7 customer service by phone in addition to online chat and on social media; some banking issues are complicated and simply need that person-to-person touch. It also offers great rates. like a one-year CD APY of .65% at the time of publication. For the same product, Marcus by Goldman Sachs has an APY of .85% if that’s key for you – as with all our rankings, you’ll want to check out the finalists to make sure you’ve got the best option.
Best Regional Banks
Our money is our livelihood – our way of navigating the world. So for some people, a bank nestled in a nearby community offers a level of personalization and know-how that’s invaluable. Regional banks can offer a sweet spot between local banks and national banks, with sizable assets and a wide range of services and online offerings all complementing extensive expertise about a given area. In a year that’s sure to leave us nearly as isolated as we were in 2020, that kind of warmth and familiarity is certainly welcome.
With nearly 3,000 branches, our winner – Truist Bank – is headquartered in North Carolina with as many brick-and-mortar locations as some of our national finalists. The product of a merger between two beloved financial institutions, SunTrust and BB&T, it offers auto loans, mortgages, credit cards and investment services that rival bigger institutions. Citibank comes up right behind Truist, with an impressive .20% one-year CD APY at the time of publication.
Best Credit Unions
If you know someone who’s part of a credit union, they’ve surely raved to you about it – unlike major banks, they’re highly localized, often historically serving specific employers or other small communities. These days, however, many credit unions have broadened their membership requirements and compete with regional and national banks for service offerings. When analyzing credit unions in America, we took a look at minimum deposits required, monthly maintenance fees, minimum balances required to avoid fees, APY, availability and diversity of banking services, and customer service – including 24/7 and live chat availability.
Navy Federal Credit Union topped our rankings this year, with a high one-year CD APY of .80%, a $0 fee to open a checking account, 290 branch locations and robust services – including investment services. Alliant wasn’t far behind, with a .65% savings account APY and another $0 checking fee.
Top 100 Banks
For the first time ever, GOBankingRates has conducted an in-depth analysis of the top 100 banks in America, with thorough reviews of everything that makes these financial institutions worthy of your consideration (and, of course, your money). Our in-house experts made it easy to weigh all the elements that go into choosing the right bank for you, from rates to fees to customer service. They’ve all got their own strengths and weaknesses, and we’ve done the legwork of sorting through their complexities.
Here, we won’t recommend a winner – but only five national banks made the cut (and all of them are in the top 10). You’ll see Chase Bank with its $2.8 trillion in assets, as well as Space Coast Credit Union, with “only” $5 billion in assets but an impressive range of services. See the full list here.
More from GOBankingRates:
- Best Banks of 2021
- Best Checking Accounts of 2021
- Best Savings Accounts of 2021
- Best CD Accounts of 2021
- Best Money Market Accounts of 2021
- Best Online Banks of 2021
- Best Regional Banks of 2021
- Best Credit Unions of 2021
- Best National Banks of 2021
- Top 100 Banks of 2021
Overall methodology: To determine the Best Banks of 2021 (as well as the best bank accounts), GOBankingRates surveyed 127 banks and 50 Credit Unions that are insured by the FDIC and NCUA respectively, excluding non-active institutions, investment banks and any institutions that require customers to use investment services to access commercial bank accounts. Across all of the institutions and accounts analyzed, we looked at more than 4,300 data points to identify the following: (1) Best National Banks, (2) Best Regional Banks, (3) Best Online Banks, (4), Best Savings Accounts, (5) Best Checking Accounts, (6) Best CD Accounts, (7) Best Money Market Accounts, (8) Best Credit Unions, and (9) Top 100 Best Banks. Please note that some institutions and accounts did not rank among the best due to the lack of information and data points needed to be analyzed in the rankings. Data is accurate as of November 2020.
GOBankingRates scored the banks and bank accounts from most to least favorable on the following factors, depending on the individual category: (1) minimum deposit requirements to open an account, avoid fees and/or earn the annual percentage yield (APY); (2)fees; such as monthly maintenance and overdraft; (3) APYs for savings, checking, CD and money market accounts; (4) availability and diversity of banking services, including credit cards and loans; (5) customer service, 24/7 and live chat availability, (6) mobile app features, such as mobile check deposit and ratings from both Apple and Android stores, (7) total asset size for each institution, and (8) total number of branch locations.
About the data: Data for Best Banks was compiled from and verified against the individual institutions’ websites and/or conversations with a representative from the bank throughout October 2020. All rates and other information pertaining to each account listed in the rankings were last verified in November 2020. All costs, terms and conditions are subject to change at the discretion of the individual financial institutions. Some information might reflect short-term or promotional offers only, and it is possible additional terms and conditions must be met in order to obtain any benefits mentioned. Availability might vary by region, minimum deposit amounts and other factors. Please verify terms and conditions before opening an account.