Making Your Money Last

The Best Bank for You

Check out our list of the best candidates for your next financial institution based on interest rates, fees and other features.

More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., banks and their customers are still feeling the effects. As Americans stayed home and spent less money, deposits at financial institutions grew by leaps and bounds, reaching $17.1 trillion at commercial banks in May 2021. At the same time, interest rates have been depressingly low for savers since the Federal Reserve slashed short-term rates to near zero last year—and with so much deposit cash on hand, banks don’t have much incentive to compete for your business by pushing up yields. Even savings accounts with internet banks, which typically offer the highest rates, yield an average of just 0.45%, according to DepositAccounts.com.

There are some bright spots for customers. Earlier this year, a study from MoneyRates, which tracks bank data, showed that monthly maintenance, overdraft and ATM fees—which had been moving upward—declined in the pre­vious six months. During the pandemic, many banks granted leniency to customers who had overdrawn their accounts, waiving overdraft fees for those who requested it. In 2020, banks’ overdraft revenues fell to their lowest level since 2005, according to economic-research firm Moebs Services.

COVID-19 hasn’t stopped consumers from shopping for new accounts. One in five Americans started a new banking relationship in the first year of the pandemic, with most opting for large national banks, followed by credit unions and then internet banks, according to financial-technology company FIS. If you’re itching to find a financial institution that better fits your needs, check out our list of the best candidates. With help from FBX, a division of financial-research firm Informa Financial Intelligence, we’ve examined data on interest rates, fees and other features (for more on our methodology, see below) and awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to national banks, credit unions and internet banks. We’ve also named winners and runners-up for three customer profiles: high-net-worth families, retirees and parents with kids. As you evaluate your choices, keep in mind that interest rates regularly fluctuate, so it’s a good idea to check an institution’s current yields before you commit. Rates listed here are as of early June.

National Banks

These large institutions have hundreds (or thousands) of branches in a number of states, making them good choices if you prefer in-person service. They also have robust mobile and digital tools, and all offer peer-to-peer payments with Zelle.

Internet Banks

Banks that operate primarily online have lower overhead costs than those with brick-and-mortar branches, which translates into lower fees and higher interest rates. These institutions make it easy to bank from home or on the go with mobile apps and remote check deposit.

Credit Unions

Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions owned by their members. These three credit unions open membership to anyone in the U.S.; if you don’t qualify based on geographic or employer affiliations, you may use the avenues listed in the “How to join” sections. The credit unions also participate in the CO-OP Shared Branch and ATM networks, through which members can get certain services at more than 5,600 credit union branches and free withdrawals at more than 30,000 ATMs at credit unions and some stores—including 7-Eleven, Costco and Publix.

Best for High-Net-Worth Families

These banks give you the royal treatment if you keep a big balance in deposit and investment accounts. They also have a nationwide branch presence and provide wealth-management services.

Best for Retirees

With these banks, retirees benefit from low or no minimum-balance requirements, free checks and paper statements, and access to investment and wealth-management services.

Best for Parents With Kids

Kids learn the ropes of banking with dedicated checking and savings accounts from these online banks, and parents have impressive options for their own needs, too.

How We Chose the Top Financial Institutions

With data from FBX, a division of Informa Financial Intelligence, as well as from financial institutions and other sources, we evaluated 13 national and large regional banks, 14 internet banks (including online accounts from brokerage firms) and 13 credit unions. We reviewed checking accounts, savings accounts, money market deposit accounts and certificates of deposit from each institution. We looked at interest rates; minimum deposit and balance requirements; monthly maintenance fees and the ease of waiving those fees; ATM benefits, such as waived or reimbursed fees for out-of-network withdrawals; free or discounted benefits, such as personal checks, cashier’s checks, paper statements and overdraft-protection transfers; and online and mobile banking features, such as the availability of peer-to-peer payment services.

SOURCE: FBX, an Informa Financial Intelligence Business. Data is obtained from public sources; accuracy and completeness is not guaranteed. FBX is not liable for reliance on the data.

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