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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Lisa Gerstner, Contributing Editor
| July 1, 2019
Many regional banks (by our definition, those with branches in fewer than 15 states) offer accounts and services that are just as robust as those of nationwide institutions—and they may be more involved in their communities. These banks are all contenders for top regional bank but operate in different regions.
Take a look at our top picks for regional banks.
Informa Financial Intelligence compiled the data as reported by the financial institutions that it tracks; the information is subject to change. All rates as of June 20, 2019.
Courtesy Fifth Third Bank
Why it won: It offers numerous ways to avoid a monthly fee for its basic checking account, and it has an excellent account for customers who keep big balances.
Standout accounts: Preferred Checking is free if your deposit and investment balance reaches $100,000 at least once in a month, and it’s packed with perks. Promotional CD rates are attractive—2% on CDs with a nine- or 15-month term ($5,000 minimum deposit).
Where it is: More than 1,200 branches in 10 midwestern and southern states.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third is working on becoming nationally chartered. But for now, we consider it a regional bank that covers a sizable swath of the U.S. The Essential Checking account offers numerous ways to skip an $11 monthly fee, including keeping $1,500 or more in deposit and investment accounts, spending at least $500 per month on a Fifth Third credit card, or having a loan or credit line with the bank (military members qualify with a $500 direct deposit, and the account is free for students). Preferred Checking includes 10 rebates of out-of-network ATM surcharges per month; discounted online investment trades and no custody or record-keeping fee with a brokerage account; free personal checks, money orders, cashier’s checks and a safe-deposit box; preferred savings and loan interest rates; and free or discounted identity-theft protection services.
Fifth Third waives service fees on its savings and money market deposit accounts if you have a checking account with the bank or are enrolled in the military account; otherwise, you’ll need a $500 minimum to avoid a fee. For the most part, rates scrape along at 0.2% or less, although you can earn 0.4% on a balance of at least $100,000 in a money market account if you have an eligible checking account. (Account terms and interest rates listed are for customers in Cincinnati.)
Courtesy Peoples United
Why it won: Most anyone can find a place to park cash among the bank’s diverse checking options.
Standout accounts: If you make 10 or more electronic payment transactions monthly, ePlus Checking levies no service charge. Some recent rates on CDs opened online were compelling, such as 2.1% for a six-month plus CD and 2.3% for an 11-month term ($500 minimum; checking account required).
Where it is: More than 400 branches in New England and New York.
People's United Bank has options for customers at varying levels. The basic Plus Checking account waives its $12 monthly fee if you keep a $1,000 minimum balance, have a direct deposit or are 65 or older. Advantage Checking (a $7,500 combined minimum in deposit and investment accounts and a home equity loan or line of credit waives the $25 monthly fee) reimburses ATM surcharges when you use machines outside your state and provides free personal checks, cashier’s checks and wire transfers in U.S. dollars. Premier Advantage Checking ($75,000 combined minimum) tacks on refunds of ATM fees worldwide, a discounted safe-deposit box and an interest rate of 0.02%. (Account terms and interest rates are for customers in Hartford.)
Courtesy Union Bank
Why it won: A new free checking account gave the bank a lift this year.
Standout accounts: Bank Freely is a free, no-minimum checking account that offers two monthly rebates of out-of-network ATM surcharges.
Where it is: About 330 branches for consumers in California, Oregon and Washington.
The Banking By Design account is attractive. It lets you choose services a la carte; if you want paper statements, for example, they’re $2 a month, and cashier’s checks and money orders are $1 monthly (avoid a $5 monthly fee by making a $250 monthly mobile or direct deposit). If you can keep $25,000 in deposit and investment balances, or you have a linked mortgage with the bank, check out Priority Banking checking, which offers unlimited ATM rebates worldwide, preferred savings rates, and two additional checking or savings accounts with no monthly fee, among other benefits. Teen Access Checking is free for those 13 to 17 years old, and college students can use a free account, too.
Savings yields are meager; for better rates, check out PurePoint Financial, a nationwide internet bank that is a division of Union Bank. PurePoint recently offered 2.35% on a savings account, 2.75% on a one-year CD and 3% on a five-year CD (there’s a $10,000 minimum to open an account).
These stellar banks and credit unions are making all the right moves to win satisfied customers:
Best National Banks
Best Banks for High-Net-Worth Families
Best Internet Banks
Best Banks for Families With Students
Best Banks for No-Fee, No-Fuss
Best Credit Unions
Best Banks for Frequent Travelers
Best Regional Banks
Best Banks for Retirees