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The best banks of 2021
The best brick-and-mortar banks
|Bank||Branches||Why we like it||Next steps|
|1,300||Branch access||Learn more|
|1,500||Variety of bank accounts|
|4,200||Branch and ATM locations, sign-up bonus||Learn more|
The best online banks
|Bank||Savings APY||Why we like it||Next steps|
|Checking account options||Learn more|
|No fees||Learn more|
|No minimum deposits||Learn more|
|Cash back checking account||Learn more|
|ATM network and fees||Learn more|
Choosing a bank is a major decision. To help you find the right fit, we’ve broken our favorite banks into two categories: brick-and-mortar and online.
A good brick-and-mortar bank should make it easy to access funds with plenty of branches and ATM locations. You’ll also want to choose an in-person bank that makes it easy to waive monthly fees.
Online banks tend to pay higher interest rates than brick-and-mortar banks. A strong online bank should pay high APYs and charge low fees – or none at all.
If you live in one of the following states, check out our region-specific bank recommendations:
Our expert panel for this guide
We consulted banking and financial planning experts to inform these picks and provide their advice on finding the best banks for your needs. You can read their insights at the bottom of this post.
We’re focusing on what will make a bank most useful, including fees, interest rates, accessibility, and more.
More on the best banks of 2021: brick and mortar
Branch and ATM locations: TD Bank has over 1,300 branch locations across 16 states, with about 1,900 ATMs.
Why it stands out: Many branch locations are open seven days per week, which is great if you struggle to make it to the bank during the workday. TD Bank also ranked fourth in JD Power’s 2020 US National Banking Satisfaction Study.
What to look out for: ATM fees. TD Bank’s ATM fees aren’t necessarily higher than other banks’ fees, but its fine print may affect which checking account you choose to open.
Just be aware that the
Branch and ATM locations: Regions has around 1,500 branch locations in 15 states, and about 2,200 ATMs.
Why it stands out: Regions offers a wide range of bank accounts, so you can probably find one that fits your needs. The
What to look out for: Overdraft fees. Regions charges you $36 per overdraft, and it can charge you up to six times per day. This is more than what some banks penalize for overdrawing. You can enroll in overdraft protection, but you’ll still pay $12 each time you transfer money from savings to checking to cover an overdraft.
Branch and ATM locations: US Bank has around 3,000 branch locations in 26 states, and roughly 5,000 ATMs.
Why it stands out: If you want to open a CD with a national bank, US Bank is a solid choice. The bank provides more types of CDs than most big banks, including Step Up CDs that increase your rate every seven months, and Trade Up CDs that increase your rate once during the term if US Bank rates go up.
What to look out for: Monthly fees. Although you may be eligible to waive monthly maintenance fees, US Bank makes it a little harder than many competing national banks.
Bank of America
Branch and ATM locations: Bank of America has over 4,200 branch locations in 37 US states, and 16,000 ATMs.
Why it stands out: Bank of America has branches in 37 states, making it tied with Wells Fargo for the most states. However, the Better Business Bureau gives Bank of America a much better trustworthiness score than Wells Fargo – the banks have scores of an A+ and F, respectively. A strong trustworthiness score helped Bank of America beat Wells Fargo for a spot on our list. The bank is also tied with Chase for the most ATMs by a national brick-and-mortar bank. You can also receive a $100 bonus for signing up for a checking account with Bank of America. Read more here.
What to look out for: Overdraft fees. You’ll pay a $35 overdraft fee if you overdraw from your checking account, and you can be charged up to four times per day. You can enroll in overdraft protection, but there’s a $12 fee every time you tap into the service. Not all accounts penalize you for overdrawing, though, so you may choose one with no overdraft fees.
More on the best banks of 2021: online
Branch and ATM locations: As an online-only bank, Axos doesn’t have physical branches. You have free access to around 91,000 ATMs. Axos doesn’t have a specific ATM network, but you can likely use one near you for free. Axos also offers generous out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements, in case you can’t find a free ATM close by.
Why it stands out: Axos offers five different checking accounts, all geared toward specific needs:
- Essential Checking (get paid two days early)
- Rewards Checking (earn a high APY)
- CashBack Checking (earn up to 1% cash back on purchases)
- Golden Checking (age 55+)
- First Checking (ages 13-17)
You can also open a savings account with a competitive rate, and both checking and savings accounts come with a debit card. Axos doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees.
What to look out for: Initial deposit. You’ll need at least $250 to open a high-yield savings account.
There are also several requirements to earn the full 1.25% APY with an
Capital One 360
Branch and ATM locations: Although Capital One 360 is considered an online bank, the institution does have some physical branches. There are over 470 branches in nine US states, plus dozens of Capital One Cafés, where you can grab Peet’s Coffee®, speak with a money coach, and open a bank account. You can use over 40,000 ATMs for free, both through the Capital One and Allpoint networks.
Why it stands out:
What to look out for: No out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements. You can use your debit card at over 40,000 ATMs nationwide for free, but unlike many online banks, Capital One doesn’t reimburse any fees charged by out-of-network ATM providers.
Branch and ATM locations: Ally doesn’t have any physical branches, but you’ll have free access to over 40,000 ATMs in the Allpoint network.
Why it stands out: Ally ranks as one of our top high-yield savings accounts. This bank has been a power player in the high-yield savings space for a few years now, and it consistently nabs top awards for online banking. Ally is known for paying competitive rates and not requiring initial deposits for any of its accounts. Its mobile app has features many banking apps lack, such as mobile check deposits and an in-network ATM locator.
What to look out for: Checking account. The
Branch and ATM locations: Discover has just one physical branch, in Delaware. You have free access to over 60,000 ATMs in the Allpoint and MoneyPass networks.
Why it stands out: Discover is a good option for people who want to do all their banking, investing, and borrowing with one institution. It offers a wide range of products, including credit cards. The bank is a good option if you want to earn cash back with your debit card – you’ll earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in purchases per month.
What to look out for: Minimum deposits. While you don’t need to place an initial deposit for a checking or savings account, you’ll need at least $2,500 to open a money market account or CD.
Alliant Credit Union
Branch and ATM locations: As an online-only credit union, Alliant doesn’t have any physical branch locations. It has 80,000 free ATMs nationwide. There isn’t a specific network, but you can use Allpoint ATMs and machines at some other banks.
Why it stands out: You might like Alliant if you prefer a credit union over a bank, and Alliant ranks as one of Insider’s top credit unions.
Alliant has separate checking and savings accounts for minors. These pay relatively high interest rates and allow parents to have joint ownership, which provides a balance of children’s independence and parental control. Alliant offers an impressive 80,000 ATMs nationwide, and it reimburses up to $20 per month for out-of-network ATM fees.
What to look out for: Overdraft fees and compound interest. Most banks will only charge you overdraft fees up to a certain number of times per day. But Alliant can charge you an unlimited number of times, which can cost a lot if you keep swiping your debit card without realizing you’ve overdrawn. Like most credit unions, Alliant compounds interest monthly rather than daily, which will limit how much you earn in the long run.
Other banks we considered, but didn’t make the cut
We considered dozens of banks when choosing our favorites. Here are the brick-and-mortar banks we ended up not picking:
- Wells Fargo (Member FDIC): Wells Fargo has the most branches in the most US states, but its customer satisfaction and trustworthiness scores are lower than Chase’s scores.
- Citizens Bank (Member FDIC): Citizens Bank is a solid option for people in the Northeast, but it isn’t as widespread as TD Bank.
- Santander Bank (Member FDIC): As with Citizens Bank, Santander is a worthwhile choice for people in Northeast, but TD Bank has more locations.
- Huntington Bank (Member FDIC): You can earn interest on your checking account balance at Huntington, but it’s only available in a few states.
- SunTrust (Member FDIC): SunTrust has a strong presence in the Southeast, but Regions has more locations.
- BB&T (Member FDIC): BB&T is a decent brick-and-mortar bank, but its savings account is an online-only account.
- Woodforest (Member FDIC): Woodforest’s mobile app isn’t as beloved as those of our top picks.
- BBVA (Member FDIC): BBVA is a solid brick-and-mortar bank, but it only has branches in seven states.
- PNC Bank (Member FDIC): You might like PNC, but the bank has rules about which accounts you can open in which markets.
- Fifth Third Bank (Member FDIC): You might like Fifth Third Bank if you live in certain states in the Southeast and Midwest, but it only has branches in 10 states.
- KeyBank (Member FDIC): You’ll find KeyBank branches sprinkled across the US, but it isn’t prevalent in a certain region.
- Citibank (Member FDIC): Citibank has received an F in trustworthiness from the Better Business Bureau.
- M&T Bank (Member FDIC): M&T Bank is a good option for people living in one of the 10 states where it operates, but beware that its overdraft fee is higher than most banks’ fees.
- BMO Harris (Member FDIC): You might like BMO Harris if you can afford its high minimum deposits for CDs and money market accounts.
Here are the other online banks we considered:
- American Express (Member FDIC): American Express pays a competitive APY on savings account balances, but the bank doesn’t offer a checking account.
- Barclays (Member FDIC): Like American Express, Barclays offers solid rates but doesn’t provide a checking account.
- Radius Bank (Member FDIC): This online bank offers a wide range of account types, but rates are low and minimum account balances are high.
- Bank5 Connect (Member FDIC): You’ll earn some interest on your Bank5 Connect checking account balance, but you can’t bank with the institution if you’re a resident of Rhode Island or Massachusetts.
- CIBC Bank (Member FDIC): This online bank offers a variety of checking and savings accounts, but most require a minimum opening deposit or charge a fee if your balance falls below a certain amount.
- Salem 5 Direct (Member FDIC): This is a solid online bank, but you’ll face some fees.
- HSBC Direct (Member FDIC): HSBC Direct pays competitive rates, but its mobile app has received negative reviews in the Apple and Google Play stores.
- Marcus by Goldman Sachs (Member FDIC): Even though Marcus by Goldman Sachs is a respectable online bank, it doesn’t offer a checking account.
- E*TRADE Bank (Member FDIC): This online bank pays low rates on savings and checking accounts.
- Quontic Bank (Member FDIC): You have plenty of bank account options to choose from with Quontic Bank – but you need to make 15 debit card transactions per month to earn the competitive APY on its high-yield checking account, and its high-yield savings APY is lower than what you’ll find with our top picks.
- TIAA Bank (Member FDIC): TIAA Bank offers respectable rates, but its checking and savings account rates drop a bit after the first year.
- Vio Bank (Member FDIC): This online bank pays one of the highest savings rates in the industry (which is always subject to change), but it doesn’t offer a checking account.
- Chime (Deposits are FDIC insured): Chime’s app is beloved, and it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees; however, you must open a checking account to qualify for a savings account.
- CIT Bank (Member FDIC): This is a solid online bank, but you’ll need between $100 and $1,000 to open bank accounts, and it doesn’t provide 24/7 live customer service over the phone like Ally does.
- Synchrony (Member FDIC): This online bank pays a competitive rate with no minimum balance on savings accounts, but you can’t open a checking account.
- NBKC Bank (Member FDIC): You’ll earn a good rate on your checking account balance, but rather than offering a regular savings account, NBKC bank only has a money market account.
- Varo (Member FDIC): Varo offers very competitive rates, but it charges a $2.50 fee for using out-of-network ATMs.
- FNBO Direct (Member FDIC): This is a respectable online account, but its mobile app hasn’t received great reviews.
- MemoryBank (Member FDIC): This online bank only offers checking and money market accounts, and you’ll pay a $15 fee if your checking account balance falls below $1,000.
- Brio Direct (Member FDIC): This is a strong online bank overall, but you can find higher CD rates at other online banks.
- USAA Bank (Member FDIC): This could be a good online bank for military members and families, and new recruits can get paid a day early; however, USAA’s rates are low.
- Charles Schwab (Member FDIC): Charles Schwab provides unlimited out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, but its rates are low.
Are these banks trustworthy?
The Better Business Bureaus grades companies’ trustworthiness by looking at responses to customer complaints, advertising, and transparency about business practices.
A strong BBB grade doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a smooth experience with a bank. You may also want to read online reviews or look into public scandals. We’ve also detailed any existing public issues with each bank.
|Bank of America||A+|
The BBB cites recent government actions against TD Bank for its B grade. The US Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection said TD Bank has been breaking the law by charging customers for its Debit Card Advance service without their permission.
Despite their strong BBB grades, the other brick-and-mortar banks (except Regions) have public scandals, too.
US Bank paid the government $200 million in a settlement when accused of approving FHA mortgages for insurance when borrowers didn’t meet the minimum criteria.
The Department of Justice charged Bank of America for unfairly denying home loans to adults with disabilities, even though they qualified for loans. Bank of America paid around $300,000 total to people who were refused loans. The Department of Labor required Bank of America to pay $4.2 million to people who claimed the bank discriminated against women, Black, and Hispanic applicants in the hiring process.
The Department of Justice required Chase to pay $920 million for wrongful trading in 2020. In 2018, JPMorgan Chase & Co. paid the Securities and Exchange Commission $135 million for mishandling American Depositary Receipts, certificates that let Americans invest in foreign stocks.
|Capital One 360||A|
|Alliant Credit Union||A+|
Ally has the lowest BBB grade of our favorite online banks. The BBB cites Ally’s high number of customer complaints for its C grade.
None of our top online picks have recent public scandals.
Frequently asked questions
Why trust our recommendations?
Personal Finance Insider’s mission is to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We understand that “best” is often subjective, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product or account – a high APY, for example – we outline the limitations, too. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of various products so you don’t have to.
How did we choose the best banks?
There are a lot of online banks out there. Through our research, we’ve found that the best banks offer a wide range of products and effective customer service.
Banks should make it easy to access your money. With a brick-and-mortar bank, we looked at banks with large branch and ATM networks. Although most online banks don’t have physical branches, we chose ones with plenty of ATMs nationwide.
A bank should also make it affordable to keep your money with the institution. We chose online banks that pay high rates and charge low fees, or no fees at all. Brick-and-mortar banks are known for paying lower rates and charging higher fees, but a good one should make it possible to waive monthly fees. We also looked at other types of charges, such as fees for overdrafts, using out-of-network ATMs, and foreign transactions.
Which is better, a brick-and-mortar bank or an online bank?
It depends on your priorities. If you value face-to-face banking, you’ll want a brick-and-mortar bank. Physical banks are also better for anyone who needs to deposit cash regularly; with an online bank, you can usually deposit checks with your phone, but there’s no way to deposit cash.
Online banks are typically better for low fees and higher APYs, though. Because online banks don’t have to pay for physical branch locations, they can afford to charge less and pay more.
What is the No. 1 bank in America?
It’s hard to say, because banking needs vary from person to person. Wells Fargo has the most locations, making it good for access to your money and customer service. Bank of America and Chase aren’t far behind, though, and they have more ATMs than Wells Fargo (although Wells Fargo still has an impressive 13,000 ATMs). Bank of America and Chase also have better scores from the Better Business Bureau than Wells Fargo.
The experts’ advice on choosing the best bank for you
To learn more about what makes a good online bank and how to choose the best fit, four experts weighed in:
- Tania Brown, certified financial planner at SaverLife
- Roger Ma, certified financial planner with lifelaidout® and author of “Work Your Money, Not Your Life“
- Mykail James, MBA, certified financial education instructor, BoujieBudgets.com
- Laura Grace Tarpley, associate editor of banking, Personal Finance Insider
Here’s what they had to say about banking online. (Some text may be lightly edited for clarity.)
How can someone determine whether a bank is the right fit for them?
Tania Brown, CFP:
“Obviously, you want to make sure it’s FDIC insured. Also, your banking experience – do you like walking into a bank? Well, then you need someone local. Do you just not care if you ever see your bank? Then you’re okay online. Do you write checks? Do you not write checks? So it’s thinking through how your experience with it is going to be before you make that decision.”
Laura Grace Tarpley, Personal Finance Insider:
“I would look for the bank that charges you the least in fees. This means either no monthly fees, or you qualify to waive the monthly fees. If you never overdraw from your account, then a bank’s overdraft fees won’t matter much to you. But if you occasionally overdraw, then I’d look at the fees or overdraft protection options.”
What should someone look for in a brick-and-mortar bank?
Tania Brown, CFP:
“How can that bank grow with you? If you are 25, single or newly married, and all you need is a checking account, that’s going to look very different 15 years from now when you may have had a couple of jobs, you may have an IRA roll over, or you may want a financial adviser.”
Mykail James, CFEI:
“How accessible it is. So where are the branches? And if I am to go out of town or something, how accessible is my money to me?”
What should someone look for in an online bank?
Roger Ma, CFP:
“How onerous the transfer process is, transferring money in and transferring money out. Is it same day, next day? Is it pretty easy to sync a brick-and-mortar checking account to this particular high-yield savings account?”
Mykail James, CFEI:
“When it comes to online banks, you want to be a little bit more strict about what type of interest rates they’re providing. That’s the biggest thing, because online banks are supposed to have the higher interest rate because they don’t have the overhead of the brick-and-mortar. You want to make sure that it’s well above the national average.
“What types of securities do they provide? Do they have two-factor identification? If it’s an online bank, they should definitely have – at the bare minimum – two-factor authentication in how easy it is to change your passwords and things like that, because you want to be a little more hypersensitive about the cyber security for a strictly online bank.”
Laura Grace Tarpley is the editor of banking and mortgages at Personal Finance Insider, covering mortgages, refinancing, bank accounts, and bank reviews. She is also a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF). Over her four years of covering personal finance, she has written extensively about ways to save, invest, and navigate loans.
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