Best Banks and Credit Unions
Personal Finance Contributing Editor
Updated on 01/26/2018
With the rise of online-only options and mobile banking apps, competition among banks and credit unions has grown fierce. Most banks and credit unions now offer convenient features, such as mobile deposit, online bill pay and easy online account access so consumers no longer need to worry about banking during traditional business hours.
In addition to traditional savings and checking accounts, many banks offer loans and credit cards for customers. Using one bank for all of your financial needs can be a convenient way to stay organized and reach your financial goals.
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Compare Reviews for Top Banks and Credit Unions
Read 1460 Reviews
Merrick Bank was originally founded in 1997 in South Jordan, Utah. The company is FDIC insured, and specializes in settling credit card transactions and clearing payments for consumers looking to improve their credit rating.
|Bank of America|
Read 3920 Reviews
Bank of America offers banking options, mortgages loans, consumer loans and credit card services. Many of their cards have special features such as cash back rewards, travel rewards and zero percent introductory interest rates.
Read 2426 Reviews
Wells Fargo offers many financial services that help make banking easier. Wells Fargo Conversations magazine helps users learn about investing and other financial topics. The company's credit cards include a variety of perks.
Read 3028 Reviews
Chase Bank offers a variety of financial services, including specialized business and personal credit cards. Their Slate card includes a free monthly FICO score, and the Freedom card earns one percent cash-back on all purchases.
|Credit One Bank|
Read 2296 Reviews
Credit One Bank is one of the leading issuers of VISA cards in America. They are located in Las Vegas, NV and focus on working with people who have been overlooked by other credit companies because of less-than-perfect credit.
Read 1187 Reviews
Citibank offers several credit card options, including the new Double Cash Card, which gives customers one percent after a purchase and another one percent when they pay their balance. Cards are also compatible with Apple Pay.
|TD Bank and TD Banknorth|
Read 722 Reviews
TD Ameritrade is one of America's leading financial companies, and it is based in Omaha, Nebraska. Today, the company offers customers advice about stock trading, investing, retirement planning and more.
Read 862 Reviews
Ally Bank offers online checking and savings accounts, CDs, IRAs and other financial services. While the bank has no branches, customers can use the Ally website, Mobile Banking App and 24/7 phone service.
Read 1368 Reviews
U.S. Bank offers online banking services with bill payment and mobile deposit options. They also offer checking accounts, savings accounts, traditional loans, investing options, credit cards, credit lines and home mortgages.
Read 943 Reviews
PNC Bank offers banking, investing and borrowing options to individuals and businesses. Their Virtual Wallet tool lets users keep track of their financial situation more easily by giving you an instant snapshot of your accounts.
What to consider when choosing a bank or credit union
Technology is ever-evolving, and today's customers want to access their banking information online and on the go.
- Account access: At a bare minimum, consumers should look for a financial institution that offers activities such as reviewing the accounts, ordering checks and transferring money between accounts online.
- Mobile banking apps: Consumers with a smartphone, may want to take advantage of the mobile banking apps for check deposit, bill pay, money transfer and general account access on the go.
- Online bill pay: The convenience of paying bills online, allows customers to quickly pay their bills with the touch of a keystroke.
Hidden fees can make for nasty surprises on a monthly statement. When choosing a bank, especially a checking account, understand fees before signing up.
- Minimum balance: Some accounts require customers to maintain a minimum balance at all times to avoid a monthly surcharge. Others waive these fees for those with direct deposit and/or for student accounts.
- ATM: While most banks and credit unions allow customers free ATM use, consumers may be charged a few dollars per transaction when using an out-of-network ATM. Out-of-network ATMs may result in a dual charge, one from the customer’s bank and one from the ATM owner.
- Withdrawal fees: Some types of accounts limit the number of free withdrawals or other services. Once that minimum is met, future transactions can carry a small fee.
When borrowing, the consumer’s credit score is a determining factor in the interest rate. When opening a savings account, customers can request the interest rate structure in advance. Rates may vary by institution and credit unions occasionally offer higher saving and lower lending rates.
- Loans: The interest rate makes a significant difference in the amount of a monthly mortgage or auto payment, so it's important to shop around for a bank with low interest rates. In addition to considering interest rates, customers should investigate fees and points associated with generating a loan.
- Accounts: Most interest-bearing checking accounts require a substantial minimum balance, but savings accounts often come with no-strings-attached interest payments. In today’s low rate environment, the interest payments are low. Yet, money deposited at a bank or credit union is easily accessible for withdrawal and insured.
- Revolving credit APR: Consumers with bank credit cards need to be aware of the interest rates charged on the card’s balance. These interest rates can be quite high for consumers that don’t pay their bill in full at the end of the month.
- Branch access: Retail branches are important for those who want to purchase cashier’s checks, cash a check made out to them or simply interact with a bank employee. Consumers who prefer branch access should investigate the proximity of bank locations.
- Convenience: Some banks are regional, and the proximity of branch locations may vary. For in-person banking, customers should check out the location of the closest bank branches. For convenience, and to keep fees low, customers should check on the ATM locations as well.
- Customer service: Banking is a customer-driven industry, and the financial institution should offer easy access to knowledgeable customer service representatives. Find out when, where and how to contact the customer service representatives—by phone, email, online chat and/or in a bank branch.
- Service hours: Given many customers’ busy schedules, should be aware of branch, phone and electronic communication hours when choosing a bank.
More and more banks are popping up, and it can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon and take advantage of new customer promotions. However, consumers must read the fine print to make sure the bank is insured up to the legal limits and that the website is equipped with the highest security levels.
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC): Created in 1933, the FDIC is an independent agency that ensures the security of depositor's funds. The FDIC typically insures accounts up to $250,000.
- National Credit Union Administration (NCUA): The credit union's equivalent of the FDIC, the National Credit Union Administration regulates credit unions and protects consumers. This insurance typically covers balances of up to $250,000 per share owner.
- Encryption software: Stolen personal identifiable information makes it crucial for banks to utilize more sophisticated security measures to protect your accounts. Many banks have moved to a tokenized and end-to-end encryption to help protect consumer funds, so consumers should look into banking with an institution at the forefront of security technology.
It's easy and convenient for consumers to take care of all banking needs in one place. It’s a good idea for customers to look for banks or credit unions with a wide range of services for now and the future.
- Loans: Auto and home loans are fairly standard, but one might also need a home equity line of credit or personal loan. When borrowing, consumers should read all the fine print to avoid extra charges or fees.
- Credit cards: Most banks offer a range of credit card options from debit to secured credit and everything in between.
Certificates of Deposit
CDs are similar to savings accounts in that they pay an agreed upon rate of interest on the deposit amount. They differ from savings accounts in that they are issued for a specific length of time. Some banks offer higher rates of return and products that allow the customer to withdraw the funds early, with limited penalties.
What are the different types of banks and credit unions?
Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions created to serve their members. They typically offer the same products and services found at a bank.
Investment banks are typically business to business banks. These institutions specialize in large and complicated financial transactions such as underwriting a new stock issue. Some investment banks also have retail arms that cater to the public.
Also known as consumer banks, these are what most people think of when they picture a bank. Retail bank’s services and products focus on the individual consumer with local branches, ATM access, auto and home loans and more.
Retail banks deal directly with the retail customer. Most banks today are broader in scope with several divisions representing their client base. The commercial banks encompass both retail banks and all other types of banking activities except those of investment banking. A commercial bank accepts deposits, provides loans and offers investment products for a range of clientele. Historically a commercial bank is a brick and mortar operation, however, today there are online commercial banks as well.
Financial services companies
Today the lines between investment brokerage firms and banks are blurred with many banks offering investment products and investment companies providing banking services as well.
Who would benefit from using a bank or credit union?
Business owners looking for convenient financing options, interest-bearing accounts and easy access to their funds. This demographic may also want credit and debit cards that offer cash back and other rewards or discounts on checks.
Attracting first-time home buyers can net a loyal bank customer and future business. Potential homeowners are looking for competitive interest rates as well as knowledgeable and customer-focused bank representatives.
Military and union members
Retired or active-duty service members and those who are affiliated with unions or government organizations may be more interested in a local credit union that connects them to the community. These individuals might seek exclusive offers such as discounted loan interest rates or flexible accounts.
Heavy debit card users
These customers pay attention to minimum balance requirements and usage fees. They may desire cash-back rewards on their purchases and online banking options.
Most customers use a bank or credit union to pay bills, save, invest and secure lending solutions.
Expert reviews for banks and credit unions
Chase is the consumer and commercial banking business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), a major global financial services firm. Chase Bank’s reach spans almost half of America’s households.
For 200 years, Bank of America has helped their customers, client’s and the community meet their financial goals. Bank of America prides itself in its competitive financial offerings and strong investment in the community.
Founded in 1812, Citi is a leading global bank with approximately 20 million customer accounts in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citibank works to provide consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial services and products.
Wells Fargo was founded in 1852 in New York City. The bank is known for its financial services throughout the western part of the country during the gold rush. Today, Wells Fargo serves both U.S. and international customers at physical locations and online.
PenFed Credit Union provides financial services and quality customer care to military members, government employees and their families. Established in 1935, PenFed has over 1.4 million members and more than $20 billion in assets. Their members span the United States and military bases in Puerto Rico, Guam and Okinawa.
TD Bank is one of the 10 largest U.S. banks. The bank offers retail, small business and commercial banking products and services to more than 8.5 million customers through its approximate 1,300 locations in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Metro D.C., the Carolinas and Florida. TD Bank belongs to TD Bank Group, a subsidiary of The Toronto-Dominion Bank of Toronto.
PNC bank serves individuals, small businesses, corporations and government entities. Their banking division has over 6 million customers across 19 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, PNC has 2,600 branches and 9,000 ATMs, along with online and mobile services.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
Compare Reviews for Top Banks and Credit Unions
Read 631 Reviews
SunTrust, headquartered in Atlanta, provides more than 2,200 ATMs and more than 1,500 locations in the South. It focuses on three sectors: consumer banking and private wealth management, wholesale banking and mortgage banking.
Read 328 Reviews
Based in Rhode Island, Citizen Bank is one of the country's biggest and most popular banks. With convenient locations in stores and retail locations, they offer a range of financial services to more than five million customers.
Read 680 Reviews
BB&T, headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, offers products in six areas: community banking, residential mortgage banking, dealer financial services, specialized lending, insurance services and financial services.
|Fifth Third Bank|
Read 781 Reviews
Fifth Third Bank was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1858, and it is a company focused on branch banking. The company also offers unique services like payment processing and title insurance, in addition to investment advice.
|Navy Federal Credit Union|
Read 384 Reviews
Navy Federal Credit Union offers financial services to members of the Armed Forces, Coast Guard, National Guard and DoD, as well as their families and households. They offer perks like mortgages with 100 percent financing.
Read 388 Reviews
USAA serves former and current members of the military, as well as their families. The company offers insurance services, investments and tax help for qualified customers, in addition to banking, credit cards and mortgages.
Read 94 Reviews
Huntington Bank was founded in 1866 in Columbus, Ohio. Today, it has over 750 branches and twice as many ATMs. Full-service branches are located across Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Read 425 Reviews
Key Bank is one of America's larges banks, and it is the only bank still headquartered in Cleveland. Nearly 200 years old, they provide personal banking, investment management, retail banking, commercial banking services and more.
Read 599 Reviews
Regions Bank offers traditional banking, and its Smart Option Student Loan program features repayment options such as deferred and fixed. Participants in the program get free quarterly credit score reports and 24/7 management.
|Bank of the West|
Read 223 Reviews
Bank of the West, headquartered in San Francisco, has a scan-to-pay feature; customers pay bills with the click of a camera button. The bank serves customers in all states and has more than 700 locations in the West and Midwest.
Read 276 Reviews
M&T Bank is a bank and financial services company that specializes in providing investment management and global wealth management. The company offers online and mobile banking services, as well as savings accounts and CDs.
Read 316 Reviews
BBVA Compass Bank has many services available for individuals, small businesses and large companies. These services include options for checking and savings accounts, personal and mortgage loans, credit cards, investing and more.
|Royal Bank of Canada|
Read 257 Reviews
Royal Bank of Canada is one of the most popular banks chosen by Canadian customers. Headquartered in Toronto and Montreal, the company offers banking services such as checking, credit cards, mortgages, investments and advice.
Read 276 Reviews
TCF Bank, headquartered in Wayzata, Minnesota, allows customers to start banking online as soon as their enrollment is complete. It has 380 locations in the Midwest and various personal banking and loan products.
Read 742 Reviews
HSBC services include checking and savings accounts, loans and mortgages, investment and retirement accounts and insurance options for individuals and families. They also offer business services to small and large companies.
Read 110 Reviews
Founded in 1991 as a subsidiary of ING and established as a standalone company in 2013, Voya Financial is a New York-based financial, investment and retirement company. Voya manages over $500 billion in client assets.
|Bank of America Online Banking|
Read 159 Reviews
Bank of America online banking offers its customers secure access to their checking and savings accounts. Other Bank of America services includes bill pay, customized alerts and the ability to transfer money between accounts.
Read 246 Reviews
Flagstar Bank offers both personal and business banking services, including checking accounts, savings accounts, loans and a variety of other options. Their home equity lines and mortgage loans offer competitive interest rates.
|Pentagon Federal Credit Union|
Read 102 Reviews
Pentagon Federal Credit Union offers membership to military personnel, members of certain organizations, government employees and more. They offer numerous benefits to members, including insurance policies and real estate rewards.
|First National Bank of Omaha|
Read 67 Reviews
First National Bank of Omaha is the largest privately held bank in the U.S. The company offers a range of financial services, such as checking and mobile banking. In addition, they have lending services and wealth management.
Read 102 Reviews
Union Bank of California is a nationwide bank that allows customers to manage their accounts with text commands. Its youth banking program features options for various age groups with low minimum deposits and no monthly charges.
Read 14 Reviews
Arvest offers a variety of financial services to individuals, businesses and investors. Sam Walton’s, the Walmart founder, heirs own a majority share of the bank. Arvest has locations in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas.
|Crescent Bank & Trust|
Read 139 Reviews
Crescent Bank, formerly Crescent Bank & Trust, offers traditional banking and has a niche for automobile loans to high-risk customers in more than 12 states. The bank operates nationwide, but with a focus on Louisiana.
|State Farm Bank|
Read 98 Reviews
State Farm Bank is a financial and insurance services company founded in 1922, and the company does not have its own branch locations. Customers can only bank with State Farm over the Internet or through the telephone.
|President's Choice Financial|
Read 40 Reviews
Presidents Choice Financial, headquartered in Scarborough, Canada, features mobile check deposit, telephone banking and online banking. Its bank machines facilitate bill payments, account transfers and MasterCard cash advances.
|First Citizens Bank|
Read 51 Reviews
First Citizens Bank has been in business for over 100 years, offering customers a range of options from checking accounts, savings accounts, loans and more. Their services cover everything from everyday to long-term needs.
Read 147 Reviews
Comerica Bank mainly serves the Detroit, Michigan and Dallas, Texas areas. Headquartered in Dallas, the bank is the biggest bank in Texas, and it specializes retail and commercial banking, as well as wealth management.
Read 62 Reviews
Associated Bank, founded in 1861, is headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The company is focused on banking for mid-size companies in the bank's regions. These includes Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and the surrounding Midwest.
|Chase Online Banking|
Read 122 Reviews
Chase online banking enables customers to deposit checks, check their balances and more, during any time of the day, on multiple devices. Customers can manage their accounts from their computers, smartphones or tablets.
|Santa Barbara Bank & Trust|
Read 55 Reviews
MUFG Union Bank has locations across the U.S. and the world. They are focused on becoming a global bank, and they offer customers in the U.S., Asia, Canada and Latin America a full range of banking and investment services.
|Armed Forces Bank|
Read 65 Reviews
Armed Forces bank has been serving active and retired military members and families since 1907. The bank provides a range of services for military customers, including checking and savings accounts, loans, and financial education.
Read 61 Reviews
Guaranty Bank offers credit-building loans, in which the bank lends customers money for a CD and meets with them regularly. It also provides mobile banking, allowing customers to check their balances and transfer money 24/7.
|Travis Credit Union|
Read 14 Reviews
Travis Credit Union serves individuals who work, worship and/or live in 12 counties in Calif. in addition to military and civilian personnel of Travis Air Force Base. They have options for businesses and individuals.
Read 31 Reviews
Banco Popular specializes in offering banking services in Puerto Rico, as well as in the U.S. Customers of Banco Popular can take advantage of online and mobile banking services, including deposit, checking and savings accounts.
|Public Service Credit Union of Colorado||Read 27 Reviews|
Public Service Credit Union offers financial services for personal customers and small businesses. Customers can take advantage of PSCU's convenient banking services, like mobile and branch banking, as well as many ATMs.
|Arrowhead Credit Union|
Read 14 Reviews
Arrowhead Credit Union serves San Bernardino and Riverside counties in California. Members enjoy discounts at national retailers, personalized service and the convenience of mobile apps and online banking.
|Wescom Credit Union|
Read 11 Reviews
Wescom Credit Union is a credit union in Southern California. The company offers checking, savings, money market accounts and IRAs to credit union customers. They also offer auto loans and insurance, as well as home mortgages.
Read 30 Reviews
Astoria Bank is a bank based in Long Island City, New York that has been serving customers since 1888. The bank is the biggest savings and loans association in New York, and it holds deposits of more than 10.4 billion dollars.
|FCC Finance (First Consumer Credit)|
Read 11 Reviews
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, FCC Finance only serves the home improvement industry. They buy B, C and D paper and offer unsecured loans up to $15,000 with terms up to 120 months.
|Bank of America Gift Cards||Read 9 Reviews|
Bank of America gift cards come in the form of prepaid Visa cards that customers can register online or by calling a toll-free number. Customers can use the cards at gas stations, restaurants and at other merchants.
Read 6 Reviews
Ledyard National Bank is a full-service financial institution for personal and business banking. They also offer investment and wealth management services. Ledyard has locations in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Read 88 Reviews
Founded in 1857, Santander Bank offers customers options for their financial needs, including personal, business and corporate accounts. Santander Bank's Extra20 account pays $20 per month to customers who meet certain criteria.