If you're like most Americans, your bank lies at the heart of your personal finances. Your checking account is the place money comes in and goes out, and a savings account helps you stash funds away for an emergency or big savings goal. Choosing a bank is not always easy, and what's best for you may be different than what's best for someone else.
Look for the features that matter the most to you: If you're a frequent traveler, you might want a bank that reimburses you for other banks' ATM fees. If you work for tips, then you'll want a bank that takes cash deposits. And in the era of online banking, some institutions don't even exist as brick-and-mortar branches, so that's a new factor to consider.
For many people, online banking is the primary way they manage their accounts, so you may want to look for a bank that offers bill pay, remote check deposits and basic self-service from your computer or a mobile app. Instant transfer services are another convenient feature to look for—if you want a cash-free way to send money to friends, be on the lookout for banks that offer products like Zelle, which allow you to instantly transfer funds to other accounts without an extra app (even better if you can send and receive without paying any fees).
Speaking of which, fees are a very important thing to look for before you open a new account. Many banks charge monthly maintenance fees unless you meet specific minimum balance or activity requirements. Be on the lookout for accounts with no monthly fees so you don’t have to worry about these types of charges.
Best Banks of 2021
Whether you're setting up a teen's first checking account, or just looking for a way to up the interest rate on your nest egg, we've rounded up the best banks based on your potential needs and preferences. We partnered with the following banks to bring you the savings account offers in the table below. Under that, you'll find our editors' picks for the best banks and why we chose them. All of the banks and credit unions listed are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or National Credit Union Administration.
- Ally: Best Bank Overall
- Chase: Best Bank for Customer Service
- Wells Fargo: Best Bank for Teenagers
- Capital One: Best Bank for Millennials
- USAA: Best Bank for Military Members
- Charles Schwab Bank: Best Bank for International Travelers
- Capital One Spark Business: Best Bank for Small Businesses
Our pick for the best overall bank is Ally. Ally is an online-only bank with industry-leading checking and savings account options. Due to a combination of good customer service, low fees, and high-interest rates, Ally is a winner.
Ally’s online checking account charges almost no fees and is packed with useful features. It even pays interest. For savings, Ally’s high yield account offers among the best interest rates in the industry.
Ally customers get access to online banking, mobile check deposits, up to a $10/month refund for other bank ATM fees, quick transfers with Zelle, and 24/7 customer service with access to a human.
The only downside: like all online banks, you can’t deposit cash. If you regularly receive cash or work in a job that involves getting paid in tips, Ally probably isn’t the best choice for you. For everyone else, however, Ally offers some compelling accounts with great service.
Chase Bank ranked second in last year’s national J.D. Power National Bank Satisfaction Study and is one of two banks that received a perfect rating in the JDPower.com Power Circle Ratings. But for banks that operate in nearly every part of the country, Chase stands out as the best for customer service.
Unlike most of the banks on this list that have an online-only focus, Chase offers one of the biggest networks of branch locations in the United States with over 4,700 locations. And due to its size, Chase offers accounts for pretty much everyone. That includes checking, savings, mortgage, credit card, and investment accounts.
Chase is one of a few financial institutions that really let you do all of your banking under one roof, and that helps simplify your banking experience (a plus for many banking customers).
The biggest downside of Chase is that, like most large brick-and-mortar banks, it charges a lot of fees and offers pitifully low-interest rates on savings accounts. But if you keep a certain minimum balance or meet activity requirements, you can avoid most fees.
Want to learn more? Check out our full review of Chase Bank.
Teens are in a position to learn important lessons that can influence their long-term financial well being — and it starts with learning how to responsibly use a bank account. That requires access to a bank branch, a big network of ATMs, and a good place to keep money from part-time jobs.
Wells Fargo has certainly found itself in the midst of multiple scandals recently, but it still stands out as the best bank for teens thanks to its 4,900 branches and 13,000 ATMs.
Their teen checking account requires a $25 opening deposit, but has no monthly fee. However, beware of overdraft and other fees once you open the account. While it is a great account for new learners, it is still a real bank account with real fees.
You can also read our full review of Wells Fargo.
Capital One 360 Checking and 360 Savings are both best-in-class accounts. Low fees, good interest rates, and a focus on a high-tech experience all make Capital One a top overall bank, and our number one pick for millennials. This bank was also our runner-up for the best bank overall, so it may be a good choice beyond the millennial demographic.
If you have an overdraft, you can choose to have it funded from a linked account or turned down automatically for no fee. This bank also offers free ATM use at Allpoint and Capital One ATMs. And, like the 360 Checking account, 360 Savings offers among the best interest rates in the industry with no minimum balance or activity requirements. If you hate fees and want a bank account that just works, Capital One is a good choice.
Capital One ranked No. 1 in last year’s national J.D. Power National Bank Satisfaction Study.
What started as the United Services Automobile Association is now the best bank in the country for military families and veterans. Because military members are likely to move often and have some unique needs and challenges, going to a military-specific bank may be a smart choice, particularly for anyone on active duty.
USAA also offers very good insurance, so if you do become a member for banking, don’t overlook options for home, auto, and other insurance you may need. You may be able to get a better policy at a better price than non-military can elsewhere.
For banking, USAA offers a range of checking and savings accounts to meet your needs. The basic free checking has no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. Accounts also include some of the latest online banking features including mobile deposits, mobile wallet support, and fast transfers with Zelle.
Charles Schwab Bank: Best Bank for International Travelers
Charles Schwab is best known for its brokerage business, but this finance company does a lot more than stocks and bonds. Charles Schwab offers a full-featured online bank complete with checking and savings account options.
Schwab Bank is convenient for anyone with an existing Schwab relationship, but the checking account offers a big draw to anyone who loves to travel. Charles Schwab charges no ATM fees and reimburses all other bank ATM fees from anywhere in the world. You can use your card in New York or New Delhi without paying any fees.
Schwab Bank accounts charge no monthly fees and low fees for some irregular activity like sending a wire. Unlike most online banks, you can also visit any Schwab branch to deposit a check (although with mobile deposit, you probably won’t need to visit a branch).
Schwab is a top-rated low-fee brokerage as well, and a linked brokerage account is required to open an Investor Checking account. With the amazing customer service and a good selection of account options, you may want to consolidate all of your banking and investing under the Schwab umbrella.
You can also read through our full review of Charles Schwab Bank.
Business bank accounts tend to come with far more fees than personal accounts, but Capital One Spark Business changes that. Spark Business offers checking and savings accounts for businesses with almost no fees for its online banking.
There have been some known bugs in the signup process, so new checking and savings accounts are temporarily suspended. But they should be re-opening new checking and savings accounts any time, so keep an eye out regarding those changes.
What Are the Different Types of Banks?
Banks include many types of financial institutions. The most popular types of banks include:
- Central banks
- Commercial banks
- Retail banks
- Investment banks
- Private banks
- Credit unions
- Online banks
When most people refer to banks, they think of retail banks or credit unions, which both specialize in targeting consumers for their personal finance needs. At these types of banks, consumers can keep their money safe, save for a specific purpose, get financial advice, and apply for loans.
What Services Does a Bank Offer?
The services a bank offers depends on the type of bank. A bank may offer anything from an account to keep your money secure to a loan to buy a car or a house. If you’re looking to invest in financial instruments like stocks, you’ll need an investment bank. If you’re a business owner looking to get a loan or an account for your business, you’ll need to find a commercial bank.
How Do I Decide What Bank to Use?
Choosing the right bank for you depends on what type of bank you need. Once you know you’re looking for a retail bank, for example, then you’ll need to find one that is convenient to you, has the experience to service your specific needs, and has a history of successful money management. It’s important to feel confident in the bank you’re working with. You should also consider the interest rates on any products you’re interested in. If you’re looking for a CD, compare CD rates to help you decide which bank to work with.
How Much Do Bank Services Cost?
Bank services are typically affordable. For an individual opening a checking or savings account, you may pay a monthly fee, but many banks waive the fee if you meet criteria like maintaining a set account balance. For services like depositing a check or withdrawing funds, there’s no additional fee at most institutions.
If you need a loan, shop several banks to find the bank offering the lowest interest rates and fees. Most traditional bank services are included when you open an account of any kind at a bank.
How We Chose the Best Banks
We looked at over two dozen of the best banks nationwide and narrowed the list down to the best eight based on several factors and services. The factors that helped us decide on the best included the experience of the bank, the services each offers, how much their fees are, what the APY (Annual Percentage Yield) is on a standard checking and savings account, and the account minimums to earn interest. Most of the best banks have no minimum balance requirement and have an APY above 0.30%.
Zelle. "How It Works." Accessed July 9, 2021.
J.D. Power. “Capital One Ranks Highest in Customer Satisfaction in J.D. Power National Banking Study.” Accessed July 9, 2021.