To help you find the best banks, with the best products that fit your lifestyle, we talk in-depth about the five best banks.
Best for online banking – Capital One
Capital One is great, and their online platform is almost unmatched. First of all, Capital One is a major bank that offers all types of financial products. But when you log into your account it really doesn’t feel like it.
Everything is connected (i.e., checking, savings, credit card, mortgage) but it focuses on one thing at a time. This is in stark contrast to a bank like Chase, which throws everything in your face at once. So for those looking for a clean, easy to use online experience, Capital One is perfect.
Both the 360 Checking and Savings accounts have no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees, and you can link a bunch of external accounts, too. What most people love about the 360 Savings (myself included) is how you can create a ton of different savings accounts within one account. So if you have ten different savings goals, you can parse them out into ten different accounts (i.e., Christmas, vacation, new computer).
This way, you can visually see how much each account or goal has. It’s not flashy and it won’t give you the highest rate of all time, but everything comes together and works seamlessly with Capital One, and the online experience is just beautiful.
Best for customer service – Discover
Discover has really begun to step up its game outside of the credit card business. It has a much larger selection of products than other online-only banks and their customer service is unmatched.
Regarding deposit accounts, you’ll find checking, savings, and CD options with Discover – all with good rates. But now you can get IRAs, student loans, credit cards, and personal loans from Discover. So they’re moving toward mega-bank status. One of the things we love is the massive ATM network – currently at 60,000 across the country.
But where Discover shines most is its customer service. Aside from being ranked highest in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power, Discover has won a plethora of awards. And while their commercials are silly, it really does depict what a great experience you have when you call Discover.
So why aren’t they ranked best overall? The biggest challenge with Discover is that their cards aren’t accepted everywhere. So when you open a checking account and want to use the debit card, you may not be able to swipe it in all places (which is where the big ATM network comes in handy). Just something to think about.
Best for checking – BBVA
BBVA Free Checking gives you 24/7 access to free digital banking services with no monthly service charges and no minimum balance requirements. And there’s no fee at any ATM for BBVA USA, and there is no fee to use another bank’s ATM. This amounts to tangible savings at the start. You need just $25 to open an account.
Best for high APY – CIT Bank
The CIT Savings Builder Account gets you APY, and while it has a higher barrier to entry (at least $100 per month deposit or $25,000 flat balance), it’s a great place to stash money you need access to only occasionally. CIT has no fees, and a super attractive resource page area. And they’ve also got Money Market Accounts, CDs, and home loans you can check out as well.
Read our CIT Bank review.
Chime is a banking option that has definitely become a leader in the banking space, and prides itself on making sure that everything on the fee front of things is completely transparent. Chime is completely free; there are no hidden fees or minimum balances. The only real downside to Chime is that there’s no check-writing capabilities.
Read our Chime Bank review.
Aspiration is one of the better online-only banks, but comes with a big social impact. According to Aspiration, “We didn’t set out to build a bank. We set out to build a better world.” Their entire mission and focus as a bank feels much different than others. In fact, Aspiration donates 10% of every dollar you pay them to charities that help struggling Americans build a better life.
In terms of products, Aspiration has the Spend & Save account, which is their flagship product (and formerly known as the Summit account). The account gives you up to 2.00% APY interest, no ATM fees worldwide, and your own personal People/Planet impact score, which shows you how where you’re shopping impacts the planet (among other things). Aspiration also offers investment and retirement products, as well as charitable giving.
A few other features offered by Aspiration are:
- You’ll also choose your own monthly fee
- You’ll get cell phone protection insurance
- You have access to complimentary identity fraud expense reimbursement with Aspiration
Best overall – Ally
We absolutely love Ally Bank (and I can tell you, I just opened an account with them myself).
They’re an online-only bank that has a variety of both checking and savings account options. Their customer service is excellent, all of their accounts have low fees, and their platform is easy to use and has a clean interface.
The Ally checking account offers a decent rate as far as checking accounts go – currently 0.10% for average daily balances less than $15,000 and 0.60% for average daily balances of at least $15,000.
Ally also offers a few different savings accounts, all with highly-competitive rates; as well as CDs and IRAs.
Other perks include:
- You can deposit checks via the Ally app
- You can move money through services like Zelle and Amazon Alexa
- With a checking account, you’ll get refunded $10 per month on any ATM fees
Summary of the best banks of 2020
|Bank||Product types||Unique features|
|Capital One||All||Intuitive online platform with ability to set up micro-savings goals|
|Discover||Checking, savings, CDs, retirement, student loans||Massive ATM network; cash back on the checking account|
|BBVA Free Checking||Checking||Free digital banking with no monthly charges, no minimum balance requirements, and free ATM.|
|CIT||All||Typically one of the most competitive APY rates|
|Chime||Savings, checking||Banking with no hidden fees – including overdraft, minimum balances, foreign transactions, service, or deposit fees. Fee Free.|
|Aspiration||Checking, savings, investing||10% of the money you give gets donated; you get a social impact score|
|Ally Bank||Checking, savings, CDs||$10 ATM fee reimbursement|
How we chose our best banks for 2020
Choosing the best banks overall isn’t an easy task, but we narrowed it down to a handful, each great for different things. Here are some of the key factors we looked at:
Using both J.D. Power and online reviews, we looked at which banks had the happiest customers. Since products and rates can become very similar amongst banks, we found that customer experience was a key differentiator.
While not a dealbreaker, we looked at banks that had a good variety of products for what their intended use would be (i.e., an online bank that has everything someone banking online would want).
Nowadays, getting competitive rates on your banking products is a must, so we looked for banks that had good rates on the products they offered.
This was balanced with the point above – the product line (i.e., some banks like HSBC don’t have the best rates, but make up for it with a massive product line).
Branch and ATM footprint
Again, not a dealbreaker, but we looked at banks that had either a heavy footprint with either branches or ATMs. Having access to your money in one of those ways is critical, and while physical branches aren’t as popular anymore, they still serve their purpose.
What to look for in a bank
There are several crucial things you should look for in a bank:
Make sure the bank you choose has little to no fees. If they are charging you fees (and many do for some things), just make sure that they’re being transparent with those fees and showing you upfront on their website.
Low barrier to entry
Banks shouldn’t make it hard for you to open an account with them. Find a bank that has no minimum deposit to open an account. If they do ask for one (Discover’s is $2,500), make sure the perks and benefits make up for it (in Discover’s case, a rare cashback checking account).
Obviously you want to choose a bank that has products with good rates, but make sure that’s not all you’re looking for. For instance, CIT Bank has a great rate, but they’re kind of a one-trick pony – meaning you can’t do all of your banking with them.
Don’t underestimate the power of a great customer experience. As I said above, we’re getting to a point in time where banks are offering almost the same types of products at almost the same rates. So the key difference boils down to how they treat you as a customer in many cases. Choose a bank that you feel respected and valued by.
Make sure your bank has FDIC Insurance, which currently covers your deposits up to $250,000 in the event your bank fails.
Most banks will have this (and all the ones we recommend do) but always double-check. If you go with a credit union for any reason, you’ll get similar protection under NCUA.
Overall, choosing a bank is a big deal. You need to make sure they have what you need, because it just becomes a bigger headache when you have a bunch of different accounts at a bunch of different places.
Don’t forget that you can use personal finance apps to help make up for some of the features your bank doesn’t have. And there’s a lot to choose from!
- Banking Tips: How to Find the Best Savings Account
- Finance 101: How Do Banks Make Money?