Customers looking for a new bank have a wide range of options. But many people still choose to open accounts with the country’s largest financial institutions.
The biggest banks may not pay savings account holders the most interest, and they tend to charge high overdraft and monthly service fees.
But big banks are worth considering for savvy consumers looking for high-tech features. Most offer the chance to earn hundreds of dollars just for signing up for a new account. And their extensive branch networks make them accessible to many customers across the nation.
Bankrate ranked the best banks in America depending on whether they offer free or low-fee checking and savings accounts, low out-of-network ATM fees and highly-rated mobile apps. Check out the results and decide which institution would best meet your financial needs.
The top 5 big banks:
- Capital One
- First-Citizens Bank & Trust
- PNC Bank
- U.S. Bank
- Wells Fargo Bank
Overall best big bank: Capital One
For the second year in a row, Capital One ranks as America’s best big bank. Accounts are available online nationwide, and there are more than 500 branches available in Louisiana, Texas and a number of states in the northeast. Customers have surcharge-free access to more than 39,000 ATMs through Allpoint and the bank’s own network. And in some of the nation’s biggest cities, Capital One Cafes act as branches and coffee shops rolled into one.
Capital One stands apart from its peers by offering a savings account rate that isn’t below 1 percent APY. It also provides a teen checking account and a fee-free, interest-bearing checking account paying 0.2 percent APY. The bank in recent years has received much praise for its mobile app, which has a combined Google Play and iTunes score of nearly five stars (4.7).
First-Citizens Bank & Trust
First-Citizens Bank & Trust is headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina. The bank — which has been around for more than 100 years — has more than 500 branches and about 650 ATMs.
The bank’s free checking account charges no monthly service fees and has no minimum balance requirement. There is a $5 monthly service fee that applies to the Regular Savings account, but it can be waived by maintaining a minimum daily balance of $300.
PNC Bank has a big presence on the East Coast. It has 2,600 branches and roughly 9,000 ATMs. It changed the game in late 2018 by launching a high-yield savings account that’s available across the country to customers outside of its branch network.
PNC offers multiple checking accounts including several that let customers earn bonus rewards for linking a PNC credit card. Its Standard Checking account can be opened online in just 10 minutes. There’s a $7 monthly service charge, but it can easily be waived by maintaining a $500 average monthly balance or having a $500 direct deposit made each statement period (or by being at least 62 years old).
The bank’s standard savings account pays a low rate (0.01 percent APY). But just $25 are needed to open the account and the $5 monthly service fee is easily avoidable (by having $25 automatically transferred into the account every month or maintaining an average monthly balance of $300).
U.S. Bank customers can use more than 4,700 ATMs and visit 3,045 branches in a couple dozen states. Surcharge-free transactions can be done at thousands of ATMs within the MoneyPass network.
The big bank’s checking accounts target different customers, including folks who tend to overdraw their accounts. Its Easy Checking account has a $6.95 monthly maintenance fee that can be avoided by maintaining a $1,500 average account balance or combined monthly direct deposits totaling at least $1,000.
Consumers who opt for U.S. Bank’s Standard Savings account will pay $4 a month unless they can keep at least $300 in their accounts daily or keep $1,000, on average, in their accounts each month.
Wells Fargo Bank
Though it’s in the process of closing locations, Wells Fargo still has the most branches (more than 5,800) of any big bank in the nation. And despite countless faux pas that have made national headlines in recent years, it has a lot to offer customers, like top-notch mobile apps and features that empower consumers to take control of their financial lives.
Wells Fargo’s Everyday Checking account charges a $10 monthly service fee that requires a bit more effort to avoid if you can’t maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance or have direct deposits of at least $500 made into the account. Its Way2Save account doesn’t pay much interest, but the minimum opening deposit ($25) and minimum daily balance ($300) are on the lower end of the spectrum.
Bankrate gathered checking and savings account data from 50 brick-and-mortar banks, 25 credit unions and 37 online financial institutions. In doing so, we examined more than 385 accounts and 7,500 data points, looking at the fees each institution charges and the deposit rates it offers. We also looked at factors like the number of branches a bank or credit union has and the number of states in which it operates. Read our overview for more information on how we determined the best banks.