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.
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 teamed up with QuinStreet to bring you the following bank account offers, and below the table you'll find our choices for the best banks and why we chose them.
Best Banks of 2020
- Ally: Best Bank Overall
- Chase: Best Bank for Customer Service
- Wells Fargo: Best Bank for Teenagers
- Simple: Best Bank for College Students
- 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 5,000 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 6,000 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.
College students can easily fall into the trap of poor financial decisions, whether it's racking up big credit card debt or student loans without a full understanding of the consequences.
Simple is great for college students because it has budgeting built into its online and mobile banking apps. It also doesn't charge any fees. (Really!) The only fee you might pay is for using an ATM outside of the 40,000 ATMs in the Allpoint network and a small fee from Visa when using your debit card outside of the United States.
For digital natives, the mobile-first banking experience is easy to navigate and very user-friendly. And the goal-setting and safe-to-spend features should keep even distracted college students out of financial trouble.
Want some more information? Read our full review of Simple.
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.
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 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 accounts are temporarily suspended. Right now it is new savings only. But they should be re-opening new checking accounts any time, so keep an eye out regarding those changes.