Banking

The best national banks of 2021

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Below you’ll find our picks for the best national banks in each region of the US: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West. We’ve also listed our choice for the best nationwide national bank (for travelers and people who frequently move), and our selection for the best online bank.

Each of these banks is insured by the FDIC, makes it easy to access your money, has a good app, and provides a variety of products.

Our expert panel for this guide

We consulted banking and financial planning experts to inform these picks and provide their advice on finding the best national banks for your needs. You can read their insights at the bottom of this post.

PFI Banking Expert Panel (updated 2021)



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We’re focusing on what will make a national bank most useful, including customer service, fees, rates, and more.

Branch and ATM locations: TD Bank has over 1,200 branch locations across 16 states, and there are roughly 1,900 ATMs.

Why it stands out: Many branch locations are open seven days per week, which is great if you struggle to make it to the bank during the workday. TD Bank also ranked fourth in J.D. Power’s 2020 US National Banking Satisfaction Study.

What to look out for: ATM fees. TD Bank’s ATM fees aren’t necessarily higher than other banks’ fees, but its fine print may affect which checking account you choose to open. Just be aware that the TD Bank Beyond Checking Account is the only TD Bank checking account that doesn’t charge a fee when you non-TD Bank ATMs — and in order for TD Bank to reimburse fees charged by out-of-network ATM operators, your balance must be at least $2,500.

Visit the TD Bank website »

Best National Banks locations TD Banks



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Branch and ATM locations: Regions has about 1,500 branch locations in 15 states, and around 2,200 ATMs.

Why it stands out: Regions offers a variety of bank accounts, so you can likely find one that fits your needs. The LifeGreen® Savings account doesn’t charge monthly fees, and it pays an annual cash bonus.

What to look out for: Although Regions has a plethora of locations across the Southeast, there are no branches in Virginia, West Virginia, or Washington DC. People in those areas looking for a national bank could consider alternatives such as Chase, PNC Bank, or BB&T.

Visit the Regions website »

Best National Banks locations Regions Bank



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Branch and ATM locations: US Bank has around 3,000 branch locations in 26 states, and roughly 5,000 ATMs.

Why it stands out: If you want to open a CD with a national bank, US Bank is a solid choice. The bank provides more types of CDs than most big banks, including Step Up CDs that increase your rate every seven months, and Trade Up CDs that increase your rate once during the term if US Bank rates go up.

What to look out for: Monthly fees. Although it’s possible to waive monthly maintenance fees, US Bank makes it a little harder than many competing national banks. There are also currently no branch locations in Michigan. Residents of Michigan might consider national banks such as Chase, Bank of America, or PNC Bank.

Visit the US Bank website »

Best National Banks locations US Bank



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Branch and ATM locations: Bank of America has over 4,200 branch locations in 37 states, and 16,000 ATMs.

Why it stands out: Although Bank of America has fewer branch locations than Wells Fargo, it does have more ATMs — in fact, Bank of America is tied with Chase for the most ATMs by a national brick-and-mortar bank. It also has branches in more states than Chase.

What to look out for: Overdraft fees. You’ll pay a $35 overdraft fee if you overdraw from your checking account, and you can be charged up to four times per day. You can enroll in overdraft protection, but there’s a $12 fee every time you tap into the service.

Visit the Bank of America website »

Best National Banks locations Bank Of America



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Best national bank if you move around: Chase (Member FDIC)

Branch and ATM locations: Chase has over 4,700 branches in 33 states, and around 16,000 ATMs.

Why it stands out: Chase has a large network of branches and ATMs, and it ranks as No. 2 on J.D. Power’s US National Banking Satisfaction Study. Although Wells Fargo has more branches in more states, the Better Business Bureau has not rated Wells Fargo in trustworthiness as its profile is under review — JPMorgan Chase has an A+ in trustworthiness. 

What to look out for: Monthly service fees. Chase has strong

checking accounts
, but some of them charge high monthly fees. You may qualify to waive the fees, but it’s harder with some accounts than others. Chase also doesn’t have branches in some states.

Visit the Chase website »

Best National Banks locations Chase Bank



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Branch and ATM locations: As an online-only bank, Ally doesn’t have any branch locations. Ally doesn’t have its own ATMs, but you can use over 55,000 ATMs in the Allpoint network in the US for free.

Why it stands out: Ally ranks as one of our top high-yield savings accounts. This bank has been a power player in the high-yield savings space for a few years now, and it consistently nabs top awards for online banking. Its mobile app has features many banking apps lack, such as mobile check deposit and an in-network ATM locator. Unlike many

online banks
, Ally has 24/7 customer service over the phone and via online chat.

What to look out for: No branch locations. If you prefer face-to-face banking, an online bank probably isn’t your best fit. Also keep in mind that Ally offers a wide range of CD types, so if you want to open a CD with this bank, be sure to choose the right one for your needs.

Learn more about Ally »

Other national banks we considered, and why they didn’t make the cut

Which banks are the most trustworthy?

The Better Business Bureau grades companies’ trustworthiness based on responses to customer complaints, advertising, and transparency about business practices. Here are the BBB scores for our top national bank picks:

TD Bank, Ally, and Chase are the three that don’t have an A+ from the BBB. The BBB cites recent government actions against TD Bank for its grade, the number of customer complaints for Ally’s grade, and a failure to respond to customer complaints for Chase’s grade.

A strong BBB grade doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a smooth relationship with a bank, though. You might want to speak with friends and families who have banked with an institution, or read online reviews. You may also consider recent scandals.

The US Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection said TD Bank has been breaking the law by charging customers for its Debit Card Advance service without their permission.

US Bank paid the government $200 million in a settlement when accused of approving FHA mortgages for insurance when borrowers didn’t meet the minimum criteria.

The Department of Justice charged Bank of America for unfairly denying home loans to adults with disabilities, even though they qualified for loans. Bank of America paid around $300,000 total to people who were refused loans. The Department of Labor required Bank of America to pay $4.2 million to people who claimed the bank discriminated against women, Black, and Hispanic applicants in the hiring process.

The Department of Justice required Chase to pay $920 million for wrongful trading in 2020. In 2018, JPMorgan Chase & Co. paid the Securities and Exchange Commission $135 million for mishandling American Depositary Receipts, certificates that let Americans invest in foreign stocks.

You may prefer to bank with another one of our top picks if any of these scandals worry you, or to bank with a different institution in your area.

Frequently asked questions

What is a national bank?

Technically, a national bank is a bank chartered by the US government. For the sake of our list, we considered a national bank to be one with an extensive network of bank branches and ATMs, or an online bank that’s available nationwide.

Which is better, a national bank or a smaller bank?

National banks have an edge over smaller banks because they have more locations, and they typically offer more products and have stronger technological resources.

You may prefer a smaller bank if you value personalized customer service, though. Many small banks also charge lower fees than big banks.

Which is better, a brick-and-mortar bank or an online bank?

It depends on your priorities. If you value face-to-face banking, you’ll want a brick-and-mortar bank. Physical banks are also better for anyone who needs to deposit cash regularly; with an online bank, you can usually deposit checks with your phone, but there’s no way to deposit cash.

Online banks are typically better for low fees and higher APYs, though. Because online banks don’t have to pay for physical branch locations, they can afford to charge less and pay more.

What is the No. 1 bank in America?

It’s hard to say, because banking needs vary from person to person. Wells Fargo has the most locations, making it good for access to your money and customer service. Bank of America and Chase aren’t far behind, though, and they have more ATMs than Wells Fargo (although Wells Fargo still has an impressive 13,000 ATMs). 

The experts’ advice on choosing the best national bank for you

To learn more about what makes a good national bank and how to choose the best fit, four experts weighed in:

Here’s what they had to say about finding a bank. (Some text may be lightly edited for clarity.)

How can someone determine whether a bank is the right fit for them?

Mykail James, CFEI:

“The No. 1 thing about a checking account is you should know what provider the debit card is coming from. And a lot of people don’t think about that, because there are places that don’t accept MasterCard or don’t accept an Amex.”

Laura Grace Tarpley, Personal Finance Insider:

“I would look for the bank that charges you the least in fees. This means either no monthly fees, or you qualify to waive the monthly fees. If you never overdraw from your account, then a bank’s overdraft fees won’t matter much to you. But if you occasionally overdraw, then I’d look at the fees or overdraft protection options.”

What should someone look for in a brick-and-mortar bank?

Tania Brown, CFP:

“How can that bank grow with you? If you are 25, single or newly married, and all you need is a checking account, that’s going to look very different 15 years from now when you may have had a couple of jobs, you may have an IRA roll over, or you may want a financial adviser.”

Mykail James, CFEI:

“How accessible it is. So where are the branches? And if I am to go out of town or something, how accessible is my money to me?”

What should someone look for in an online bank?

Tania Brown, CFP:

“With an online bank, absolutely online customer service, because you do not have the advantage of walking inside and talking to a human being. How often are you able to get them? What are their hours?”

Roger Ma, CFP:

“How onerous the transfer process is, transferring money in and transferring money out. Is it same day, next day? Is it pretty easy to sync a brick-and-mortar checking account to this particular high-yield savings account?”

Mykail James, CFEI:

“When it comes to online banks, you want to be a little bit more strict about what type of interest rates they’re providing. That’s the biggest thing, because online banks are supposed to have the higher interest rate because they don’t have the overhead of the brick-and-mortar. You want to make sure that it’s well above the national average. What type of securities do they provide? Do they have two-factor identification? If it’s an online bank, they should definitely have — at the bare minimum — two-factor authentication in how easy it is to change your passwords and things like that, because you want to be a little more hypersensitive about the cyber security for a strictly online bank.”

 

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