9 Best Socially Responsible Banks

NerdWallet's picks include banks, credit unions and neobanks with third-party certifications and strong ratings.
Apr 4, 2022

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

When you open an account at a socially responsible bank, your dollars support initiatives to make social and environmental good. As with any bank, money from bank accounts helps fund loans to businesses and home buyers.

More broadly, socially responsible banking institutions include banks, credit unions (as the not-for-profit equivalent) and internet-only banking fintech companies called neobanks. All types can prove their eco-friendly or social justice missions through third-party designations. These certifications are among the definitive ways to find a socially responsible bank.

​​» Learn more about these certifications on our guide to ethical banking

Apart from certifications, NerdWallet analyzed socially responsible institutions based on two other factors:

  • Can anyone in the United States be eligible to join them, especially online? We chose institutions that our nationwide readership can consider.

  • How do the banking accounts compare to those at other institutions? We used our traditional methodology to evaluate personal checking, savings and certificates of deposit when available. For more details, skip to the methodology.

Here's our list of nine socially responsible institutions, plus two up-and-comers and regional options.

Aspiration

Aspiration Overall Star Rating
NerdWallet rating 

at Aspiration

Overview: The online brokerage and tech company Aspiration, launched in 2015, provides a spend and save account, credit card and investment funds. Its spending tracker tool considers social and environmental factors for companies where you shop. The firm's Spend & Save account is a hybrid checking and savings account —also known as a cash management account — providing federal deposit insurance through one of several partner banks. (See our review.)

Impact: Aspiration doesn't fund any oil or coal projects and instead focuses on reforestation efforts, which are a type of carbon offset to plant trees that absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There's an option to plant a tree each time you pay with a debit card.

Account: Spend & Save Account.

Certifications:

  • Certified B Corp.

  • 1% for the Planet.

  • Green America Certified.

The Aspiration Spend & Save Accounts are cash management accounts offered through Aspiration Financial, LLC, a registered broker-dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC, and a subsidiary of Aspiration Partners, Inc. (“Aspiration”). Aspiration is not a bank.

The Aspiration Save Account’s up to 5.00% Annual Percentage Yield (“APY”) with up to 83x the national interest rate is variable, subject to change, and only available to customers enrolled in Aspiration Plus after conditions are met. Customers not enrolled in Aspiration Plus receive 3.00% APY after conditions are met.

Pros
  • High savings rate of up to 3% annual percentage yield on the first $10,000 if customers spend at least $1,000 monthly. (Higher rate is available with an upgraded account.)

  • Cash back on certain debit card purchases.

  • No mandatory monthly fee; there's an option to "pay what is fair."

  • Free nationwide ATM network.

Cons
  • $6 to $8 monthly fee to upgrade account for higher APY, more cash back and an option to have trees planted to offset gas purchases.

  • No cash deposit option.

Amalgamated Bank

Amalgamated Bank Overall Star Rating
NerdWallet rating 
Read review

Overview: Established in 1923 as a bank for a clothing workers' union, Amalgamated Bank has stuck to its roots of working with more than 1,000 unions, such as those for teachers and firefighters, among other organizations. The New York-based bank offers nationally available online checking and savings accounts with ways to support causes you may care about.

Impact: In addition to maintaining rigorous certifications, the bank has committed to a measurable target for reducing its carbon emissions by 2030 without relying on offsets (such as planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide). The plan was approved by the Science Based Targets initiative, an international group that helps private sector companies set emissions reduction goals. The Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index gave the bank a top score reflecting its LGBTQ+ employee-friendly corporate practices and policies. It also has a pledge that none of its money goes to companies in the fossil fuel industry.

Accounts: Give-Back Checking and Give-Back Savings.

Certifications:

  • Certified B Corporation.

  • Member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

  • Green America Certified.

Pros
  • Interest-earning checking and savings accounts have no monthly fees.

  • Give-Bank Checking and Give-Back Savings accounts offer ways to financially support one of five causes, including the Color of Change, an internet-based racial justice organization.

  • Free nationwide ATM network.

Cons
  • Mobile app ratings are below average.

  • An overdraft fee of $34 per item, up to five per day.

Ando

NerdWallet rating 

Overview: Launched in January 2021, Ando is an environmentally conscious mobile banking app and website that partners with Community Federal Savings Bank to offer its accounts. This neobank has a checking account equivalent and a savings account. In addition, it provides tools that show how customer money gets allocated to different eco-friendly efforts, including clean energy and sustainable transportation initiatives.

Impact: To live out its values and certifications, Ando invests 100% of customer deposits into companies committed to stabilizing and saving the environment from unsustainable changes to the global climate. Two examples include sustainable energy company Skyview Ventures, which invests in solar projects, and a funding project with VCC Bank, another B Corp company, to help install a solar energy system in a Virginia veterinary clinic.

Accounts: Spending Account and optional Savings Account.

Certifications:

  • Certified B Corp.

  • Fossil Free Certified.

Pros
  • 1.5% cash back on debit card purchases.

  • No monthly fees.

  • Free nationwide ATM network.

  • Free overdraft coverage for purchases of up to $200.

Cons
  • Low savings rate if you don't make five debit card purchases and have at least $500 in direct deposits per month. If you complete those two requirements, the rate ranges from 1% to 5% APY, depending on whether you invite up to five friends to Ando and they also become active users.

  • No joint accounts.

City First Bank, National Association

NerdWallet rating 

Overview: City First Bank is the largest Black-led bank in the U.S. due to two banks merging in 2021: City First Bank (based in Washington, D.C.) and Broadway Federal Savings and Loan (based in Los Angeles). Both banks, founded in 1999 and 1947 respectively, were established to create more access to capital for historically underserved communities.

Impact: City First focuses its lending on economic development in low- and moderate-income communities in and around Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. More than 70% of loans, on average, go to these communities. It also maintains an environmental focus, as reflected in its status as a Certified B Corp and Global Alliance member.

Accounts: City First regular personal checking account, City First regular savings account, City First CDs.

Certifications:

  • Certified B Corp.

  • Member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

  • Certified Community Development Financial Institution.

  • Minority depository institution (Black-led bank).

Pros
  • Easy to waive the $7 monthly fee on checking by having electronic statements or at least $100 monthly average balance.

  • 24/7 customer support by phone.

  • Free nationwide ATM network.

Cons
  • Low savings rate that's close to the national average of 0.08% APY.

  • Few reviews for its mobile apps.

  • $25 overdraft fee for each transaction; $5 charged if a balance is negative for five days.

Clean Energy Credit Union

NerdWallet rating 

Overview: As its name suggests, this credit union focuses on the clean energy movement in its partnerships and loan offerings. Launched in 2018, the credit union doesn't have its own branches but is part of shared ATM and branch networks with other credit unions. It has a cash back checking account, high-yield CDs and a savings account required upon joining with at least a $5 balance. Membership eligibility includes anyone in the U.S. who agrees to become a member of the national nonprofit Solar United Neighbors (at no cost) as part of the credit union application process, among other options.

Impact: Members can get loans for electric vehicles, solar electric systems and geothermal heat pump systems, among other energy initiatives. As Fossil Free Certified, the credit union doesn't fund fossil fuel projects.

Accounts: Checking account, savings account, CDs.

Certifications:

  • Green America Certified.

  • Fossil Free Certified.

  • 1% for the Planet.

Pros
  • 1% cash back on checking if you fulfill two of four requirements, such as making at least 10 debit card transactions monthly and receiving at least $1,000 in direct deposits per month.

  • No monthly fees, no overdraft fees.

  • Competitive CD rates.

  • Part of shared network of branches and ATMs with other credit unions.

Cons
  • Low savings rate.

  • Few reviews on mobile apps.

Decorah Bank & Trust Company

NerdWallet rating 

Overview: Chartered in 1935 in Decorah, Iowa, this community bank has prioritized clean energy for its business and carbon footprint since the early 2000s. It has three branches in Iowa and roughly 3,100 ATMs, but the bank has a strong web presence, including mobile apps and a live chat function for customers. The bank has three checking accounts, four savings accounts, several CDs, and various loans.

Impact: In 2019, Decorah Bank achieved a carbon-neutral footprint in part thanks to its investment in solar energy. The family- and employee-owned bank also offers renewable energy loans and is part of an international network of like-minded socially conscious banks.

Accounts: Simply Checking, Savings, CDs.

Certification:

  • Member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

Pros
  • No monthly fee on Simply Checking.

  • Easy to waive $3 monthly fee on savings by having a balance of at least $100.

  • High ratings on mobile apps.

Cons
  • Few branches, mostly for Iowa customers, and a relatively small network of ATMs.

  • $30 fee per overdraft; $7 fee per overdraft-related transfer from savings to checking accounts.

  • Monthly requirements for Interest Checking are extensive: Direct deposit, electronic statements and 10 debit card transactions are required.

Greenpenny

NerdWallet rating 

Overview: In mid-2020, Decorah Bank rolled out its digital-only bank division called Greenpenny. The bank frames its mission as "a form of crowdfunding for the advancement of clean and renewable energy," according to its website. The online bank offers interest-earning checking and savings accounts, solar loans, mortgages and more.

Impact: Its parent bank is part of the Global Alliance, giving Greenpenny the same access to an international network of sustainable banks. As examples of its mission, Greenpenny has financed solar solutions for a school and farmers in Iowa, underwriting a type of loan that can be complex. The Greenpenny website also features a carbon footprint calculator.

Accounts: Free Checking, Greenpenny Savings, CDs.

Certifications:

  • Parent bank is a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

  • 1% for the Planet.

Pros
  • No monthly fees or out-of-network ATM fees on checking or savings.

  • Solid rates on its savings accounts and CDs.

  • Digital budgeting tools, including an automatic savings program where each debit card transaction gets rounded up and the difference goes into savings.

Cons
  • No weekend or late weekday hours for customer support by phone.

  • $30 fee per overdraft; $7 fee per overdraft-related transfer from savings to checking accounts.

Lead Bank

NerdWallet rating 

Overview: Founded in 1928 as a bank for local farms and families, Lead Bank has expanded its reach over time to help more communities in Missouri. The bank has two locations in the state — Kansas City and Lee's Summit — and offers a solid digital experience for its national customers, including a live chat function. In addition, it has a straightforward lineup of checking and savings accounts and CDs.

Impact: Lead Bank focuses its impact on three areas: women and children in crisis, economic inclusion, and arts and culture in Kansas City and Lee's Summit. The bank partners with local organizations through volunteering, donations and sitting on their leadership boards. In addition to its membership in the Global Alliance, Lead Bank was recognized as the Small Business of the Year by Kansas City's Chamber of Commerce in 2018 for its dedication to supporting the community.

Accounts: Lead On Checking, Lead On Savings, CDs.

Certification:

  • Member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

Pros
  • No monthly fees or minimum monthly balances on basic checking and savings.

  • Has live chat and well-rated mobile apps.

  • Free nationwide ATM network.

Cons
  • Low rates on savings and CDs; the Lead On Savings rate is close to the national average rate of 0.08%.

  • $30 fee per overdraft; $10 fee per overdraft-related transfer from savings to checking.

  • Website doesn't disclose rates or overdraft fees.

Self-Help Credit Union

NerdWallet rating 

Overview: Started in 1980 to help rural North Carolina residents own the mills they worked, Self-Help Credit Union has since expanded into a network of Self-Help organizations. Self-Help serves communities primarily in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Virginia with more than 30 branches and 90,000 members. (Its sister credit union Self-Help Federal Credit Union, focuses on California, Illinois, Washington and Wisconsin.) Anyone in the U.S. can be eligible for membership by paying a one-time $5 fee and joining the nonprofit Center for Community Self-Help, the umbrella organization for all Self-Help entities.

Impact: Self-Help assists low-income communities disproportionately affected by pollution and natural disasters. In addition to not investing in fossil fuel extraction or production, the credit union has invested $409 million in projects that have helped create positive environmental impacts since 1989. Its lending as a CDFI includes supporting green jobs.

Accounts: Checking, savings, term certificates (its name for CDs).

Certifications:

  • Certified Community Development Financial Institution.

  • Member of Inclusiv as a Community Development Credit Union.

  • Green America Certified.

  • Fossil Free Certified.

  • Multiracial-owned credit union.

Pros
  • Part of fee-free nationwide ATM and shared branch networks with other credit unions. Self-Help also offers up to six free ATM withdrawals monthly.

  • Easy to waive the $5 monthly fee on checking with one of the following: direct deposit, a $2,500 balance, being younger than 25 or older than 64.

  • No overdraft fees.

  • Competitive rates on term certificates.

Cons
  • No weekend or late weekday hours for customer support by phone.

  • Mixed ratings on mobile apps.

Up and coming

These institutions are the two newest we considered with promise as they build:

  • Atmos Financial: Launched in September 2021, this climate-focused neobank focuses on financing clean energy projects with customer deposits. It measures the carbon impact of a customer's deposits and provides cashback checking and high-yield savings accounts. Its B Corp status is pending, and it is Fossil Free Certified.

  • Climate First Bank: Started in June 2021, this St. Petersburg, Florida-based bank provides checking, savings and clean energy loans for solar panel loans and electric cars. Its B Corp status is pending, and it is Fossil Free Certified and part of 1% for the Planet, among other associations.

More regional institutions

With designations like those above, these socially responsible banking institutions primarily focus on specific geographic areas and don't generally have a nationwide option for eligibility or field of membership. However, if any are in your state, they're worth a look:

  • Beneficial State Bank (CA, OR, WA).

  • Brattleboro Savings & Loan (VT).

  • Clearwater Credit Union (MT).

  • Civic Federal Credit Union (NC).

  • Hope Credit Union (AL, AK, LA, MS, TN).*

  • Southern Bancorp (AR).

  • Spring Bank (NY).

  • Verity Credit Union (WA).

  • VSECU (Vermont State Employees Credit Union) (VT).

See our full list of socially responsible banks.

*Hope Credit Union has a limited national offering for savers who want to provide mission-based deposits to support the credit union.

Methodology

We looked closely at 28 U.S. banks, credit unions, and fintech banking companies with third-party certifications that confirm their commitments to creating positive social and environmental impact. We considered several factors: 1. Certification that considers social and environmental factors. 2. Customer or member eligibility nationwide. 3. Overall account and banking experience.

The financial institutions considered include: Amalgamated Bank; Ando; Androscoggin Bank; Aspiration; Atmos Financial; Beneficial State Bank; Brattleboro Savings & Loan; City First Bank, N.A.; Civic Federal Credit Union; Clean Energy Credit Union; Clearwater Credit Union; Climate First Bank; Decorah Bank & Trust Company; Greenpenny (a division of Decorah Bank & Trust Company); Hope Credit Union; Lead Bank; Lower East Side People's Credit Union; Mascoma Bank; National Cooperative Bank; Piscataqua Savings Bank; Self-Help Credit Union; Self-Help Federal Credit Union; Southern Bancorp, Inc.; Spring Bank; Sunrise Banks; Verity Credit Union; VSECU (Vermont State Employees Credit Union); and VCC Bank (a subsidiary of Virginia Community Capital).

Expand for all methodology details

1. Certification.

The values-based certifications or networks considered include the following:

Certified B Corps, membership in the Global Alliance of Banking on Values, Fossil Free Certified, Green America Certified, 1% for the Planet, Certified Community Development Financial Institution, membership in Inclusiv as a Community Development Credit Union.

We prioritized institutions with at least one of the two most rigorous seals: B Corp and GABV membership. In some cases, the combination of other environmental- and community-based certifications was notable for inclusion.

2. Nationwide eligibility, including online-only banks.

Next, we considered institutions with a primarily nationwide field of membership or customer base. This provides a way to compare options available to most U.S. residents. Given that more geographically limited banks are valuable contributors to their communities and readers may want an institution near them, we included a secondary list.

3. Overall account and banking experience.

Not only do the best socially responsible banking institutions generally have to pass rigorous certification processes, but they also have strong offerings across their checking and savings accounts. The star rating for each institution is the overall star rating on a scale from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). See our methodology for how accounts and banking experience are rated.

Exclusions: Banks that are among the top 60 global financial institutions involved in funding fossil fuel projects were not considered, including smaller bank divisions owned by these banks. The top 60 list is included in a 2021 report by the environmental nonprofits Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club, among others.

Limits: We focused on personal checking, savings and certificates of deposit, when available, at each institution and an institution's overall star rating reflects these types of accounts. Business and nonprofit accounts were not considered. See our full methodology for how we assess scoring.

Additional note: Scientists are still debating the role that carbon offsets, such as reforestation, should play in reducing carbon emissions. These initiatives seek to meet goals outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement; however, experts have concerns about global forestry space limitations among other issues.

On a similar note...
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.