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NerdWallet’s Best Banks and Credit Unions in the Mountain West

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NerdWallet’s Best Banks and Credit Unions in the Mountain West

The Mountain West is home to some of America’s fastest-growing cities, and its financial institutions are keeping up. A few of the country’s large national banks are well-represented in the area, and several regional institutions are giving them a real run for their money. Here are three banks and credit unions that stand out from the crowd.

America First Credit Union

4.0 stars out of 5

America First Federal Credit Union
Read full review
on NerdWallet
America First Credit Union is a full-service financial institution that offers an impressive lineup of checking and savings accounts; certificate accounts, including deposit, individual retirement and education savings; and loans. Unlike many bigger competitors, it doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees on its checking accounts. Becoming a member will be easiest for residents of certain pockets of Arizona, Nevada and Utah, although there are other ways to join, like working for an affiliated employer or being related to or living in the same household as a member. Because America First belongs to the CO-OP ATM network, members have access to about 30,000 free cash machines.

Customers will probably gravitate toward America First’s regular checking account. The account doesn’t carry a minimum balance requirement, and it features unlimited transactions, a free debit card and access to the credit union’s online banking tools.

Certificate accounts have competitive annual percentage yields and require an initial deposit of only $500. Whether it’s your spending money or your savings that needs a new home, consider giving this credit union a closer look.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best credit unions

Chase

3.5 stars out of 5

Chase
Learn more
at Chase Bank
Chase’s basic checking account, Chase Total Checking, is one of the bank’s best features, and not only because it comes with access to 16,000 ATMs. For instance, there are several ways to avoid the $12 monthly fee:  Receive direct deposits of at least $500 a month, keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or have a total of $5,000 across linked Chase accounts.

Customers can choose from a couple of premium, interest-bearing checking accounts, but they carry steep fees, and the accompanying low rates don’t justify these additional costs. Chase’s savings options and certificates of deposit also have low APYs.

Chase has many branches scattered across the Mountain West. If you can’t get to one, its mobile app lets you take care of tasks like paying bills and uploading and depositing checks while you’re at home or on the road.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best national banks

Ent Federal Credit Union

Not rated.

Ent Federal Credit Union
Learn more
at Ent FCU
Ent Federal Credit Union primarily serves central Colorado and offers a mix of basic products, like its free checking account, and slightly more advanced options, like the ValuePLUS checking account, which earns interest and comes with four free non-network ATM transactions per month. The credit union participates in shared branching, so members have access to thousands of free CO-OP ATMs and branches.

Ent also offers a respectable array of certificates, with terms ranging from three months to seven years. Some can be opened with as little as $25. Though not as high as the APYs found at other credit unions, they are significantly better than those offered by most big banks.

Ent has an easy-to-use website and mobile app for taking care of banking needs when you’re away from home. If you’re looking for quality customer service and strong rates, add this credit union to your list of contenders.

Compare options to find the best fit

Many financial institutions, including those on our list, offer a wide range of products. The key is figuring out which type of account or service you’re looking for before putting each provider under the microscope. This can go a long way in helping you lock in the best deal.

Tony Armstrong is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: tony@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @tonystrongarm.

Verified Jan. 11, 2017.


METHODOLOGY

Of the 50 largest U.S. financial institutions ranked by assets, six are based in the Mountain West, which for this report includes Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. The institutions without a significant retail banking presence — 10 branches or fewer — were eliminated from consideration.

Additionally, out of the 15 largest U.S. financial institutions based outside the region, those with a significant branch presence in the Mountain West were added. Also considered were the three largest credit unions, ranked by assets, based in the Mountain West.

The final three financial institutions selected here were drawn from that list based on comparisons of various features. The financial institutions surveyed included America First Credit Union, Ent Federal Credit Union, JPMorgan Chase, Mountain America Federal Credit Union, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Zions First National Bank.

NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of each category: checking, savings, CDs, customer experience and overdraft fees. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing tech and customer service. Several Nerds contribute to each financial institution’s ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.

What the ratings mean:
5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best
4.5 stars out of 5 — Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
4 stars out of 5 — Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
3.5 stars out of 5 — Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
3 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution
2.5 stars out of 5 (or below) — Best to avoid