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NerdWallet’s Best Banks and Credit Unions in the Northeast

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NerdWallet’s Best Banks and Credit Unions in the Northeast

The Northeast is one of the country’s most densely populated regions. It’s also home to several of the nation’s largest cities, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the largest financial institutions are well-represented and some are headquartered there.

The region bristles with bank and credit union branches. But which offer the strongest services? Here’s a look at four that stand out.

Chase

3.5 stars out of 5

Chase
Learn more
at Chase Bank
Chase offers a wide variety of checking accounts, including a special option for students. The bank charges a $12 monthly fee on its basic account, Chase Total Checking, but it’s fairly easy to avoid by receiving direct deposits of at least $500 per month, maintaining a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or having a total of $5,000 across linked Chase accounts.

The premium, interest-bearing checking accounts come with steep fees that are hard to avoid, and the rates don’t justify the costs. Chase Premier Plus, for example, has an annual percentage yield of just 0.01% (note that rates are effective 12/5/2016 and are variable and subject to change). Chase’s savings options and certificates of deposit also pay low APYs.

The good news is that Chase has many branches — about 1,000 in the Northeast alone — as well as 16,000 ATMs around the country. And its mobile app lets customers pay bills and deposit checks.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best national banks

Citibank

3.5 stars out of 5

Citibank
Read full review
on NerdWallet
Citibank has multiple checking account options. Monthly fees on its most basic account are fairly easy to avoid, by receiving one direct deposit and scheduling one bill payment per month, or by maintaining at least $1,500 in combined average balances between checking and a linked Citibank Savings Plus account.

Like other large banks, Citibank has low savings rates, which means your deposits won’t experience much growth.

The bank’s online and mobile tools let customers link Citi accounts to get a clear overview of their spending habits. Citibank has roughly 250 Northeastern branches, most of which are in New York, and 34,000 free cash machines.

Digital Federal Credit Union

Not rated.

In addition to banks, we evaluated several of the Northeast’s largest credit unions based on total assets. Of these, Digital Federal Credit Union distinguishes itself with a wide range of products and excellent savings certificate options, which come with APYs as high as 1.86%. As the name suggests, its Free Checking Account doesn’t have any minimum balance requirements or monthly fees.

The Marlborough, Massachusetts-based nonprofit participates in CO-OP shared branching, meaning members can take care of basic banking tasks at more than 5,000 credit unions throughout the U.S. And thanks to its mobile app and online banking capabilities, members can use their laptops and smartphones to deposit checks and transfer money between accounts.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best credit unions

PNC Bank

3.5 stars out of 5

PNC
Read full review
on NerdWallet
PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet has already attracted quite a bit of attention, and for good reason. This online bank account’s intuitive design makes it easy for users to track their saving and spending habits.

The ‘S’ Is for Savings account has an interactive platform that parents can use to teach children about money and setting financial goals. The Pittsburgh-based bank also has all the other features you’d want from a big bank: standard and premium checking, certificates of deposit and money market accounts. Almost all of PNC’s roughly 700 Northeast branches are in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Compare options to find the best fit

There’s no shortage of banking options, so you’re bound to find one that best serves your specific needs. Comparing products side by side can make selecting a bank or credit union much less daunting.

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

Verified Jan. 9, 2017.


METHODOLOGY

Of the 50 largest U.S. financial institutions ranked by assets, 11 are based in the Northeast, which for this report includes Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. The institutions without a significant retail banking presence — 10 branches or fewer — were eliminated from consideration. The rest were added to the list of financial institutions evaluated here.

Additionally, out of the 15 largest U.S. financial institutions with headquarters outside of the region, those with a significant branch presence in the Northeast were added. Also considered were the six largest credit unions — ranked by assets — based in the Northeast. The four selected here were drawn from that list based on comparisons of various features.

The financial institutions surveyed: Bank of America, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, ChaseCitibank, Citizens Bank, Digital Federal Credit Union, ESL Federal Credit Union, First Niagara Bank, HSBC Bank, Hudson City Savings Bank, M&T Bank, New York Community Bank, Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union, People’s United Bank, PNC Bank, Police & Fire Federal Credit Union, TD Bank, Teachers Federal Credit Union and Wells Fargo.

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