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Best Banks and Credit Unions in California 2018

June 4, 2018
best-banks
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We scoped out some of the best banks and credit unions in California.

Choosing a place to bank means finding the best combination of low account fees, convenience and features, as well as harder-to-measure factors such as customer service. California has no shortage of alternatives. We included online options with top interest rates to help you make the best choice.

Great choices in California

Alliant Credit Union

Overall bank rating:

Capital One 360

Overall bank rating:
Chase

at Chase,

Member, FDIC

Chase Bank

Overall bank rating:
Golden 1 Credit Union

at Golden 1 Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Golden 1

Overall bank rating:

Alliant Credit Union

NerdWallet has rated this credit union:

Alliant has branches in only four states, plus D.C., but its membership requirements are inclusive. You can apply after making a one-time, $10 donation to a nonprofit supporting foster children. And five of Alliant’s branches are in California, making it a solid bet for Golden State residents, especially those in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Alliant has a free checking account, but if you’re willing to meet a couple of qualifications, you can sign up for High-Rate Checking and earn 0.65% APY. Neither account has a minimum balance requirement or a monthly service fee, and both come with access to more than 80,000 free ATMs. Alliant also offers a savings account that pays 1.5% APY, and the credit union will reimburse you for the $5 minimum deposit. (See more details in our Alliant review.)

» Compare rates and features on our list of the best credit unions

Capital One 360

NerdWallet has rated this bank:

Capital One 360 is an online bank affiliated with Capital One. Capital One’s branches are farther east, but California customers can do their banking online and at five cafes in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.

360 Checking is a free account that pays 0.2% APY on balances of less than $50,000 and also has multiple free overdraft management options. 360 Savings doesn’t charge monthly fees, either, and you can earn a healthy 1% APY on all balances. Its CD rates are even better — five-year certificates earn 2.8% APY, and unlike many banks, there’s no minimum deposit to open one. (Read more at our Capital One 360 review.)

» See other banks with stellar checking options on our roundup of best checking accounts

Chase

NerdWallet has rated this bank:

Chase

at Chase,

Member, FDIC

Of all national banks, Chase has some of the best checking options. Chase Total Checking is its most basic account, with a monthly fee that you can get waived in several ways, such as maintaining a certain minimum daily balance or receiving direct deposits. Like its premium, interest-bearing checking options, Chase’s savings accounts and certificates of deposit have low annual percentage yields. If you’re looking for maximum growth, you’ll be better served elsewhere, such as at an online bank or credit union.

Chase has almost 1,000 branches in California, along with thousands of ATMs scattered around the country. Even if you aren’t near a branch, you can turn to Chase’s mobile app to do things like pay bills, send money to people and upload and deposit checks. (For more details, see our Chase review.)

Golden 1 Credit Union

NerdWallet has rated this credit union:

Golden 1 Credit Union

at Golden 1 Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

The California-based credit union has solid checking and savings offerings, especially for teens and college students. It offers four checking accounts with no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements. The premium checking account is the only one that earns dividends — credit unions’ version of interest — but you need to maintain a minimum balance of $1,000. The account has a monthly fee, which you can get waived in a couple of ways, including keeping that $1,000 balance or receiving direct deposits.

No regular savings accounts have monthly fees, but in some cases, there’s a $100 minimum to earn dividends. The rates for both savings and savings certificates beat those of the biggest banks, but they lag behind online banks’ yields.

» Interested in top savings options? See our list of the best high-yield accounts

Golden 1 has its own ATMs and is part of the Co-op network, giving free access to thousands of ATMs, but the credit union’s branches are only in California. Anyone who lives and works in the state qualifies for membership. (Read more about Golden One in our review.)

Could you do better by going online?

Compare these financial institutions to three top online banks. You won’t have a branch close at hand, but you’ll still have many ways to reach customer service — and you’ll typically receive higher APYs.

 



 





APY

1.70%





Monthly fees

$0





Bonus Features

Excellent CD options



APY

1.75%





Monthly fees

$0





Bonus Features

Large ATM network



APY

1.65%





Monthly fees

$0





Bonus Features

Solid CD options



See more high-yield savings accounts

Updated May 4, 2018


METHODOLOGY

For this review, we only considered institutions with a retail presence in California, taken from the same list in our standard methodology:

We took a close look at 70 financial institutions, including the largest U.S. banks based on assets, debit card volume, Internet search traffic and other factors; the nation’s largest credit unions, based on deposits as well as broad-based membership requirements; and other notable and/or emerging players in the industry. We rated them on criteria including annual percentage rates, minimum balances, fees, digital experience and more.

Financial institutions surveyed include: Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, America First Credit Union, American Express, Aspiration, Associated Bank, Bank5 Connect, BankDirect, Bank of America, Bank of Internet, Bank of the West, Barclays, BB&T, BBVA Compass, Boeing Employees Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One 360, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, Chime, CIT, Citibank, Citizens Bank, Comerica Bank, Commerce Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Consumers Credit Union, Discover Bank, TIAA Bank, Fidelity, Fifth Third Bank, First Citizens Bank, First National Bank, First Tech Federal Credit Union, GoBank, Golden 1 Credit Union, GS Bank, HSBC Bank USA, Huntington Bank, KeyBank, M&T Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, PurePoint Financial, Qapital, Radius Bank, Regions Bank, Santander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Simple, Star One Credit Union, State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina, State Farm Bank, Suncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony Bank, TCF Bank, TD Bank, Union Bank, UFB Direct, USAA, U.S. Bank, Varo, Wells Fargo, Woodforest National Bank, and Zions Bank.

How we rate banks and credit unions