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NerdWallet’s Best Banks and Credit Unions on the West Coast

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Choosing the best bank or credit union for you is an important but sometimes difficult decision. Customers need to weigh account fees, convenience and features, as well as harder-to-gauge factors, like customer service.

Those on the West Coast — California, Oregon and Washington — have no shortage of institutions from which to select. To help make the choice easier, we scoped out some of the best banks and credit unions in the region.

Boeing Employees Credit Union

4.0 stars out of 5

BECU
Read full review
on NerdWallet
Boeing Employees Credit Union is one of the biggest of its kind, so it’s no surprise that it’s able to offer strong accounts and tools. Despite what the name suggests, you don’t need to be a Boeing employee to join the credit union. Membership requirements include:

  • Living, working, attending school or belonging to a religious organization in Washington.
  • Working for Boeing or having a relative who works for Boeing or one of its subsidiaries.
  • Owning a business in Washington.
  • Being related, including via adoption, marriage or domestic partnership, to someone eligible for membership.

BECU deposit accounts are free, including online and mobile banking. Checking accounts have no minimum balance requirement, but to open one you’ll also need to get a Member Share savings, Member Advantage savings or Early Saver account. With a Member Advantage savings or checking account, you’ll earn more than 4% annual percentage yield on balances up to $500. After that, rates drop to barely above zero.

BECU is part of the Co-Op Network of shared branches, which includes over 5,000 locations across the country. You can do almost anything at a Co-Op location that you can do at a BECU branch, including making deposits, withdrawals and loan payments. You also can access your accounts via the more than 30,000 ATMs in the network, or through online or mobile banking services offered by BECU.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best credit unions

Chase

3.5 stars out of 5

Chase
Learn more
at Chase Bank
Of all national banks, Chase has some of the best checking options. Chase Total Checking is its most basic account. You can avoid its $12 monthly fee by receiving direct deposits of at least $500 a month, maintaining a minimum daily balance of $1,500, or having a total of $5,000 across linked Chase accounts.

Like its premium, interest-bearing checking options, Chase’s savings accounts and certificates of deposit have low APYs. If you’re looking for maximum growth for your savings, you’ll be better served elsewhere, like at an online bank or credit union.

Chase has over 1,300 branches on the West Coast, along with 16,000 ATMs scattered around the country. Even if you aren’t near a branch, you’ll be able to turn to Chase’s mobile app to do things like pay bills and upload and deposit checks.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best national banks

First Tech Federal Credit Union

4.0 stars out of 5

First Tech Federal Credit Union
Read full review
on NerdWallet
First Tech is a good credit union overall, but its best feature is its Dividends Rewards account. Members can earn an APY of 1.58% on up to $10,000 if they use their First Tech debit card for a minimum of 12 purchases a month, set up direct deposit and accept electronic statements.

While the rates on First Tech’s savings accounts are relatively low, APYs on its share certificates are strong, topping out at 1.75%. That’s more than twice what most banks pay.

Because First Tech participates in shared branching, members have access to over 5,000 branches and about 30,000 free ATMs around the country. The credit union also has about 40 branches of its own.

Becoming a member is easy. You’ll get in the door if you live or work in Lane County, Oregon; work for the state of Oregon or for a “high-tech or telecom sponsor company” like Google, Intel or Cisco; or are related to a current First Tech member. You can also become a member by paying a one-time fee of $8 to join the Financial Fitness Association.

Umpqua Bank

Not rated.

Umpqua Bank
Learn more
at Umpqua Bank
Umpqua Bank offers three checking accounts: Embark, Achieve and Attain. Each offers the following features:

  • Online and mobile banking
  • Mobile check deposit
  • ATM fee rebates of at least $10 per month

You can open Umpqua’s most basic checking account, Embark, with as little as $25. It charges no monthly fee if you opt for online statements rather than paper ones. You’ll get monthly ATM-owner fee reimbursements of up to $10 if you keep your balance above $2,500.

Umpqua also offers several savings vehicles, including certificates of deposit, a health savings account and two money market accounts.

You can open a Grow Savings account for just $25 and set up automatic transfers from your checking account to build an emergency fund with minimal effort. Grow accounts have a $3 monthly service fee, but Umpqua waives that charge if you make regular monthly transfers from an Umpqua deposit account or keep your balance at or above $200. Account holders who are 18 and under and 55 and over don’t owe monthly fees.

Umpqua has around 100 branches in each of the three states surveyed, making it a great option for West Coast customers looking for a community bank.

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ksheehy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy. NerdWallet writer Tony Armstrong contributed to this report.

Verified Jan. 12, 2017.


METHODOLOGY

For this review, the West Coast was defined as California, Oregon and Washington. Institutions surveyed included the 15 largest banks and five largest credit unions based in the region, by deposits. Institutions from that list without a significant retail presence were excluded.

Also included were financial institutions from among the nation’s 10 largest retail banks that are based outside the region but have a significant branch presence in the three states, as well as those that we have given star ratings. All data compared came from company reports compiled by federal regulators.

The financial institutions surveyed: Bank of America, Bank of the WestBoeing Employees Credit Union, California Bank & Trust, Cathay Bank, Citibank, City National Bank, East West Bank, First Republic Bank, First Technology Federal Credit Union, Golden 1 Credit Union, JPMorgan Chase Bank, OneWest Bank, Pacific Western Bank, Rabobank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Silicon Valley Bank, Star One Credit Union, Umpqua Bank, Union Bank, U.S. Bank, Washington Federal and Wells Fargo 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