Online-only banks and credit unions tend to offer better rates and charge lower fees, but consumers looking for in-person customer service that’s available across the country will probably be best served by a national bank.
Along with thousands of branches and extensive ATM networks, the best national banks typically offer strong digital tools and a wide selection of checking and savings accounts.
Here’s a look at some of our favorite national banks.
Best checking account options
Getting into one of its interest-bearing accounts without paying a fee will require you to keep a lot more money in the account, or have a mortgage or investments through Chase. And even then, rates are low; basic savings is 0.1% APY, and Chase Plus Savings℠ tops out at 0.8% (effective 6/16/17; rates are variable and subject to change). That’s often the case with big national banks that have a lot of overhead and branches to maintain.
And Chase has a lot of branches — about 5,100 across roughly 25 states — and 16,000 ATMs. Chase’s mobile app lets you perform a wide range of daily banking tasks such as making transfers, paying bills and uploading and depositing checks. Many people prefer a national bank because it’s convenient, and Chase fits the bill.
Best branch access
Wells FargoWells Fargo recently reached a $185 million settlement after it was found that its employees had opened millions of fake consumer accounts to meet sales targets and earn bonuses. But this embattled bank has a wider reach than any of the other financial institutions in our survey, with some 6,000 branches across about 40 states and 13,000 ATMs.
It’s also relatively easy to get monthly fees waived on the bank’s basic accounts. Using a debit card at least 10 times per month will do the trick for Everyday Checking customers. If using cash is more your style, keep at least $1,500 in your account at all times or receive monthly direct deposits totaling at least $500.
Best CD rates
U.S. BankU.S. Bank is challenging the notion that customers won’t find solid CD rates at national banks. Annual percentage yields vary by state, but a few of the bank’s special 59-month CDs have rates as high as 1.50%, which isn’t much lower than the best offerings at online banks. Be aware that these CDs require a minimum deposit of $1,000, and rates may change over time.
U.S. Bank has roughly 3,000 branches in about 25 states, with an especially strong presence in the Midwest and on the West Coast.
Best budgeting tool
PNC BankPNC Bank‘s Virtual Wallet has slick, easy-to-follow graphics that help customers track their spending and saving habits. The tool actually controls a separate account, which lets you divide your cash into three categories: spend, reserve and growth. The spend category works much like a normal checking account and comes with a debit card. The money in the reserve category can be used for short-term savings and provides free overdraft protection for the spend category. Users can place savings for larger expenses in the growth category, which earns a rate of just 0.01% to start.
PNC’s rates are largely unimpressive, but customers can dodge the $7 monthly maintenance fee on checking accounts by keeping a combined $500 in the spend and reserve categories or having at least $500 directly deposited to the spend category every month; those in the Virtual Wallet Student program are also exempt from the fee. PNC has over 2,600 branches in about 20 states, but its West Coast presence is limited.
Best fraud prevention system
Bank of AmericaBank of America appears to be doing the best job, at least according to Javelin Strategy & Research, a financial services consulting firm. It has named Bank of America the best overall provider of protection against identity fraud for nine straight years.
Bank of America has nearly 5,000 branches in about 35 states.
Verified Feb. 2, 2017.
The U.S. national banks surveyed were selected from the 15 largest ranked by assets. Banks without a significant retail banking presence were eliminated. The remaining list was then narrowed down to those that had at least 1,000 branch offices in at least 15 states. These banks’ various accounts, services and tools were then compared.
The financial institutions surveyed: Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, BB&T, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Fifth Third Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC Bank, PNC Bank, State Street, SunTrust Bank, TD Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.