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5 Best National Banks of 2019

Feb. 15, 2019
Banking, Banks & Credit Unions, Checking Accounts, Savings Accounts
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The best national banks are available across the country and offer extensive ATM networks as well as features like sign-up bonuses and strong interest rates. Some have brick-and-mortar locations, and others are available only online.

6 largest national banks

If you’re most interested in being able to visit a bank branch, you might want to explore the largest national banks instead. Here are the top six in the U.S., based on their assets, that also have at least 1,000 branches across 15 or more states. You can read more about each in our reviews.

Click on each bank’s name to read NerdWallet’s review.

  1. Chase: Great sign-up bonuses; nearly 5,000 branches and 16,000 ATMs.
  2. Bank of America: Polished online experience; about 4,400 branches and 16,300 ATMs.
  3. Wells Fargo: Easy-to-waive monthly fees on checking; about 5,700 branches and 13,000 ATMs.
  4. U.S. Bank: Solid promotional CD rates; about 3,000 branches and 4,800 ATMs.
  5. PNC Bank: Online account options and tools; about 2,600 branches and 9,000 ATMs.
  6. TD Bank: Long branch hours; about 1,300 branches and 1,900 ATMs.


» If you’re interested in the best banks and credit unions overall
, check out NerdWallet’s 2019 picks

Brick-and-mortar banks
Chase Bank
Chase

at Chase,

Member, FDIC

3.5 NerdWallet rating
  • $200 sign-up bonus for new checking accounts and $150 for new savings (both expire 10/14/19)
  • Nearly 5,000 branches in about 30 states and D.C.
  • What else we like about it
Bank of America
3.5 NerdWallet rating
  • In-app virtual financial assistant Erica can help with banking tasks
  • About 4,400 branches in about 40 states and D.C.
  • What else we like about it
Online banks
Discover Bank
Discover

at Discover,

Member, FDIC

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Ally Bank
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Alliant Credit Union
Alliant Credit Union

at Alliant Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Best National Banks

Chase

Chase

at Chase,

Member, FDIC

Sign-up bonuses set Chase apart from other large banks, and it has locations and ATMs across the U.S. Accounts come with monthly fees that are fairly easy to avoid, but interest is low on checking and savings accounts.

  • Get a bonus: The bank regularly holds promotions for new customers. A new checking account can fetch you an additional $200, and a new savings account gets you $150 (expires 10/14/19).
  • Fees are avoidable: Sidestep monthly charges on checking by using direct deposits, maintaining minimum daily account balances or keeping a certain amount across all Chase accounts.
  • Low rates: APYs are minimal for savings products.
  • Many branches and ATMs: Chase has nearly 5,000 branches across about 30 states, and 16,000 ATMs.

» Interested in sign-up bonuses? See what other banks are offering

Bank of America

Bank of America offers good accessibility and communication channels, but like other large brick-and-mortar banks, interest rates are minimal.

  • Robust branch and ATM coverage: The bank has about 4,300 branches in about 40 states.
  • Easy to reach customer service: Call center hours are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Bank of America’s customer service Twitter handle @BofA_Help is prompt, and chat support is available online to logged-in customers.
  • Low rates: The interest is minimal on checking accounts, savings accounts and certificates of deposit.
  • Fees can be avoided: Fees can be avoided through qualifying activities such as using direct deposit or keeping a minimum balance.

Discover Bank

Discover

at Discover,

Member, FDIC

Discover is an online bank with high yields on savings and certificates of deposit, and a rewards checking account.

  • Strong ATM network: Access to 60,000 fee-free ATMs.
  • Checking comes with rewards: 1% cash back on qualifying debit card purchases, up to $3,000 a month.
  • High rates: APYs on Discover Savings and certificates of deposit are highly competitive.
  • Fee-free: No monthly fees or minimum deposit requirements on checking and savings accounts.

» Find savings account with rates well over 2% on NerdWallet’s list of best savings accounts

Ally Bank

Ally has no physical branches, but fees are low and interest rates are high.

  • Online bank with many ATMs: Ally is an online-only bank, but you can access your cash with a robust nationwide ATM network of over 43,000 locations.
  • No monthly fees: There are no monthly fees on checking and savings accounts.
  • High rates: Interest rates are competitive across savings and certificates of deposit.

Alliant Credit Union

Alliant Credit Union

at Alliant Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Alliant offers nationwide accessibility, highly competitive interest rates and no monthly fees across deposit accounts.

  • Online credit union with many ATMs: Easy to join and accessible mostly online, Alliant boasts an ATM network of over 80,000.
  • High rates: APYs on deposit accounts are competitive with other online banks.
  • Easy-to-avoid fees, no minimum balances: Monthly fees can be easily dodged, and there is no minimum balance requirement on checking accounts.

Best national banks of 2019

Financial institutionInterest rate on savingsMinimum deposit to open savings
Discover Bank1.90%$0
Ally Bank1.90%$0
Alliant Credit Union1.90%$0
Chase Bank0.01% (Rate effective as of 6/14/19. Interest rates are variable and subject to change.)$25
Bank of America0.03%$100

» Wondering if better options are available at smaller banks, online banks or credit unions? See NerdWallet’s best banks and credit unions for the top accounts overall.

Keep in mind that having branch access usually means paying more in fees and earning less interest. If you’re curious what you’d be giving up in returns, run your balance through our calculator.

Best National Banks 2019

  1. Discover: Online bank with a high savings rate and cash-back checking.
  2. Ally Bank: Online bank with high APYs and no monthly fees.
  3. Alliant Credit Union: Online credit union with high rates and a huge ATM network.
  4. Chase: Brick-and-mortar bank with great sign-up bonuses and a large branch network.
  5. Bank of America: Brick-and-mortar bank with many customer service options.

National banks FAQs

What does it mean to be a national bank?

For the purposes of this roundup, national banks are financial institutions with a presence in at least 15 states. For banks with branches, we considered only those that had at least 1,000 locations, but some of the banks are online and have no branches. Accounts at these online banks are available to people living in almost every state.

What makes big banks different from smaller banks?

Big, national banks serve more of the country than regional or community banks do. A regional bank might serve only a few neighboring states; a community bank might serve only one city within a state.

National banks tend to have more technological resources and a wider variety of products than a smaller bank; on the other hand, smaller banks can offer more personalized service.

How much interest do the best big banks pay?

The best national brick-and-mortar banks don’t always pay the highest interest rates on savings products. Like other brick-and-mortar banks, they might pay around the national average for savings — 0.09% — or less.

And like other online banks, the best national online banks often have higher APYs. It’s not hard to find rates of 2% or above.

» Find the best rates on savings with NerdWallet’s best high-yield online savings accounts

Are national banks better than other kinds of banks?

That depends on what you’re looking for. If your biggest priority is in-person accessibility, a national, brick-and-mortar bank might be a good fit. You’re more likely to find a branch no matter where in the U.S. you are. If you’re interested in the best rates and large ATM networks, one of the best national online banks might be a good fit.

If having access to a branch far from home isn’t a priority and you really value in-person, personalized service, a regional or community bank might be better for you.

Are the best national banks brick-and-mortar banks?

Not necessarily. Many of NerdWallet’s picks for best national bank are online, because they often offer better interest rates on deposits than brick-and-mortar banks do. But some brick-and-mortar banks stand out for other reasons, such as solid sign-up bonuses or customer service.

» Find out what sign-up bonuses banks are offering this month

Many online banks allow people to sign up from almost anywhere in the U.S., while most brick-and-mortar banks have some states they don’t serve. For example, Chase has branches along the East and West coasts, but doesn’t serve some Western states.

What makes the best big brick-and-mortar banks different from the best online banks?

The best national brick-and-mortar banks and the best national online banks have different pros and cons. Brick-and-mortar banks are more likely to offer promotions or welcome bonuses for new accounts, while online banks are more likely to pay higher rates on deposits — often above 2% for savings.

While both are open to many people in the U.S., brick-and-mortar banks have more in-person accessibility, while online banks have long call-in hours for customer service or large ATM networks.

» Learn more about the pros and cons of online banking

Is my money safer in a national bank?

Your money is equally safe in any bank that’s insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. As long as your bank has this protection — and most banks do — you’re insured for up to $250,000 per person, per ownership category, per bank.

» Read up on FDIC insurance

What is the #1 bank in America?

Currently, the largest bank in America by deposits is Chase Bank. It has branches in about 30 states and about 16,000 ATMs, as well as 24/7 customer service via phone.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Chase is the bank you should choose, though. Weigh its interest rates, fees and additional factors against other options in your area before making a choice.

» Learn more: How to choose a bank

What are the top ten banks in the United States?

According to the most recent Federal Reserve data, the top ten retail banks in the U.S. by assets are:

  1. Chase Bank
  2. Bank of America
  3. Wells Fargo
  4. Citibank
  5. U.S. Bank
  6. PNC Bank
  7. Capital One
  8. TD Bank
  9. BB&T
  10. SunTrust

These banks typically have large branch and ATM networks and offer lots of different products, as well as long customer service hours. But before signing up with one, you should consider your priorities, including interest rates and accessibility for you.


METHODOLOGY

To determine the best accounts, 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. For this roundup, we considered only those brick-and-mortar banks with at least 1,000 branches in at least 15 states and broadly available online banks.

Financial institutions surveyed include: Alaska USA Federal Credit UnionAlliant Credit UnionAlly BankAmerica First Credit UnionAmerican ExpressAspirationAssociated BankAxos BankBank5 Connect, Bank7, Bank of AmericaBank of the WestBarclays, BB&T, BBVABoeing Employees Credit Union, BMO Harris, Capital One 360Charles Schwab BankChaseChimeCITCitibankCitizens AccessCitizens Bank, Comerica Bank, Commerce BankConnexus Credit UnionConsumers Credit UnionDiscover Bank, E-Trade, FidelityFifth Third BankFirst National BankFirst Tech Federal Credit UnionGoBankGolden 1 Credit UnionGS BankHSBC Bank USAHuntington BankKeyBank, MetaBank, M&T BankMovenNavy Federal Credit UnionPentagon Federal Credit UnionPNC, Popular Direct, PurePoint Financial, Radius Bank, Redneck Bank, Regions BankSallie Mae BankSantander Bank, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Service Credit Union, SimpleState Employees’ Credit Union of North CarolinaState Farm BankSuncoast Credit Union, SunTrust Bank, Synchrony BankTCF BankTD BankTIAA BankUnion BankUFB DirectUSAAU.S. BankVaroWells Fargo and Zions Bank.

How we rate banks and credit unions