If you’re looking to open an account with one of the best banks or credit unions in California, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, you will find a list of the very best banks and credit unions in the state of California, from San Francisco to Los Angeles and San Diego in Southern California.
10 Best Banks and Credit Unions in California
Here are the best banks in California that you can open an account with today:
- U.S. Bank
- First Citizens Bank
- Bank of America
- Wells Fargo
- Chase Bank
- East-West Bank
- Bank of the West
- Ally Bank
- Golden 1 Credit Union
- Alliant Credit Union
1. U.S. Bank
🏆 Best California Bank for Customer Service
- Branches in California: 461
- JD Power Score: 652
U.S.Bank is the 5th largest bank by assets in the USA. Like many other banks this big, it has a large network of branches and ATMs nationwide.
U.S. Bank came in fifth in the country for customer service, according to JD Power’s 2022 satisfaction study.
Factors such as the bank’s offering, number of branches, and ability to handle customers’ complaints were evaluated in this study, proving that U.S.Bank is pretty good at handling customer service.
You can choose between a range of standard checking and savings accounts, plus money market accounts, loans, and credit cards.
- U.S. Bank Checking Accounts: U.S. Bank has an interest-bearing checking account and an essential account, along with special banking benefits for students, military members, and workplace banking. The Safe Debit Account declines purchases when your account is tapped out, and the rewards account offers $50 overdraft protection.
- U.S. Bank Savings Accounts: U.S. Bank also offers a standard savings account with a low APY and a waivable $4 ATM fee. If you’re looking for higher interest, you can choose from two money market accounts and three flexible CD options.
The bottom line is that this bank is pretty awesome if you aren’t afraid of paying some fee for excellent customer service and in-person interactions.
- A large number of branches and ATMs all over the country
- Wide offers of financial products
- Best customer service
- Low APY
- Monthly fees
2. First Citizens Bank
🏆 Best Full-Service Bank
- Branches in California: 61
- JD Power Score: N/A
While it’s headquartered in North Carolina, First Citizens Bank is one of the best banks for California residents who live near one of its West Coast branches.
It’s our top pick if you’re looking for access to a wide variety of financial products under one roof.
You can choose from a wealth of personal banking products, like checking and savings accounts, CDs, Money Market Accounts, and credit cards. There are three checking accounts, and one savings account, with low, waivable account fees and minimal account requirements.
Some of First Citizens’ best digital banking features are its compatibility with Zelle, mobile check deposit, and easy management of multiple accounts.
The bank also has several small business and commercial banking products. In addition to its banking products, it provides mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, and specialized loans for purchases like RVs and boats.
What’s more, you can secure insurance policies, invest, and save for retirement with First Citizens’ online platform and mobile app.
The app and website are also chock-full of educational resources and industry trends from the bank’s expert financial team.
- Interest-bearing savings and checking
- Free checking with paperless billing
- Automated savings features
- Extensive product lineup
- User-friendly app and website
- Lackluster APY compared to online banks
- Limited free withdrawals from savings
3. Bank of America
🏆 Best Checking Accounts in California
- Branches in California: 786
- JD Power Score: 641
Bank of America is home to some of the best checking accounts in California. It also offers savings accounts, credit cards, loans, and investing services.
Being the second largest national bank in the United States, it has an impressive amount of branches and ATMs, both in California and nationwide.
If your top priority is accessibility, Wells Fargo, Chase, and BofA are all great options.
Bank of America offers 3 great checking account options:
- BOA Advantage Plus Checking Account: This account includes check writing and overdraft protection programs, among other features. It comes with a monthly fee of $12, which is easy to waive. Just set up regular monthly deposits of at least $250 to your account, or maintain a daily balance of $1,500 or above.
- BOA Advantage SafeBalance Checking Account: Designed to keep young bankers from overspending, this account declines purchases if you don’t have enough in your account, rather than charging overdraft fees. The $4.95 monthly fee can be waived if you’re 18 or younger, 25 or younger, and a student, or if you’re enrolled in Preferred Rewards.
- BOA Advantage Relationship Checking Account: This checking account earns interest (a small amount) and comes with check writing and optional overdraft protection. While there’s a steep $25 monthly fee, you can waive it by maintaining a balance of $10,000 across all your BofA accounts or enrolling in Preferred Rewards.
- Three checking accounts options
- no overdraft or offers a protection program
- interest-bearing option
- $100 bonus
- Many branches
- Low APY
- Monthly Fees
4. Wells Fargo
🏆 Best California Bank for Locations
- Branches in California: 904
- JD Power Score: 625
Wells Fargo is one of the largest banks in the United States. If you are traveling with Wells Fargo bank, you will always be covered. There are only ten states in the USA that don’t have a Wells Fargo branch.
Wells Fargo has a highly convenient ATM/branch locator, which helps you find the nearest office or ATM.
It’s a great banking solution for people who like having all of their financial assets under control in one place.
- Wells Fargo Checking Accounts: To open a checking account, you have five different options, from standard ones to premium accounts and checking accounts dedicated to teens. The Everyday checking account has a $10 monthly fee. There are several ways to avoid the monthly maintenance fees.
- Wells Fargo Savings Accounts: You will have two options for savings accounts: the regular goal-based Way2Save account or the premium Platinum Savings Account with a slightly higher APY.
- Certificates of Deposit: If you’re looking to earn more interest, go for a CD account. At Wells Fargo, you’ll find five CD account options, which all are safe FDIC-insured investments.
Wells Fargo offers a positive banking experience both online and offline. It has mobile banking, direct deposit, online bill pay, and money transfers using the Zelle service, plus real-time updates on your investments.
- Large frequency of branches
- Variety of bank accounts to choose from
- Interest-bearing premium accounts
- All of your financial assets in one place
- Minimum opening deposit
- Service fee
- Average APY
|U.S. Bank U.S. Bank Smartly® Checking||up to $800||December 29, 2023||
|J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing||up to $700 + $100 BankBonus Exclusive||December 31, 2023||
|Citi® Citi Priority Relationship Tier||up to $2000||January 9, 2024||
|Discover Online Savings Account||up to $200||December 14, 2023||
5. Chase Bank
🏆 Best Bank Bonuses
- Branches in California: 915
- JD Power Score: 678
Chase Bank tops our list of the best national banks and best banks overall. It’s also the largest bank in the nation based on assets. Chase has a lot to offer California residents, starting with a vast network of nearly 1,000 local branches in the state.
With over 15,000 ATMs and more than 4,700 branches nationwide, you’ll never be far from a local branch if you need in-person services while you’re traveling.
Chase offers all the banking products you might expect from a large institution, with multiple checking and savings account options and some of the best credit cards in the industry.
Its checking fees are low and easy to waive, and you can enjoy overdraft protection, Zelle payments, and ATM reimbursements.
If you’re an investor, you can also take advantage of Chase’s J.P. Morgan investing products, including self-directed investing and personal advisory services.
Where Chase truly shines is its bonuses. Whether you get a credit card from the bank or open a new checking, savings, or investing account, you’re likely to get a sign-up bonus offer.
Chase may offer anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars when you sign up for its products and meet minimum deposit requirements.
The bank is also ranked second in J.D. Power’s 2022 customer satisfaction survey. While you can find more rewarding interest and lower fees with an online bank, Chase’s bonuses are unmatched and their in-person customer service is hard to beat.
- Excellent bonuses
- Huge network of branches and ATMs
- Several financial products
- High J.D. Power rating
- Great selection of credit cards
- Account fees
- Unimpressive APY
6. East West Bank
🏆 Best Bank for Californian Students
- Branches in California: 78
- JD Power Score: N/A
East West Bank is the best bank for students in California.
It has several top-tier accounts, but its student checking and savings accounts stand out the most.
Here’s a closer look at both:
- Student Plus Checking Account: The Student Plus Checking account has no monthly fee. It offers many benefits like a Visa debit card delivered to you as soon as you open the account and many budgeting tools. ATM withdrawals are free, and East West Bank even reimburses all out-of-network ATM fees at the end of each month.
- Student Plus Savings Account: To open a Student Plus Savings account, you’ll need a $100 minimum deposit. This student savings account has a monthly fee of $3, which can be waived if you set up a direct deposit on your account. The account also pays a small amount of interest each month.
- Multiple student accounts
- Only a $100 minimum deposit
- Budgeting tools
- Reimburses ATM fees
- No interest-bearing checking account for students
- A monthly fee on the savings account (can be waived)
7. Bank of the West
🏆 Best California Regional Bank
- Branches in California: 230
- JD Power Score: 653
Bank of The West was founded in Pasadena in 1874 and still has most of its branches in the Golden State.
The bank offers checking accounts, savings accounts, money markets, and CD accounts, along with rewards, cashback, and secured credit cards, mortgages, and car loans.
Here’s a look at Bank of the West’s personal bank accounts:
- Checking Account: Bank of the West has three checking accounts, including one that donates 1% of your account’s revenue to environmental nonprofits. It also has a basic deposit checking account and a premier rewards account.
- Savings Account: To open a savings account, you will need at least a $25 balance to waive the $5 monthly fee. The real downside of the savings account is that its APY is low compared to online banks.
- Money Market Account: If you’d like to earn better interest, you can opt for one of Bank of the West’s money market accounts. They pay more interest, but keep in mind that they also have higher monthly fees. Fortunately, the fees can be waived.
- Certificate of Deposit: CDs accounts offer the highest annual percentage yield. Term lengths range from seven days to five years.
Bank of the West also features a highly-ranked customer service experience. It was named one of the best in the state of California by J.D. Power.
Bank of the West online banking and mobile banking both have positive reviews.
Visiting your branch will also be an extremely easy, and rewarding experience, especially in California since Bank of the West is the best regional bank.
- Great regional customer service
- Many branches in California
- Online and mobile banking
- Choice of accounts
- Low APY
- Not everywhere in the USA
- Monthly fees (easily avoided)
8. Ally Bank
🏆 Best Online Bank
- Branches in California: N/A
- JD Power Score: 709
Ally features outstanding customer service with a 24/7 phone and live chat. Ally is the best online bank because of its customer service and its high-interest earning accounts.
Here’s a breakdown of Ally’s checking and savings accounts:
- Checking: The Interest Checking Account is a free checking account with variable interest based on the balance you keep in your account. There is 0.10% APY with a minimum daily balance below $15,000 and 0.25% APY if you can keep an average daily balance of $15,000 or above.
- Savings: The savings account earns an even higher 3.75% APY, with daily compounded interest rates. Ally’s online banking and app are great as well and are very highly reviewed.
Some of the best features of Ally’s app include mobile check deposits, direct deposit, an ATM locator, your balance history, and Zelle, a person-to-person money transfer service.
Ally uses Allpoint ATM networks (55,000 ATMs) and reimburses up to $10 out-of-network ATM fees charged by other financial institutions per each statement cycle.
There are no minimum balance requirements and no account fees.
The only downsides to banking with Ally are that you won’t be able to deposit cash. If you like in-person interaction, you’d better read on and consider U.S. Bank.
- Competitive high-yield savings rates
- Convenient online banking
- Highly rated customer service
- Access to Allpoint ATM network
- No minimums or fees
- No brick-and-mortar branch locations
- No cash deposits
9. Golden 1 Credit Union
🏆 Best Credit Union to Join in California
- Branches in California: 83
- JD Power Score: N/A
Some people may prefer to enroll in a credit union than a bank, thanks to better customer service and higher annual percentage yield.
Golden 1 is only one of the many credit unions you can join in California.
Golden 1, according to our research, came out on top of the other credit unions for several reasons.
Golden 1 has a large number of California locations. There are more than 700 branches plus 240 ATMs.
If you travel out of state, you won’t have to worry either because Golden 1 grants you access to around 30,000 CO-OP ATMs nationwide for free. That’s more than other well-known credit unions such as First Technology Federal Credit Union.
The credit union offers checking and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and investing services. Golden 1 also pays an average amount of APY. It offers higher rates than other brick-and-mortar banks but lower rates than most online-only banking options.
There are always specific requirements to meet to be accepted as a credit union account holder. Credit unions are more often than not industry-specific.
Golden 1 lets you join with an easy minimum requirement: you have to live or at least work in California and make a minimum deposit of $1. That’s it. You may also be able to join if one of your relatives is a member, or if your employee group partners with Golden 1.
- Easy to become a member
- Many branches and free ATMs
- $1 opening deposit
- Interest compounded monthly
- Moderate APY
10. Alliant Credit Union
🏆 Best Online Only Credit Union
- Branches in California: N/A
- JD Power Score: N/A
Alliant is not technically a Californian credit union. The institution is based in Chicago, Illinois, but it is open nationwide through online banking.
Since Alliant doesn’t have any brick-and-mortar locations in California, you’ll have to be comfortable using online banking and getting help by phone, email, or online.
Alliant’s main selling points are its high-yield accounts, low service fees, and excellent customer service. Its online banking has many positive reviews.
Alliant’s checking accounts, savings accounts, and CDs all offer great APY, on the same level as major banks in the country, or even better.
Another great feature of this credit union is transparency. They do a great job at informing their members of every fee they are incurring and why.
Withdrawing money from your account with Alliant is also extremely convenient: you will get access to over 80,000 free ATMs. Alliant also reimburses ATM charges from other financial institutions for out-of-network ATM operations, up to $20 a month.
The only downside of ATM withdrawals is that Alliant has a maximum amount you can withdraw from ATMs per day. The limit is $1,000 a day, which could be even less if you have a history of overdrafts.
Alliant Credit Union Member Requirements
On the plus side, Alliant doesn’t strictly require its members to be residents of a specific region or serve a specific industry.
It is open to any U.S. citizen or resident nationwide.
- High APY on most accounts
- Transparent fees
- Free ATMs and refunds
- Good customer service
- Open nationwide
- Convenient online banking
- No brick-and-mortar branches
- Mediocre CD rates
How To Choose the Best Bank or Credit Union in California for You
Here are eight things to consider when looking for a financial institution that is a perfect fit for your banking needs.
- Bank or credit union? It depends on the individual institution, of course, and it will always be a trade-off. Brick-and-mortar banks may have more branch locations in your area and be more updated with current trends and technologies. In contrast, credit unions usually have better customer service and pay higher APYs.
- Try to find a bank that charges you as little monthly service and overdraft fees as possible. No one wants to pay extra money when the same service is offered for free somewhere else. If there is a fee, check if you can find easy options to waive it.
- Consider which debit card and credit card providers are tied to the bank. As we know, there are more widely accepted credit cards than others. For example, more stores accept a Visa than an American Express.
- Go for companies with excellent customer service. If you have a problem, how easy is it to get in touch with someone? How helpful will they be? You might not think about these questions beforehand, but they will be important for your future relationship with the bank. Check out J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction survey to see the top-rated banks based on customer service.
- How many branches and ATMs are there in your area and the country? You never want to find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of not finding a free ATM or local bank when you need it.
- Online banking and mobile app. Nowadays, it is fundamental for a financial institution to have a user-friendly app and online banking. We want to be independent and always have ways to check and manage our finances, wherever we are.
- Pay attention to the annual interest rates. Is there another bank that can give you a better deal?
- Make security a priority. Choose a bank you trust and that comes with insurance on your deposits, better if Member FDIC.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best bank in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles is home to several high-quality banks. If you prefer banking with a major financial institution that has a large network of branches and ATMs, consider U.S. Bank, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, each with numerous branches in the LA area.
If you prefer a trusted regional bank or credit union, check out Bank of the West or Los Angeles Federal Credit Union.
What is the best bank to use in California?
This question will have a different answer depending on what you consider to be the factors that qualify a bank or credit union to be “the best.”
- Are you looking for a bank with many branches in your area because you find convenience the most important? → Wells Fargo
- Would you like a student-friendly account? → East-West Bank
- Is earning a high annual percentage yield on your savings important to you? → Ally Bank
There is a “best bank” for every single one of these factors and more.
Read the article above if you want to explore the banks that made our list of best banks and credit unions in California and find your favorite.
We have already divided them according to their best qualities for you.
What is the best credit union in California?
The best credit union located in California is Golden 1. We selected it over others because, beyond the benefits it offers, it’s easier to join than other major credit unions such as SchoolsFirst, which caters only to the education community.
To join Golden1 credit union, you will only have to live or work in California.
If you are a fan of online-only financial institutions, then the perfect credit union for you is Alliant. Technically from Chicago, Illinois, but available nationwide.
What is the largest credit union in California?
The largest credit union in California is SchoolsFirst. As the name suggests, this credit union specializes in services for the education community and their family members. It currently has more than 1.15 million members and $23.74 billion in assets.
What are the best checking account options in California?
Some other checking account options that didn’t make the cut for this list but are worth mentioning:
- In terms of the best checking account in California, the runner-up is Citibank. It wins second best both for the checking account and the savings account categories.
- Capital One checking accounts, with two business banking options, are great for small businesses.
- If you are looking for a checking account that pays better APY, I suggest you look at Union Bank. It offers the best APY on checking accounts you can find in California (up to 0.05%).
How We Chose The Top Financial Institutions in California
To create this list of best banks and credit unions in California, we reviewed many financial institutions – from the largest banks in America to community banks and credit unions.
- Checking accounts
- Savings accounts
- Minimum balances
- Low fees
- Customer service
- Online experience