9 Best Banks in California for May 2024

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.

As a California resident, you have access to a wide variety of financial institutions, from small local banks and credit unions to larger regional and national ones.

We’ve identified the top banks and credit unions in the state of California, from San Francisco to Los Angeles and San Diego in Southern California, based on the features that matter most to consumers.

9 Best Banks and Credit Unions in California

To select our list, we assessed dozens of banks’ and credit unions’ accessibility, features, account lineup, fees, and customer service.

Here are the best banks in California that you can open an account with today:

  1. U.S. Bank: Best Checking Account Bonuses
  2. First Citizens Bank: Best Checking Accounts
  3. Bank of America: Best Mobile Banking
  4. Wells Fargo: Best Branch Accessibility
  5. Chase Bank: Best National Bank in CA
  6. EastWest Bank: Best Bank for California Students
  7. Ally Bank: Best Online Bank
  8. Golden 1 Credit Union: Best Credit Union in CA
  9. Alliant Credit Union: Best Online Only Credit Union

1. U.S. Bank US

🏆 Best Checking Account Bonuses

U.S. Bank is the 5th largest bank by assets in the USA. Like other banks of its size, it has a large network of branches and ATMs nationwide.

It wins our vote for the best checking account bonuses, with consistent promotions for opening a new account.

You can choose between a range of standard checking and savings accounts, plus money market accounts, investment accounts, loans, and credit cards.

Accounts

U.S. Bank offers business and personal bank accounts. One of its most popular accounts, Smartly Checking, bears interest, comes with extra perks when you join Smartly Rewards for free, and has waivable monthly fees.

There’s also a Safe Debit Account that declines purchases when your account is depleted, and the rewards account offers overdraft protection. Additionally, you can tap into special banking benefits for students and military members.

U.S. Bank offers a standard savings account with a low APY and a waivable monthly fee. If you’re looking for higher interest, you can choose from two money market accounts and three flexible CD options.

Pros:

  • Large branch and ATM network
  • Wide range of financial products
  • Excellent customer service

Cons:

  • Low APY
  • Monthly fees

U.S. Bank Logo

up to $700

U.S. Bank : Smartly® Checking
Open online

Details
U.S. Bank Logo

up to $800

U.S. Bank : Business Checking
Available nationwide

Details

2. First Citizens Bank “First

🏆 Best Checking Accounts

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 one of the best full-service banks if you’re looking to access several accounts and financial services in one place. You can choose from a wealth of personal banking products, like checking and savings accounts, CDs, Money Market Accounts, and credit cards.

The bank also touts useful digital banking features like compatibility with Zelle, mobile check deposits, and easy management of multiple accounts. The app and website are also chock-full of educational resources and industry trends from the bank’s expert financial team.

Accounts

There are three personal checking accounts and one savings account, with low waivable account fees and minimal account requirements. First Citizens is our top pick for checking accounts due to their flexibility, minimal fees, and range of account perks.

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.

Pros:

  • Free checking with paperless billing
  • Automated savings features
  • User-friendly app and website

Cons:

  • Lackluster APY compared to online banks
  • Limited free withdrawals from savings

Free Checking Logo

Free Checking

Learn More

 

3. Bank of America Bank of America

🏆 Best Mobile Banking

Bank of America is home to one of the best mobile banking experiences nationwide, with a highly-rated mobile app used by millions of customers.

As the second largest national bank in the United States, it offers widespread branch and ATM access at home and on the go.

You can choose from a wealth of deposit accounts, credit cards, loans, and investing services for individuals and small businesses.

Accounts

Bank of America has three checking account options for individuals, from a SafeBalance account for beginners to ones that bear interest and offer overdraft protection. For example, the popular Advantage Checking account provides perks like overdraft coverage, mobile deposits, check writing, and budgeting tools.

All of Bank of America’s checking accounts have waivable monthly fees, and minimum opening deposits range from $25-$100.

You can also open a savings account that bears minimal interest or opt for a CD for higher interest rates. Additionally, Bank of America offers small business checking accounts, loans, and credit cards.

Pros:

  • Three checking account options
  • Offers overdraft protection
  • Extensive branches in CA

Cons:

  • Low APY
  • Monthly fees

4. Wells Fargo Wells Fargo

🏆 Best Branch Accessibility

Wells Fargo is one of the largest banks in the United States. If you’re traveling with Wells Fargo Bank, you’ll always be covered. It also has a massive physical presence within the state, with more than 800 branches and thousands of ATMs.

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.

Accounts

Wells Fargo has personal checking and savings accounts, CDs, credit cards, loans, and investment accounts. It also has a suite of small business, corporate, and commercial banking products and services.

If you want to open a checking account, you have five different options, from standard ones to premium accounts and checking accounts dedicated to teens. There are several ways to avoid the monthly maintenance fees on these accounts, while the minimum deposit can’t be waived.

Wells Fargo also offers three savings accounts, including a standard savings account, an interest-bearing account, and a kids savings account. If you’re looking to earn more interest with a safe FDIC-insured investment, go for a CD account.

Pros:

  • Extensive branches in CA
  • Variety of bank accounts to choose from
  • One stop shop

Cons:

  • Minimum opening deposits and monthly fees
  • Mediocre APY
BankBonusExpiresRequirements 
Self-Directed Investing LogoJ.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing up to $700 July 19, 2024
  • Min Balance
U.S. Bank LogoU.S. Bank Platinum Business MMA up to 4.60% APY June 5, 2024
  • Min Balance
PNC Bank LogoPNC Virtual Wallet® up to $400 July 1, 2024
  • Direct Deposit
Chase Business Complete Checking® LogoChase Chase Business Complete Checking® $300 July 22, 2024
  • Min Balance
  • Card Spend (optional)
see all bonuses

5. Chase Bank Chase Bank

🏆 Best National Bank in CA

Chase Bank tops our list of the best national banks in California. 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 around 1,000 local branches in the state.

With close to 16,000 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. 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.

Accounts

Chase offers a versatile lineup of several checking and savings accounts and CDs, with Private Client Banking available. Its checking fees are low and easy to waive, and you can enjoy overdraft protection, Zelle payments, and ATM reimbursements.

Where Chase truly shines is its bonuses. When you open a new checking, savings, or investing account, you’re likely to get a sign-up bonus offer from Chase.

Small business owners can also open checking and savings accounts and benefit from a range of resources such as payment processing, business credit cards, and loans and lines of credit.

Pros:

  • Excellent bonuses
  • Huge network of branches and ATMs
  • Several financial products

Cons:

  • Account fees
  • Unimpressive APY

6. EastWest Bank

🏆 Best Bank for California Students

EastWest Bank is a solid choice for California residents, with a respectable lineup of deposit accounts, loans, credit cards, and wealth management services. Headquartered in Pasadena, it has a strong presence throughout the state, with a sizable network of branches and ATMs.

It stands out to us as the best bank for students in California, with rewarding checking and savings accounts tailored to students.

Accounts

East West Bank offers checking, savings, and CD accounts for individuals and small businesses. In addition to specialized accounts for students, it also provides senior citizen bank accounts.

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, overdraft coverage, budgeting tools, and out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements.

There’s also a Student Plus Savings account with a $100 minimum deposit and easily waivable monthly maintenance fee. The account pays a small amount of interest each month.

Pros:

  • Multiple student accounts
  • Budgeting tools
  • Reimburses ATM fees

Cons:

  • No interest-bearing checking account for students
  • Monthly fees and minimum deposit requirements

 


7. Ally Bank “Ally

🏆 Best Online Bank

Ally is one of the most popular online banks, and it’s our top recommendation if you’re interested in managing your finances entirely online or with a mobile app.

Ally features outstanding customer service with a 24/7 phone and live chat. We chose Ally as the best online bank available to California residents because of its customer service, user-friendly app, minimal fees, and high-interest earning accounts.

While there aren’t any branches, Ally is a part of the Allpoint ATM network, giving you access to 43,000 ATMs, plus monthly reimbursements for out-of-network ATMs.

Accounts

Ally’s Spending Account is a free checking account with competitive interest, overdraft coverage, 2-day early pay, and ATM reimbursements. There are no minimum balance requirements and no account fees to worry about with Ally’s checking and savings accounts.

The savings account earns an even higher APY, with daily compounded interest rates. You can easily transfer money between your Ally Spending and Savings accounts, organize your savings into buckets, and take advantage of savings boosters like roundups and recurring transfers.

Additionally, Ally offers CDs, an MMA, investment accounts, credit cards, mortgages, and loans. Currently, the bank doesn’t have business accounts.

Pros:

  • Competitive high-yield savings rates
  • Extensive free ATM access
  • No minimums or fees

Cons:

  • No brick-and-mortar branch locations
  • No cash deposits

8. Golden 1 Credit Union

🏆 Best Credit Union in CA

Some people may prefer to enroll in a credit union than a bank, for their top-notch customer service and higher annual percentage yield.

Golden 1 is one of the many credit unions you can join in California. Based on our research, it came out on top of the other credit unions for several reasons.

Golden 1 has a large number of California locations, with more than 70 branches throughout the state. Golden 1 also grants you access to around 30,000 CO-OP ATMs nationwide for free.

You can join with an easy minimum requirement: you have to live or at least work in California and make a minimum deposit of $1. You may also be able to join if one of your relatives is a member, or if your employee group partners with Golden 1.

Accounts

The credit union offers checking and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and investing services for individuals. Golden 1 also notes that it has sole proprietorship business accounts but you may have to contact the credit union directly for account details.

Golden 1 pays an average amount of APY, with higher rates than brick-and-mortar banks but lower rates than most online-only banking options.

There are five checking accounts, one of which pays tiered interest based on your account balance. All of these accounts either have no monthly fees, or they’re easy to waive. On the savings side of the house, there are several CDs, MMAs, and savings accounts, including a specialized Christmas savings account.

Pros:

  • Easy membership requirements
  • A lot of branches for a credit union
  • Excellent customer services

Cons:

  • Interest compounded monthly
  • Moderate APY

9. Alliant Credit Union“Alliant

🏆 Best Online Only Credit Union

Alliant isn’t technically a Californian credit union, with its headquarters in Chicago, 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, with numerous positive reviews. Another great feature of this credit union is transparency. They do a great job at informing their members of every fee they’re incurring and why.

Accounts

Alliant’s checking accounts, savings accounts, and CDs all offer great APY compared to brick-and-mortar banks. There’s a high-yield checking account and a teen checking account, with no monthly fees, overdraft fees, or account minimums.

You can also choose from three savings accounts, which pay an impressive yield with no monthly fees when you enroll in e-statements.

Unfortunately, Alliant doesn’t offer business bank accounts and services, better suited for personal accounts. Alliant doesn’t strictly require its members to be residents of a specific region or serve a particular industry. Its accounts are open to any U.S. citizen or resident nationwide.

Pros:

  • High APY and low fees
  • Free ATMs and refunds
  • Good customer service

Cons:

  • No brick-and-mortar branches
  • Mediocre CD rates

How to Choose the Best Banks and Credit Unions in California

At BankBonus.com, we’re committed to providing consumers with the resources they need to select a bank or credit union. Here’s an overview of the steps we recommend our readers take to choose a bank:

  • Understand different types of banks: You have access to traditional banks, online banks, credit unions, and neobanks. It’s important to understand the differences between them and determine which type of institution aligns best with your preferences.
  • Choose the right account: Checking, savings, money market, and certificate of deposit accounts are the most common types of bank accounts. Understand what each offers and choose a bank with the type of account(s) you need.
  • Look for low-fee banks: Account fees can add up quickly. As you compare bank accounts, look for an account that doesn’t charge unavoidable monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, and ATM fees.
  • Consider branch and ATM access: If having access to branches matters to you, choose a bank with physical locations. Regardless, you should prioritize banks that have a vast ATM network or reimburse ATM fees.
  • Compare account features: Determine which features you’re looking for. A few common bank account features to consider are interest, cashback, mobile features, cash deposits, and minimum account balance requirements.
  • Check out reviews and ratings: It’s crucial to pick a reputable bank. To get an idea of a bank’s customer experience, you can read expert reviews and look to sources like TrustPilot, the Better Business Bureau, and J.D. Power.
  • Read the fine print: Don’t sign up for an account without understanding the terms and conditions. Make sure the account is FDIC or NCUA insured and get a sense of its requirements, fees, and expiration dates for bank bonuses.
  • Look at the bank’s additional products: If you want to manage all of your finances under one roof, look into each bank’s additional products. A lot of banks also offer credit cards, wealth management, investment accounts, and loans.

Our Methodology

The BankBonus team has analyzed dozens of banks to provide our readers with thoroughly informed and accurate reviews.

We evaluated digital financial platforms, online banks, regional banks, and national banks with a presence in California.

Our assessment of each bank factors in these considerations:

  • Product lineup: We review the types of accounts, loans, and services offered by each bank, as well as the number of accounts.
  • Fees and pricing: We also consider each institution’s fees, including monthly maintenance fees and other service charges.
  • Account features: To compare banks, we take a close look at the features, limits, and capabilities each one has to offer.
  • Interest: Along with these features, we consider whether or not the bank offers interest-bearing accounts and compare their rates to industry averages.
  • Brand reputation: The bank accounts we recommend have been carefully vetted to ensure they are legitimate, secure, and backed by FDIC insurance.
  • User experience: Additionally, we consider the ease of use and availability of resources on each bank’s website and factor in reviews of the mobile app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
  • Branch and ATM access: To gauge convenience, we also look at each bank’s branch and ATM availability and consider their ATM reimbursement policies.
  • Customer service: In our review process, we also explore their customer service channels, hours of availability, and third-party reviews.

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