Best Banks for 2021

What makes a bank one of the best? Is it low fees, high-interest rates, or a slick online platform?

The answer is that it should be a combination of all those things.

These days, there’s no shortage of banks vying for your business. Don’t settle for just any provider because you can earn more money over the long term by going with a bank that meets your specific needs.

In this post, you’ll get a look at the best banks for every type of consumer.

Keep reading to learn about the best national banks, online banks, neobanks, best banks for students, trust accounts, small businesses, and more.

In This Article

Best National Banks

In the U.S., a national bank usually has the abbreviation “N.A” in its official title, which stands for national association.

This distinction indicates it’s a commercial bank chartered by the U.S. Treasury. As a result, it’s FDIC-insured, meaning that deposits are protected up to $250,000 per depositor.

Not all national banks necessarily have a nationwide presence, but most of them do.

Here’s a shortlist of the best national banks.

Chase Bank

Chase Bank is the largest consumer bank in the US. This New York-based financial giant is well-known for its wide range of account options and lucrative sign-up bonuses.

Chase also leaves most other brands behind when it comes to credit card intro bonuses and rewards.

Chase offers deposit accounts for both consumers and businesses, credit cards, loans, and an investment platform. Chase has nearly 5,000 physical branches and over 16,000 ATMs nationwide.

What’s more, its online banking platform consistently ranks as one of the best among traditional banks.

Two things to watch out for with Chase are monthly fees and low-interest rates on savings deposits.

Bank of America

Bank of America (BoA) is the second-largest national bank in the US, servicing nearly 11% of all American bank deposits.

With numerous account options, credit cards, loans, and more ATMs than anyone else, BoA is a one-stop shop for everything you need for your financial life.

Like plenty of other large banks, BoA falls short when it comes to APYs and fees, but it’s tough to match in terms of presence and overall convenience.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo rounds out the top three on our top national bank list. It’s also the third-largest bank in the US and has more branch locations than anyone else (more than 8,000).

Headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo’s strongest presence is on the West Coast. The bank offers deposit accounts, credit cards, loans, retirement planning, wealth management services, and more.

As far as big, traditional banks go, Wells Fargo is one of the best examples, with plenty of in-person support and financial products available. Like most big banks, the downside is there are relatively low savings rates and frequent fees.

But, with an improved mobile banking app platform and a new emphasis on improved customer service, Wells Fargo is making strides.

Best Online Banks

Online banks, sometimes referred to as digital banks, are banking platforms that exist entirely in the digital space without any retail locations.

Just like traditional banks, online options are chartered and FDIC-insured and provide the same products and services online that you would expect to get when you head into a branch.

Here is a shortlist of the best online banks.

Ally Bank

Ally is the most popular online bank in the US. With competitive high-yield savings accounts (HYSAs), loan products, and an investment platform, it’s easy to see why.

Not only is Ally the biggest bank in the digital space, but it’s one of the biggest banks in terms of total assets in the country, period.

Ally originally made its name issuing auto loans, and it still stands as one of the largest car finance companies in the country. Its high-yield savings account comes with one of the best interest rates around.

Best of all, you won’t see any monthly fees or minimum balance requirements.

Axos Bank

Axos, formerly known as Bank of Internet USA, is one of the nation’s longest-running online-only banks.

Based out of San Diego, the bank offers both personal and business solutions covering everything from accounts to loans to investing.

With Axos, the real selling point is the APY. Its Rewards Checking account comes with a higher interest rate than most high-yield savings accounts, and both its savings and money market accounts earn well above the national average.

Axos accounts also come with unlimited reimbursements for ATM fees, no monthly maintenance fees, and few minimum deposit requirements.

Discover Bank

Discover Bank is an online-only bank operated by Discover Financial, one of the leading credit card issuers in the US.

Discover’s online banking platform includes rewards checking, high-yield savings, certificates of deposit (CDs), and a money market account (MMA).

Where this bank truly shines is in the fees category. Discover is a truly fee-free bank, and you won’t pay a thing for monthly maintenance, overdrafts, or low balances.

You’ll also have access to more than 60,000 free ATMs, and the Discover Bank mobile app is one of the best-reviewed banking apps available.

Best Banks for Students

Whether you’re a high school or college student, starting a relationship with a bank is an important step toward building a sound financial future.

Some banks provide accounts specifically for students, while others might be a good fit based on standard features that work better with young people’s lifestyles and their parents’ preferences.

Here is our shortlist of the best banks for students.

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank is the fifth-largest bank in the US and operates 3,000 bank branches in 26 states. Locations are mostly in the West and Midwest.

U.S. Bank Student Checking is available for high school and college students and comes with a debit card, online banking, free paper checks, and no fees.

You’ll also get free overdraft protection with a linked checking account, plus four non-U.S. Bank ATM fee reimbursements per month.

Capital One

Capital One is a hybrid bank that operates both online and with brick and mortar bank branches.

Capital One 360 Checking stands out as an excellent account for both college and high school students because there are no fees and overdraft protection. You must be over 18 years old to apply.

For those under the age of 18, MONEY is a teen checking account that also has no monthly fees. The account must be opened with a parent or guardian.

The main benefit to MONEY is that it allows parents to retain control while also giving young people the opportunity to learn how to manage money.

PNC Bank

PNC has a massive regional presence in the Mid-Atlantic and is one of the US’s biggest banks, with over 2,000 brick and mortar branches.

Virtual Wallet Student is designed for high school and college students and is essentially an entry-level version of the bank’s flagship consumer account. Once the account is open for six years, it automatically turns into a standard Virtual Wallet.

Until then, students can enjoy no monthly service fees, courtesy overdraft refunds, and one free incoming wire transfer per statement period.

Best Banks for Small Business

If you’re a small business owner, freelancer, or entrepreneur, a good business banking relationship is essential for your enterprise’s financial health.

Most big banks have standard business banking options. However, they usually charge monthly fees, which can chip away at your startup’s precious cash flow.

The good news is that modern online platforms exist, charging minimal fees while exclusively serving small business owners.

Here’s our shortlist of the best small business banks.

BlueVine

BlueVine is a business-focused online banking platform whose accounts are serviced through its partner bank, The Bancorp Bank.

BlueVine Business Checking is the only account option, offering interest earning on deposits, no account balance requirements, no monthly fees, and no overdraft fees.

BlueVine is also a part of the MoneyPass ATM network, so customers have access to 38,000 fee-free ATMs. You can take advantage of business funding options like invoice factoring and lines of credit.

BlueVine has also helped more than 150,000 small businesses secure PPP loans during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Novo

Novo is an online bank for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers.

Its simple platform consists of a business checking account that comes with tons of perks and the ability to integrate hundreds of business tools directly with your account (e.g., Stripe, Shopify, Quickbooks, Slack, and Zapier).

Novo is free to use and doesn’t come with any hidden fees. The application takes as little as 10 minutes, and accounts are FDIC-insured through its banking partner, Middlesex Federal Savings Bank.

Huntington Bank

Huntington Bank is a regional bank based in Ohio, with a presence in seven states: Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

If you live in one of those states, Huntington provides some of the best business bank accounts available.

Huntington has four different business checking accounts and two for savings. Each account type caters to different business levels, from early-stage startup to high-volume and established.

All accounts come with ACH transfers, merchant and payroll services, online banking, and a 24 hour grace period for overdrafts.

Unfortunately, if you don’t live in one of the states where Huntington operates, you’ll have to bank elsewhere.

Best Banks for Trust Accounts

Trust accounts are an important aspect of wealth management because they allow a trustee to disperse an estate’s assets, usually according to the terms of a trust agreement or estate plan.

There are several different types of trusts, and using the right account can give you peace of mind when planning for the long term.

Most large national banks offer trust accounts, including Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Ally Bank.

Here are two other great options for the best banks for trust accounts.

Alliant Credit Union

Alliant is one of the best-known credit unions in the US, exclusively serving residents in the Chicago-land area.

Alliant has four different account options for trusts, including a checking account, two savings accounts, and a CD.

ATM cards, credit cards, loans, and IRAs are not available with trust accounts, but you can always open a separate membership if you want to take advantage of these products.

Radius Bank

Radius Bank, now owned by LendingClub, is a Boston-based online bank that offers a few different trust account options, including a high-yield savings account, rewards checking, and a CD.

Any of these accounts can be converted into a trust, so you won’t have to open a new account if you already have one.

Best Neobanks

A neobank is similar to an online bank, and the two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re different in one way: neobanks aren’t actually banks.

Neobanks are fintech companies that partner with chartered banks to provide online banking products and services.

This way, your money is still protected by a member-FDIC financial institution, and you also get the next-level functionality of a modern tech company.

Here is a shortlist of some of the best neobanks.

Revoult

Revoult is a UK-based neobank that expanded to the US in 2020. Opening an account online takes a few minutes, and you can choose from Standard, Premium, or Metal accounts.

The Standard option is fee-free and comes with the flexibility to spend in more than 150 different currencies and make exchanges in 28 currencies with no hidden fees.

Both Premium and Metal come with a monthly fee but come with higher savings rates and added perks like overseas medical insurance, exclusive debit cards, and airport lounge access.

Chime

Chime is a neobank that provides online checking and savings accounts, allows for early direct deposit payments, and gives you the flexibility to overdraft your account without fees up to $100.

The Chime Savings account earns interest at a highly competitive rate, and you’ll never pay hidden fees.

Chime’s mobile app is extremely well-liked, and its automated savings and money management tools can help you keep your personal finances on the right track.

Best Banks FAQs

What is the best overall bank?

If only it were so simple. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire answer to this question.

The best bank for one person won’t work for another, and one bank might have the best savings account but fall short in other areas.

It all depends on what you need and which bank can provide it. It also might come down to where you live and the type of business that you have.

Are online banks better than traditional banks?

Undoubtedly, online banking comes with perks. For example, you can usually count on low fees, high APYs, and advanced mobile apps and online platforms. The tradeoff is the lack of physical branches, and in some cases, less access to customer support.

If these trade-offs sound reasonable to you (and for many, they will), then online banks are probably a better fit.

On the other hand, if you frequently need to deposit cash, or if you need a variety of account services from the same provider, you might be better of with a traditional bank.

It all comes down to finding a provider that best services your unique financial needs.

Which banks charge the most fees?

In general, the bigger the bank, the higher and more frequent the fees. If you take a look at the fee schedules of any major bank, you will see that they charge similar amounts for monthly maintenance fees, overdrafts, and so on.

To avoid checking account fees, you are better off looking into online banking. With that said, this rule is not absolute because some online banks charge fees, and many traditional banks offer ways to avoid fees by meeting certain requirements.

Do you have to have a social security number to open a bank account?

Not all banks require that you have a SSN to open an account. They will allow you to use other forms of identification such as a valid ID issued by the US government and an ITIN rather than a SSN. Here is a list of banks that do not require SSNs.

Which of the Best Banks is for You?

One thing’s for sure — there’s no shortage of banks to choose from along your financial journey.

The key is to narrow it down based on what you’re looking for. Are you a student or a small business owner? Do you prefer minimal fees or wider account options? How important is having access to a physical branch?

Once you answer these questions, the best bank for you should start to reveal itself.

Take your time, do the research, and find the bank that fits best into your own financial picture. And remember, you can easily switch banks if you’re not happy with your decision.

Here’s to finding the best bank for you that charges low fees and helps you hit your goals.

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