By Paul Sisolak
National banks are still struggling to shed their collective image as fee-heavy, profit-hungry machines. Despite this reputation, however, national brick-and-mortar banks offer numerous products and services that consumers are still happy to use.
Ubiquitous branches and ATMs, interest-bearing accounts and
state-of-the-art technology make the larger, commercial bank the right fit for consumers who need their bank to be everywhere – and who need digital banking services or a wide range of insurance and loan options that many smaller, community financial institutions don’t offer.
With so many product and service factors to consider, choosing the right bank with the right blend of amenities to fulfill your needs can be a challenge. Moreover, you want to make sure you’re choosing a bank that offers competitive interest rates.
Personal finance website GOBankingRates.com conducted its annual Best Banks study to help you narrow your search. The study assessed the top 90 financial institutions based on asset size according to the FDIC. Check out the top 10 banks to see what they have to offer.
Best Bank: Wells Fargo
Although it doesn’t have the highest number of ATMs, Wells Fargo does have the most U.S. branches of any national brick-and-mortar bank on this list – 6,200. It also has other advantages that make it the best bank of 2016. Wells Fargo’s array of deposit products, loan and investment service options, and smartphone banking capabilities are hard to match, and it has a BauerFinancial rating of four.
Bank of America
Although its $12 checking account fee is one of the highest on this top 10 list, Bank of America offers a high level of convenience. With more than 16,100 ATMs scattered across the country, customers have the accessibility they need to deposit or withdraw on the go.
Like Bank of America, Chase’s $12 checking account fee is high compared with other banks on this list, but the bank offers a broad range of products that result in convenient banking options. Accessibility through its 5,300 branches and 15,500 ATMs is a major feature for Chase because, although its savings rate of 0.01 percent APY is similar to many banks on this list, its 0.02 percent APY CD rate is one of the lowest on this list.
Citibank offers customers a thorough product list, including several credit card choices, from secured and student cards, to rewards, business and travel credit cards. It also offers several investment options for wealth building. It has one of the highest checking fees on this list ($12) but also one of the highest CD rates (0.15 percent APY).
First Midwest Bank
First Midwest Bank is the other financial institution on this list with no checking account fee. Although its branch locations are limited to Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, the bank offers access to more than 50,000 ATMs nationwide through its Allpoint network.
First Niagara Bank
First Niagara Bank offers the highest 12-month CD rate of the Best Banks of 2016: 0.50 percent APY on a $500 minimum opening balance. It also offers the highest savings account rate of any bank on this list at 0.10 percent APY. The bank has nearly 400 branches across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.
Great Western Bank
Great Western Bank is one of only two financial institutions in this top 10 with no checking fee. It also boasts a 0.15 percent APY CD; a full range of deposit account products as well as loan, investment and insurance services; and a BauerFinancial rating of five. However, its 158 branches are located in the West and Midwest only.
If a basic, no-frills checking account is what you want, HSBC is a top choice. Its Basic Banking account carries a fee of just $3. Consumers looking for more features might want to opt for the bank’s Choice, Advance or Premier Checking products, which offer additional credit card and relationship savings account options.
PNC Bank offers a full range of banking and finance products and services, including brokerage accounts, stocks and bonds, education accounts and insurance. It also has the second-highest savings account rate on this list – 0.05 percent APY – if you have a PNC checking account. The checking account has a $7 monthly fee.
U.S. Bank has a higher-than-average 12-month CD rate (0.10 percent APY) and a slightly lower checking fee ($6.95) than many of its competitors. It also offers a range of deposit services, credit cards and mortgage and auto loans.
All the top 10 banks of 2016 received a BauerFinancial rating of at least 4 out of 5. Although their deposit account rates are about average, or in some cases lower, compared with what some smaller financial institutions and online-only banks can offer, these national brick-and-mortar banks offer a significant range of banking products, digital money management capabilities, widespread branch and ATM access, and loans and investing services that smaller and online institutions cannot.
Methodology: Rankings were based on criteria such as deposit account interest rates for checking, savings and 12-month certificate of deposit accounts; diversity of products offered, such as auto loans, mortgages, credit cards and investment services; the banks’ accessibility in terms of branch and ATM locations; and their BauerFinancial star ratings.