The banks and credit unions most recommended by commenters

by dequeued

A lot of people ask “what bank should I use?” and a small number of banks and credit unions get most of the airtime here so I wanted to compile a list of recommendations (and add it to the PF wiki for easy reference).

I also don’t think there is any one bank that’s ideal for everyone. Some institutions have better interest rates. Others offer better ATM access. Some are difficult to join (looking at you USAA and NFCU). Some are better for people who travel a lot. And hopefully all of these choices have good customer service reputations. The idea here is to give some possible options to people looking for a new bank based on the features that people mention the most often.

Is this an accurate reflection of what people recommend the most often here?

(in alphabetical order)

Name Type ATM access High-Rate Savings High-Rate Checking ATM Foreign Exchange Fee Limited Membership
Alliant Credit Union Online Credit Union 1 $20 in refunds/month plus 80,000+ free ATMs Yes Yes 1% Barely
Ally Online Bank $10 in refunds/month plus 43,000+ free ATMs Yes No 1% No
Capital One 360 Online Bank 1 38,000+ free ATMs Yes No 0% No
Discover Bank Online Bank 60,000+ free ATMs Yes No 0% No
Fidelity Cash Management Online Bank unlimited refunds No Savings Accounts No 0% (1% if debit purchase) No
Navy Federal Credit Union Online Credit Union 1 $10 or $20 in refunds/month 2,28,000+ free ATMs No No 1.8% or 1% (0.8% or 1% if debit purchase) Yes
Schwab Bank Online Bank unlimited refunds No No 0% No
Simple Bank Online Bank 40,000+ free ATMs No Savings Accounts No 1% ? No
USAA Online Bank 1 $15 in refunds/month, 10 withdrawals/month No No 1% Yes
find a local credit union Local Credit Union Most have large ATM networks Varies Varies Varies Often

Notes:

  • If you need to deposit cash or require other in-person services, a local credit union is likely to be a better option than an online bank or credit union.
  • All institutions are open to membership in every US state. Navy Federal and USAA have membership requirements based on military service (or being closely related to another member). Navy Federal’s requirements are somewhat looser. A $10 donation to a charity may be required for some people to join Alliant.
  • All listed institutions have “Excellent” or “Very Good” fees (meaning very low fees) as rated by Consumer Reports except for Alliant which was rated as “Good” and Fidelity and Simple which were not rated.
  • All listed institutions have no minimum initial deposit except for USAA which has a $25 minimum.
  • High-Rate Savings = 1% or higher FDIC-insured savings or money market interest rate
  • High-Rate Checking = 0.5% or higher FDIC-insured checking interest rate
  • Methodology: I went through a bunch of popular posts (12345678) and roughly tabulated the recommendations along with the main reasons why people recommend them. I tried to be as fair as possible and at least one bank that I’m kind of “meh” about ended up on the list so hopefully this is relatively unbiased.
  • [1] Alliant, Capital One 360, Navy Federal, and USAA all have physical branches, but not nationwide. (Fidelity and Schwab also have branches, but don’t accept cash deposits at any.)
  • [2] 4 out of 5 checking account types offered by NFCU include $10 or $20 ATM refunds.

P.S. For the record, I’ve used 3 of these institutions as my primary bank and had accounts at 3 others. I have no complaints, switching occasionally for greater convenience.

edits:

  • Fixed ATM access information for Ally and Navy Federal.
  • Note that Simple also wasn’t rated by Consumer Reports.
  • Note that some of these banks and credit unions do actually have some physical branches.

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