The 8 Best National Banks of 2019
See how the big names measure up
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Choosing a bank is a big decision — you need to have trust in a company if you are going to hand over your money. Millions of Americans choose a big national bank for their money needs, drawn to a variety of factors like name recognition, a large branch footprint, or a wide variety of service offerings that let you do all kinds of banking in one place.
If you're interested in choosing one of these large companies, it's important to consider a few different features before you commit, including costs and fees, accounts and products offered, and convenience for how you prefer to handle your banking.
This may go without saying, but it's best to avoid monthly fees when you can. Most online-only banks don’t charge any monthly fees. Traditional banks are another story — they often charge monthly fees, but you can usually get them waived by maintaining a minimum balance, signing up for direct deposit, or meeting transaction activity requirements depending on the bank. Overdraft fees are another costly issue for some banking customers. If you regularly run into overdrafts, those fees may be something to look at more closely.
Online-only banks are also on the rise, and many people prefer these options for their self-service convenience and the ability to bank anywhere. Others prefer a more traditional baking experience with a local branch they can visit in person. If you often use cash, look into how many ATMs the bank has and whether or not they reimburse for fees on out-of-network ATMs.
For this list, we're rounding up the best national banks by focusing on their checking and savings account offerings. But these institutions provide many other products and services including credit cards, mortgage loans, investment accounts, business banking, and other lending services. If you're interested in finding a bank that allows you to do all your banking under the same roof (or online login), be sure to explore each bank's additional offerings.
Best Overall: Capital One
Capital One bank is our pick for the best national bank overall thanks to its nearly non-existent fees, a huge network of 39,000 free ATMs (mostly Allpoint), flexible options for overdrafts, and a wide range of products to meet other banking needs.
The flagship 360 Checking and 360 Savings accounts have no monthly fees and no account minimums. While the branch footprint is limited to a handful of large cities, you can easily handle all of your banking online unless you regularly get paid in cash. Checking and savings accounts also offer industry-leading interest rates.
One unique feature is the ability to choose between four overdraft options. You can auto-decline (no fee), transfer funds from your savings (no fee), draw from an overdraft line of credit (interest costs only) or opt for a next-day grace period that lets you avoid the $35 fee if you add funds by the end of the next business day.
Capital One also offers some great credit cards as well as auto loans, business credit cards and savings, and commercial services.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Ally
Ally offers excellent checking and savings products, as well as credit cards, auto loans, home loans, and investments. Ally’s Interest Checking account offers competitive rates, free Allpoint ATMs, and a reimbursement for up to $10 per statement period in other bank’s ATM fees.
Ally does not have any physical branches, but with common mobile banking features like mobile deposits and online transfers, you shouldn’t need a branch to handle banking if you are paid via check or direct deposit. For transfers to friends and family, you can send a same-day payment through Zelle.
Customer service at Ally is great and accounts are very simple. The account does charge a $25 overdraft fee (maximum one per day), but most other common activity is fee-free.
Best Fee-Free: Simple
Simple is an online bank that offers a mobile-first experience. The bank offers a streamlined checking account experience with an integrated mobile app, debit card, budgeting tools, and even a savings feature that pays top interest rates.
What sets Simple apart is that it doesn't charge any fees. No overdraft fees, no monthly fees, no transfer fees, no card replacement fees, nothing. The only time you risk paying a fee is if you use your debit card abroad, where you may get a pass-through cost from Simple’s ATM provider.
Simple is another no-cash banking solution, but for most people that should work just fine. Because nearly all stores and restaurants take debit or credit these days, you may find that switching to an online bank makes cash a thing of the past. Another bonus feature: the "Safe-to-Spend" budgeting tool can help you meet a savings goal or reduce your day-to-day spending.
Want more information? Check out our full review of Simple.
Best Expanded Service Offerings: Chase
Chase Bank is part of JP Morgan Chase, one of the largest banks in the world. If you want a modern bank with a huge branch footprint and service offering, Chase is a great choice. Chase has 5,100 branches and 16,000 ATMs. But if you want to use any ATMs outside of Chase’s network, you’ll pay a fee for that.
In fact, fees are the big downside to Chase and other large brick-and-mortar banks with a large network of physical branches. Chase offers several options for checking and savings depending on your needs. Most of them charge monthly fees, but you can avoid them by meeting certain activity requirements. Interest rates are also below what you’ll get from an online bank.
Aside from fees and interest rates, Chase is an excellent bank. In addition to regular accounts, it offers industry-leading credit cards, a wide range of lending products, and business services for companies of all sizes.
You can also read our in-depth review of Chase Bank.
Best Cash Back: Discover Bank
Discover Bank offers very good checking and savings accounts in addition to its well-known line of credit cards. This is an online-only bank, so no cash deposits. The Discover Bank checking account, with no minimum fees, pays 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in purchases per month on the account’s debit card, a rare benefit these days.
Discover offers 60,000 free ATMs. The only major downside to this account is that the Discover branded debit card is not as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard. That means you’ll need a backup card just in case you go somewhere that does not accept Discover cards.
That aside, the accounts are great. Discover checking offers free checks and waives your first overdraft per year, which are useful perks for some banking customers.
For more information, check out our full review of Discover Bank.
Best for Veterans and Military Families: USAA
USAA is exclusively for active military, veterans, and their families. If you or an immediate family member has a direct connection to any branch of the US armed forces, you are eligible to join USAA. From there, you have access to a wide range of products and services custom-tailored to the needs of military families.
USAA offers several checking and savings account options (including some with no monthly service fees) as well as credit cards, home loans, auto loans, and investments, so you can handle all of your financial services under one roof.
This financial institution is also known for its high-quality insurance products, which are also only available to members. While USAA has limited locations, primarily near major military bases, there are tons of free ATMs and accounts automatically refund up to $15 of other banks' ATM fees each month.
Best for Frequent Travelers: Schwab Bank
Schwab is best known for its excellent investment products, but today’s review is focused on Charles Schwab’s best-kept secret: the Investor Checking account from Schwab Bank. This account charges no monthly fees and gives you free ATMs anywhere in the world with no fees. Schwab charges none of its own ATM fees and automatically reimburses you for fees charged by other banks. This makes Schwab’s checking the best choice for frequent travelers.
Schwab is an online bank, so you can’t deposit cash. However, you can deposit checks online or in one of Schwab’s many offices around the country. Interest rates for Schwab’s checking and savings are not quite as good as the top tier of online banks, but they do offer better returns than traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
While it only offers credit cards and mortgages through partnerships with outside companies, you can do all of your banking and investing with one login at Schwab.
Want to read more? Check out our full review of Charles Schwab Bank.
Best Branch Network: Wells Fargo
If you like the option of in-person banking and prefer an institution with a large number of branches and ATMs, Wells Fargo has you covered. This banking behemoth claims 8,200 branches and 13,000 ATMs. Pretty much anywhere you go in the United States, you’ll find a Wells Fargo nearby.
Wells Fargo charges high fees and offers poor interest rates, in line with other nationwide banks. It also was the subject of a string of controversies, including bankers opening fraudulent accounts in customers’ names. But while its reputation has suffered, it remains a cornerstone of US banking.
Wells Fargo offers just about every kind of personal and business bank account you could want. Be sure to note the minimum requirements to avoid monthly charges in the checking and savings accounts. If they work for you, you’ll probably find a Wells Fargo just around the corner.
Read up on our full review of Wells Fargo.