Best West Coast Banks

Those out west have lots of options from big and small banks..

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Are you located somewhere near the Pacific Ocean? Do you want to put your money close to where you live?

These days, the geographic location of banks matters less than it once did, as it’s entirely possible to do all of your banking online. But many of us still like to have a local branch nearby to obtain personal customer service, and there are many good, solid banks based on the West Coast with competitive rates and fees and good customer service.

There are also many banks based elsewhere that offer similar benefits along with a great network of branches and ATMs in California, Washington and Oregon.

In many cases, savers out west are presented with a tradeoff. Banks with numerous ATMs and branches often offer the lowest interest rates on savings and checking accounts. But those banks offering higher rates have fewer physical branches. It all comes down to what’s most important to you.

Let’s take a look at some of the largest and best banks on the West Coast.

CIT Bank

Based in Pasadena, Calif., CIT offers money market checking and high yield savings accounts, plus a wide range of CD products with terms ranging from six months to five years. There’s also the ability to create custom CD laddering.

CIT does not offer checking, but is a good option for those looking for higher-than-average interest rates on savings accounts. As of November 2018, CIT Bank offered a 2.15 percent APY through its Savings Builder Account if you maintain a $25,000 balance or deposit $100 per month.

That’s one of the highest rates in the country.

Golden 1 Credit Union

Anyone who lives in California can join Golden1 Credit Union and access a wide range of financial products including checking and savings accounts, loans, insurance, and credit cards.

A basic checking account is free, though savers can access interest-producing checking by maintaining a $1,000 balance.

There are also special checking accounts for students and other young people.

Golden 1 customers can access 240 ATMs in California, plus another 30,000 that are part of a co-op.

Interest rates aren’t quite as competitive as other banks. Money Market accounts will generate a 0.15 percent APY, rising as high as 0.45 percent with balances above $100,000. 

Bank of the West

Based out of San Francisco, Bank of the West has branches all over the West Coast and offers checking, savings, CDs and investment products.

With the AnyDeposit checking account, customers can avoid a monthly account fee simply by making one deposit of any size each month. (Otherwise the fee is $10.) Premier Checking customers can avoid the fee with a balance of $25,000. Basic savings accounts offer an APY of 0.01 percent, but rates rise to 0.29 percent with balances above $10,000.

As of November 2018, Bank of the West is offering a 2.35 percent APY promo rate on a CD with a $25,000 minimum balance.

Umpqua Bank

Oregon-based Umpqua is all over the West Coast with the highest concentration in Oregon and Washington. There are also branches in California, Nevada and Idaho. Umpqua in 2013 expanded its footprint out west when it bought Sterling Financial.

Umpqua has traditional saving and checking accounts, plus loans Umpqua offers three different checking accounts, including two that are free if you set up direct deposit. A third is fee-free with a balance of $25,000. There are also three savings account options that are free if minimum balance requirements are met. (Otherwise, monthly fees range from $3 to $10.)

Umpqua has lower-than-average interest rates (savings accounts generate just 0.01 percent) but emphasizes customer service and will waive most fees for senior citizens. ATMs can be found throughout the west, but Umpqua will refund ATM fees if customers use non-Umpqua machines.

Washington Federal Savings and Loan

This Seattle-based bank has branches throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as Texas, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona.

It offers savings and checking accounts, credit and debit cards, and loans.

Washington Federal offers a free basic checking account, as a well as a “Green” checking account that’s $6 and includes cell phone and identity theft protection. There’s also an interest-bearing “Stellar Plus” checking account for those with larger balances. The bank offers two savings account options for $4 or $10 per month, plus certificates of deposit. Passbook savings accounts earn 0.1 percent APY, while CDs can earn as much as 2.7 percent depending on the term length.

Wells Fargo

As the 4th-largest U.S. bank, Wells Fargo is big enough that no one thinks of it as a “West Coast” bank. But with headquarters in San Francisco, it qualifies. And it’s worth noting that it has more than 1,000 branches and 4,000 ATMs on the coast, including 849 branches and 3,816 ATMs in California alone.

Ubiquity may be Wells Fargo’s big selling point out west, but it also offers a wide range of products and services for any banking need, including checking and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and investment services.

Wells Fargo’s Platinum Savings account has a low 0.08 percent APY but that goes up to 1.9 percent with balances above $25,000. A $3,500 average monthly balance fee is required to avoid the $12 account fee. For those with lower balances, there’s the Way2Save Savings account, offering 0.01 percent APY. The $5 monthly account fee is waived with $300 account balance.

Charles Schwab

Based in San Francisco, “Chuck” is known more as a discount investment broker rather than a bank, but it does offer interest-bearing checking accounts with competitive rates and costs. You can earn 0.35 percent on your account balances and there are no account minimums or fees. Charles Schwab also offers free checks, a debit card, and unlimited rebates on ATM fees worldwide. The only catch is that the checking account must be linked to a Charles Schwab online brokerage account.

Charles Schwab has more than 60 branches in California, nine in Washington and five in Oregon.

East West Bank

One of the largest banks based in Southern California, East West was founded as a bank for Chinese people living in the state in the 1970s. It still operates branches in China.

The bank has three different main checking options, with two that earn interest for account holders. There are also checking accounts designed for students and seniors.

A $3 fee on passbook savings accounts is waived with a $2,500 balance.

East West currently offers a 0.1 percent APY on savings accounts with a balance of $25,000. Smaller balances offer rates of 0.05 percent APY.

Chase Bank

It’s not a West Coast bank, but its presence on that side of the country is enormous. Branches and ATMs are ubiquitous in California, and there are dozens in Washington and Oregon as well.

Chase offers interest-bearing checking accounts with no fee if you have a balance of $15,000 or more. Between now and January 14, 2019, the bank will even give you $300 if you open an account and set up direct deposit.  Interest rates on savings accounts range from 0.01 percent to .11 percent APY depending on the account and balance. Rates on certificates of deposit range from .02 percent to 1.75 percent depending on term and size.