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Analysis: America’s Best Banks by Region

Analysis - America’s Best Banks by Region - Featured Illustration

Technology is rapidly transforming the way we think about banks. Digital disruption is changing customer expectations in the financial sector, and banks are rushing to catch up.

Established banks are adding a wide array of on-screen services in the face of competition from innovative financial startups. Competition has led to lower fees, better interest rates, and high-quality mobile apps – with more on the way.

It has also created a gap between the good and the great, which is exactly why Money.com created a list of America’s eight best banks, one for each region in the US.

Money.com subjected 235 financial institutions to analysis, focusing on those that provide the best combination of modern-day convenience, quality products, and friendly customer service. The eight top banks were picked because of their low-cost accounts, competitive ATM fees, and above-average customer service as reported in J.D. Power’s 2019 Customer Satisfaction study.

Pacific: Banner Bank

Banner stands out as the best Pacific-region bank because of a unique consumer-friendly approach to fees. Banner does not charge out-of-network ATM fees and it reimburses four surcharges per month for withdrawals made from any American ATM, all for a basic checking account that comes with no monthly service fees. It is not surprising, then, that the bank has the happiest customers in the region, topping J.D. Power’s 2019 Retail Banking Satisfaction survey for the Northwest three years in a row.

Caveat: Banner’s savings accounts do come with monthly service fees that start at $3 per month. This fee, too, can be waived, but you must either set up an automatic transfer of at least $25 a month from your Banner checking account or maintain a minimum daily balance of $100.

Where you can find it: California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington

Key account: Interest Checking

Monthly service fee: $7. The fee is waived with a minimum daily balance of $1,500.

Interest rate: 0.05% on any balance, plus $.05 back on every debit card purchase.

Outside ATM fee: $0

Mountain West: Washington Federal

Washington Federal offers a checking account with no monthly service fees, no minimum balance requirements, and no out-of-network ATM fees when you sign up for e-statements and direct deposit. Because the bank belongs to the MoneyPass network, customers can use more than 32,000 ATMs across the US free of fees, making it easy to avoid surcharges. The savings account requires just a $100 minimum balance to earn above-average 0.1% interest payouts and avoid a $3 monthly service fee.

Caveat: Washington Federal does not have a huge number of branch locations – just 236 spread across eight states. So it might be hard for customers who prefer in-person banking to reach them.

Where you can find it: Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington

Key account: Free Checking

Monthly service fee: $0

Outside ATM fee: $0

Great Lakes: Huntington National

Huntington’s Asterisk-Free checking account comes with no monthly service fee and no minimum balance. Deposit $5,000 and you can sign up for an account that earns 0.05% interest and refunds five out-of-network ATM surcharges per statement period. For savings accounts, you can earn between 0.05% and 0.20% interest, depending on the checking account you link to it.

Huntington ranks among the top two banks in the region for customer satisfaction, and its online and mobile app experience are unmatched in the Great Lakes according to J.D. Power’s Banking Satisfaction studies

Caveat: The bank does not have many ATMs of its own, so it is likely that you will pay steep $3 out-of-network fees at least occasionally.

Where you can find it: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia

Key account: Asterisk-Free Checking

Monthly service fee: $0

Outside ATM fee: $3

Mid-Atlantic: Capital One

Why it wins: Capital One’s outstanding 360 Checking Account comes with no monthly fees and pays 0.2% interest on balances under $50,000, while requiring $0 to open it and providing free access to more than 39,000 Capital One or Allpoint ATMs. The bank also offers a great 360 Performance Savings Account that comes with no monthly service fees but pays out a 1.9% interest rate, which is more than 20 times the average rate.

Last but not least, Capital One is a top scorer when it comes to online and mobile banking customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power.

Caveat: Because some of the Capital One branch locations are cafes, they are not full-service and cannot perform all typical banking functions like providing a cashier’s check.

Where you can find it: Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Los Angeles, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia.

Key account: 360 Checking

Monthly service fee: $0

Outside ATM fee: $0

New England: Berkshire Bank

Berkshire stands out with its GPS Checking account, which not only comes without monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, but also gives you free ATM access to any cash-point in the country while waiving all foreign ATM fees. The catch is that you must use your debit card at least 15 times per statement cycle to receive those surcharge refunds or you will have to pay out-of-network ATM fees. Berkshire’s Statement Savings account pays an above-average 0.25% interest on balances greater than $10 and requires a $250 minimum daily balance to avoid a $5 monthly maintenance fee.

Caveat: Because Berkshire operates only 135 branches across seven states, it is difficult to avoid paying a $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee if you aren’t making those minimum 15 debit transactions each month.

Where you can find it: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont

Key account: GPS Checking

Monthly service fee: $0

Outside ATM fee: $2.50

South: Bank OZK

Bank OZK charges no monthly service fees and has no balance requirements for its free checking account, though your initial deposit must be at least $100. The $1 out-of-network ATM fee is extremely low for the region, and there is even an option to upgrade your free checking account to reimburse four surcharges a month or even receive a little bit of interest on your balance.

Caveat: Bank OZK has only one savings account option, and it comes with a sub-par 0.05% interest rate and a $3 monthly service fee if the balance drops below $100.

Where you can find it: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Texas.

Key account: My Choice Checking

Monthly service fee: $0

Outside ATM fee: $1. The fee can be waived if you enroll in direct deposit, which also gives four monthly surcharge refunds.

Texas: Frost Bank

Frost Bank’s checking account comes with a pricey $8 monthly service fee which can be waived with a $100 monthly direct deposit or a minimum balance of $1,000. Frost has been the best-rated bank in Texas for customer satisfaction two years in a row, according to J.D. Power.

Caveat: Because Frost operates only in Texas where it has over 1,200 ATMs, the $2 out-of-network fee applies whenever you venture across state borders.

Where you can find it: Texas

Key account: Personal Checking

Monthly service fee: $8. The fee is waived with a $100 direct deposit or daily minimum balance of $1,000.

Outside ATM fee: $2

Midwest: First National Bank of Omaha

First National Bank of Omaha has a great customer-friendly approach to fees. It offers multiple checking account options that require no minimum deposit or monthly service fee. The bank is also a participant in a large national network of ATMs, and it won’t charge you for using another company’s ATMs. The bank automatically refunds one $33 overdraft fee every 12 months. This level of service has earned First National a spot as one of the top two banks in the region, according to J.D. Power.

Caveat: One negative is that the bank has only about 100 branch locations, so it can be hard to find one close by.

Where you can find it: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas

Key account: First National Checking

Monthly service fee: $0

Outside ATM fee: $0


About author
G. Dautovic

I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.

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