Best for free checking: Bank OZK
Formerly known as the Bank of the Ozarks, this bank is our top choice for a checking account because of its rich features and lack of a monthly fee. This bank was started in Arkansas over 100 years ago, but it has rapidly expanded over the last 40 years by serving Arkansas communities better than its competitors. The My Choice Checking account offers great features like unlimited check writing and online and mobile banking. If you connect direct deposit to your account, you even get out-of-network ATM fee rebates or interest on your checking balance. These features are rarely seen on free checking accounts.
This account may not have a monthly maintenance fee, but it has a relatively high minimum opening balance of $100.00 . This minimum is somewhat standard for banks in Arkansas but is higher than the $50 Arvest Bank and Regions Bank require. Furthermore, Bank OZK still loses out to Arvest Bank and Regions Bank in number of brick-and-mortar locations throughout Arkansas. If banking in person is your No. 1 priority, you may wish to choose Arvest Bank.
Best for branch access and students: Arvest Bank
Arvest Bank is the best bank for in-person banking, with 145 branches throughout the state. There are a large number of branches by major cities such as Little Rock and Fayetteville, but smaller cities like Fort Smith and Jonesboro have decent branch presence as well. The only downside is the lack of branches in Southeastern Arkansas, which seems to be covered mostly by local banks and credit unions.
Arvest Bank offers many accounts, but we found its Free Blue Checking account to offer a number of solid features, such as overdraft protection and unlimited check writing, for a free account. The account only requires $50.00 to open and has no monthly fee. This opening requirement is the same as Regions Bank and lower than most Arkansas banks, but differs in its lack of a monthly fee. However, do watch out for the Dormant Account Fees, which are charged after 12 months of inactivity.
Because of its many locations and features, this bank account can also be a great choice for students. Like most banks in Arkansas, Arvest Bank doesn't offer a seperate student checking account, but its feature-rich free account along with many branch locations near colleges such as University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and Arkansas State University, make it a great choice for students.
Best for savings: CIT Bank
When we researched savings account rates in Arkansas, we found that brick-and-mortar banks offer far lower rates than you can obtain via online-only savings accounts or require high balances to receive decent rates. That's why we recommend CIT Bank, a nationally available online bank whose Savings Builder account earns up to 2.40% with no monthly fee. Requiring $100.00 to open, and a deposit of $100 a month to maintain this high rate, this account offers the best savings rate across all balances in the United States—so long as you're willing to bank without branch access.
Choosing an online bank like CIT means that you give up in-person services in exchange for fewer fees and higher interest rates. Another drawback at CIT Bank is the lack of a checking account option, which can be inconvenient if you prefer keeping your accounts together in one bank. On the other hand, Arvest Bank and Bank OZK both offer great savings options that give you solid rates when opened with a checking account. Ultimately, if you prefer banking in person, you can always combine this account with a regular checking account at a local institution.
Best for small business: Centennial Bank
Centennial Bank is our choice for the best small-business checking account by offering much better terms than any other bank in Arkansas. Not only does Centennial Bank offer a lot of business products and services, but there are many branches available in the cities. If you live in the southern parts of Arkansas, you may wish to look for a local bank or Bank OZK, which also offers decent features and benefits.
Centennial Bank's Business Checking account does not have a monthly fee, unless your balance falls below zero. This free account also offers 375 free transactions a month, with each transaction beyond that costing $0.40. This is not only far more than the closest competitor Bank OZK, which offers free business checking and 250 items, but the $0.40 per excess transaction is lower than most banks in Arkansas.
Finding the Right Bank for You
If you can't find a bank that fits your banking preferences above, use our criteria as a baseline to compare any other competitive accounts you may find. Remember that features aren't the only things you may wish to consider, if you can't meet the fee requirements, you may end up paying more for the fees than the features are worth.
If banking with a national brand isn't a high priority for you, then you may want to check out your local credit unions or online bank options, which usually offer better terms but may have a limited national footprint. Finally, be sure to read the fine print of your account agreement in order to avoid being ambushed by account usage fees. Depending on your banking needs, it may make more sense to pay for a premium account in order to access free features that you'd otherwise pay for.