We researched account fees, interest rates and branch accessibility across the Empire State to find the best banking options. If you're looking for a bank in New York City, we have more specific recommendations here.

Best Free Checking: M&T Bank

Consider this if you want a free checking account with convenient bank access across the state.
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M&T Bank is a great choice for free checking because of its features, accessibility and lack of fees. While most major banks charge a monthly fee for even the most basic accounts, at M&T there is no monthly fee, no minimum balance and a low opening deposit of $0.00. KeyBank does offer a free checking account with a lower opening deposit requirement, but you lose the ability to write checks.

Although there are almost 300 M&T Bank branches in New York, there are no branches in the North Country region. However, M&T Bank is convenient across much of the east coast, with over 800 bank branches and 1,500 ATMs, making M&T Bank a great choice for most New Yorkers.

Best Branch Access: KeyBank

Consider this if you want to bank in person regardless of where you are in New York.
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KeyBank is the most accessible banking option in the state of New York, with more than 300 branches statewide and over 20 in the North Country region. Although Chase Bank has twice as many branches as KeyBank, Chase's branches are centered around urban areas, with most of their branches located within 100 miles of New York City.

KeyBank also provides great account offerings, with a free bare-bones account that only requires a $10.00 minimum deposit, but it does not offer the ability to write checks. For a more standard account, KeyBank also offers the Key Express Checking Account, which has a monthly fee of $7.00 that is easily waived and a minimum opening deposit requirement of $50.00. Although the opening deposit requirement is higher than most major banks, the easy-to-waive monthly fee makes this a great account overall. Consider KeyBank if you live upstate and value banking in person throughout the state.

Best for Students: Chase Bank

Consider this if you value branch access and low monthly fees.
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Chase Bank provides convenient access for most university students studying in New York, with numerous branches across New York City and Long Island. If you're attending a college upstate, you may wish to consider M&T Bank, which has convenient branches near Cornell University and SUNY Binghamton. The Chase College Checking account is limited to students who are 17 to 24 years old, and it provides five years worth of monthly fee waivers while you attend college.

What makes this account stand out is the lower monthly fee, which can also be waived completely after you graduate from college. Other banks simply change your account from a student checking account to the standard account their bank offers, causing recently graduated students to rack up monthly fees. Furthermore, this student checking account also offers a $50 sign-up bonus after depositing $25 and making at least 10 qualifying transactions—debit card purchases, deposits and Quickpay transfers qualify—within the first 60 days. This offer expires Aug. 13, 2018.

Best for Savings: TD Bank

Consider this if you are looking for a high savings rate.
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TD Bank offers solutions for consumers in any income bracket, with three different savings products that have much higher APYs than you would find at any other national bank. The Simple Savings account from TD Bank has a 0.02% APY and no opening minimum balance. The account's $5 monthly maintenance fee can be waived if you maintain a $300.00 minimum daily balance. To get a similar APY on a basic savings account at Bank of America, which has the second highest APY, you would need over $50,000 deposited in the savings account.

To receive APY rates higher than 0.45%, TD Bank has an incentive program called Rate Bump, which raises the APY when you link a mortgage, home equity loan or credit card account.

Best for Small Business: KeyBank

Consider this if you need easy-to-access free business checking.
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KeyBank has the physical branch presence that small-business owners need and offers many products and services to suit your business needs. The Basic Business Checking only requires $25 to open and has a low monthly fee of $5.00, which is easily waived by maintaining an average balance of $1,000.

Although the opening requirements are relatively standard, KeyBank stands out by providing up to 200 free transactions a month and a max cash deposit of $25,000. Typical basic small-business checking accounts only provide 50 free transactions and a max cash deposit of $5,000. At other banks, similar account offerings would cost you a monthly fee of $20 or more.

Summary of the Best Banks in New York State

Deciding on the right bank account will depend on your personal needs and preferences. There are quite a few banks to look through, and even more bank account options, so we recommend that you do your own research to identify what you want in a bank. This list can provide you a baseline to compare any other competitive accounts you may find as you research. If banking in person is not a high priority for you, then you may wish to check online banks options, which usually offer better terms at the expense of branch access convenience.

Best For…
Bank Name
Monthly Fee
Free CheckingM&T Bank$0Opening deposit requirement is only $25
Branch AccessKeyBank$0Best access throughout New York
Checking for StudentsChase Bank$0No monthly fee for students under 25
SavingsTD Bank$5Low waiver requirements
Small BusinessKeyBank$5Low monthly fee and comprehensive small business services

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