Best Banks for Checking Accounts
We found quite a few banks that provide great checking accounts, but each of them tend to have advantages in a specific area. To narrow the field, we looked at the banks that deliver the most important aspects of a checking account: accessibility, affordability and consumer-friendliness.
Best Branch and ATM Access in New York: Chase Bank
Chase Bank is far and away the top choice for New Yorkers who visit ATMs and bank tellers on a regular basis. Chase has almost 500 branch locations serving the city, more than double the number operated by any other retail bank. Although the Chase Total Checking Account doesn't offer any advantage in its fees or rates, the bank's strong presence and wide range of other financial products makes it a convenient option for the typical customer.
Chase's overwhelming physical coverage is obvious to anyone who's walked around the city. No other bank comes close to running as many locations in New York as Chase. In most neighborhoods, you can spot Chase branches every three or four blocks, with vestibules offering 24/7 ATM access. This is especially important because the bank charges the typical $2.50 every time you withdraw cash or check balances at out-of-network ATMs. Combined with the surcharge from the original owner of the machine, Chase's ATM fee can get out of hand if you don't stick to the bank's own ATMs.
If you prefer banking remotely, Chase also leads most banks in the stability and user-friendliness of its web services. Its web portal and mobile app provide consistent access to a full range of options, including integration with other Chase products. For example, people who use any of Chase's credit cards will find it easier to pay off their balance and track spending through the bank's mobile app, which also connects to Chase deposit accounts. The app also eliminates the need to visit a branch in person, allowing you to manage your accounts at any time and place.
Best for Free Checking: Apple Bank for Savings
The only bank on our list that's exclusive to New York, Apple Bank for Savings provides the only free checking account in town. Other banks may waive your monthly maintenance fee if you meet certain balance minimums or activity requirements, but only Apple Bank's ExtraValue Checking Account offers unconditional free service. In addition, new customers at Apple Bank receive a $100 bonus when they establish recurring direct deposits from an employer or benefit program. While smaller than other signup offers, this is one of the easiest rewards to obtain from a retail bank, with no minimum amount required.
However, people coming from a bigger bank may find that Apple Bank's bonus and fee-free account don't make up for its shortcomings in technology and service coverage. With a grand total of about 80 branches, Apple Bank can't offer the kind of nationwide accessibility that customers of Chase or Bank of America might come to take for granted. Moreover, as a local bank, Apple Bank can't match the resources that bigger brands pour into developing new technology. This results in clunkier and less reliable mobile app functions—a potential dealbreaker for anyone who prefers banking through websites and smartphones.
Most Customer-Friendly: HSBC
UK-based HSBC is one of the most customer-friendly banks in New York City. As a member of the FDIC, HSBC also provides account-holders with the protection of deposit insurance.
The customer service benefits of HSBC are many. According to a 2015 Pew study, HSBC outperformed every other brick-and-mortar bank in the fairness and transparency of its disclosures, overdraft policy and dispute resolution. HSBC won't charge you an overdraft fee so long as your balance at the end of the day is overdrawn by $10 or less. Moreover, HSBC processes your daily transactions from lowest to highest amount. Some other banks process your charges from biggest to smallest as a way to increase the number of overdraft fees you'll owe them when you overspend.
The cost of an HSBC account is fairly average, but the bank makes it easier than usual to waive its maintenance fees. If you have a larger balance, HSBC Advance and HSBC Premier Accounts also include unusual benefits like the waiving of foreign exchange fees on your debit card and monthly rebates on non-HSBC ATM surcharges outside of New York State. This last feature is especially useful given the bank's limited ATM and branch coverage outside of major cities.
Best Checking Account for NYC Students: Santander Bank
Santander Bank's Student Value Checking account comes with unique advantages for international students in New York. This student account is not only free for anyone between 16 and 25 years old, it also grants a waiver on the bank's usual incoming wire transfer fee. This makes Santander one of the most cost-effective options for an international student receiving financial support from abroad. Practically every other bank we've come across will charge both incoming and outgoing wire transfers, which can prove very costly if you receive transfers from home every month.
Although you pay no monthly maintenance fee as a student, you will need to deal with a $3 paper statement fee, which isn't charged if you sign up to get paperless statements by email. In New York City, Santander operates 102 branches, but its limited availability in Harlem and Brooklyn may make it a less optimal candidate for students in those areas. Students at major universities such as NYU and Columbia should have no problem: there are three Santander locations near NYU, and one branch slightly south of Columbia University. Still, the bank has a functional mobile app and web portal that should plug the gap for most younger customers, who tend to prefer banking remotely over visiting physical bank locations.
Best for Savings Rates: Capital One Bank
Among brick-and-mortar banks available in New York City, Capital One's Essential Savings account offers both the highest introductory rate and the highest standard rate. New customers with more than $10,000 to deposit can receive 0.80% APY for the first six months, with the rate dropping to 0.50% afterwards. Even Capital One's rate of 0.30% APY on balances below $10,000 represents a large improvement over the standard savings options at the bank's larger competitors, which usually earn a tenth of that APY.
If these rates seem excessively low to you, Capital One also carries online savings accounts in the form of Capital One 360 Savings. These accounts earn 0.75% APY on any balance, with the significant drawback of not receiving service at branch locations. Although the representative we spoke to mentioned that it may be possible to make deposits and withdrawals from Capital One 360 accounts via the bank's new Capital One Cafe locations, such facilities are few and far between. In the city, you'll find one such location at Union Square, on Broadway and 14th Street.
Best for Small Business Checking: Capital One Bank
Capital One is also our pick for the best small business checking account option for most businesses in New York City. It's got plenty of branches throughout the city, along with two different tiers of checking accounts that make it easy to avoid fees for transactions and monthly maintenance. The Capital One Spark Business Basic Checking requires a minimum daily deposit of $2,000.00 to waive the monthly fee, while the Capital One Spark Business Unlimited Checking is free for any business that keeps at least $25,000.00 in the bank. Both accounts come with unlimited free transactions—a rare feature for a business checking account. The basic-level account does cost you $1 per $1,000 in cash deposited. However, this is similar to the most affordable cash deposit fees at other banks.
It's worth noting that both these business checking options are online accounts, which means you'll have access to balance statements, transfer abilities and mobile check deposit for your business—just as any individual consumer would with a Capital One personal account. If you need additional in-person support, the wide network of Capital One branches in New York City should help you stay on top of occasional needs like stop payments or account research.
Summary of the Best Banks in New York City
While the banks we reviewed all have different strengths, it's useful to see what each offers relative to the other options available in the city. We've listed the fees, rates and main strength of each bank for you to compare here.
Finding the Best Bank for You
There are dozens of banks in New York that haven't made this list, but which may end up being a better choice for your particular financial situation. If you haven't found the answer to your banking needs here, the best way to use this article is to deploy it as a baseline for the kinds of fees and rates you should expect other banks to match. Deposit accounts tend to resemble one another fairly closely, especially among the largest national banks. This makes it ineffective to base your decision on a comparison of just one or two incidental fees.
Instead, you should weigh any bank based on how you plan to use its services. While it's fairly easy for a bank to match the interest rates or fee policy of a competitor, it's harder to imitate things like the responsiveness of a mobile app or the helpfulness of bank staff. Ultimately, your personal satisfaction with a bank will depend on the channels you prefer, whether that means friendly bank tellers or powerful online features.