Best Free Checking: Union Bank
Union Bank offers many financial products and checking accounts, but its Banking by Design checking account has the most flexibility and is the easiest to waive fees. This account offers you the opportunity to add many features for low unwaivable monthly fees, but it can save you money in the long run with options such as unlimited checks for $1 per month or money orders for $1 per month.
This account has a monthly fee of $5.00, which can be easily waived by direct depositing $250 or more each month. There is a minimum opening deposit of $100.00, but there is no minimum balance requirement. It offers all the standard features of online and mobile banking, account alerts, and a secure debit card. Union Bank has a presence in California, Washington and Oregon and has almost 40 branches in just San Diego alone.
Best Branch Access: Wells Fargo
As one of the largest banks in the nation, Wells Fargo's reach is unparalleled in many parts of the country—San Diego included. Although Chase Bank has only a few less branches, Wells Fargo is more dispersed, with more than 60 branches from Mission Beach to El Cajon. Wells Fargo offers a variety of financial products for individuals and small businesses.
The Everyday Checking Account is a solid choice, with features such as 24/7 customer service, online and mobile banking, and budgeting tools. In order to open the account, you need an initial deposit of at least $25.00, and you’ll need to maintain a $1,500 daily minimum balance, have direct deposits totaling over $500 each month or use your debit card at least 10 times per month in order to waive the monthly fee of $10.00.
Best Checking for Students: Chase Bank
Chase Bank provides convenient access for most university students studying in San Diego, with numerous ATMs across the University of California San Diego campus and over 60 branches throughout San Diego. 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. It also offers a $50 sign-up bonus after depositing $25 and making at least 10 qualifying transactions—debit card purchases, deposits and Quickpay transfers—within the first 60 days. This offer expires Aug. 13, 2018.
This account offers features such as 24/7 customer service, online and mobile banking, and account alerts to help avoid overdrafts and monitor suspicious activity. These features offer safety and convenience to students who may not have the time to go to a physical branch. The Chase College Checking account only requires $25 to open.
Best Checking for Military: USAA
USAA was founded by Army officers for meeting the needs of other servicemembers, which is why it offers some of the best products for military personnel today. However, USAA accounts are restricted to veterans or those currently the U.S. armed forces and their immediate family members.There are many USAA branches and ATMs across San Diego and the nation, which is convenient when you're off-base or if you relocate often. USAA offers two checking accounts depending on your banking preferences.
The Cashback Rewards Checking account is a solid account that rewards users for purchases with their debit card. This account has no fees, no minimum balance requirements and only requires $25.00 to open. The Classic Checking account also has no fees, no minimum balance requirements and only requires $25.00 to open, but instead of offering cashback on purchases, the account offers an interest rate of 0.01% APY, which may offer you better returns than the cashback rewards on higher balances. This account also includes ATM fee refunds on out-of-network ATMs.
Best for Savings: Mission Federal Credit Union
Mission Federal Credit Union isn't a bank, but anyone who resides, works or attends school in San Diego County is eligible to join. There are almost 20 branches across San Diego, making it a convenient place to store your money. But what makes Mission Fed stand out is its high interest rates, which beat rates at many of the national banks in the area.
Mission Fed offers two savings accounts—the Standard account and a Summer/Holiday Saver account. The Standard account has no monthly fees, a low minimum opening deposit of $1, and it offers an APY of 0.10% across all balances. The Summer/Holiday Saver account also has no monthly fees and no minimum opening deposit requirement, but it requires a monthly transfer between $20 and 500. This account has an APY of 0.50%.
Best for Military Families: Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal is America's largest credit union and was historically only for members of the U.S. Navy but was eventually opened up to all branches of the military and the Department of Defense. Anyone in the previously mentioned roles, their family members and veterans can open an account with Navy Federal. Navy Federal has a wide range of financial products that are suitable for whatever financial situation you may be in.
Navy Federal offers free checking on its Free Everyday Checking account, which has no monthly fees, no minimum opening deposit and no minimum balance requirements. This account provides solid features and is easy to maintain. For those with higher balances, Navy Federal’s Flagship Checking offers an APY of 0.35% of balances over $1,500. This APY goes up to 0.45% on balances over $25,000. There is a $10 monthly fee, which you can waive by maintaining a balance of $1,500.
Navy Federal's Share Savings account has no monthly service charge, no minimum opening deposit amount and currently offers an APY of 0.25% across all balances. This is much higher than what national banks offer, and it does not limit you to a maximum deposit, as Mission Fed does.
Navy Federal offers a wide range of products for the entire family—whether it's student loans and student accounts or auto loans and mortgages, making it stand out amongst other military banks and credit unions.
Best for Small Businesses: US Bank
US Bank has the physical branch presence that small-business owners need, with over 140 branches throughout San Diego. With three different tiers of business checking options, a greater selection of loan types than Wells Fargo and a wide range of financial products, US Bank stands out from the rest of the banks in San Diego in providing small-business checking accounts.
The Silver Business Package has no monthly fee or a minimum balance but only allows 150 free transactions per month and a max cash deposit of $2,500.00. Any additional transactions cost $0.50 per transaction per transaction or $100 deposited. This is solid for a free business checking account, which provides more free transactions than other national banks' basic business checking accounts.
Summary of the Best Banks in San Diego
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, which usually offer better terms at the expense of branch access convenience
|Best For…||Bank Name||Monthly Fee||Features|
|Free Checking||Union Bank||$5||Easy-to-waive fee|
|Branch Access||Wells Fargo||$10||Most branches in San Diego|
|Checking for Students||Chase Bank||$0||Good account for college and beyond|
|Checking for Military||USAA||$0||Good perks for servicemembers|
|Savings||Mission Federal Credit Union||$0||Earn interest on any balance|
|Small Business||US Bank||$0||No monthly fee and comprehensive small business services|