Best for Free Checking: First Citizens Bank
First Citizens Bank is one of the only major banks to offer a checking account without a monthly maintenance fee. Not only does it stand out for its great free checking option, but it also has the convenience of 140 branches spread across South Carolina. Finally, First Citizens offers a strong variety of accounts, financial products and services.
The First Citizens Free Checking account has an opening deposit requirement of $50.00, which is double what most major banks require. However, most free checking accounts usually have a higher opening deposit requirement than standard options. There are no monthly minimum requirements or monthly fees on this account, making it an excellent choice for a basic free checking account.
Best for Branch Access: Wells Fargo
This national bank has the over 140 branches spread across South Carolina, making it the most convenient bank in the state. Wells Fargo also has the most branches across the country, making it a great choice if you enjoy traveling through the country. Although Wells Fargo has had a poor reputation over the past few years for a long list of questionable practices, the bank is currently undergoing major internal change and regulatory oversight to prevent future abuses.
The Everyday Checking Account is a decent account, 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, plus you’ll need to maintain a $1,500 daily minimum balance, have direct deposits totaling over $500, or use your debit card at least 10 times per month in order to waive the monthly fee of $10. These are all standard requirements you would see across major banks—except this account includes the additional option of using your debit card 10 times a month to waive the monthly fee.
Best for Students: BB&T
BB&T was our top banking choice for students at South Carolina's universities, thanks to a combination of standout features. With BB&T's Student Checking account, college students don't need to worry about any minimum opening deposit, monthly maintenance fee or minimum balance requirement, which makes it easier to budget while taking classes. Besides the lack of fees, BB&T has a customizable online and mobile banking experience that gives students the freedom to bank according to their needs.
BB&T is also a highly accessible bank for students. It has a widespread presence in the state with over 100 branches across South Carolina and convenient branches located next to major universities, such as University of South Carolina and Clemson University. So if you're going to the South Carolina-Clemson game, you don't have to worry about finding a bank along the way.
Best for Savings: South State Bank
South State Bank has one of the highest savings rates in South Carolina, with a rate of 0.35% APY on its Smart Savings account. This is much higher than the 0.01% APY offered by major banks such as Wells Fargo. The South State Smart Savings account requires $50.00 to open and a relatively low $200.00 minimum balance for waiving the $15.00 monthly fee.
Although 0.35% is high for banks, credit unions and online banks often offer even higher savings rates. If you live near a credit union, it may be worth it to check out its rates and account fees. If you don't need physical branch locations at all, online banks may be a way for you to minimize bank fees and access some of the highest savings rates in the country.
Best for Small Businesses: First Citizens Bank
First Citizens Bank not only provides a great free checking account, but the First Citizens Basic Business Checking account is great for small businesses as well. It has no monthly maintenance fees and allows up to 175 free transactions, as well as up to $5,000.00 in cash deposit for free. This is much greater than the 50 free transactions and $3,000 max cash deposit that Wells Fargo provides on their basic business checking account.
Beyond this free business checking account, First Citizens also provides business checking and savings accounts, as well as a wide variety of merchant services, loans and products. With 140 branches across the state, it also provides the most widespread access for business owners who need to go to physical branches on a daily basis.
Finding the Right Bank for You
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 bank options, which usually offer better terms at the expense of branch access convenience. Finally, take note of fee schedules and fine print: Some "free" accounts may end up costing you more in ATM fees, overdraft fees, wire transfer fees, etc., than a premium account that includes all those extras.