Best Free Checking: KeyBank
KeyBank was our choice as the best free checking option in Washington state thanks to its standard checking account, which has low fees across the board. The KeyBank Hassle-Free Account stands out with a low $10.00 opening requirement, no monthly fees and no overdraft fees. This is a much better checking account than those at major banks like Chase, where monthly fees start at $12.00 and overdrafts cost as much as $34.00.
One drawback to this account is that you can't write checks, which may inconvenience people who prefer checks to direct transfers or online bill pay. Furthermore, most of the bank branches are located around major cities like Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma. KeyBank isn't as easy to find in eastern parts of the state, like Spokane. With a strong combination of low-cost checking and over 150 branches in Washington state, KeyBank is the best option for people who want a convenient free checking account.
Best for Branch Access: U.S. Bank
U.S. Bank's conveniently located network of branches in Washington makes it an ideal choice if you want consistent access to in-person services. As a national bank with over 3,000 branches, U.S. Bank is one of Washington's biggest. The only bank to have more branches is Chase, which is heavily concentrated in the Seattle metro area. By contrast, U.S. Bank's 180 branches offer better coverage throughout Washington, including the region around Yakima and Kennewick.
U.S. Bank's fees and product selection are fairly standard for a national brand. The standard Silver Checking Account has a relatively low $6.95 monthly fee, but avoiding this fee requires a standard minimum balance of $1,500 or a hefty $1,000 in monthly direct deposits. Overall, U.S. Bank is your best bet if you prefer banking in person, but you shouldn't expect a major advantage in terms of features or affordability.
Best for Students: Chase Bank
Chase Bank has the most branches in Washington, providing a great student checking account with easy access for busy students across Washington. Whether you attend University of Washington or Washington State, Chase's wide service network puts ATMs and branch offices just a few minutes away from campus.
The Chase College Checking account, which is free for up to five years as long as you are a student, stands out for its reduced monthly fee on a standard checking account after you graduate from college. This fee is also easily waived compared to the fees at other major banks.
Best for Savings: Homestreet Bank
Homestreet Bank has one of the highest savings rates in Washington, with an APY of 0.20% on its Statement Savings Account. This account stands out for the low $100 minimum opening deposit and $1.00 monthly fee, which is waived if you have a minimum balance of $200. Although this account has a relatively high opening deposit requirement, its high APY and low monthly fee waiver requirements—compared to major banks such as Chase or U.S. Bank—make it a great savings account.
However, most of Homestreet Bank’s branches are in the western part of the state in the major cities. This is reflected in the fact that the savings rate of 0.20% applies only to residents living in the western parts of the state. Residents living in eastern parts of Washington, such as Spokane, only get an APY of 0.05%. If this affects you, you may want to check out online banks or credit unions. These offer less convenience but potentially better terms and higher savings rates.
Best for Small Business: U.S. Bank
With three different business checking offerings and a wide range of financial products and services, U.S. Bank stands out from the rest of the banks in Washington in providing the best small-business banking services. As one of Washington's most accessible banks, U.S. Bank also has the physical branch presence that small-business owners need.
The Silver Business Package has no monthly fee or a minimum balance but only allows 150 free transactions per month and a maximum cash deposit of $2,500.00. Any additional transactions cost $0.50 per transaction or $100 deposited. The 150 free transactions allotted are more than the 50 free transactions Wells Fargo provides with its free business checking account, and the number is comparable to the basic account offered by Chase, which has a $15 monthly fee. However, the maximum cash deposit of $2,500 is on the low side, as even Wells Fargo offers a maximum cash deposit of $3,000.
How to Find the Best Banks
Depending on your banking preferences, these accounts may not be the most suitable for you. There are many banks to look through and even more bank account options, so we recommend that you conduct some research into which options suit your banking habits the best.
This list can be used as a baseline to compare any other competitive accounts you may find. If banking in person is not a high priority for you, then you may wish to check local credit unions or online bank options, which usually offer better terms at the expense of branch access convenience.
Lastly, take note of the fine print, where banks keep information on most of their fees. As a result, some "free" accounts may end up costing you more in ATM fees, overdraft fees or wire transfer fees than the monthly fee you would have paid on a premium account, which includes these extras.