The Best National Banks in America 2018

For all the criticism they receive from consumers, national banks offer two main advantages over smaller local banks: better accessibility and a more comprehensive range of products. We've looked at a dozen of the biggest banks in the US and came up with some recommendations based on different financial needs.

Best for Checking

Broadly speaking, checking accounts are the best product offered by national banks. While their interest rates tend to fall below the APYs offered at smaller institutions and online-only banks, big banks are ideally suited to provide ATM and branch access in wide areas of the country.

Best National Bank for Checking Overall: Chase Bank

Consider this if you want a strong mix of online banking features, ATM coverage, and access to other financial products.

Monthly Fee $12.00
Balance to Waive Fee $1,500
Opening Deposit $25.00

You should choose Chase Bank if you value accessibility, affordability and usability in your daily banking experience. While the Chase Total Checking account isn't free, the $12 maintenance fee is waived each month so long as you receive $500 in direct deposits or keep a daily minimum of at least $1,500 on your balance.

map of Chase branches in the US, by county

There are plenty of other banks that offer easier ways to get free checking, but we recommend Chase as the best among national brands. If the key strengths of a big bank are big ATM networks and powerful mobile banking, Chase delivers the best of both worlds. Its branches and ATMs can be found in almost every major city, while the Chase mobile app and website work swiftly and reliably to link together all of your Chase checking, savings, loan and credit card accounts.

Bank account fees at Chase closely mirror the average at most other national banks, although Chase does leave out the irritating paper statement fee that competitors often charge. Overdrafts can end up costing you a significant amount, with a $35 charge for each time you go more than $5 in the red. Interest rates on Chase checking accounts leave a lot of room for improvement, with nothing higher than 0.03% APY available for any balance.

Most Branch Locations: Wells Fargo

Consider this if your highest banking priority is staying within reach of a branch location or ATM.

Monthly Fee $10.00
Balance to Waive Fee $1,500
Opening Deposit $50.00

In terms of sheer coverage, no other bank in the US can match Wells Fargo's 6,200 branches and 10,000 ATMs. If you're one of the millions of consumers that frequently rely on teller service and cash withdrawals from ATMs, it's more than likely that you live within range of at least one Wells Fargo branch. However, there are a few important points to consider with this particular national bank.

U.S. map of Wells Fargo branches, by county

It's impossible to ignore the relevance of recent scandal at Wells Fargo. 2016 saw the revelation of widespread misconduct by bank employees, who tried to meet aggressive sales quotas by creating millions of fake accounts without telling customers. Although the bank has promised to reform policies and training in order to prevent future issues, this problem is certainly nothing to be taken lightly. If you do choose to bank with Wells Fargo, we recommend that you keep an eye on your statements to make sure that you aren't being billed for extra accounts.

In terms of features, Wells Fargo tracks pretty closely with what you'll find at Chase and Bank of America. Its mobile app and online banking options offer the same features, enabling users to make mobile check deposits, transfer money between accounts and make person-to-person payments. Unlike its two main rivals, Wells Fargo does allow you to avoid paying account fees if you manage to make ten debit card purchases each month, an important feature if you don't want to meet a minimum balance requirement.

Best National Bank for Students: Bank of America

Consider this if you're a student preparing to move to another state for college.

Monthly Fee $12.00
Balance to Waive Fee $1,500
Opening Deposit $25.00

With higher debit and ATM withdrawal limits for student accounts, Bank of America is our recommendation for student checking among national banks. Bank of America is the third-largest in the US, with 4,700 branches nationwide, so there's a decent chance that you'll find a branch wherever you happen to live or study.

U.S. map of Bank of America branches, by county

While most banks will give students a specific college or high-school checking account, Bank of America gives you a standard Core Checking Account for free, as long as you're an active student under 23. Having a standard account as a student means that you’ll have more generous daily limits on your debit card and ATM withdrawals compared to the more restrictive student accounts at other banks. So long as you remember to opt out of paper statements, you can keep your Bank of America Core Checking Account free so long as you're enrolled and under the age limit.

Bank of America – Daily Account Limits

  • ATM Withdrawal Limit: $1,000
  • Debit Purchase Limit: $5,000

Best National Bank for Savings: TD Bank

Consider this if you want a major bank that offers a better rate for your savings account.

APY 0.05%
Minimum Balance to Earn APY $0.00
Monthly Fee $5.00

National brick-and-mortar banks typically post very weak deposit interest rates, but TD Bank represents the best of a bad bunch. While most big banks never raise their savings rates past 0.01% APY, TD offers a slightly elevated 0.05% on all balances. In addition, its more expensive accounts benefit from relationship rates for customers who open both a checking and a savings account with the bank.

map of TD Bank branches in the US, by county

As with many national banks, the interest rate you get on your savings account at TD depends on your balance. At minimum, you'll need to maintain $300 to avoid paying the monthly maintenance fee. Alternately, you can get a free savings account if you also open a TD checking account. Although the bank doesn't require any minimum balance to earn interest, the monthly fee waiver minimums are basically the same thing: with rates so low, you don't want to have your meager earnings wiped out by account fees at the end of every month. While TD offers a better rate than any national bank, there are better rates to be found at smaller banks or credit unions.

TD Bank Savings Accounts

Account NameDetails
TD Simple Savings
  • APY: 0.05%
  • Minimum Balance for APY: $0
  • Monthly Fees: $5 + $1 paper statement fee
  • Fee Waivers: $300 daily minimum, linked TD Student Checking, OR $25 repeating automatic transfer from TD checking account
TD Select Savings
  • APY: 1.90% to 0.40%
  • Minimum Balance for APY: $0 to $100,000
  • Monthly Fees: $15
  • Fee Waivers: $15,000 daily minimum balance
TD Growth Money Market
  • APY: 0.05% to 0.35%
  • Minimum Balance for APY: $0 to $100,000
  • Monthly Fees: $11
  • Fee Waivers: $2,000 daily minimum or at least age 62

Best National Bank for Small Business: PNC Bank

Consider this if you're a small business owner looking for a flexible, affordable business account.

Monthly Fee $50.00
Balance to Waive Fee $25,000.00
Free Monthly Transactions 1,500
Excess Transaction Fee $0.25 per transaction
Free Cash Deposit Limit $50,000.00
Excess Cash Deposit Fee $0.25 per $100 deposited

When it comes to business checking accounts and merchant services, PNC outdoes many of the larger banks we've covered. Compared to other banks, PNC grants higher limits on free business activity, which can significantly lower costs for businesses that deal with a high volume of transactions. The PNC Business Checking Preferred Account allows 1,500 free transactions and costs just $0.25 for each additional transaction, while the typical business checking account caps free transactions at 500 and charges $0.50 after that.

map of PNC branches in the US, by county

While the account does cost significantly more in monthly fees at $50, this fee only kicks in after the first three months. Even then, the PNC Business Checking Preferred Account provides multiple ways to avoid the fee. For example, you could avoid paying by subscribing to other PNC business services or by making $3,000 in purchases with a linked PNC business credit card. This adds to PNC's value as a one-stop shop for small businesses who need merchant services and receivable management that work alongside their bank accounts.

PNC Business Checking Accounts

Opening MinimumMonthly FeeFee Waiver Options
Business Checking Preferred$250$50
  • deposit card payments from linked PNC Merchant Services
  • one or more active PNC business services including on-site deposits, payables/receivables and cash logistics
  • $3,000 net monthly purchases with linked PNC business credit card
  • $25,000 monthly average balance
Business Checking Plus$250$20
  • deposit card payments from linked PNC Merchant Services
  • one or more active PNC business services including on-site deposits, payables/receivables and cash logistics
  • $2,000 net monthly purchases with linked PNC business credit card
  • $5,000 monthly average balance
Business Checking$100$12
  • deposit card payments from linked PNC Merchant Services
  • $1,000 net monthly purchases with linked PNC business credit card
  • $1,500 monthly average balance

Summary of the Best National Banks

See our table below for a comparison of the different national banks we cover in this article. Each one is best-suited for a different type of user, but since every national bank tends to offer at least one version of each account type, we've included some general information as a basis for choosing between them.

Best National Bank For…Bank NameMonthly FeeFeatures
Checking AccountsChase Bank$12balanced traditional and mobile banking
Branches and ATMsWells Fargo$10biggest US branch/ATM network
Student CheckingBank of America$0no monthly fee and higher limits for students
Savings RatesTD Bank$6relationship rates with linked checking
Small BusinessesPNC$50many fee waivers and high transaction limits

How to Find a Bank That Works for You

National banks usually make it easy to compare their fees and services. Their websites tend to be well-maintained and easier to navigate than those of a credit union or smaller bank, and you may also notice that they often imitate one another in the way they design and describe their account products. This isn't coincidence: many of the biggest banks have collaborated with the Pew Charitable Trusts, a public policy research NGO, to create a standardized disclosure form, which allows consumers to make quick and easy comparisons of policies and prices at different banks.

If you don't see what you're looking for in websites or disclosure forms, you might have a better time looking at community banks or credit unions in your local area. Smaller institutions can't deliver the massive reach of a national bank's branch locations or ATM access, but they tend to develop closer relationships with their smaller customer base. While it's difficult to put a precise number on that kind of benefit, local banks do tend to give better rates to account holders and may be more responsive than a national bank when you happen to run into problems with your account.

Chris Moon

Chris is a Research Analyst at ValuePenguin, covering consumer banking and mortgages. He graduated from Yale College with a B.A. in History.

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