In many states, local banks are popular options for their tendency to offer higher interest rates, more flexible terms and lower fees compared to larger national institutions. Bank officials often live within the communities they serve, giving them specific knowledge and understanding of their customers’ needs.
The Golden State is no exception. Here are our picks for the best banks and credit unions in California for 2023-2024:
- Axos Bank - Best Overall
- U.S. Bank - Best for Customer Satisfaction
- Stanford Credit Union - Best Rates
- First Foundation Bank - Best Fees
- Valley Strong Credit Union - Best Rewards
California-headquartered Axos Bank wins best overall for its digital-first approach to banking. Axos offers a competitive APY on its high yield savings account, and customers enjoy convenient access and free domestic ATM fee reimbursements to multiple checking accounts without monthly maintenance fees.
- 0.61% APY on high-yield savings
- 91,000-ATM network
- Unlimited ATM fee reimbursement
- No APY on Essential Checking account
- Limited brick-and-mortar branches
- Low APY on Money Market and CDS accounts compared to other banks
For three consecutive years, U.S. Bank has received the highest ranking for Customer Satisfaction in California by J.D. Power. Its monthly fee is the lowest of any national bank and can easily be waived. The bank’s digital banking tools offer customers a convenient banking experience — in fact, industry benchmarking firm Keynova Group previously top-ranked U.S. Bank for its mobile app three years in a row.
- Up to .05% APY on checking account
- No non-sufficient-funds fee
- Low wire transfer fees
- Small ATM network compared to competitors
Stanford Credit Union’s high yield checking account pays one of the highest APYs, at 3.56% on balances up to $25,000 with additional requirements. What’s more, Stanford Credit Union has no foreign transaction fees with its Visa-protected debit card, which is compatible with Apple, Samsung and Google Pay.
- Debit card comes with ID Navigator with ID theft protection
- Free first box of checks
- Rewards can be used for global no-fee ATM use
- Smaller ATM network
- Conditions for high yield checking account can be steep
First Foundation Bank charges no monthly fees on accounts we considered, and it offers lower-than-usual incoming and outgoing wire transfer fees. Customers can get up to a $20 ATM surcharge rebate per transaction and take advantage of convenient mobile banking solutions.
- 4.75% APY on 1-year CD
- Broad ATM access
- No proprietary ATMs (though many fee rebates available)
- APYs on savings and checking accounts are low compared to other credit unions
Valley Strong Credit Union’s Makes Cents Checking Account not only earns reward points and an annual bonus, but customers can also get discounts on prescriptions. Valley Strong’s checking account also earns cash back through its e-shopping mall, which features over 10,000 online stores and 700,000 hotels. Overdraft protection on this account is provided through Courtesy Pay, a discretionary service with limits up to $500 that covers transactions when there aren’t any funds in the account.
- $25 opening deposit for Make Cents Checking Account
- A reward point earned for every $4 spent
- Up to 85% savings on prescriptions through mySimpleRx
- 30,000-ATM network
- No APY
- $5 monthly service fee
- $3,000 daily average balance requirement (or make 12 non-ATM card transactions, or have an active mortgage, personal loan, credit card or HELOC with Valley Strong)
How we chose the Best Banks of 2023-2024
To determine our list of Best Banks for 2023-2024, Money staff evaluated 273 of the largest retail banks, credit unions, regional and state banks, ranked by assets, and 20 of the most popular online banks. We then compared opening balance requirements, interest paid, fees and features to determine our top picks. You can read our full methodology here.
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