The best banks and credit unions in California for 2020

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  Category Savings APY Number of CA branches Next steps
Chase Best for a checking account 0.01% to 0.05% 979 Learn more
Ally Best for a savings account 1% None, online only Learn more
Citibank Best for checking and savings account 0.04% to 0.15% 288 Learn more
Golden 1 Credit Union Best credit union 0.05% to 0.10% 70 Learn more

Here are the savings rates you’ll earn with the biggest banks in California. Two of these, Chase and Citibank, made our list.

We didn’t choose others because they didn’t have branches in as many parts of California as some of our top picks, or they lacked distinguishing features, such as high APYs or sign-up bonuses.

However, you may still decide one of these California banks is a good fit for you, and you might like banking with a widespread institution you’re familiar with.

*As of August 2020, the national average APY on savings accounts is 0.06% according to the FDIC.

Below you’ll find our top picks for the best banks and credit unions in California. Each of these is federally insured and offers a variety of products, including bank accounts, investment accounts, and loans.

Intro Bonus

$200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Enjoy a $200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit
    • Access to 16,000 Chase ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches
    • Chase Mobile® app: Manage your accounts, deposit checks, transfer money and more — all from your device
    • Open your account online now
    • Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. For branch locations, visit locator.chase.com.
    Pros
    • No required opening deposit
    • Almost 4,900 branches
    Cons
    • $12 monthly fee unless you meet direct deposit or minimum balance requirements
    • $2.50 fee for out-of-network ATMs
    • No out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements
    • 3% foreign transaction fee
    • $34 overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees


    Read Our Review
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    Why it stands out: Chase has almost 1,000 branches around California. You can choose between three checking accounts: Chase Total Checking®, Chase Premier Plus Checking℠, and Chase Sapphire℠ Checking.

    Chase Total Checking® and Chase Premier Plus Checking℠ are good choices if you’re looking for checking accounts that offer sign-up bonuses. If you meet certain qualifications, you can earn a $200 bonus with Chase Total Checking® and $300 with Chase Premier Plus Checking℠.

    Chase Sapphire Checking doesn’t pay a sign-up bonus, but it’s a worthwhile option for travelers. You won’t pay any fees for using out-of-network ATMs with this account. If the ATM provider charges a fee, then Chase reimburses you. Chase also won’t charge any foreign transaction fees when you use your debit card abroad.

    What to look out for: Monthly fees. Chase Total Checking®  charges a $12 monthly service fee, and Chase Premier Plus Checking℠ and Chase Sapphire Checking each charge $25. It is possible to waive the monthly fees, but the requirements are stricter with each checking account tier.

    See Business Insider’s review of Chase checking accounts »

    See Business Insider’s list of the best bank account bonuses »

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • 24/7 support
    • No monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements
    • Your money earns money with interest compounded daily
    • Limit of 6 withdrawals per statement cycle
    Pros
    • Competitive APY
    • 24/7 customer service
    • Easy to save for different goals
    • No required initial deposit or minimum account balance
    • No monthly service fee
    • Easy-to-use mobile app
    • Link to an Ally checking account
    • Reimburses up to $10 in out-of-network ATM fees per month
    Cons
    • No physical branch locations
    • $10 fee if you exceed 6 transactions per month (paused during COVID-19)
    • You may find a higher APY elsewhere


    Read Our Review
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    Why it stands out: It’s worth noting that Chase is offering a $150 sign-up bonus for the Chase Savings℠ account right now. But when it comes to savings accounts, you probably want a bank that is going to pay a high APY so that you can earn more than $150 in the long run. This means an online bank like Ally is probably going to be your best bet.

    Ally pays 1.00% APY, which is one of the highest rates out there right now. The bank also doesn’t charge any monthly maintenance fees.

    The Ally High Yield Savings Account has been a power player in the high-yield savings space for a few years now, and it consistently nabs top awards for online banking. Although it’s an online bank, you can use over 40,000 Allpoint ATMs for free around the US. 

    Ally makes it easy to save for specific goals. You may decide to open a separate account for each goal, but Ally has a bucket feature that allows you save for multiple goals in one account.. Assign each one a nickname, like “Emergency Fund” or “Travel Account” to track your progress and stay motivated. 

    What to look out for: While Ally is extremely competitive, other banks offer similar online high-yield savings accounts. Ally is certainly one of the best out there, but depending on your needs and your existing banking, you may find you prefer a different bank, such as Capital One 360, Varo, or Discover.

    See Business Insider’s picks for the best high-yield savings accounts »

    See Business Insider’s picks for the best online banks »

    Best bank for opening a checking and savings account: Citibank

    Intro Bonus

    $400 when you deposit $15,000 in the first 30 days and maintain balance for 60 days

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • 700 US branches, 1,800 branches overseas, and 65,000 ATMs
    • Earn $400 bonus when you deposit $15,000 in the first 30 days and maintain balance for 60 days
    • Waive $25 monthly fee when you maintain a total of $10,000 average monthly balance in all Citi accounts
    Pros
    • Earn interest when you link to a savings account
    • No opening deposit
    Cons
    • $25 monthly service fee
    • $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee


    Read Our Review
    Read Our ReviewA looong arrow, pointing right

    Why it stands out: Citibank is the sixth-largest bank in California by branch locations. The bank pays large sign-up bonuses if you open certain checking and savings accounts together and meet deposit requirements.

    Citibank divides its accounts into separate “packages.” If you open a checking and savings account in the Citibank Account Package and meet the deposit requirements, you’ll receive a $400 bonus. You’ll get a $700 sign-up bonus with the Citibank Priority Package.

    What to look out for: The package system can be confusing. Citibank has six bank account packages, which can become overwhelming. Each package offers various benefits and charges different fees. You may decide to open accounts in the package that pays the highest bonus you qualify for, but make sure you won’t get stuck with high fees before you sign up.

    See Business Insider’s complete review of Citibank »

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Any California resident or employee can become a Golden 1 Credit Union member
    • Earn a higher APY with a balance of $10,000 or more
    • Interest compounded monthly, paid monthly
    • Federally insured by the NCUA
    Pros
    • $1 opening deposit
    • No monthly service fee
    Cons
    • Mediocre APY
    • Compounds interest monthly, not daily
    • $3 excess withdrawal fee

    Why it stands out: Maybe you prefer a credit union over a bank. Each option comes with trade-offs — credit unions often have higher APYs and better customer service, while brick-and-mortar banks may have more locations and adapt to new technology faster.

    If you’re looking for a credit union in California, then Golden 1 is a good choice. It’s easier to join than some of the other major credit unions in the state, like SchoolsFirst. There are also more locations around California than other prominent credit unions, such as First Technology Federal Credit Union.

    To join Golden 1, you just have to either live or work in California, and you can open a Golden 1 savings account with $1.

    There are more than 70 branch locations around California, and around 240 Golden 1 ATMs. You also have free access to 30,000 CO-OP ATMs nationwide, which is convenient if you travel out of state.

    Golden 1 pays lower rates on some accounts than online banks, but higher than many brick-and-mortar banks.

    What to look out for: Compounded interest. Like many credit unions, Golden 1 compounds your interest monthly rather than daily, which affects how much you’ll earn in the long run. If your biggest priority is earning a good rate, then you may want to use a bank rather than a credit union, or search for a credit union that compounds daily.

    Why trust our recommendations?

    Personal Finance Insider’s mission is to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We understand that “best” is often subjective, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product or account — a high APY, for example — we outline the limitations, too. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of various products so you don’t have to.

    How did we choose the best banks in California?

    We looked at the banks and credit unions with the most branches in the state. Then we zeroed in on those that offered appealing features, like sign-up bonuses or high interest rates. None of the biggest banks in California paid high rates on savings accounts, so we chose an online bank, Ally, as our top choice for a savings account.

    For the best credit union, we chose one that is easy for California residents to join and has branches in multiple parts of the state.

    What is the No. 1 bank in America?

    It depends on what you’re looking for. Wells Fargo has the most branches in the US, followed closely by Chase and Bank of America. If you’re looking for high savings rates and low fees, then you’ll probably want to go with an online bank. (See our picks for the best online banks here.)

    What’s the safest bank to put your money in?

    As long as an institution has federal insurance, then your money should be safe. Banks need to be insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and credit unions need to be insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

    An individual account is insured for up to $250,000, and a joint account is insured for up to $500,000. This means you won’t lose all your money should the bank go under.

    Get the latest Bank of America stock price here.

    Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

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