GOLD: TD Bank
Why it won: Most of TD’s accounts have reasonably low minimum-balance requirements and features to satisfy a variety of customers.
Standout account: Beyond Checking offers several perks and three ways to waive the monthly fee.
Where it is: More than 1,100 branches in 15 eastern states and Washington, D.C. Terms and rates are for Delaware.
TD Bank has appeared among our national-bank finalists all six years that we’ve compiled our rankings, thanks to an appealing collection of accounts that don’t require big balances to avoid monthly fees. And TD is rolling out changes to its overdraft program. You can now overdraw your account by up to $50 without incurring an overdraft fee. Starting late this fall, customers will have 24 hours to rectify an overdraft of more than $50, and they’ll no longer pay a fee to transfer funds to checking from a backup account in case of an overdraft.
The basic Convenience Checking account waives its $15 monthly fee if you keep a daily balance of just $100 in the account or if you’re between the ages of 17 and 23. Beyond Checking charges no monthly fee if you have at least $5,000 in monthly direct deposits, a minimum $2,500 daily balance in checking, or at least $25,000 in combined eligible TD deposit accounts, home-equity loans and lines of credit, and mortgages. The account comes with free standard checks, money orders, cashier’s checks and incoming wires, and it reverses all fees for rush bill payments, one outgoing wire fee per month and two overdraft fees per year. If you keep a $2,500 balance in checking, TD reimburses fees that ATM operators charge when you use out-of-network machines. Monthly fees on all of TD’s savings and money market accounts are waived for Beyond Checking customers.
TD’s savings accounts include Simple Savings, which yields 0.02% and doesn’t charge the $5 monthly fee if you meet one of several requirements, including maintaining a $300 balance. Beyond Savings, which is free if you keep a $20,000 minimum balance or link it to a Beyond Checking or Relationship Checking account, yields as much as 0.05% on balances of $250,000 or more.
TD also offers a well-appointed checking account for those 60 and older—for more on it as well as other savings options from TD, see the Best Banks for Retirees.
SILVER: PNC Bank
Why it won: PNC offers perks on all its Virtual Wallet account packages, which come with digital tools to manage spending and saving, too.
Standout account: Skipping the monthly fee is manageable with the basic Virtual Wallet checking package, and it comes with ATM fee reimbursement.
Where it is: Nearly 2,700 branches in 28 states—spread mostly through the eastern half of the U.S. and the Sun Belt—and Washington, D.C. Terms and rates are for Pittsburgh.
PNC’s account offerings center around its Virtual Wallet program, which ties together a Spend checking account for everyday transactions, a Reserve checking account to set aside funds for short-term goals and a Growth savings account for longer-term goals. The basic Virtual Wallet package waives its $7 monthly fee if you have a monthly direct deposit of at least $500 into Spend or a combined $500 minimum balance in Spend and Reserve, or if you’re 62 or older. Each month, it reimburses the first two PNC fees charged when you use an out-of-network ATM, as well as up to $5 in ATM surcharges from other banks. Virtual Wallet With Performance Spend and Virtual Wallet With Performance Select require higher direct deposits or balances to skip the monthly fee and have more benefits, such as free cashier’s checks and greater reimbursement of ATM fees.
Interest rates on PNC’s savings accounts often depend on which account package you have, your balance and whether you meet certain activity requirements. The Premiere Money Market account, for example, yields 0.04% on balances of less than $1 million for Performance Select customers who make at least five PNC debit or credit card transactions monthly or have $5,000 or more in monthly direct deposits into their Performance Select checking account. You must link the money market account to a Performance Select account or keep a $5,000 average monthly balance to avoid a $12 monthly fee. PNC offers a basic savings account and certificates of deposit, too.
BRONZE: Fifth Third Bank
Why it won: Both the basic and premium checking accounts are noteworthy.
Standout accounts: Momentum Checking charges no monthly fee, and Preferred Checking packs in a lot of perks.
Where it is: Nearly 1,200 branches in 11 midwestern and southern states. Terms and rates are for Cincinnati.
Fifth Third offers a range of checking accounts, and two of them stand out most. Momentum Checking charges no monthly fee, without strings attached—a rarity among accounts from larger banks—and you can access your direct-deposited paycheck up to two days earlier than the scheduled payment date. With Preferred Checking, bypass the $25 monthly fee by having at least $100,000 combined in Fifth Third deposit and investment accounts one time per month. Freebies include standard checks, notary services, money orders, cashier’s checks, identity-protection services and a small safe-deposit box. Up to 10 out-of-network ATM surcharges are reimbursed monthly.
A savings account, a money market account and certificates of deposit are among the savings options. Recently, interest rates mostly hung at 0.01%, although a 12-month promotional CD yielded 0.05% ($5,000 minimum deposit).
Notably, in 2020 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed suit against Fifth Third, alleging that in previous years the bank opened unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts in consumers’ names, among other claims. Fifth Third says that it has addressed the issues that sparked the lawsuit, which is working its way through court.
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