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The Best Regional Banks

Oct 25, 2016

The smaller, regional banks tend to have lower fees than the jumbo national institutions—but they offer a strong local, on-the-ground presence for people who want something more personal than an online-only experience. To be a winner in this category, a bank needed to offer a checking account with easily waived fees. (See the "Standout Checking" account for each.) We also looked for above-average interest on savings and favorable customer service ratings, where possible. (If you don't see a regional winner with a presence in your state, look at our big-bank winners and our picks for best online bank and credit union.) —Megan Leonhardt and Alicia Adamczyk

California: OneWest Bank

WHY IT WINS: It’s easy to escape paying fees with OneWest Bank, and rates on multiple accounts beat brick-and-mortar averages. It doesn’t charge outside ATM fees and reimburses some ATM surcharges. And its Green Savings pays 0.4% on a $100 minimum.

CAVEAT: OneWest’s iOS and Android apps score only an average of 2.7 (out of five stars), below many other winners.

BRANCHES: 70 in California.

standout checking:

Premium Checking
• Maintenance fee: $10, waived with a $1,000 monthly balance.
• Outside ATM fee: $0, and reimburses up to $20 a month in other ATM surcharges if you maintain an average $5,000 balance.
• Interest: 0.1% on balances below $25,000.

Western U.S.: Washington Federal

WHY IT WINS: You can avoid both maintenance and out-of-network ATM fees at Washington Federal. The bank’s $25 overdraft fee is also below the $34 brick-and-mortar average.

CAVEAT: Reviewers in both iOS and Android app stores give Washington Federal the lowest scores of any regional winner.

BRANCHES: 239 in eight Western states.

standout checking:

Performance Checking
• Maintenance fee: $12, waived with a $1,000 monthly balance..
• Outside ATM fee: $0.
• Interest: 0.05% on balances of at least $1,000.

Midwest: Commerce Bank

WHY IT WINS: Commerce lets you avoid the maintenance fee on checking accounts and even waives the first few outside ATM fees. The bank also offers auto-loan discounts that can shave 0.35 point or more off the going rate.

CAVEAT: Users fault its app for limited capabilities.

BRANCHES: 190 in five Midwest states.


CommerceOptions Plus Checking
• Maintenance fee: $12, waived with $5,000 average monthly balance or $10,000 combined deposit and loan balance.
• Outside ATM fees: First three per month are free, then $2.75.
• Interest: 0.05%

Great Lakes: Huntington Bank

WHY IT WINS: Huntington’s monthly fees are modest for a brick-and-mortar bank; its standout checking pays interest on even the smallest balances; and once a merger with FirstMerit Bank is final in early 2017, the combined institution will have a larger footprint than any of our regional winners. Strong customer service ratings from J.D. Power push the bank over the top: Its new All Day Deposits, for instance, give you same day credit for evening deposits made via an ATM or a mobile app.

CAVEAT: Huntington’s $37.50 overdraft fee is one of the highest among all banks analyzed.

BRANCHES: 1,103 in eight states.


Huntington 5 Checking
• Maintenance fee: $5, waived with $5,000 average combined balance.
• Outside ATM fees: The first five per statement are free, with outside surcharges reimbursed. Then $3.
• Interest: 0.15%

Southeast: Synovus Bank

WHY IT WINS: Synovus comes out ahead in the Southeast with consumer- friendly fee policies: Across both checking and savings, you can waive maintenance fees with minimum balances no higher than $5,000. It also offers modest customer discounts on loan rates.

CAVEAT: You won’t be able to avoid paying an outside ATM fee if you’ve got Synovus’s most basic checking account.

BRANCHES: 253 in five states.


Synovus Preferred Checking Account
• Maintenance fee: $25, waived with a $5,000 balance.
• Outside ATM fee: Four free per cycle, then $2.50.
• Interest: 0.05% with a $1,000 minimum.

Mid-Atlantic: Capital One

WHY IT WINS: A friendly fee structure and decent yields make the bank a winner. Its 360 Money Market account has no maintenance fee and pays 0.6% to 1% interest, far better than the 0.08% average for regional savings accounts. And Capital One is the largest bank to offer low-cost checking with no overdraft fees, Novantas finds. It also scores high on J.D. Power’s customer service ratings.

CAVEAT: If you don’t qualify for Capital One’s best checking account, another account lets you avoid monthly fees with just a $300 daily balance—but you won’t get interest, and you’ll pay $2 to use outside ATMs..

BRANCHES: 843 in eight states and D.C.


High Yield Checking

• Account requirements: $5,000 combined monthly balance or a Capital One home loan.

• Maintenance fee: $0, waived with a $5,000 balance.

• Outside ATM fee: $0, and reimburses up to $15 a month of other banks' surcharges.

• Interest: 0.4% introductory APY for the first 12 months; 0.2% after that.

New England: Webster Bank

WHY IT WINS: Webster comes out ahead in New England with four checking accounts that waive the monthly fee with a balance of $4,000. It rates above average in J.D. Power’s customer service ranking of banks in the Northeast. Webster also offers a free checking account for students that reimburses up to four outside ATM fees per month.

CAVEAT: Interest rates on Webster’s savings and checking accounts are below regional averages.

BRANCHES: 176 in four states.


WebsterOne Relationship Checking
• Maintenance fee: $16.95, waived with a $4,000 monthly combined balance.
• Outside ATM fee: $0
• Interest: 0.01%

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