Best Banks in California for 2023

There are a number of reasons California is a great place to call home. The state offers sunny weather, delicious food, and an easy-going environment. If you live in the Golden State, you may be looking for a bank to manage and save your hard earned money. Fortunately, there are countless options at your disposal. However, they’re not all created equal.

Welcome to California sign

To make your life a bit easier, we’ve done the heavy lifting to come up with this list of the best banks in California. Since the right bank for you depends on your particular needs and preferences, it’s well worth your time to explore all your options and weigh the pros and cons of each.

15 Best Banks in California

1. HomeStreet Bank

Founded in 1921, HomeStreet Bank is a full-service bank that serves the West Coast and Hawaii. There are two locations in California, but online banking is available. HomeStreet’s personal banking lineup consists of checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, credit cards, IRAs, mortgages, and personal loans.

If you’re in need of insurance, you’re in luck because HomeStreet also specializes in all types of insurance products, like auto insurance, property insurance, and umbrella insurance. Additionally, the bank specializes in affinity programs that can help your business or organization treat its employees or members with exclusive offers and discounts.

2. Chime

Chime is a mobile-based, fee-free banking solution headquartered in San Francisco. Founded in 2013, Chime has been steadily gaining recognition for its innovative approach to personal finance, providing users with a seamless and user-friendly experience.

Among Chime’s standout features are its no-fee checking and savings accounts, which come with no minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees. The bank’s mobile app allows users to manage their accounts, transfer money, deposit checks, and pay bills with ease.

Chime also offers a distinctive automatic savings feature, where users can opt to have a percentage of their paycheck automatically deposited into their savings account. You can also round up every purchase made with their Chime Visa Debit Card to the nearest dollar, depositing the difference into savings.

Additionally, Chime’s SpotMe service enables eligible customers to make debit card purchases with no overdraft fees, even if their balance falls below zero. Customers can enjoy access to a network of over 60,000 fee-free ATMs, making cash withdrawals convenient and cost-effective.

3. Chase Bank

Chase is one of the largest banks in the nation and has branches in California cities, such as Sanger, Clovis, and Fresno. You can choose from several everyday, kids, and premium checking accounts as well as various savings accounts.

Chase also offers certificates of deposit (CDs) that require a $1,000 minimum deposit. Other products include credit cards, mortgages, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and auto loans. In addition, if you own or manage a business, you can rely on Chase for business credit cards, payroll, payment solutions, and more.

4. CIT Bank

CIT Bank is another great option for a digital bank in California. While the bank doesn’t have an ATM network, it won’t charge you ATM fees and will reimburse you up to $30 per month for any ATM fees you might incur. The CIT Bank eChecking accounts offer interest on balances of $25,000 and more. There are two savings accounts, including the CIT Bank Savings Builder and the CIT Savings Connect account.

When it comes to CDs, you can select from term CDs that range from six months to 60 months. CIT offers no-penalty CDs, which allow you to access funds before maturity without penalty, Jumbo CDs with a $100,000 deposit, and RampUp CDs, which come with the option of rate raises.

5. Bank of America

Bank of America has a widespread presence in California. There is no shortage of financial centers and ATMs throughout the state. If you become a Preferred Rewards member, you can enjoy a variety of perks, such as waived fees and higher interest rates on deposit accounts.

 The bank serves individuals and businesses through a full suite of products, like checking accounts, savings accounts, CD accounts, credit cards, loans, investing accounts, and wealth management services. Plus, there’s a convenient mobile app you can use to pay bills, transfer funds, find ATMs, set alerts, and more.

6. Redwood Capital Bank

Redwood Capital Bank is a local bank with physical branches in Eureka, Fortuna, and Arcata. The bank’s personal banking options include checking accounts with debit cards, savings accounts, certificates, real estate loans, and home equity loans.

If you’re a business customer, you can choose from checking, savings, and money market accounts, business credit cards, and numerous commercial loans. Redwood Capital Bank also offers online banking and mobile banking with mobile check deposit, online bill pay, Zelle, an ATM locator, and other features.

7. Union Bank

Union Bank is a regional bank and part of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, a global operation in more than 50 countries. It has nearly 300 branches in California, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington. The bank offers a wide variety of products, such as checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, and insurance.

With the Bank Freely savings account, which requires a $0.01 minimum deposit, you can enjoy perks like no monthly service fee, daily compounded interest, and no charge for using ATMs outside the network. If you opt for the bank’s certificates of deposit, you may choose terms that range from seven days to five years.

8. Comerica Bank

Comerica Bank’s 400+ banking centers can be found in California, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and Texas. If you become a customer, you may open the Comerica Access premier checking account and the Comerica Statement savings account. Perhaps the most noteworthy product Comerica offers are its CDs with terms from seven days to 10 years and competitive interest rates that you might not find elsewhere.

If you’re in the market for an account you can easily access via check writing and ATMs, you may benefit from the Money Market Investment account. We can’t forget the bank’s free overdraft protection and the option to waive monthly service fees.

9. California Bank & Trust

California Bank & Trust has served families and businesses in California for more than 70 years. It has branch locations throughout the state in places like San Francisco, Central Valley, Sacramento, Greater Los Angeles, Greater San Bernardino and Riverside, Orange County, and San Diego.

For individuals, California Bank & Trust offers four checking accounts, savings accounts for adults and kids, money market accounts, CDs, and IRAs.

In addition, there are numerous credit cards with rewards, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, boat loans, personal loans, and car loans. Private banking, wealth management, and online banking are offered as well.

10. East West Bank

East West Bank was founded in 1973 to meet the banking needs of Chinese Americans in the Los Angeles area. When it comes to checking accounts, there’s the Value Checking with low monthly maintenance fees, interest bearing Premier Checking that lets you earn interest, and Student Plus Checking with a low opening balance and no monthly maintenance fee.

The bank also offers an affordable Senior Checking account for seniors who are 62 and up. If you’re interested in wealth management, you can enjoy access to a dedicated financial consultant or robo investing. East West Bank’s lineup of business services includes checking accounts, CDs, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, payment processing, and security and fraud prevention.

11. FirstBank

First Bank has physical branches in the Palm Desert part of California. However, you can bank there, regardless of where you live because it offers online banking as well as a highly-rated mobile app. FirstBank provides personal accounts, business accounts, and loans, such as mortgages, home equity loans, commercial real estate loans, construction loans, and 103 exchanges.

Recently, the bank partnered with MoneyPass, which is a nationwide network of over 37,000 ATMs. If you become a customer, you can use these ATMs at no charge. Customer service is available via phone, email, or in-person at a local branch in both English and Spanish.

12. Synchrony Bank

Synchrony Bank is a fintech startup with a variety of accounts for residents of all states, including California. Its high-yield savings account comes with an optional ATM card and its money market account is available with an ATM card and optional checks.

The bank also offers a perks program, which lets you earn rewards based on how long you’ve banked with Synchrony or how much money you’ve deposited. If you qualify for the Diamond tier, for example, which requires a $250,000 balance or five years of loyalty, you can enjoy dedicated phone support, three free wire transfers per cycle, and unlimited ATM reimbursement.

13. Discover Bank

While most people associate Discover with credit cards, it’s also a full-service bank with online options for California residents. Discover Bank provides a variety of accounts with no monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, or insufficient fees. Plus, you can enjoy access to more than 60,000 surcharge-free ATMs and earn cash back on debit card purchases or debit card transactions.

Other perks include competitive annual percentage yields (APYs) on savings accounts, savings builder account, and certificates of deposit (CD) and a mobile app with features such as mobile check deposit, account transfers, and more.

14. Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo has been around since 1852 and has more than 4,700 branches across the U.S., including about 900 in California. If you’re looking for checking accounts, you have four options that each require a $25 minimum deposit. While the two savings accounts come with monthly service fees, you can get them waived as long as you meet certain minimum balance requirements or enroll in digital account statements.

Other popular products you might want to explore include credit cards, loans, wealth management solutions, and business accounts. You can manage your accounts on the go with the Wells Fargo mobile app, which makes it a breeze to check account activity, deposit checks, transfer money, pay bills, and track investments.

15. Varo Bank

Varo Bank is the first fintech in the U.S. to receive a national bank charter. This means it can offer Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance on its products and expand its offerings. With the Varo Bank Account, which is the online checking account, you don’t have to worry about any minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees.

In addition, you can reap the benefits of early direct deposit and withdraw cash at more than 55,000 Allpoint ATMs for free. The Varo Savings Account offers interest rates that depend on how much you have in it through savings and direct deposits. Regardless of which account you choose, you’ll receive a Visa debit card with a $2,500 spending limit per calendar day for purchases or cash back.

Banking Options in California

Whether you live or work in the Golden State, you can pick from several types of financial institutions for your banking needs. The most common options include the following.

National Banks

National banks are known as banking giants due to their reputations and large branch networks throughout the U.S. They tend to offer a diverse set of products in addition to deposit accounts, such as mortgages, investment accounts, and wealth management services. U.S. Bank, PNC Bank, T.D. Bank, Truist, Wells Fargo, and Capital One are all examples of national banks you’ve likely heard of before.

Regional Banks

Regional banks are smaller than national banks because they have branches in certain parts of the U.S., such as the West Coast or only California. Even though regional banks aren’t as large as national banks, they still have between $10 billion and $100 billion in total assets. Most of them offer a good combination of banking products and services for individuals and businesses.

Community Banks

Community banks serve customers in small geographic areas. Also referred to as relationship banks, these financial institutions are locally owned and operated and usually have less than $1 billion in assets. In most cases, community banks are deeply involved in their communities and focus on building strong, long-term relationships with their customers.

Online Banks

Online banks are exactly what they sound like: banks that operate online. Typically, online banks or digital banks don’t have any physical branches. As a result, they keep their overhead costs low and can pass the savings on to customers. Compared to traditional banks with brick-and-mortar locations, online banks offer competitive interest rates and low fees. The downside, however, is their customer service isn’t as strong.

How to Choose a Bank in California

As you can see, not all banks are created equal. In fact, there are many differences between them. Since each bank has its own pros and cons, the bank that’s right for your neighbor might not be a good fit for you. To find the perfect banking option for your unique situation, be sure to consider the following.

  • Interest rates: If growing your savings is important, interest rates are likely a priority. You’ll notice that online banks typically offer higher rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Some banks also have tiered rates that depend on how much money you keep in your account.
  • Fees: While banking fees are normal, they can add up quickly and make it more difficult for you to meet your personal finance goals. The most common fees include monthly maintenance fees, ATM fees, and insufficient fees. Try to find a bank with minimal fees.
  • Products: Some banks serve customers with a wide array of products and services. Others focus on a select few, like checking accounts and savings accounts. Look for a financial institution that offers everything you’re looking for. A one-stop-shop can make your life easier.
  • Physical branches: If you like the idea of in-person banking, opt for banks with physical branches and ATMs near where you live, work, or travel to often. Otherwise, you might be forced to do all your banking online. Note that most online banks don’t have physical branches.
  • Online and mobile banking: These days, most banks let you perform banking tasks online on your computer or via your mobile device while you’re on the go. If you know you’ll take advantage of online and mobile banking, you might want to prioritize digital banks.
  • Customer service: At some point, you’ll want to get a hold of customer service for help with a question or concern. Choose a bank with high customer service ratings and a number of customer service options, like phone support, email support, and chat support.
  • Perks: While perks aren’t required, many banks offer them to stand out from the crowd. If you’re in between two banks, perks can help you choose the right option. Perks may include autopay interest rate discounts, free credit score monitoring, and personalized financial advice.
  • Reputation: Don’t underestimate the importance of a bank’s reputation. Look for their ratings on reputable sites like TrustPilot and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Furthermore, be weary of banks that seem too good to be true as fraudulent financial institutions do exist.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best bank in California?

The answer to this question depends on what you hope to see in a bank. If you’re in the market for an online bank with competitive rates and low rates, for example, Ally Bank might be right for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a bank with many physical locations and personalized service, California Bank & Trust is worth exploring.

Are California banks safe?

Yes. Most banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). This means in the event of a bank failure, your hard earned money will be protected. Individual accounts are usually insured for up to $250,000 while joint accounts are insured for up to $500,000. For peace of mind, choose an FDIC California bank.

Should I join a credit union instead?

If you don’t mind becoming a member and want more personal service, a credit union in California might make sense. But you might not have as many products and services to choose from. Some examples of major credit unions in the Golden State include the AdelFi Credit Union, California Credit Union, and the Alta Vista Credit Union. Don’t be afraid to do some research to find other major credit unions to find the best credit union for you.

What are the best checking accounts in California?

The best checking account depends on what your goals are. Our top picks, however, are the Discover Online Savings, CIT Bank interest checking account, and the East West Value Checking. Other noteworthy accounts are the Advantage banking account, and Student Plus savings account.

Which banks have the most branches in California?

Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Bank of the West, and Comerica Bank are several of the banks with the most branches in the Golden State. If in-person banking is important to you, you should look into these options.

Anna Baluch
Meet the author

Anna Baluch is a freelance personal finance writer from Cleveland, OH. She enjoys helping people make smart financial decisions.