There’s more to banking than low monthly fees, high yield savings, and a large ATM network. More Americans today seek banks and credit unions that align with their values when it comes to sustainability and social responsibility.
The U.S. banking system tends to disregard lower income and rural communities, with traditional banks establishing multiple branches in the country’s largest and wealthiest cities. The most socially responsible banks, on the other hand, provide online banking, low monthly fees, and no minimum deposit requirements, making them accessible to lower income individuals and families. They may also support efforts to help lower income individuals qualify for personal loans, auto loans or mortgages at fair interest rates.
But that’s not all that comes with socially responsible banking. Socially responsible banks emphasize financial literacy for those in their local community. They might also consider their organization a green bank, committed to fighting climate change and avoiding projects that support fossil fuels.
10 Best Socially Responsible Banks and Credit Unions
The best socially responsible banking institutions combine sustainability, accessibility, transparency and ethics to help make the world a better place. Yet, you won’t sacrifice top-notch personal checking and savings or even high-quality business banking when you choose one of the financial institutions on our list. You can have the best of all worlds – and do what’s best for the world – by choosing a socially responsible bank or credit union.
1. Aspiration: Best for Online and Mobile Banking Services
Aspiration is not a bank. But it’s one of the best cash management accounts offered anywhere online, with no monthly fee and a host of money management features. The Aspiration Plus Spend Save account that offers 3% interest on savings.
Aspiration is a certified B-Corp that shows its commitment to socially responsible banking with a variety of programs. Aspiration will plant a tree each time you round up a debit card purchase to deposit the difference in your Save account. It pays 3% to 5% cash back on debit card purchases with companies that are members of the Conscience Coalition, a group of small businesses devoted to social responsibility and sustainability.
Aspiration offers two accounts: One asks members to “Pay-What-Is-Fair,” which means you can use the account for free if you choose. Aspiration Plus costs $7.99 monthly or $71.88 annually (save $24 when you pay upfront.) Save accounts in the Pay What Is Fair model earn 1% APY, while Aspiration Plus savings accounts earn 3% APY.
2. Amalgamated Bank: Best for Investment Planning
Amalgamated Bank has branch locations in the nation’s largest cities: Boston, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. The bank offers personal checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees.
Amalgamated Bank offers four checking account tiers, including three interest bearing accounts. Two of the accounts have no minimum opening deposit. If you choose the interest earning Give-Back Checking account, you’ll earn a high APY of 0.90% – 0.95%, with an additional contribution of one-half of your interest earnings going to the charitable organization of your choice.
In addition to its choices in checking and savings accounts, Amalgamated Bank stands out when it comes to helping new retail investors choose ESG companies to invest in and plan for their future.
3. Spring Bank: Best for New Yorkers
Hailed as New York’s first B Corp bank, Spring Bank offers personal and business banking online and at branches in Harlem and the Bronx. The Green Checking account offers no monthly fee with direct deposit, paperless statements and no overdraft fees. If you need an account to write checks, you’ll want to choose the Basic Checking account.
Spring Bank deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, up to $250,000 per depositor, per account. But the bank works with the IntraFi Network to also insure multi-million dollar deposits across multiple reputable U.S. banks.
Spring Bank offers CDs with terms from 90 days up to five years with a minimum deposit of just $250 and interest rates ranging from1.50% APY up to 3.25% APY. The bank also has a high-yield Vacation/Club savings account for short-term savings.
Spring Bank ranks in the top 5% of all 3,000 B Corps across the world and earned awards for its Governance and Customer Service in 2022. The company strives to provide affordable financial products, enabling its customers to avoid what it calls “fringe” financial products like check-cashing services and payday loans.
The bank also supports small businesses in New York and beyond with business checking accounts, money market accounts, and business loans.
4. Beneficial State Bank: Best for West Coast Residents
With seven locations across California, Oregon, and Washington, Beneficial State Bank is the B Corp bank of choice for those on the West Coast. The bank’s majority owner is Beneficial State Foundation, a nonprofit organization serving the public interest.
Beneficial State Bank offers three checking accounts, all with a $50 minimum opening balance and a low monthly service charge. eChecking waives the monthly fee if you sign up for eStatements. Checking and Interest Checking products have low monthly service charges that are easy to waive if you meet certain criteria. The bank also has savings, money market, CD, and IRA accounts to help you meet your long-term and short-term savings goals.
With an emphasis on ethical, equitable banking, Beneficial State Bank is a green bank that does not support or lend fossil fuel companies. The bank shows where every percentage of your deposit goes and says that 75% of its lending occurs within its mission categories. The other 25% supports other categories, but never to projects or organizations that cause harm to the planet or the people on it.
Some of the bank’s top lending categories for businesses and consumers include environmental sustainability, affordable housing, auto loans with fair interest rates, and health and well-being. The bank is also a preferred lender for clean vehicle programs in the state of California.
5. City First Bank, A Subsidiary of Broadway Federal Bank: Best for Commercial and Nonprofit Banking
City First Bank is part of a family of companies devoted to socially responsible lending and personal and business banking in low to moderate income communities. City First Bank, based in Washington, D.C., is a black-led, minority depository institute (MDI), as well as a B Corp and a member of Global Alliance for Banking on Values.
City First Bank offers a variety of personal and business banking products, as well as accounts for nonprofit organizations. The personal checking account has no monthly fee if you meet any of four criteria:
- One monthly direct deposit
- 10 debit card transactions
- eStatement enrollment
- Minimum monthly balance of $100
The bank also offers a personal savings account, CDs, money market accounts and savings accounts for minors.
6. Sunrise Banks: Best for Mortgages
Sunrise Banks offers a full range of personal banking products, including personal checking, savings accounts, credit cards, and a pre-paid Mastercard. But it is best known for its Pathway2Home affordable mortgage product, as well as other mortgages with down payments as low as 3%. The bank also writes VA loans with no down payment required.
By supporting affordable housing and helping Minnesota residents get into homes of their own and begin building generational wealth, Sunrise Banks shows its commitment to socially responsible banking. Like many of the socially responsible banks on this list, Sunrise Banks is a member of GBAV, a Community Development Financial Institution, and a B corporation.
7. Clean Energy Credit Union: Best for Clean Energy Loans
Most of the banks on our list support efforts to reduce climate change, do not help fund or support fossil fuel companies, and run their organization sustainably. Clean Energy Credit Union works to fund renewable energy through personal loans for electric bicycles, solar electric systems, geothermal heat pump systems, and green home improvements. Clean Energy Credit Union also offers auto loans for electric vehicles.
While the credit union specializes in funding renewable energy and other loans, it also offers options for personal checking and savings accounts. Checking accounts offer dividends from .01% APY to 3.56% APY with a minimum opening balance of just $25 and no monthly fees if you meet certain requirements, including having a Clean Energy loan.
Savings accounts include a bank account with a 0.15% APY and a minimum opening deposit of $100, certificates, and a money market account with dividends ranging from 0.95% up to 1.61% APY, with a minimum deposit of $2,500.
As part of its commitment to green living, the credit union offers bio-based, compostable debit cards that are eco-friendly. It is also one of the few banks or credit unions on our list that offers a Carbon Zero Teen Account online, which shows your teen the carbon offsets their deposits can fund.
8. National Cooperative Bank
National Cooperative Bank offers high yield CDs, and money market accounts, as well as checking and savings accounts and business products. The bank offers an interest earning checking account with a 0.90% APY and no minimum opening deposit. There is a $15 monthly fee if the balance falls below $500.
The money market account has a high 2.28% APY, with a minimum balance of $5,000 to avoid the $25 monthly fee. You will need just $100 to open the account. You can earn a 4.34% APY on with a 12-month CD with a $2,500 minimum opening deposit.
While the bank is committed to helping its customers earn money through high interest rates, it is equally committed to its duties as a socially responsible bank. The bank has donated $8 billion to support underserved communities nationwide, and provided loans and investments of $475 million to low and moderate income families, including mortgage loans.
9. Clearwater Credit Union: Best for Previously Unbanked Consumers
Clearwater Credit Union is a certified Community Development Financial Institution and a member GBAV. While most credit unions are devoted to serving their local communities, Clearwater takes it a step further by donating $1.6 million to 290 non-profit organizations in 2022. Employees donated more than 1,340 volunteer hours within their local communities, and the credit union awarded $20,000 in scholarships to students in the credit union’s home state of Montana.
Clearwater CU offers multiple choices in bank accounts, including a basic checking with no monthly fee, a premium checking that pays dividends, and a SmartSpend checking account with a low, $5 monthly fee for previously unbanked consumers.
The SmartSpend account can help lower income individuals and families avoid the fees that come with check cashing services or prepaid debit cards. It also gives them the opportunity to avoid overdraft fees while gaining the convenience of a deposit account, debit card, and access to mobile banking.
10. Carver Federal Savings Bank: Best for Small Business Banking
Many of the banks on our list devote time and money to sustainability, equality, and other social causes. But they don’t necessarily offer the highest interest rates available in online banking today. Carver Federal Savings Bank, however, is a Black-operated, socially responsible bank that also delivers high-yield savings of 4.00% APY.
But there is a catch. You’ll need a $5,000 minimum opening deposit. This might make the Carver savings account inaccessible to many in underserved communities seeking personal checking and savings accounts. However, for those on firm financial footing who want to support a socially responsible bank, Carver’s high yield savings is a solid choice.
Beyond the high yield savings, Carver is known for an array of checking and savings products for small business owners, including a money market account with 2.00% APY and a business interest checking account.
Start-up businesses or those with low-to-moderate balances might prefer the Carver Community Business Free Checking with no minimum balance, no monthly fee, and 200 free transactions per month. The bank focuses on Black- and Minority-owned businesses as well as women-owned businesses across New York City.
Carver is a designated CDFI and has reinvested 80% of every dollar deposited into NYC communities. It also donated $149 million in New Market Tax credit and more than $259 million in leveraged loans across the New York metro area.
How to Choose Socially Responsible or Sustainable Banks and Credit Unions
When you’re shopping around for a socially responsible bank, first consider what aspects of ethical banking are most important to you. Are you looking for a bank committed to serving low income communities, or one that puts a focus on renewable energy? Maybe sustainability is the most significant aspect to finding a socially responsible bank that aligns with your values.
Of course, you also want to think about all the other elements that you would consider for your personal banking needs. These include low fees, online banking capabilities and an intuitive mobile app, early availability of your direct deposits, and a high yield savings account.
Our list of the best socially responsible banks takes all these factors into consideration and showcases banks that back up their values with investments – in their communities and in the environment.
Organizations That Support Sustainability and Social Responsibility
The best socially responsible banks often showcase their commitment to ethical banking through certifications or membership in organizations that support and reflect their values. If a bank is a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, recognized as a community development financial institution (CDFI) or a Certified B corp, you know the bank has demonstrated its commitment to ethical banking.
Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV)
The Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) is a worldwide network of socially responsible banks committed to ESG values. GABV banks focus on three pillars:
- Finance change
- Do no harm
- Sustainable products and services
To join the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), banks must show their commitment to sustainability, and have a balance sheet of at least $50 million. They must be a full service bank and show financial stability and stable governance. Many of the best socially responsible banks are members of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV).
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)
A Community Development Financial Institution is a bank, cash management account, or credit union that is certified by the U.S. government. It’s a bank that has shown a commitment to providing banking services in low income communities and underserved communities across the U.S.
Unlike many other financial institutions, Community Development Financial Institutions focus on areas such as economic development, affordable housing and supporting small businesses in their local community.
Certified B Corp
A Certified B Corp is any organization or socially responsible financial institution that successfully balances purpose and profit. Organizations can apply for B Corp certification if they demonstrate transparency, social responsibility, and show high social and environmental sustainability standards. Banks and credit unions must pass rigorous certification standards to become recognized as a B Corp.
Still have questions about the best socially responsible banks? Check out some commonly asked questions below.
Which banks are eco-friendly?
Many U.S. banks meet eco-friendly requirements in a variety of ways. Some, like Clean Energy Credit Union, refuse to support fossil fuel companies. Aspiration plants a tree whenever customers round up their debit card purchases to deposit into a savings account.
To find eco-friendly banks, you can look up their ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) ratings on their websites, in their financial statements, or on a website like Sustainalytics.
Remember, ESG ratings are derived from many factors, including a company’s diversity & inclusion practices, sustainability, charitable donations, and more. You may have to dig deeper to see which banks employ sustainable practices to reduce their carbon footprint.
How Can You Determine Which Banks Are Committed to Ethical Banking?
A search on a company website should help you find the best socially responsible banks committed to ethical banking. Check online to see if the bank helps underserved communities or the unbanked or underbanked population. Ethical banks may be recognized as a community development financial institution.
What is responsible banking?
Responsible banking or ethical banking typically focuses on three key areas:
- Banking access and community development
- Environmental impact and climate change
- Holistic social responsibility
What is an ESG bank?
An ESG bank focuses on environmental sustainability, social responsibility and ethical governance.