Best Banks In Chicago – A Guide To Making The Best Financial Choice

As the third-largest city in the United States, Chicago and its surroundings provide its residents with a diverse range of banking options. With so many options, it might be challenging to determine which Chicago banks are the finest. Follow this article to assist you in locating the best banks in Chicago for your individual financial needs.

Almost everyone eventually has to decide which bank or credit union they will use to store their money. Numerous variables need to be considered, whether you are new to banking or feel the need to change. Each individual requires a different type of bank account. Knowing your banking needs and preferences is the first step in selecting the best bank.

Choosing a bank to deposit your finances in is a crucial financial decision that requires a lot of pondering and research as it is a matter of managing your money. Every bank has a different policy; different banks will pay you dramatically varying amounts of interest on your money and offer vastly different levels of service and pricing structures.

Besides the fact that you must keep all your requirements in check while choosing a bank, it also means that selecting the right bank is not often a one-time exercise. As your financial and investing goals change over time, the best bank for you may also vary over time. Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that there is no restriction on the number of bank accounts you can have or how frequently you can switch from one bank to another.

Chicago is an important financial center in the United States. As a result, making the appropriate financial decisions among its many credit unions, local banks, and national banks can be overwhelming when selecting one of the best banks in Chicago that might fit your needs and requirements.

We have put together a guide to maximize your financial resources and diversify your bank accounts like you do your assets. This article will examine some of the most crucial aspects to consider when selecting a bank for checking and savings accounts: the type of bank, the rates and fees it levies, and the supplemental services it provides.

How do banks work?

Banks control the movement of money between individuals and businesses, whether physical institutions or internet ones. More specifically, banks provide deposit accounts, which are safe storage spaces for people’s cash. Banks lend to other people or companies using the funds in deposit accounts.

In exchange, borrowers pay interest on those loans to the bank. The initial deposit account holder then receives a portion of that interest back in the form of interest, typically on a savings account, money market account, or certificate of deposit (CD) account. Banks’ primary sources of income are the interest on loans and the fees they charge their clients.

These charges may be connected to certain items, such as bank accounts, or they may be correlated to financial services. For instance, an investment bank that manages investment portfolios may charge a fee for that service. Or, when a bank offers a homebuyer a mortgage loan, it may take an origination charge.

The banking sector is heavily regulated. To ensure that banks adhere to the appropriate regulations, the Federal Reserve System supervises banks and other financial institutions and works in conjunction with state regulatory organizations. Other government agencies, such as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), are also responsible for regulating banks.

Why is choosing the right bank important?

It’s challenging to pick the best bank. It can take a long time to figure out what is best for you. However, you will experience long-term consequences if you select the incorrect bank for your deposit sum or loan amount. Firstly, you will suffer significantly if you choose a bank with a high-interest rate. Additionally, it will cost you extra to travel to a bank farther away from where you are.

Furthermore, your bank may not have a sophisticated security system. Your amount has a danger of not being secure. The improper bank will have a higher return rate than other banks if you seek a loan or mortgage. Given these warning signs, you must know when to back off and redirect your attention to the list of alternative banks with a decent track record.

Types of banks

It’s critical to understand the various categories of banks you can work with if you want to create a personal checking account, a business account, or are seeking a loan or investment opportunity. Although there are many opportunities in the banking sector, it may also be challenging. Because of this, a thorough investigation must be carried out before beginning.

The first and most important consideration when selecting a bank is the kind of organization that is best for you. The term “bank” can be applied to at least three different types of financial institutions, each of which has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Following are some of the types of banks you should know about before looking for the best bank accounts in Chicago.

  • Traditional banks
  • Credit unions
  • Online banks

Traditional banks

Most people envision traditional banks when they think of banks. These banks provide ATMs to both their customers and those of other banks, and they primarily provide services to their clients through a network of physical locations. Many now offer online banking services so customers can pay their invoices and make deposits.

While traditional banks have been around the longest, there are currently fewer benefits to choosing them over credit unions or internet rivals. As we shall see, both organizations charge less than traditional banks in terms of fees.

However, you may choose to conduct your banking in person. If you have a query or an issue, you can visit your local bank and speak with someone. This may indicate that a traditional bank is the best option for you. However, it is still worthwhile to investigate the alternative options open to you.

Credit unions

Credit unions are sometimes neglected as an alternative to traditional and internet banks, but they have benefits that make them a viable option. To begin, credit unions are nonprofit financial cooperatives.

Credit unions are member-owned, and profits are distributed to members through cheaper fees and better interest rates on deposit accounts. In contrast, publicly traded traditional banks must satisfy revenue targets and be accountable to shareholders.

Another reason is that the majority of credit unions have actual relationships with their local communities. A credit union may be the right choice for you if you want a bank that gives back to your community.

On the other hand, not all credit unions provide features like online banking, and some of them have rather strict requirements for members to access services. This could make you a less-than-ideal pick for a bank account you need to use frequently.

Online banks

Twenty years ago, there weren’t many online banks, but as their use has increased, traditional banks now face direct competition from them. Online banks often charge far lower fees because they have significantly lower overhead costs than conventional banks. After all, they have fewer or no physical branches.

However, many customers complain about the poor customer service provided by banks that only operate online. This is understood inside the sector. Even while the most significant online banks today offer a wide range of customer service options, you can’t go into a branch and speak to a bank staff there.

The distinction between traditional and online banks has gotten fuzzier in recent years due to the advancement of the digital tools and services provided by the latter. This suggests that it would be possible to benefit from a traditional branch’s advantages while also having access to the ease of online banking.

What to look for when searching for one of the best banks in Chicago?

A bank should accommodate your particular financial position. Finding the right bank to match your needs is crucial because every bank has different strengths. This includes banks that offer access to a vast network of ATMs or higher rates on deposits. Follow these instructions to make the best decision possible before opening a bank account.

Identify the right account

It would be daunting to compare all banks’ products and services. The correct types of accounts should match your financial priorities and goals, considering this need would be a smart place to start. The most common accounts include

  • Checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Money market accounts
  • Certificates of deposit (CDs)

If you want to replace your checking account, you might choose a larger, more conventional bank that offers various checking account options. Another option is to open a high-yield checking account, such as those frequently provided by some credit unions and internet banks.

Consider opening a high-yield savings account if you want to receive the highest rate of return. Online banks often pay more excellent interest rates than traditional banks. The average APY on savings accounts is 0.06 percent; however, the best banks provide up to 0.6 percent. Online banks are equally as safe as traditional banks as long as they are guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or, in the case of credit unions, the National Credit Union Administration.

Money market accounts, comparable to savings accounts but may include check-writing privileges, are another alternative. Many banks have a debit or ATM card, usually with a monthly transaction limit.

CDs are an additional way to generate interest. When you put money in a CD for a fixed period — from a few months to several years — you’ll get a guaranteed rate of return. You can withdraw your funds before the CD expires, but you will likely have to pay costs or forfeit some interest or principal.

Rates and periods vary from bank to bank, so assess your financial goals and if the CDs available meet your needs. You may also want a bank that offers debit card and credit card options and lending products such as mortgages and personal loans.

Look for banks with minimal or no fees

There’s no reason to continue with a bank that charges avoidable fees when many others do. Online banks are well-known for charging low costs. Because they have fewer (if any) branches, they have reduced operational costs and do not charge as many fees as traditional banks. Some ATMs charge free of charge for some online bank cardholders.

Keep an eye out for monthly fees, ATM fees, and overdraft costs. According to Bankrate research, the average overdraft cost is $33.58. Enrolling in an overdraft protection program (in which the bank pays an unaffordable purchase) might be costly. According to a 2017 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report, consumers who use overdraft protection spend almost seven times more in fees than those who do not.

Once you’ve identified the appropriate account for your needs, prevent penalties by linking your checking account to another account at your financial institution. The bank will withdraw funds from the other account to pay the transaction if you overdraw a checking account. This service may have a price, but it is usually cheaper than an overdraft fee.

Set up low balance alerts on your bank’s or credit union’s website or app. These notifications, which may include SMS messages, notify you when your account is about to be overdrawn.

Check to see if you may get the monthly maintenance price waived. Banks frequently need a minimum daily balance or direct transfers to be set up to waive the cost.

Consider the ease of access to a bank branch

Another essential consideration in banking is accessibility, which includes branch location convenience and internet and mobile banking availability. What amenities you prioritize may differ based on what you’re used to.

Customers accustomed to performing most of their chores online may prioritize digital banking tools over the convenience of branch locations. The converse may be true for those more accustomed to branch banking.

Nonetheless, according to J.D. Power, branches continue to play an essential part in the lives of most consumers, with 78 percent reporting they opened their most recent account or product in person at a branch. Its results also show that handy branch offices are the most prevalent reason consumers choose their major banking institutions. Even if you want to conduct practically everything online, you may prefer a bank with some physical locations.

Consider credit unions

Many consumers are familiar with the largest banks, but credit unions should also be considered. Credit unions are nonprofit, member-owned organizations. Members often see profits returned to them through decreased fees, higher savings rates, and cheaper borrowing rates.

It is no longer as difficult to join a credit union as it formerly was. Many are available around the country, and many allow you to qualify for membership by joining an organization or making a charity donation.

Find a bank that caters to your needs

The bank you select should meet your requirements. If you’re self-employed, for example, you’ll need a bank to help you build your business. If you want to save more money, seek a bank that has features that will help you achieve your goals, such as high-yield savings accounts.

A wide range of CD terminology allows you to pick a term for your aims or construct a CD ladder—the capacity to create and name individual savings accounts. For example, you could create a savings account for your emergency fund, a travel fund, and a present fund.

When picking where to bank, consider your spending habits. Many banks’ websites or apps have budgeting features that make it simple to manage your costs and understand where your money is going.

Investigate digital features

Most banks provide essential services, such as the ability to transfer funds, pay bills, check balances, and make mobile check deposits via an app or a website. However, not all banks provide advanced digital capabilities.

Not all banks provide services users increasingly seek, such as the option to lock a debit card (and prevent a stranger from using it) or set mobile banking alerts. Furthermore, not all online banks provide a smartphone app, so you may have to access your account via a mobile browser.

Learn about the terms and conditions

Important information concerning a bank account can typically be found in the account agreement, which may not be visible on the account’s home page but is usually available elsewhere on the bank’s website. Examining the disclosure might help you avoid missing any hidden fees.

If there are monthly service fees, the account agreement will include information on how to waive them. If there are out-of-network ATM fees, the fee disclosure may consist of whether the bank provides refunds. Check to see if your deposits are federally protected by the National Credit Union Administration or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (just in case your bank closes).

Also, while you compare products, keep an eye out for promotional prices that are about to expire. Some banks may provide enticing teaser rates that subsequently fall to considerably lower rates.

Check out the reviews for the banks you’re thinking about using

After you’ve begun comparing a few banks, reading expert evaluations about them can help you understand what to expect from the financial institution, including customer service and goods. Customer reviews can also be beneficial, especially because many customers continue with their banks for a long time. Managing accounts at numerous banks or credit unions may be the best option if you can’t decide on a single bank.

Best banks in Chicago

Chicago is America’s third largest city. It boasts a vast, diverse economy with several Fortune 500 corporations and a massive banking industry. The Chicago Board of Trade is the country’s second-largest public market trading facility. The city also has a lot of investment firms and a considerable number of high-net-worth individuals.

Among the other major industries are real estate, conventions, hotels, manufacturing, logistics, transportation, technology, pharmaceuticals, education, health care, and advertising. These sectors continue to reinforce one another to power the economy. As a result, banking is prospering in Chicago, with a wide range of services and financial possibilities available.

After going through all of the basics of banking and the different types of banks, you can finally develop an understanding of how banking works in the United States, specifically in Chicago. We’ve put together a list of the five best banks in the state of Chicago that might prove to be a better financial decision regarding securing your assets.

Ally bank (the top savings account)

If you don’t mind not having access to a branch, Ally Bank’s online-only model has a lot to offer. While many conventional banks are reducing their interest rates, the Ally Online Savings Account provides a daily compounding annual percentage yield of 2.35%. On a $10,000 beginning amount, you might make $973 at this rate over the course of four years. Additionally, the account has no minimum balance requirements or fees, so your money will stay in your wallet.

Customers who keep up with their transactions and require easy access to cash will do well with Ally’s Interest Checking Account. A minimum daily amount of $15,000 or more earns a 0.25% APY on accounts, while a balance of less than that earns a 0.10% APY. Every customer gets a free debit card that they can use anywhere, including the 55,000 fee-free ATMs in the Allpoint ATM network. The bank will pay up to $10 in ATM fees every statement cycle if you are compelled to use an out-of-network ATM.

As we mentioned previously, Ally is a branchless bank. Ally’s quality depends on its online and mobile banking systems. However, the bank doesn’t let its customers down; its Apple and Android mobile apps have received an average rating of 4.35 stars out of 5 from more than 20,000 client reviews. Some of the app’s highlights include mobile check deposit, an ATM finder, and Zelle, a peer-to-peer money transfer service. Additionally, Ally offers customer help round-the-clock.

Pros

  • High annual percentage yield
  • Exemplary customer service
  • No minimums or fees

Cons

  • It does not have any physical branches

Chase bank (the best national bank with branches)

A large bank like Chase should do the trick if you value having access to thousands of branches and ATMs. Customers of Chase can visit over 300 branches and over 400 ATMs in Chicago and the surrounding areas.

This makes getting your money extremely convenient in Windy City and anywhere else in the world. Of course, you can also use the bank’s website and mobile banking services to access your accounts. Chase makes it simple to open accounts, transfer money, and check your balances while on the go.

If you are confused about the type of account to open? Chase provides a range of choices, from straightforward savings accounts to interest-bearing checking accounts to lengthy CDs. A minimum deposit of $25 to $1,000 will need to be made for each account in order for it to be opened. Additionally, you should be aware of monthly costs because you may be able to avoid them depending on the nature of your account.

Chase also serves as an excellent bank for students. For high school and college students, the Chase High School Checking and Chase College Checking accounts are designed to assist with money management in the most practical manner. A minimum $25 deposit is necessary for both accounts. There is also a $6 monthly fee, but there are ways to avoid paying it. For instance, being a college student, you won’t have to worry about the College Checking charge for five years.

Chase doesn’t provide the most enticing interest rates for savings. This is the situation with most large banks because they have to cover the costs associated with maintaining thousands of physical locations. However, a lot of Chase accounts do pay out at tiers. This means that you can secure better rates by linking your accounts or by increasing your account balance. But the 120-month CD from Chase is the only account with an APY above 1%.

Pros

  • Hundreds of branches and ATMs in Chicago
  • Complete banking via mobile and online

Cons

  • Interest rates with low yields
  • Monthly maintenance charges
  • Minimum deposits needed

BMO Harris bank (best regional bank)

Chicago residents can turn to BMO Harris Bank, a division of our northern neighbor’s Bank of Montreal, for a more regional feel. BMO Harris, which has its headquarters in Chicago, operates 215 branches in the city alone. Additionally, you have free access to BMO Harris ATMs and the 40,000+ Allpoint ATMs located throughout the nation. You can access your accounts and customer support from anywhere using the bank’s web, mobile, and phone services.

The bank’s extensive reach includes all of its bank accounts. Three checking accounts, a savings account, a money market account, and CDs with terms ranging from one month to five years are available here. You can even open a Step Rate CD, which will increase your interest rate at predetermined intervals determined by the bank.

The requirement of a variety of minimum deposits is a drawback of BMO Harris savings accounts, including the BMO Harris Select Money Market. These cost $25 to $5,000. However, you can earn better interest rates with even higher deposits to increase your savings. BMO Harris checking accounts; however, you need a deposit of $25 to get started.

Pros

  • The Chicago metro area has more than 200 branches.
  • The usual minimum deposit for checking accounts
  • Allpoint ATM access

Cons

  • Meager savings account minimum deposits
  • More excellent interest rates are offered by other banks
  • Physical sites are only available in Illinois and seven other states.

CIT bank (savings builder account)

Naturally, the primary objective of any savings account is to save money. This is really well done by the savings builder account at CIT Bank. When customers deposit $100 monthly or keep their account balance at $25,000, they will receive a top-tier 1.00% APY. If you don’t fulfill these standards, your APY will drop to 0.40%. You simply need to deposit $100 to open a Savings Builder account.

A lack of branches may indicate poorer customer service, making joining your first online/mobile-only bank like CIT unnerving. This appears to be far from reality, though, concerning CIT. Thousands of user evaluations on the Apple and Android app stores have given the bank’s mobile app a total rating of 3.85 stars out of 5. The distinguishing features of these platforms include mobile check deposits, inter-account transfers, and digital account statements and transaction histories.

Here are the remaining CIT account options in case you’re curious about what else you might benefit from.

  • Money market account
  • Premier High-Yield Savings account
  • 6-month to 5-year term CDs
  • 2-year to 5-year jumbo CDs
  • 1-year to 4-year “RampUp” CDs
  • No-Penalty/11-Month CD

Pros

  • Among the greatest APYs available
  • No monthly fees
  • A minimum of as low as $100

Cons

  • To receive the highest APY, you must deposit $100 per month or keep a balance of at least $25,000.

PNC bank (standard savings account)

Last but not least, Chicago residents can visit PNC Bank to open the most significant savings account in the city. One of the two savings accounts offered by the bank is designed exclusively for children. The PNC Standard Savings account is the one that provides the most value. The account’s introductory rate is a low 0.01% APY, to begin with. Even larger institutions like Chase or Wells Fargo concur with this.

However, you can access more excellent rates by either connecting a PNC checking account to your standard savings or using your debit card or PNC Visa credit card to make at least five eligible monthly transactions. If you fulfill one of these conditions, you will earn 0.02% APY on balances under $2,500 and 0.03% APY on balances over $2,500.

Compared to other banks, where the minimum balance to earn at this rate might be as high as $250,000, this balance requirement is relatively modest. A minimum $25 starting deposit is needed for the account. You can set up automatic transfers from another account once you’ve opened the account to keep your savings going.

Pros

  • Possibility of increasing the relationship rate
  • Auto savings tool
  • Protection against overdrafts with a PNC checking account

Cons

  • Even though it is refundable, there is a monthly cost
  • Its interest rates are average
  • It is limited to only the states of the East Coast and the Midwest.

Conclusion

The services offered by the majority of banks are substantially identical. The distinctions between them can be found in each bank’s unique features and nuances, which is why it is critical to evaluate their various conditions and fees.

Based on your goals and lifestyle, consider whether you would gain the most from what each bank offers. Where you like to bank and how you handle your money are important considerations. Finding a bank that checks all your boxes and costs the most negligible fees can make managing your money much more accessible.

John Otero

John Otero

John Otero is an industry practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in the insurance industry. He has held various senior management roles both in the insurance companies and insurance brokers during this span of time. He began his insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. He got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how he fell in love with the industry. He saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. John has diverse experience in corporate & consumer insurance services, across a range of vocations. His specialties include Major Corporate risk management and insurance programs, and Financial Lines He has been instrumental in making his firm as one of the leading organizations in the country in generating sustainable rapid growth of the company while maintaining service excellence to clients.