Best Banks 2012

Posted at October 9, 2012 | By : | Categories : News | 0 Comment

Money – Wed, Oct 3, 2012 10:32 AM EDT

Sick and tired of being nickel-and-dimed? Take your deposits to one of Money magazine’s award winners. These category leaders make it easy to avoid fees, get good interest rates and offer great extras.

1. U.S. Bank

( National bank for basic, senior checking and student checking (tie) accounts
Branches: 3,080 in 25 states

Minimums to avoid fees on basic accounts:
• $1,500 monthly balance or $500 monthly direct deposit for basic checking
• $300 balance for basic savings
• $1,000 balance for money-market account

Interest rates:
• 0.05% on basic savings
• 0.05% on up to $10,000; 0.10% for $10,000 and up via money-market account

Why it’s a winner for basic accounts: None of the mammoth banks offer truly free checking, but U.S. Bank — fourth by number of branches — waives the $7 to $11 monthly charge on its basic checking accounts with a relatively low direct deposit, an easier hurdle than the minimum balance since you can set it and forget it.

Other fees are lower than those of peer banks (for example, $2.50 to use an out-of-network ATM compared to $3). Plus, the bank is among only a handful offering remote check deposit via its mobile app.

Best of all? U.S. Bank ranked first for employee professionalism and competence in this year’s ath Power Ideal Banking study.

Caveat: A measly rate on saving — less than the industry average of 0.12%. But other big banks are paying even less.

Why it’s a winner for senior checking: The simplest option for people 65 plus who want free checking from a big brick-and-mortar bank. Though a recent Pew study found that some senior accounts come with sneaky terms, U.S. Bank’s version is in a different league. Seniors are entitled to a Premium Checking account with no maintenance fee (everyone else has to maintain a $5,000 balance or pay up to $13 a month). The account doesn’t levy fees for using another bank’s ATM and comes with free money orders, free cashier’s checks, and a 50% discount on a safe-deposit box. And there’s no minimum to avoid fees.

Caveat: It doesn’t have some of the perks of our other picks — such as paying interest or reimbursing fees that other banks charge for using their ATMs. Seniors comfortable banking electronically may be better off with Ally’s package.

2. TD Bank

( National bank for high balance accounts
Branches: 1,280 in 15 states

Minimums to avoid fees:
• $2,500 monthly balance on Premier Checking
• $10,000 balance on High Yield Savings linked accounts

Interest rates:
• 0.05% on Premier Checking
• 0.2% to 0.25% on $1,000 to $10,000; 0.35% to 0.55% for $10,000 to $25,000 in High Yield Savings

Why it’s a winner: Impressive rewards for customers floating $12,500. Most big banks save their best terms for high-balance customers. Still, TD shines against peers: You pay no out-of-network ATM fees and get unlimited reimbursements for fees from other banks on checking.

There’s no foreign transaction fee on debits (up to 3% elsewhere). Savings rates are above average, and you even earn a bit on checking. Plus, branches are open extended hours.

Caveat: Rates on savings depend on region; check the bank’s site to see what it is paying near you.

3. Huntington

( Midsize/regional bank (tie)
Branches: 680, across Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia

Minimums to avoid fees:
• None on basic checking
• $300 average daily balance or linked account on basic savings
• $15,000 across checking and savings for Plus Checking
• $20,000 balance or linked Plus Checking for Premier Plus Money Market

Interest rates:
• 0.10% on up to $10,000 in Plus Checking
• 0.05% on up to $20,000 in basic savings
• 0.65% on Premier Plus Money Market

Why it’s a winner: Free checking for all — the basic account lives up to its name, Asterisk Free! — with perks for those who maintain high balances.

Among the benefits of Plus Checking: 0.10% interest, a safe-deposit box, and free cashier’s checks. Premier Plus Money Market pays a well-above-average yield (0.65%).

Caveat: Below-average rate on basic savings.

4. First Citizens

( Midsize/regional bank (tie)
Branches: 420, in Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia

Minimums to avoid fees:
• None on basic checking
• $1,500 monthly balance or $250 direct deposit for Select Checking
• $5,000 balance for Premier Checking
• $300 balance for basic savings
• $1,000 balance for tiered money market

Interest rates:
• 0.05% on Premier Checking
• 0.05% on basic savings
• 0.10% for $10,000 to $25,000 in tiered money market

Why it’s a winner: Good checking options. First Citizens Bank has a free account, though it doesn’t come with paper statements. Meet a low $250 direct deposit, and those statements are thrown in.

For those able to stash $5,000, Premier Checking earns 0.05% interest, waives outside ATM fees, and gets you free cashier’s checks and a safe-deposit box.

Caveats: Rates on savings are below average. Having to go paperless for the basic account stinks. Also, First Citizens does not yet have mobile banking — but expects to by late fall.

5. M&T Bank

( Midsize/regional bank (tie)
Branches: 750, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia

Minimums to avoid fees:
• None on basic checking or Power Money Market
• $2,500 monthly balance on Plus Checking
• $7,500 on Premium Checking

Interest rates:
• 0.01% on Plus Checking
• 0.05% on Premium Checking
• 0.15% on up to $25,000 on Power Money Market

Why it’s a winner: Tiered checking options offer something for everyone. You can get free basic checking. Or if you can meet a minimum, two upper-level options buy you a safe-deposit box, waived bank fees for out-of-network ATMs, and interest.

The Premium account, which must be linked to another account, also reimburses ATM fees charged by other banks. The rate on the money market, which must also be linked, is a hair above average.

Caveat: Basic checking has a high $3 nonbank ATM fee.

Only securities are offered through Neidiger, Tucker, Bruner, Inc. (NTB). All other services/products are offered by Baron Financial Group, LLC, which is not affiliated with Neidiger, Tucker, Bruner, Inc. Baron Financial Group, LLC is solely responsible for the other products/services offered.