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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Miriam Cross, Associate Editor
Lisa Gerstner, Contributing Editor
| July 6, 2018
Regional banks have a smaller reach than big national banks, but many are large enough to offer considerable resources for their customers. Regionals may also have a stronger focus on investing in their communities.
Here's a look at three regional banks that rose to the top of our rankings for their overall appeal.
All rates as of June 22, 2018.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank got its name when Fifth National Bank and Third National Bank merged near the turn of the 20th century. Today, with locations in 10 midwestern and southern states, Fifth Third offers accounts that are particularly customer-friendly.
The bank's Essential Checking account provides several ways to avoid the monthly fee, such as maintaining a combined balance of $1,500 in deposit and investment accounts, having a mortgage or auto loan or line of credit with the bank, being a student, or spending at least $500 monthly on a Fifth Third credit card. The bank's other accounts include Preferred Checking, Military Checking (no fee if you meet one of several balance, deposit or spending requirements) and Express Banking, which is free but does not include check writing or check deposits at ATMs. And Fifth Third is offering a free checking account with more features through a pilot program in limited markets.
Among savings options, the bank's promotional CDs ($5,000 minimum) recently offered yields of 1.5% for an 11-month maturity or 2% for 18 or 22 months (the term depends on where you live). Fifth Third's savings accounts and money market deposit account waive the monthly fee if you have a Fifth Third checking account or meet other requirements.
Since we named Flagstar Bank a regional winner last year, the Michigan-based bank has increased its footprint by scooping up eight branches of a community bank in Southern California as well as 52 Wells Fargo branches in the Midwest (that deal is expected to close at the end of the year).
Flagstar has one free, no-strings checking account and two interest checking accounts. SimplyMax Checking, which offers the most perks and fee waivers, requires $50 to open and yields between 0.05% and 0.15%, depending on the account balance. You can avoid the $25 monthly fee with an average daily balance of at least $5,000 (or $25,000 in all of your Flagstar deposit accounts combined); Flagstar will also waive the fee to use an out-of-network ATM and refund up to $20 per statement for other ATM fees. You get free checks, cashier’s checks and money orders.
The minimum deposit for Flagstar's CDs is only $500, and your rate gets a boost if you keep at least $5,000 in combined deposit accounts. For example, a one-year CD earns 0.85% and a five-year CD yields up to 1.65%, but preferred rates rise to 1.85% for one year and 2.65% for five years.
Founded in 1842 in Bridgeport, Conn., as a bank for the middle class, People's United Bank now has locations in six northeastern states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
The bank's basic Plus Checking account is free if you have a $1,000 minimum daily balance, a direct deposit, or if you are 65 or older (in some markets, the account is free with no strings attached). If you keep a $7,500 combined balance in deposit and investment accounts and a home equity loan or line of credit, the Advantage Checking account is more attractive, with unlimited reimbursement of ATM surcharges in states outside your own; free checks, cashier's checks and domestic wire transfers; and free identity-theft protection, including monitoring of your Equifax credit report. The bank also offers Premier Advantage Checking, with more benefits. It's free for customers who keep $75,000 or more in accounts, loans and investments.
Customers with a checking account can open and maintain a savings or money market deposit account free, with rates up to 0.3% on the Premier Advantage money market account. The one-year Plus CD ($500 minimum deposit) recently yielded a strong 2% if you have a checking account with the bank. (Account terms and rates are for customers in Hartford, Conn.)
These stellar banks and credit unions are making all the right moves to win satisfied customers: