RANKING & REVIEWS
TOP RANKING BEST BANKS & CREDIT UNIONS IN SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Which are the Best San Francisco Banks & Credit Unions to Use (and the 2 You Should Bypass)?
Those living and working in the San Francisco area know all about the city’s colorful personality and rolling hills. What they may not know is which banks or credit unions in San Francisco are the best for opening a checking account or taking an auto loan.
This 4th largest city in California is no stranger to big banks. They are home to the headquarters of Wells Fargo in San Francisco. However, there are also plenty of choices for smaller community banks and credit unions in San Francisco, if you prefer a more personal touch.
Award Emblem: Best 6 Banks & Credit Unions in San Francisco, CA
For our Top 6 Ranking of Best Banks and Credit Unions in San Francisco, we’ve taken a look at each bank’s or credit union’s record of customer service, online reputation, and the convenience they offer to customers or members.
Additionally, in our FAQ we’ll take a look at how credit unions in the Bay Area have changed over the years. These not-for-profit financial institutions are now easier to join than ever before, and these days there’s hardly any difference between credit unions and banks in San Francisco, California.
Top 6 Best San Francisco Credit Unions and Banks (Plus 2 to Avoid) | Brief Comparison & Ranking
Banks & Credit Unions in San Francisco, CA
|Bank of the West|
|Provident Credit Union|
|Redwood Credit Union|
|First Republic Bank|
|San Francisco Federal Credit Union|
|Wells Fargo Bank|
|Bank of San Francisco|
Banks & Credit Unions in San Francisco, CA FAQ | How Have the Best Credit Unions in the Bay Area Evolved?
Many credit unions in San Francisco and other cities in the U.S. were started to serve a particular membership. One could only join these not-for-profit institutions if they met narrow requirements. So, it wasn’t always easy for everyone to enjoy the great interest rates and services they offered.
Some examples include San Francisco Federal Credit Union, which was started to serve city employees, and Provident Credit Union, which was founded specifically to serve the financial needs of the California Teachers Association.
However, in order to compete with banks, many of the best credit unions in San Francisco and elsewhere opened up membership to make it easier to join. You now can often just live, work, or worship in one of multiple counties in the area to qualify for membership.
Another way these institutions have evolved over the years is that now most credit unions in San Francisco, CA offer the same banking services as do any San Francisco Bank, making them more competitive.
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Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Banks & Best Credit Unions in San Francisco (Plus 2 to Avoid)
Below, please find a detailed review of each firm on our list of best San Francisco credit unions and banks. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed each of these Best San Francisco Banks & Credit Unions to score so highly in our selection ranking.
Click on any of the names below to go directly to the review section for that firm.
- Bank of the West
- Provident Credit Union
- Redwood Credit Union
- First Republic Bank
- San Francisco Federal Credit Union
- Wells Fargo Bank
- Bank of San Francisco
- Westamerica Bank
See Also: Associated Bank Ranking & Review
Bank of the West Review
Bank of the West is a combination of a homegrown San Francisco bank with a large global reach. They began serving the local area in 1874 during the gold rush. Since then, they’ve become affiliated with BNP Paribas, a large European bank.
Below are the highlights that make Bank of the West stand out on this 2018 Best Banks & Credit Unions in San Francisco, CA ranking.
Bank of the West Services at a Glance:
- 15 branch locations in San Francisco & surrounding areas
- Locations in 19 U.S. states
- Ranked by Forbes as one of America’s Best Large Employers
- Won the Choice Award for Excellence in Consumer Retail Banking in the West (Kantar TNS)
- Better Business Bureau A+ rating
Award-Winning Customer Service
As a smaller bank or credit union in the Bay Area grows, customer service can decline. But that doesn’t look to be the case with Bank of the West. Throughout their growth from the San Francisco area to serving 19 states and being internationally affiliated, this is one of the banks in San Francisco that continues to provide award-winning customer service.
Bank of the West, which is headquartered in San Francisco, earned a 5 rating as one of the best San Francisco banks to consider. Although we would like to see them clean up a few less than perfect reviews on some online sites, they have garnered multiple awards.
They’ve been a mainstay in the Bay Area for over 140 years, and have shown that they’re one of the banks in San Francisco that has a continued commitment to supporting and serving that community.
Provident Credit Union Review
Provident Credit Union was established in 1950 and is among the top 20 largest credit unions in California. You can consider joining this San Francisco Credit Union if you live or work in one of 10 California counties, the City of Los Angeles, or are affiliated with a member union or company.
Below are the highlights that make Provident Credit Union stand out on this 2018 Best Banks & Credit Unions in San Francisco, CA ranking.
Provident Credit Union Services at a Glance:
- 4 branch locations in San Francisco & surrounding areas
- 14 shared branch locations in the SF Bay Area
- Super Reward Checking that earns 2.01% APY
- Once you’re a member, you can stay a member even if you move
- Better Business Bureau A+ rating
Banking & Insurance Services
Provident is one of the best credit unions in the Bay Area to use if you want to get insurance at the same place you bank. And they don’t farm out their insurance, they have their own Provident Plus Insurance company that offers property, auto, business, life, and other insurance products.
Provident Credit Union earned a 5 rating as one of the best credit unions in San Francisco. Even though they are smaller than other best San Francisco credit unions or banks on our list, they make up for it with consistently great reviews for their banking and loan services.
Redwood Credit Union Review
Redwood Credit Union was started under the name Sonoma County Employees Credit Union by seven Sonoma County employees in 1950. Its membership and territory has expanded over that time and this credit union in San Francisco, CA now serves over 220,000 members.
Below are the highlights that make Redwood Credit Union stand out on this 2018 best banks & credit unions in San Francisco, CA ranking.
Redwood Credit Union Services at a Glance:
- 3 branch locations in San Francisco & surrounding areas
- 21 shared branch locations in the SF Bay Area
- “Go Green” sustainability commitment
- Ranked as the 9th largest credit union in California
- Better Business Bureau A+ rating
Financial Wellness Tools
Redwood is one of the best credit unions in San Francisco for a robust set of financial wellness tools that you can access on their website. They devote a lot of web real estate to helping you plan your financial success. Videos and targeted tips include subjects like “When a Saver Marries a Spender”.
After reviewing this credit union in the Bay Area and what customers had to say about them on ranking websites, we rated Redwood Credit Union a 5. They have excellent reviews relating to their customer service and ease of doing business with them.
They also offer some excellent rates both on loans and credit cards. Making this one of the best credit unions in San Francisco to get a new auto loan as low as 2.44% APR.
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First Republic Bank Review
This next San Francisco bank is on the younger side when compared with other best banks or best credit unions in San Francisco. First Republic Bank was founded in 1985 and has offices throughout California, as well as the cities of Portland, Boston, Greenwich, and New York City.
Below are the highlights that make First Republic Bank stand out on this 2018 best banks & credit unions in San Francisco, CA ranking.
First Republic Bank Services at a Glance:
- 13 branch locations in San Francisco & surrounding areas
- Named Top Private Bank by Private Asset Management Magazine
- SEC Registered Investment Advisor
- Personal lending & student loan refinancing
- Better Business Bureau A+ rating
Top Wealth Management Services
If you’re looking for the top bank or credit union in the Bay Area that can help you invest intelligently and grow your money, then you’ll want to take a close look at First Republic Bank. They were named among Barron’s Top 40 Wealth Managers and you can tell from their online presence that this is a big part of their business.
We gave First Republic Bank a high 3 in our rating of the best banks and best credit unions in the Bay Area. If we were ranking just investment and wealth management services, they would be an easy 5, but they lack a little on the personal banking side.
If you want an excellent private personal and business bank in San Francisco that also has some east coast locations, then this may be your favorite pick. They have an excellent reputation, especially when it comes to banks in San Francisco that can help you invest wisely.
San Francisco Federal Credit Union Review
This next San Francisco credit union is open to anyone that lives, works or worships in San Francisco or San Mateo counties. San Francisco Federal Credit Union began in 1954 and has a mission of making people’s financial lives easier.
Below are the highlights that make San Francisco Federal Credit Union stand out on this 2018 best banks & credit unions in San Francisco, CA ranking.
San Francisco Federal Credit Union Services at a Glance:
- 7 branch locations in San Francisco & surrounding areas
- Received an A+ Nationwide Health Rating
- Member rewards & discounts
- CommunityShare outreach program
- Better Business Bureau B- rating
Accounts for You and Your Pet
There aren’t many San Francisco bank or credit union options out there that offer a Furry Fund Savings Account just for your pet. In addition to the usual personal, retirement, and youth bank accounts, you can also open one for your pet and get a free microchip with $100 deposit.
San Francisco Federal Credit Union is a great choice for multiple account options, plus they have a mobile banking app you can use 24/7. They earned a high 3 ranking on our best credit unions in San Francisco list.
The only thing holding them back from a higher rating was a lower score than most others at the Better Business Bureau, but we could see that going up in the future.
Wells Fargo Bank Review
Wells Fargo Bank is by far the largest San Francisco bank on our list. They’ve been around for over 160 years and opened in 1852 in the then gold rush port of San Francisco. Today, they offer 8,500 locations and have team members in 42 countries around the world.
Below are the highlights that make Wells Fargo San Francisco stand out on this 2018 Best Banks & Credit Unions in San Francisco, CA ranking.
Wells Fargo Services at a Glance:
- 11 branch locations in San Francisco & surrounding areas
- Ranked #25 on Fortune’s ranking of America’s largest corporations
- Named Best Bank in North America by Global Finance magazine
- Multiple credit card & loan options
- Better Business Bureau no rating
Go Far™ Rewards Program
A benefit of going with a big bank in San Francisco is that they can often give you credit/debit card rewards that smaller banks can’t. Wells Fargo San Francisco has their own rewards program that lets you earn points and cash back on just about every purchase you make.
We ranked Wells Fargo San Francisco a 3 on our best San Francisco banks listing. They definitely can offer more services than most other credit unions or banks in San Francisco, but they are in the midst of cleaning up a few issues with the government regarding fraudulent accounts.
On the plus side, the company has been working hard to clean up their reputation, so we definitely see them on track to get a higher ranking in the future. Being based in San Francisco and having affiliates around the world is a big plus for anyone wanting to bank locally with Wells Fargo San Francisco, CA.
Bank of San Francisco Review
When we first heard this next San Francisco bank’s name, we thought it may be a good contender. However, after our review we had to put Bank of San Francisco on our “banks to avoid” list.
Below are some of the improvements we feel Bank of San Francisco could make to gain a spot in the future on our best San Francisco banks ranking.
Provide More Clarity of Bank Benefits
When you first get to their website, it lacks many of the clear bank benefits and offers that other credit unions and banks in San Francisco display. And when you visit their “Who We Serve” page it’s obvious businesses and non-profits are higher on their priority list than individuals are.
Offer More Locations
With just a single location in the area, this is definitely not a San Francisco bank to choose if you like the convenience of stopping by no matter where you are in the Bay Area.
We recommend that you avoid Bank of San Francisco for the time being, so we gave them a 1 on our ranking. With the city in their name, they really have a spotlight on them, so adding some more locations in the SF Bay Area would definitely be a plus.
A revamp of their website to a more modern, customer-centric style could also help them attract more clients. With those changes, we could see revisiting their ranking among the best San Francisco banks in the future.
Westamerica Bank Review
The other San Francisco, California bank that we recommend avoiding is Westamerica Bank. This regional community bank has been around since 1884, but they’ve got some very poor reviews regarding their customer service.
Below are some of the improvements we feel WestAmerica Bank could make to gain a spot in the future on our best San Francisco banks ranking.
Focus on Customer Service
Many of the negative reviews and poor ratings on sites like Yelp and DepositAccounts are about their poor customer service. Customers also mention it taking a week or longer to get notified about an account issue.
Most of the best banks and best credit unions in San Francisco, CA and elsewhere have revamped their account structures to lower their fees. Customers of Westamerica note fees being added to their checking or savings that make it an unpopular place to bank for them.
Westamerica is rated a 1 on our listing as a San Francisco bank to avoid until they fix a few things. But they aren’t too far from being able to be considered for a higher rating in the future. Their 10 locations in the San Francisco area are a plus.
A focus on customers, both in service and the fees they have them pay, could really pay off for Westamerica in improving their popularity. They already have a good online presence with an easy to navigate website and clear benefits featured.
Conclusion – 6 Best Banks & Credit Unions in San Francisco, CA (and Which to Avoid)
There is no lack of choices for banking if you live or work in San Francisco or one of the surrounding suburbs. You can have your choice of the best large banks like Wells Fargo San Francisco and local community financial institutions like San Francisco Federal Credit Union.
You’ll find that many of these best San Francisco credit unions and banks have a personality as unique as the city itself. So take some time to look over each organization’s history and mission statements to find your perfect banking match.
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