Intro: Finding the Best Banks in California

Being considered one of the best California banks is no small achievement.

While the banking landscape in California may have changed significantly over the past two decades, the state remains a highly competitive battleground for financial services companies.

There is a dynamic mix of national and regional banks in California, with local, private, public, and international ownership structures as well as non-bank lenders and other financial services providers.

This includes banks in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and other areas in Southern and Northern California.

Best Banks in California

Award Emblem: Top 15 Best Banks in California

According to usbanklocations.com, there are currently more than 240 banks actively operating across Southern and Northern California, with almost 7,200 branch banking locations.

The top banks in California represent some of the best managed and financially vibrant institutions in the state as well as in the nation.

While we were able to identify some of the best banks in Los Angeles, best banks in San Diego, and other best banks in Southern California, several of the institutions on our top banks in California list represent smaller markets in Northern and Central California.

Other banks have extensive retail branch networks that span wide areas of the state, giving you a wide range of options when it comes to finding the best bank in California for you.

Top 15 Best Banks in California | 2018 Brief Comparison & Ranking

Banks in CaliforniaHighlighted Features2018 Ratings
Bank of the WestWide range of business & consumer lending products5
BBVA Compass BankHOME program5
CitibankFinancial education on Wealth Management5
City National BankReading is the Way Up® Initiative5
East West BankDynamic international trading & banking expertise5
MUFG Union BankSmall business resource center5
Pacific Western BankServices & products geared for small to mid-sized businesses5
RabobankBanking solutions for agricultural industry5
Tri Counties BankSBA 504 loans5
U.S. BankOnline investing5
Umpqua BankCash management solutions for small businesses5
Westamerica BankVariety of credit cards5
Comerica BankWide range of business & personal lending solutions3
OneWest BankClear expertise in mortgage lending & refinancing3
Wells Fargo BankWide range of checking account options3

Table: Top 15 Best Banks in California | Above list is sorted by rating

What Makes a Great California Bank?

Finding the best California bank often means taking a look at your unique financial needs, goals, and values. Of course, while these will certainly vary from one person to the next, here are a few common traits that you may want to consider when evaluating banks in California.

Online & Mobile Access

The popularity of “banking on-the-go” has made online and mobile access into a staple for many banks in California.

The best banks in California will have dynamic, multi-functional apps and online platforms to make banking as convenient as possible, no matter where you are.

Low or Transparent Fee Structure

While banks in California and across the nation may always have some sort of fee structure, it certainly helps to look for banks that try to eliminate fees wherever possible.

California banks with no account maintenance fees, zero minimum balance penalties, and low overdraft fees make financial maintenance both easy and affordable in the long run, establishing a strong foundation for a long-term banking relationship.

Flexible Requirements

Whether you’re opening a checking, savings, or investment account, having flexible requirements is important for California banking. This can include anything from opening account deposits to minimum account balance requirements.

The best banks in California make their services accessible and strive to provide flexible requirements to ensure that account holders can access their funds when they need them.

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AdvisoryHQ’s Selection Methodology

What methodology does AdvisoryHQ use in selecting and finalizing the credit cards, financial products, firms, services, and products that are ranked on its various top-rated lists?

Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top-rated credit cards, financial accounts, firms, products, and services.

Detailed Review—Top 15 Best Banks in California

Below, please find the detailed review of each firm on our list of the best banks in California. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these California banks to score so high in our selection ranking. 

Click on any of the names below to go directly to the review section for that firm.

Click below for previous years’ rankings:

Bank of the West Review

Bank of the West has grown through branch openings and acquisitions in recent decades to become one of the largest banks in California.

Established in the Golden State in the 1870s, this California bank now operates more than 600 retail branches and business offices in 23 U.S. states. This top bank in California has more than $80.7 billion in assets.

Bank of the West is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, one of the largest financial companies in the world and headquartered in France.

Key Factors That Enabled Bank of the West to Rank as One of the Top Banks in California

Below are key factors that enabled Bank of the West to be rated as one of this year’s top banks in California.

Consumer Loans

Bank of the West has a wide range of loans, credit lines, and easy-to-use online account management tools.

In addition to mortgage, secured and unsecured lines of credit, and credit cards, Bank of the West is among the best California banks that provide loans for building improvements and RV purchases. Available credit products for qualified borrowers include:

  • Personal loans: Unsecured personal loans that can be used for anything from a medical procedure to a wedding or home improvement project
  • Personal lines of credit: Unsecured lines of credit which can be tapped into without having to repeatedly apply for a loan
  • Home equity lines of credit: Use your home’s equity to secure funds for renovation, debt consolidation expenses, and more
  • Mortgages: A wide variety of financing solutions, as well as a mortgage comparison tool, to see what will work best for you
  • Construction financing: Loans for major renovations and home additions
  • Car, RV, and boat loans: Includes FAQs and educational resources

Online Banking

With the power of a multi-national financial institution behind it, this top California bank offers a very functional web-based banking platform.

Deposit, loan, investment, and business customers can access their accounts in a single location on the web. Cash management tools and online bill pay makes accessing money and information with this best California bank easier than ever.

Online Bill Pay and Popmoney

Bank of the West has a very functional online bill payment service and is also one of the top banks in California that offers the Popmoney payment product. Popmoney allows customers to send and receive payments to and from virtually anyone with a bank account.

Providing responsive products, like Popmoney, and delivering small business capital in emerging communities are just two of the reasons that Bank of the West made the list of the top banks in California. 

top banks in california

Top Banks in California

Rating Summary

As a best bank in California, Bank of the West provides customers with a wide range of products to make their financial lives more productive, including online and mobile access, loans, credit cards, and more.

With a focus on customer service and a strong history of helping small businesses succeed, Bank of the West is one of the best banks in California to consider partnering with this year. 

See Also: Best Banks for Millennials | Ranking | Best Millennial Banks for Spending, Saving, & Budgeting

City National Bank Review

City National Bank offers its customers an upscale banking experience. As a part of Royal Bank of Canada, this member of the list of top banks in California focuses on assisting successful consumers and entrepreneurs with achieving their financial and business goals.

City National offers its clients highly-personalized consumer banking, trust management, and investment services through 72 locations in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, Nevada, New York City, Nashville, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., and Atlanta.

City National Bank and its affiliates hold $48.7 billion in deposits in assets as of January 31, 2018. 

Key Factors That Enabled City National Bank to Rank as One of the Top Banks in California

Below are key factors that enabled City National Bank to be rated as one of this year’s top banks in California.

Banking, Lending, and Wealth Management

For its client base, City National provides a full assortment of traditional consumer banking and wealth management services.

Like many of the other top banks in California on this list, traditional banking products offered include checking and savings accounts as well as international banking and treasury and cash management services.

Loan product offerings include credit cards, mortgages and real estate financing, lines of credit, equipment financing, and working capital products. Finally, City National also provides investment and trust services as well as retirement planning.

Reading is the Way Up®

Reading is the Way Up® (RITWU) is City National’s way of making a difference by promoting childhood reading and lifelong learning. This program is unique to City National, helping the bank to differentiate itself from other top banks in California.

By providing direct grants to charitable organizations, volunteer opportunities for bank staff, and a variety of employee activities held throughout the year, RITWU provides an opportunity for internal team-building and to make a difference in lives of local youth.

As a top bank in California, City National uses the RITWU program to invest in:

  • Supplying school libraries with gifts of books
  • Grants for K-12 schools to enhance literary efforts
  • Providing colleagues with paid time off to read to students during the workday

Going Green

City National is committed to finding ways to reduce environmental impact opportunities to encourage green development. The company has also stated specific goals toward environmental sustainability, including:

  • Tracking and reducing the bank-wide carbon footprint
  • Continuously increasing the use of renewable/reusable resources
  • Creating a healthier environment for employees, clients, and the community

To support this commitment, City National Bank has installed solar panels at the bank’s Riverside, California offices, saving over 77,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year.

This is part of a broader green building initiative to improve energy efficiency throughout the organization, setting an example for other banks in California.

Rating Summary

Working with the upwardly mobile, entrepreneurs, and their families, as well as demonstrating a strong effort to supporting local communities, City National is able to deliver a highly-personalized client experience.

With a unique commitment to integrating environmentally sustainable business practices and community building efforts into their company mission, City National Bank is one of the best banks in California for customers that want superior financial services delivered from an ethical foundation.     

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East West Bank Review

Opening its doors in 1973, East West Bank is unique among our best banks in California. East West Bank was the first federally-chartered savings institution focused primarily on serving the financial needs of Chinese-Americans in Los Angeles.

Over the years, the organization has grown and evolved into a full-service commercial bank with more than 130 locations in the U.S. and Greater China. U.S. markets include California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Washington.

In the Greater China Region, East West has locations in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shantou, Shenzhen, Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Taipei, and Xiamen.

Key Factors That Enabled East West Bank to Rank as One of the Top Banks in California

Below are key factors that enabled East West Bank to be rated as one of this year’s top banks in California.

Consumer and Wealth Services

East West Bank offers a solid set of financial products to consumers and high-wealth clients, similar to our other best banks in California.

Deposit products include traditional checking and savings accounts, CDs, and money markets. Lending services include mortgage, personal unsecured loans, credit cards and home equity loans.

The company also offers an array of insurance products through its affiliate, East West Insurance Services, as well as a full-service wealth management and investment division.

Focus on International Trade

East West Bank has a full assemblage of commercial banking services that work in the import and export industry. Customers can access help with international trade services and international trade financing through East West Bank. 

With a stated goal of helping small businesses in the U.S. to compete globally, this top California bank provides both banking services and technical assistance in the form of seminars, individual consultations, and collaborations with businesses and professional organizations.

california banks

East West Bank – California

Community Partnerships and Financial Education

Like many of the best banks in California, East West Bank has made it part of its mission to firmly back the communities in which it operates through community partnerships and support for financial education initiatives.

East West’s goal is “to enhance the quality of life in the community by engaging in meaningful and effective programs that reduce homelessness, increase homeownership, preserve affordable housing, promote asset building, and enable more inclusive access to modern banking services.”

East West Bank’s community and financial education support includes:

  • Asset Building: East West Bank partners with community organizations that help people to save and prepare for a brighter financial future, including the South Bay Center for Counseling, Community & Economic Development (SBCC).
  • Homeownership Workshops: East West Bank regularly offers homeownership workshops throughout the communities in which it has branch locations. The company offers mortgage loan product information and assistance in qualifying for loans, grants, and subsidies.
  • Junior Achievement: Junior Achievement is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial awareness. East West Bank employees regularly volunteer to teach financial education classes at schools in low- and moderate-income communities to students ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.
  • Los Angeles Urban League: East West Bank is also a community partner of the Los Angeles Urban League, supporting a variety of youth education and other Urban League initiatives.

Rating Summary

While community involvement is a common theme among many of the top banks in California, East West Bank truly excels at supporting their local communities through financial literacy, helping new homeowners find affordable housing programs, supporting local youth development, and more.

Along with dynamic banking options for individuals, businesses, and commercial enterprises, East West Bank uniquely provides proven expertise in international banking and trade, solidifying their ranking as one of the best banks in California.

Related: Best Seattle Credit Unions & Banks You Need to Know About | Ranking

One West Bank Review

Headquartered out of Pasadena, OneWest Bank provides customers with consumer, small business, and middle-market banking services, specializing in companies in specific industry segments as well as consumers within its retail branch network.

OneWest Bank is a division of CIT Bank. The parent company, CIT Group (NYSE: CIT), is a New York–based public company founded in 1908 that owns CIT Bank.

OneWest bank operates as the company’s retail, small business and wealth management banking arm, with 70 branches across Southern California.

Key Factors That Enabled OneWest Bank to Rank as One of the Top Banks in California

Below are key factors that enabled OneWest Bank to be rated as one of this year’s top banks in California.

Home Loans

As one of the top banks in California, OneWest Bank provides current and prospective homeowners with a wide range of purchase and refinance options. These include:

  • Jumbo loans
  • Adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Fixed-rate mortgages

Customers can easily apply for prequalification online and can take advantage of a wide range of financial education resources, like a Purchase Process Guide, Homebuyer’s Guide, and more.

Through CIT Bank, customers at OneWest Bank can also enjoy convenient mortgage management through 24/7 online access to account balance, interest rate details, escrow information, and more.

With a dedicated mortgage lending specialist team, OneWest Bank is one of the best banks in California for those who are taking out their first mortgage or considering their options for refinancing.

Simple, Straightforward Checking

A checking account is a core component of any banking relationship, and as a top bank in California, OneWest Bank provides customers with three simple, straightforward checking account options. These include:

  • Personal Checking–$25 minimum to open, with a waivable $5 monthly fee
  • Premium Checking—Interest-bearing account, $100 minimum to open, includes a $10 waivable monthly fee
  • OneAccount Checking—Interest-bearing account, $1,000 minimum to open, $25 waivable monthly fee, access to personal banker

All checking accounts include a free debit card, 24/7 online access, unlimited check writing, online bill pay, and access to mobile apps.

best california bank

OneWest Bank California

Rating Summary

For customers that want to establish a relationship with a best California bank primarily to take out a mortgage or refinance an existing mortgage, OneWest Bank is a great fit.

With a wide range of products, educational materials, and a dedicated team of specialists, this top bank in California has the expertise and experience to address a range of mortgage-related challenges.

However, when it comes to basics like checking, savings, and investments, OneWest Bank falls somewhat short in variety when compared to other top banks in California.

Additionally, although they do offer a mobile app with a wide range of capabilities, it’s worth mentioning that users have given overall negative reviews on iTunes and Google Play, pointing to repeated system errors, difficulty logging in, and even erased history, among others, solidifying OneWest Bank’s rating as a 3-star bank in California.

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To browse exclusive reviews of all top-rated banks in California, please click on any of the links below. 

Conclusion—Top 15 Best Banks in Northern, Central, and Southern California

As we conclude our 2018 Ranking of the Top Banks in California, it is important to note that there are many important factors that go beyond the exhaustive analysis done by AdvisoryHQ.

Through providing you with a listing of banks that objectively rose to the top of our analysis of the best banks in California, we hope to provide you with a starting point for your own analysis.

Besides the company’s financials, each bank possesses its own unique character, supports communities in its own way, and provides its own brand of customer service. Whether you’re opening a bank account, looking for a business loan or investing in bank stocks, performing your own due diligence is the only way to make a well-informed decision.

We will leave you with some key questions you may want to ask before deciding what top bank in California to choose.

Here are some questions to get you started on your bank research:

  • What products and services does it feature? While banks can offer a wide array of products, they may only concentrate on certain ones. Ask yourself, is this bank an expert in the areas where I need service?
  • What is the geographic distribution of the financial institution? Is it local, national, or international? How large is its branch network? Are there ATMs around that I can access as well?
  • Does the bank share my social values? Check out the bank’s corporate responsibility report, annual report or its Community Reinvestment Act public file. Ask yourself, does this institution fit with me, and do I want to do business with or invest in it?

With these questions in mind, remember that your financial future is in the balance, and you deserve the best bank in California to help you save, pay bills, and work toward a bright financial future. 

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Image sources:

  • https://www.bigstockphoto.com/image-126804236/stock-photo-san-diego%2C-california%2C-usa-downtown-skyline
  • https://www.eastwestbank.com/en/company/our-story
  • https://www.onewestbank.com/banking/checking-accounts/

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Banks in California