These banks’ investments in local communities and environmental causes show above-and-beyond commitments to social responsibility. Looking for a fee-free environmentally friendly bank? Aspiration may be right for you. Or want a bank that gives back? Bank Purely is a good option.
Sometimes it can seem like banks always put profits over the people they serve, but several U.S. banks are committed to doing just the opposite.
I found 15 banks that shape their business models around community support and environmental sustainability. Many of them even qualify as B Corporations, which have to abide by legal requirements such as a diverse workforce, sustainable practices, and more.
|Bank or credit union||Best for||Are they a Certified B Corporation?||Unique feature|
|National Cooperative Bank||Cooperatives||No||Real estate mortgages for homeowners with low to moderate income|
|Southern Bancorp||Those who live in rural areas||No||Free financial education center|
|Amalgamated Bank||Those who support sustainable business||Yes||Donate your spare change with their “Donate the Change” program|
|Ando Savings||Tracking the effect of your investment||Yes||Auto-save by rounding up debit card purchases|
|BankPurely||Investing in planting trees||No||One tree is planted for every SavingPurely account opened|
|Aspiration Bank||Knowing how your spending stacks up to your values||Yes||Investment accounts with fossil fuel-free portfolios|
|Clearwater Credit Union||Montana small businesses||No||All-in-one banking options|
|Verity Credit Union||Entrepreneurs in underserved communities||No||Microloans|
|Virginia Community Capital (VCC)||Real estate entrepreneurs taking on eco-friendly construction projects||Yes||The Revolving Loan Fund that fills financial gaps for investors who can’t afford commercial financing|
|Central Bank of Kansas City||Tax help and Missouri residents||No||Incentives to invest in economically disadvantaged areas|
|Carver Federal Savings Bank||Those looking to help support the Black community||No||They donate to local communities|
|First Green Bank||Those in economically disadvantages areas||No||A loan plan for homeowners who wish to install solar panels|
|Mascoma Bank||Those living in low-income cities in New England||Yes||Loans for energy-efficient renovations|
|City First Bank||Those who want to support the development of low-income communities||Yes||Through CDARS, customers can make larger, FDIC-insured deposits|
|Beneficial State Bank||Those with less than perfect credit||Yes||Underwriters consider factors other than credit score|
These banks have brick-and-mortar branches, but they’re large enough to have seamless online and mobile account services, as well as multiple resources for customers and borrowers.
National Cooperative Bank
The National Cooperative Bank began as a lender to business cooperatives that meet community needs, including grocery stores, health centers, nonprofits, housing co-ops, credit unions, and more.
Cooperatives remain their main lending focus, but NCB also specializes in real estate, mortgages for homeowners with low or moderate incomes, and loans for solar energy installation. They’ve branched into personal banking as well, and personal or commercial accounts can be opened online from anywhere in the United States.
Like many socially responsible banks, NCB prioritizes investments in renewable energy projects, and they don’t invest in fossil fuels.
Some of their standout features include:
- Member of the Global Alliance of Banking on Values (GABV), a worldwide banking network with a commitment to economic and environmental sustainability.
- Personal checking and savings accounts come with up to 0.50% Annual Percentage Yield (APY).
- Retirement accounts include IRAs, Roth IRAs, and IRA rollovers.
Southern Bancorp is a huge organization with banking, lending, community development, and more services under its $1.1 billion-asset umbrella, but don’t let the size fool you — this bank provides big solutions for small communities, with a commitment to expanding opportunity in rural areas.
In addition to the basics like checking, savings, and lending, Southern Bancorp has a robust public policy advocacy division where they work to promote laws that have positive financial impacts on working families. There’s also a free financial education center with credit counseling and tax prep services.
Since Southern Bancorp is headquartered, and specializes in, the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta regions, physical branches are mostly in this region. But customers from anywhere in the U.S. can open personal or business accounts online.
The bank’s leadership demographic reflects the community it serves; the CEO and 50% of the board members are Black.
Their unique features include:
- A Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).
- Certified B-Corporation or B-Corp — a designation reserved for organizations committed to responsible practices.
- Personal checking and savings accounts, including accounts designed for specific financial goals.
- Online banking is available anywhere with internet access.
- Home, auto, and personal loans.
Headquartered in New York and Washington D.C., Amalgamated Bank extends online checking and savings account access across the United States. They’re committed to sustainable business practices within their own walls. Employees earn a minimum hourly wage of $20/hour, above the federal minimum, and over 30% of employees are union members. The business strives to be 100% carbon-neutral in its operations.
Amalgamated makes its lending priorities clear from the start. They don’t lend to fossil fuel companies, weapons manufacturers, or private prison operators. Instead, they focus on lending to companies in the solar energy or sustainable food industries. If you invest with Amalgamated, you can opt for a portfolio that’s fossil-fuel-free.
And they’re the first major U.S. bank to endorse HR 40, the bill calling for a national commission to establish reparation payments for Black Americans.
Their standout features include:
- Certified B Corp and member of the GABV.
- Online personal checking and savings accounts with 0.10%-0.40% APYs.
- Restart Checking accounts available for customers with poor credit.
- Give-Back savings accounts donate half your interest (0.30% APY) to an organization of your choice.
- An optional “Donate the Change” program rounds up your purchases and donates the change to a cause the bank selects.
- Over 40,000 free in-network ATMs for customers outside NY and D.C.
Ando is another bank that puts the environment front and center. They’ve pledged 100% of their investments to initiatives supporting sustainable practices, like agriculture and public transit.
Investors can track the effect of their own investment dollars in the Ando mobile app’s Impact Center, which traces financial impact across five categories including clean energy, sustainable transportation, and green buildings.
You’ll find the following with Ando:
- Spending and savings accounts, as well as a Visa debit card, are available to anyone in the U.S.
- Accounts have no fees or minimum balances.
- Ando’s Count the Change program helps you “auto-save” by rounding up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and moving the difference from spending to savings.
These banks are fully digital — not only is the all-mobile bank trendy and convenient, but its format also allows the bank to live a little lighter on the earth, with no energy use from physical branches.
BankPurely is the digital arm of NYC-based Flushing Bank, a bank that invests most of its money in community initiatives. As a fully online operation, BankPurely has formal PayItGreen approval for reducing its paper waste and carbon footprint.
They’re currently partnering with Plant-It 2020 to plant indigenous trees in New York State. Ando is one of many socially progressive banks that works with a tree-planting organization, taking a small but important step to counteract climate change.
A few great features include:
- Checking, savings, and money market accounts available, with up to 0.25% APY on savings accounts and 0.5% on money market accounts.
- CDs are available with 0.55% APY, and Ando will plant a tree for every CD you open.
Aspiration is one of the best-known socially responsible online banks, with multiple account options for the conscious customer. Their “pay what’s fair” fee model for a basic checking account is a rare offering even for the most flexible banks (and yes, paying $0 in fees is an option).
Both the free and fee-based “Aspiration Plus” checking accounts give you a personal impact score to see how your spending stacks up against your values. Accountholders get up to 10% cash back when they buy anything from Aspiration’s Conscience Coalition partner vendors — an incentive to shop for the greater good.
The bank is currently rolling out a credit card that will reward shoppers who make carbon-friendly financial choices.
Here are a few key features:
- Certified B Corp and member of global environmental organization 1% for the Planet.
- Aspiration Plus savings accounts ($7.99/month or $5.99/month when you pay annually) offer up to 3.00% APY.
- Investment accounts available with fossil fuel-free portfolios.
- IRA retirement accounts.
- As a donor, Aspiration prioritizes funding microloans for low-income recipients.
Some regional banks offer online accounts to residents elsewhere in the U.S., while others are only open to residents of a certain state or region. Here’s a cross-section of ethical standouts across the country.
Clearwater Credit Union – Montana residents
As Montana’s largest CDFI and a member of Inclusiv, an organization serving residents in low-income communities, Clearwater Credit Union is making its mark nationally but keeping a local focus.
They loan primarily to local businesses and offer a solid selection of financial services to customers.
Here are a couple of great features they offer:
- Checking and savings accounts are available.
- Health savings accounts (HSAs), traditional IRAs, and Roth IRAs.
- Personal, student, and car loans for borrowers.
Verity Credit Union – Washington state residents
Verity is active in the local microloan business — one project they’ve funded is the Business Impact Northwest loan program, which gives a financial boost to entrepreneurs in underserved communities.
As an environmentally conscious credit union, they’ve hopped on board the solar installation funding train as well, providing loans to homeowners installing solar panels.
Some especially helpful features include:
- Open an account online or through their branch locations.
- Accounts can be managed online.
- IRAs and 401(k) rollovers are available.
Virginia Community Capital (VCC) – Virginia residents
VCC is the community development arm of VCC Bank, a state bank that’s also a certified B Corp. Food access is a VCC funding priority, and they work with businesses providing healthy, local groceries across the state.
As a real estate funder, VCC has a Clean Energy Financing loan program for entrepreneurs taking on environmentally friendly construction projects.
Some helpful features include:
- The Revolving Loan Fund fills financial gaps for investors who can’t afford commercial financing.
- Personal savings accounts have low $25 opening deposit minimums.
- Checking accounts, CDs, and Roth IRAs are available.
Central Bank of Kansas City – Missouri residents; online banking for all U.S. residents
Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Central Bank of Kansas City focuses most of its efforts on the local economy. Their lending programs include New Market Tax Credits — incentives to invest in economically disadvantaged areas — and tax credits for developers building low-income housing.
Some exciting features are:
- Checking, savings, and money market accounts have fully online options for non-local customers.
- Personal accounts earn between 0.05% – 0.15% APY.
- Brick-and-mortar banks for Missouri locals.
Carver Federal Savings Bank – NYC, New England, and Mid-Atlantic residents
Carver Federal Savings Bank was founded in Harlem, NYC, and designed to strengthen Black communities, and the bank’s stayed true to this mission since 1948.
As a CDFI, they focus their donations on local initiatives, and they don’t invest in fossil fuels. Residents of eight states — CT, DE, MA, MD, NY, NJ, RI, and VA, as well as Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, PA — can open accounts with Carver.
Their key features are:
- Interest-bearing checking and savings accounts.
- A mobile banking app makes Carver accounts easy to access online.
- Account fees are waived with minimum monthly balances.
First Green Bank – Florida residents
First Green Bank is a local leader in “green” investments. They fund commercial and residential projects that meet environmental standards, and community initiatives that support sustainable development in areas like water and agriculture. They have a loan plan specifically for homeowners who want to install solar panels.
Here are some exciting features:
- Florida residents have checking and savings account options, including interest-bearing sustainable savings.
- HSAs, IRAs, and youth savings accounts are available.
Mascoma Bank – New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine residents
Mascoma finances projects designed to revitalize low-income communities in Northern New England.
Local residents can take advantage of their suite of financial services, from the basic checking and savings accounts to mortgages and homeowner loans for solar or energy-efficient renovations.
Some key features include:
- Three tiers of checking accounts are offered, and two earn interest.
- Home equity loans and lines of credit, as well as traditional mortgages.
- Emergency flood loans are available to cover storm-related damages.
City First Bank – Washington, D.C. area residents
For individuals, nonprofits, and other businesses in or near Washington, D.C., City First Bank is a CDFI worth checking out. They give 80% of their loan funds to projects in low-income communities, and they’ve financed thousands of affordable housing units in a city where the cost of living is rising quickly. City First has even branched out to finance nonprofits across the Mid-Atlantic.
Some top-of-the-line features include:
- Personal checking and savings accounts have competitive interest rates.
- Customers can make larger, FDIC-insured deposits through CDARS (Certificate of Deposit Registry Service) and money market accounts.
Beneficial State Bank – Oregon, Washington, and California residents
Beneficial State Bank funds renewable energy, affordable housing, and other community projects across the Pacific Northwest. Their nonprofit Beneficial State Foundation is a vocal public policy advocate for progressive change in the banking system.
As a lender, Beneficial uses a nontraditional underwriting model that considers factors other than credit scores. They’re also a trustworthy stop for auto loans if you’re a Pacific Northwest resident with subpar credit.
Here are some of their features:
- Checking and savings accounts are fully mobile.
- Money market accounts and IRAs are available.
- California residents can finance an electric or hybrid vehicle at affordable rates through Beneficial’s Clean Vehicle Assistance program.
A bank or credit union account might seem like a convenience-based choice, not a values-based one. But when you entrust a bank with your money, you’re implicitly supporting the projects the bank funds.
You can make a difference
As a consumer, you have the power to make choices that sway banks’ overall priorities. Banks want your business, and if more customers opt for banks that support community development or environmental causes (or avoid fossil fuel funding that contributes to climate change), the industry will take note that people want socially responsible banking.
It is safer in their hands
Your money’s also in safe hands — just because these banks have a “people over profit” focus doesn’t mean they don’t make a profit.
Along with the standard FDIC insurance protection guarantees, socially responsible banks are just as profitable (if not more so) than their competition, according to research by the GABV.
The primary barometers of social responsibility for banks are their lending and investment choices.
Charitable donations and community service
Many, if not most, banks advertise their charitable donations and community services, but they may still fund projects that contribute to climate change or displace low-income residents. If you go beyond a bank’s self-promotion materials to their lending practices, you’ll get a sense of the bank’s true priorities.
Transparency about their investment donation
Another indicator of responsibility is the bank’s transparency about their investment and donation choices — ethical banks take their accountability to the public seriously. And many socially responsible institutions are working for economic equity, with programs designed to help low-income residents or borrowers from underserved communities.
Public commitment to social good
Some large national and regional banks have received accolades for public commitments to the social good. The Ethisphere Institute, a think tank that examines corporate responsibility, has rewarded U.S. Bank on their list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for seven straight years. Though awards from an outside organization don’t necessarily indicate a bank is truly making impactful, ethical choices, they can be a sign the institution is on the right track.
If you’re holding banks to the highest standard, however, you’ll look for certifications that indicate a deeper commitment. Every bank or credit union on this list is either a certified B Corp, a certified CDFI, or a member of the GABV.
Certified B Corporations
B Corporations have a legal obligation to meet certain requirements, including a diverse staff, a well-paid workforce, environmentally sustainable in-house practices, and more.
The B Corp certification needs to be renewed every two years and can be lost if the company changes its practices to focus more on profit than customers.
Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV)
The GABV is a small but impactful network of about 50 worldwide banks. Each bank has pledged to invest in its community, be transparent about its practices, and establish long-term client relationships.
Like B Corps, GABV members have to score well on a regular, detailed assessment of their ethical practices.
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)
CDFIs may be banks or credit unions, but they earn their U.S. Treasury CDFI certification by financing projects in low- or moderate-income or traditionally underserved communities. This may mean lending to nonprofits, supporting affordable housing, or offering mortgages to aspiring homeowners denied by other lenders.
This list is a start, but there are many, many more banks and credit unions on the local level that have socially responsible goals.
Mighty Deposits is a great site for finding out how banks are spending their money — just type in your bank(s) and/or credit union(s) and find out what percentage of the bank’s funds get invested in community projects.
Mighty Deposits includes detailed spending breakdowns in categories for each bank. You can also search for a bank that doesn’t fund fossil fuels, a CDFI, or a bank owned by Black Americans.
The independent site Better Banking Options is another way to find community-focused banks.
If you want to know more about a bank’s political donations, including any national and local candidates the bank supports, Open Secrets has data on most large banks (and several of the smaller ones, too).
If you’re thinking about a bank switch, consider a bank that’s dedicated to socially responsible causes. With the variety of checking, savings, and investment features these banks offer, you’re likely to find a spot that meets your needs.