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Reviews

The best brick-and-mortar savings account for banking at PNC Bank

CNBC Select reviews PNC Bank's Virtual Wallet savings account. Decide if it's right for you.

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Editor's Note: APYs listed in this article are up-to-date as of the time of publication. They may fluctuate (up or down) as the Fed rate changes. CNBC will update as changes are made public.

Traditional brick-and-mortar savings accounts can be a simple but stable solution for keeping your money secure. They mostly all earn the same interest rate, come with minimum balance requirements and monthly fees. Account holders also have access to their thousands of in-person branches and ATMs, one of the most common reasons why people opt for big banks.

With approximately 2,300 branch locations and nearly 18,000 PNC and PNC Partner ATMs, PNC Bank is one of these large brick-and-mortar banks. It stands out, however, for offering a savings account option called Virtual Wallet®, which uses innovative online tools to make it easy to see how you're managing your money day to day.

The PNC Bank Virtual Wallet® ranks on CNBC Select's list of the top brick-and-mortar savings accounts because new customers can earn a welcome bonus of up to $400 depending on what type of Virtual Wallet they open.

PNC customers can choose from these options:

  • Virtual Wallet
  • Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend
  • Virtual Wallet with Performance Select

(Each product type's availability may vary by geographic location.)

The simple Virtual Wallet has basic account features while the two other options offer more premium rewards. All three are best for those who want to do all their banking in one place, as they reward you for combining your savings and checking into one.

For those enrolled in school, there is also a Virtual Wallet Student option.

If these options sound appealing, here's a closer look at the PNC Bank Virtual Wallet and its three tiers by breaking down annual percentage yield (APY), access to your cash, perks and fees.

PNC Bank Virtual Wallet review

Virtual Wallet®

Virtual Wallet®
Information about the PNC Bank Virtual Wallet® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication. PNC Bank is a Member FDIC.
  • Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

    N/A

  • Minimum balance

    Varies depending on Virtual Wallet account

  • Monthly fee

    Ranges from $7 to $25 depending on Virtual Wallet account, with options to waive

  • Maximum transactions

    Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle

  • Excessive transactions fee

    N/A

  • Overdraft fees

    Overdraft protection offered by your Reserve and Growth accounts

  • Offer checking account?

    Yes

  • Offer ATM card?

    Yes, if have a PNC Bank checking account

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • New account holders can earn a welcome bonus of up to $400
  • Virtual Wallet includes individual checking and savings accounts that work together
  • Earn cash or points through PNC Purchase Payback® program
  • Reimbursable non-network ATM fees
  • Account holders can choose the Virtual Wallet best for them 
  • Options to waive monthly maintenance fee 
  • Higher APY relationship rates are available
  • Up to 6 free withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle

Cons

  • Has monthly maintenance fees
  • Have to call PNC Bank to find out APY offered in your area

PNC Bank Virtual Wallet APY

The current APY for the PNC Bank Virtual Wallet® and its three tiers (Virtual Wallet, Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend and Virtual Wallet with Performance Select) is unlisted on the bank's website. For current interest rate and APY information, PNC says to call 1-888-PNC-BANK (1-888-762-2265).

Note that all of the above Virtual Wallet options include individual accounts that work together: Spend, Reserve and Growth. You have the option to open a checking and savings together (which would be all three), or you can just open the checking account.

Here is how each is defined:

  1. Spend is your everyday checking account. The Spend account of a Virtual Wallet (and Virtual Wallet Student) does not earn interest. The Spend account of a Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend and Virtual Wallet with Performance Select earns interest.
  2. Reserve is your interest-bearing checking account. The Reserve account of all three Virtual Wallet tiers (plus Virtual Wallet Student) earns interest.
  3. Growth is your long-term savings account. The Growth account of all Virtual Wallet products earns interest, and higher "relationship" interest rates are available. A relationship rate means you can earn better interest rates on higher balances when you have multiple accounts at one bank.

PNC Bank compounds interest monthly and credits it to your account on the last day of each monthly statement cycle.

Access to your cash

PNC Bank is a large brick-and-mortar bank with approximately 2,300 branch locations and nearly 18,000 PNC and PNC Partner ATMs. It has a smaller physical presence than the other national brick-and-mortar banks on our list, but a high count of overall ATMs offered.

There is usually a six-per-month deposit and withdrawal limit under federal law Regulation D, but that has been temporarily lifted during the coronavirus pandemic.

PNC Bank Virtual Wallet account holders receive two layers of overdraft protection. When at risk of overdrawing from their Spend account, PNC will automatically transfer available funds first from their Reserve account (acts as the primary overdraft protection account) and then from their Growth account (acts as the secondary overdraft protection account). No additional setup is required and there is no charge for the overdraft protection transfer. Otherwise, overdrafts over $5 without any protection are subject to a $36 per overdraft item fee.

Perks

A standout perk of opening a PNC Bank Virtual Wallet account is having the opportunity to earn a welcome bonus of up to $400 depending on what type of tier you choose. The welcome bonus is earned after setting up a certain amount of direct deposits to your Spend account. The below is how it differs between the three tiers:

  1. Virtual Wallet: Earn $50 when you set up a recurring direct deposit totaling $500 or more into your Spend account.
  2. Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend: Earn $200 when you set up a recurring direct deposit totaling $2,000 or more into your Spend account.
  3. Virtual Wallet with Performance Select: Earn $400 when you set up a recurring direct deposit totaling $5,000 or more into your Spend account.

Though you can open a Virtual Wallet account online, being a brick-and-mortar bank, PNC also welcomes customers to visit their local branch to open an account and offers a coupon printout of the welcome bonus that savers can bring with them to redeem.

PNC Bank also offers technologies both online and in the mobile app to help you budget and spend wisely, to know when your balance is low and to stick to your savings goals. For example, Money Bar® displays the money you've set aside for bills and what's left over / free to spend. When the money in your Spend account is low, Danger DaysSM appear on your calendar so that you can adjust your spending or transfer money from your savings.

Through the PNC Purchase Payback® program, customers can also earn cash back or points on purchases made using their PNC Bank Visa® Debit Card that is automatically issued when you sign up for Virtual Wallet. The customized rewards program has offers available from participating merchants depending on your shopping habits.

Fees

Monthly service charges on the PNC Bank Virtual Wallet account range from $7 to $25, depending on the type of Virtual Wallet you have and can be waived depending on minimum balances in your Spend + Reserve checking accounts (required balances and minimum deposits vary according to the type of Virtual Wallet you have).

Virtual Wallet account holders can make free transactions at approximately 9,000 PNC-owned ATMs, and if you end up using a non-PNC ATM, some fees are reimbursed. 

Bottom line

For those looking for a one-stop shop for all their banking needs, PNC Bank Virtual Wallet makes a lot of sense. It rewards you for opening both a checking and savings account (especially when you set up direct deposit), and it helps you manage your money through its different technologies.

If you're looking for a more straightforward savings account at PNC, there is also the PNC Bank Standard Savings Account.

And for those looking to bank at a big brick-and-mortar elsewhere, consider our favorites: Bank of America Advantage Savings, Wells Fargo Way2Save® Savings, Chase Premier Savings℠ or U.S. Bank Standard Savings Account.

Learn more: How much cash should you keep in your savings and checking account? A financial planner weighs in

Our methodology

To determine which brick-and-mortar savings accounts offer the most convenience, CNBC Select analyzed dozens of U.S. savings accounts offered by the largest national banks and credit unions. We narrowed down our ranking by only considering those savings accounts that come from brick-and-mortar banks with broad availability, offering access to at least 2,000 physical branches and over 4,000 non-fee ATMs in the U.S.

While the accounts we chose in this article are from the largest banks, we compared each savings account on a range of features, including its fees, opportunities to earn interest higher rates, customer service and any other special offerings or programs. We also considered factors such as insurance policies, users' deposit options, other savings accounts being offered by the same bank and customer reviews when available.

All of the accounts included on this list are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. Note that the interest rates and fee structures for brick-and-mortar savings accounts are subject to change without notice. Product and feature availability vary by market so they may not be offered depending on where you live. Most brick-and-mortar banks require you to enter your zip code online for the correct account offerings. Any return on your savings depends on the associated fees and the balance you have in your brick-and-mortar savings account. To open a savings account, most banks and institutions require a deposit of new money, meaning you can't transfer money you already had in an account at that bank.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.