The 5 Biggest Banks in U.S. History

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With multinational corporations as clients and a growing consumer market, U.S. banks have responded by adding branch locations and expanding the financial services they provide. Those with assets greater than $250 billion have been called TBTF—too big to fail—because of the damage their failure could wreak on the economy. Making our top 5 biggest list takes more than a TBTF balance sheet. Our ranking looks at financial services with a consumer’s eye.

5 Biggest Check Casher

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Those without a bank or credit union account need someplace to cash their checks. Retailers have tapped into the $320 billion alternative financial service industry to address their need. Enter Wal-Mart and its in-store Money Centers, where up to 5 million check transactions take place every week. According to Chexar, a risk-management firm in alternative financial services, Wal-Mart is the largest check casher in the U.S. serving the “unbanked.”

4 Biggest Credit Union

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Credit unions have enjoyed a surge in popularity since 2004 as consumers try to avoid account fees. The biggest credit union in the U.S. is the Navy Federal Credit Union, based in Vienna, Virginia. It boasts more than 3.4 million members and assets approaching $40 billion, nearly twice the size of runner-up State Employees’ Credit Union in North Carolina. NFCU members are U.S. Department of Defense, National Guard, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines employees, retirees or their family members.

3 Top Mortgage Lender

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Wells Fargo has lending volume totaling $524 billion, making it the largest mortgage lender in the country. The bank also services the most mortgages—approximately $1.9 trillion worth. Although it had its share of foreclosures during the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis, conservative lending helped Wells Fargo to avoid the balance-sheet trouble and bankruptcy some of its rivals had. The Financial Brand website rated it as the second most valuable brand in U.S. banking.

2 Most ATMs

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JPMorgan Chase also claims the title for largest ATM network with 18,132 automated teller machines. This complements Chase’s check-cashing, high-tech ATMs aimed at curbing expenses without affecting customer service. The bank has “custom denomination” ATMs that let users configure their cash withdrawals in combinations of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100 bills.

1 Biggest Bank

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JPMorgan Chase’s nearly $1.9 trillion in assets earned it the top spot on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s list of largest commercial banks for 2012. Acquisitions over the past decade expanded the bank’s family tree and gave its Chase operations a network of branch offices that reaches 42 percent of the U.S. population. On the investment side, JPMorgan Chase ranked No. 1 for pulling in $3.97 billion in fees and topped Bloomberg’s World’s Best-Paid Investment Banks.

Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.

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