Discover this historical city’s wealth of long-established banking options.
Philadelphia has always been a city of monumental importance in this country, since its foundation in 1682, nearly a century before the Declaration of Independence was signed there in 1776. At one time, the city even served as a temporary capitol for the US, while construction was being done on most of Washington, DC. The city grew over time from a major influx of European immigrants, mostly from Ireland and Germany in the 19th century, then from the movement of Black Americans from the South in the early 20th century looking for respite from Jim Crow laws. It is now the sixth most populous city in the US, with many economic and educational opportunities still attracting new residents.
We chose Philadelphia to survey not only because of its long history and large population, but because when you look up Philadelphia in our search engine, there are many local banks doing significant quality lending. This is particularly unusual in a populous urban area, where the US trend of bank consolidation has tended to happen fastest. Although we’re not exactly sure WHY so many Better Banking Options have managed to survive in this competitive environment, we’d like to take the time to celebrate some of our favorites.
Port Richmond Savings Bank - This Better Banking Option has been working in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philly for more than a hundred years. Although they initially served the area’s predominately Polish immigrant population, in the last decade or so, the neighborhood has had a huge influx of Puerto Rican immigrants. Regardless of who happens to be moving into their community at the time, this neighborhood bank has stayed small and focused on providing as many housing and small business loans as they can, which is probably why they score extremely well in our metric. We’d recommend them to anyone looking for their deposits to be used to support homeownership in Philadelphia.
Asian Bank - This bank was founded in 1999 in Philadelphia’s Chinatown specifically to provide small business loans to non-English speaking immigrants who are just moving to the city and may have no other institutional resources. They offer all services in Chinese, as 70% of people living in this neighborhood speak little to no English. While most of their lending goes to small business loans, which helps Asian immigrants establish an income stream they can rely on, they also do a significant amount of housing loans in the area. They’ve earned both MDI and CDFI designations. We’d recommend them to anyone looking to support Asian immigrant communities in Philadelphia.
Tioga-Franklin Savings Bank - This is the first of several “savings” banks on this list, which essentially means these Better Banking Options started as loan associations rather than as full-service banks. These types of institutions focused on providing fair mortgage lending to their local communities, and this is still the focus of Tioga-Franklin today. With a history stretching back to 1873 (yes, you read that right!) and more than 150 years of service in Philadelphia, they’re the oldest chartered bank in the city. They also score very well in our metric due to their local focus, size, and the enormous amount of quality lending they do. We’d recommend them to anyone who resonates with their mission statement, where they say their main goal is to promote community development, specifically through serving the underserved.
Abacus Federal Savings Bank - While this bank was actually founded in New York City, we love Abacus FSB as a Better Banking Option in Philadelphia because they’re another Chinese bank entirely devoted to serving immigrant populations. They received a lot of unwarranted bad press in the years after the housing market collapse of 2008 as big banks tried to shift blame off of themselves, but Abacus has managed to rebound beautifully and keep making wealth-building loans in immigrant neighborhoods in Philly and NYC. We’d recommend them to anyone looking to support immigrant populations in these cities.
Second Federal Savings and Loan Assoc. - Another solid savings bank in Philadelphia, Second Federal also has a long history in the area stretching back to 1924, although they’ve gone through mergers and moves in that time. With a focus on mortgage lending and savings products, they don’t offer checking accounts, but offer a wealth of savings product options. They’re the fifth-highest scoring banking option in our search engine when you look up Philadelphia due to their mortgage lending, and are federally chartered as a mutual savings association, meaning they’re owned by their depositors rather than by shareholders. We’d recommend them to anyone looking for this type of lending or account in Philadelphia.
Ukrainian Self-Reliance Federal Credit Union - One of two credit unions on this list, Ukrainian Self-Reliance FCU is the best scoring credit union when you look up Philadelphia in our search engine, mostly due to their quality lending which is particularly high for a credit union. Established in 1952, they’ve been working in the community to provide essential banking products for more than seventy years. Their name recognizes the influx of European immigrants in the area at the time of their establishment, and they’ve earned a LICU designation due to their service to low-income residents. We’d recommend them to anyone looking for a credit union in Philadelphia with multiple branches.
Iron Workers Savings Bank - Although not located in the urban area of Philadelphia, this Better Banking Option is still definitely worth mentioning when looking at banks in the area. Established in 1879 in Chester, Pennsylvania, and named after the iron workers of the local shipyards, this Better Banking Option’s focus is still on the working-class residents of small-town communities outside of Philly. They specialize in retail and small business banking, but even without doing much mortgage lending, they score very well in our metric. We’d recommend them to anyone looking for a way to support small businesses in the outskirts of Philadelphia.
United Bank of Philadelphia - The largest demographic group by race in Philadelphia is Black, but like many historical cities, Philadelphia has a long and lasting history of segregation which is still apparent in the city’s demographic distribution. United Bank of Philadelphia is a Black bank working in North Philadelphia to make housing and small business loans in predominately Black neighborhoods. They’re a not only a MDI but a CDFI, as well. A majority of their depositors are Black, and they also have a Black-majority board and upper management. We’d recommend them to anyone looking to support Black communities in Philly.
Northwood Federal Credit Union - Although many may not be able to bank with this Better Banking Option due to their limited eligibility, we wanted to include them on this list because of their score in our metric and their laser-focus on the communities they serve. They’re another banking option which has a long history in the area, having been established in 1943. This is a faith-based credit union, only accepting members of churches and faith-based organizations of both Christian and Jewish backgrounds. They’ve earned MCU and LICU designations. We’d recommend them to anyone who happens to qualify under their eligibility requirements that also wants a small, local banking option which aligns with their moral values.
Although we still have no idea why so many historical Better Banking Options have managed to survive for so long in Philadelphia, it is gratifying that our readers in the area have a wealth of options to choose from. Even if you can’t find a bank among this list that fits your particular banking needs, just look up Philadelphia in our search engine and there is long list of local banks and credit unions which contribute to the overall economic health of the city. Additionally, even if you don’t live in Philadelphia, many of the banks listed above offer both online and mobile banking options. We encourage you to make a difference with your deposits and move some money today!