At some point in life, everyone needs to choose a bank or credit union to house their money. Whether you are new to banking, or feel the need to make a change, there are a lot of factors to consider. There is no one right bank account for every person. Choosing the right bank starts with knowing your bank usage and individual preferences.
The top ten things you should consider when choosing a banking institution are:
- Security of your funds. Make sure that any bank or credit union is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (for banks) or the National Credit Union Association (for credit unions.) Absolutely, positively do not use a bank that does not have such protections.
- Fees. You should be able to find an account that does not charge you any fees for basic account transactions. Examples of fees to avoid include monthly fees, per check fees, and fees for account assistance (talking to a representative, using in-branch services.)
- Ease of deposit. Even in this age of direct deposit, everyone has an occasional need to deposit checks or cash. Even if your bank does not have a physical location near you, they may offer mobile or home deposit services to make check deposits fast and simple. Consider how often you might want to deposit cash, and how that would happen. If you can’t even imagine a situation where you would be depositing cash, then that probably isn’t a factor for you.
- ATM fees. If you use your ATM card frequently, definitely consider the fees your bank does or does not charge for ATM usage. Some banks offer to rebate ATM fees up to a certain amount each month. If you travel frequently and can’t always use your bank’s ATMS, this might be important to you.
- Interest rates. Interest rates work both ways: the rates you receive on your money on deposit with the bank, and the rates you pay when borrowing via credit card or loan. Ideally, you will find an account that pays higher-than-average interest on your deposits and charges lower-than-average interest on your debts.
- Online banking features. Do you like to use online bill pay? Choose an account where it is free. Need to transfer money to others regularly? Make sure your bank is equipped to process those transactions quickly and easily.
- Minimum balance requirements. Some accounts require you to maintain a minimum balance before they begin charging account fees. Make sure any minimum balance requirement is something that you can comfortably afford.
- Branch availability. Some people can not be comfortable with a bank that doesn’t have a physical location nearby. Think about your needs and wants and see if this important to you.
- Customer service. When you have a problem or question, the last thing you want is to sit on hold, or get a customer service representative who is unhelpful or not nice. Ask around to find out what banks make your friends happy!
- Availability of funds. Some banks offer early release of active duty pay deposits. This is a feature that is popular with many customers.
With a little consideration for your banking habits and needs, you can find the right bank account at the right price. Yesterday's post, Reader Help Requested: Choosing a New Bank or Credit Union, has comments from readers about their bank recommendations.