As free checking accounts become scarce, low interest rates persist and negative headlines about banks remain in the news, now more than ever choosing the right bank is important. A good bank is a necessity and sits at the center of most of your financial accounts. With a little research and insight, you can find the bank that best fits your personal needs. Here’s how:
Think about your banking behavior. It sounds obvious, but consider how you use your bank account. Do you visit the ATM every other day? If so, you might want a bank that refunds ATM fees. Do you carry a higher balance in the account? If you do, you want to make sure your bank rewards you for that higher balance with a higher interest rate.
Be realistic. Figure out exactly what you need from your bank and the accounts they offer.
Look at past statements. These will help you see what you are currently paying in fees and earning in interest. If you decide to move to a new bank, be sure it offers lower fees and higher rates.
Shop around. Don’t just look at the bank around the corner. While convenient, think about how often you really walk into the bank branch.
Go local. In many cases fees and required minimum balances may be lower at local banks when compared to larger national banks.
Ask questions. Talk to a bank representative – either in person or on the phone – to find out more about the features and benefits of the accounts they offer.
Understand every step. Make sure you understand fee schedules, requirements and other ins and outs of your account before signing up. For example, when it comes to deposits, ask about how soon a deposit will get credited to your account.
Research. Check out the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (www.fdic.gov) for data and information about deposit insurance and consumer protection. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (www.consumer finance.gov) also has articles about understanding balance requirements, debit cards and debit rewards programs, and online banking and Bill Pay.