Several options are available when opening a bank account. If you prefer the convenience of walking into a bank branch to ask questions and handle your transactions rather than banking online, a bank within a few miles of your house might be the better choice. However, next comes the decision of whether to open an account with a nationwide bank or a local bank.
Nationwide banks are popular and well-liked because they feature branches in different cities throughout the country. As a member of these banks, you can walk into any branch in the country and deposit checks or withdraw cash from the ATM minus the transaction fee. But while nationwide banks are large and offer many services, don’t discount the benefits of regional banks or local banks.
Local banks are the complete opposite of nationwide banks. These smaller banks operate the same, wherein you can apply for loans and credit cards, deposit checks, withdraw cash and work with a personal banker. But whereas a national bank is chartered by the federal government, small local banks are operated and controlled by people in your neighborhood. Regional banks are similar to local banks, though these banks may have branches in more than one state.
Turn on the television and you’ll likely see at least one commercial for a national bank. The fact that you don’t see many commercials for small local banks doesn’t suggest that these banks are inferior. Quite the opposite — some local banks offer just as many products and services. Take a closer look and you may find a local bank that meets all your financial needs.
1. Personalized customer service: Call the customer service number for a national bank and you’ll sit on hold for several minutes. These banks service a lot of customers and they receive telephone inquiries 24 hours a day. This can impair their quality of customer service. Local banks are different. Because these banks are smaller, there’s typically someone available to handle your concerns in a timely manner, plus you have easier access to managers and supervisors.
2. Contributes to growth in the community: A local bank’s primary focus is the community. Loans from a small local bank typically help small businesses in the community. Whereas a national bank may have tight lending guidelines, some local banks offer slightly relaxed guidelines, which helps those in the community acquire start-up funds for new businesses. Plus, local banks tend to be active in the community and donate to various local causes.
3. Online services. Local banks understand the need for convenience, and like national banks, they go to great lengths to provide a reliable, user-friendly online experience. Today, a large number of small local banks offer online banking, automatic bill pay, online applications and much more.
Drive through your community and you’ll likely stumble upon one or two smaller banks. To guarantee that a particular bank is locally-owned, visit your local Chamber of Commerce and request a list of local banks in your area. The list may include the names of all banks in your community, including national and regional banks. If the Chamber of Commerce cannot provide a narrowly focused list of local banks, ask the representative to help you identify locally-owned banks or credit unions. Once you have the names of local banks, start shopping and comparing services.
Contact each individual bank and inquire about fees, available products, hours of operation and branch locations. Ask whether the banks are insured by the FDIC, and check out bank websites to ensure they have tools to meet your needs.