With so many choices of banks, financial institutions and types of accounts, finding the best account can be a daunting task. You need to compare multiple bank accounts and look at fees and interest rates, among other factors, to choose the account that suits your lifestyle. Whether you choose local banks, a local credit union, online bank, or a big, national bank, here’s what you need to consider to determine which one is the best bank account for you.
Look for the Best Checking and Savings Accounts
A checking account and savings account are the most basic bank account options, and each serves a different purpose. Checking accounts provide easy, daily access to money, whereas savings accounts provide higher interest and benefits for accumulating money.
Checking accounts offer unlimited electronic transactions and transactions using checks, debit cards, and online transactions; however, checking accounts pay little or no interest. Savings accounts, on the other hand, offer a higher interest rate, but you can’t use checks or debit cards, and there’s a legal limit of six transactions per statement cycle, which is typically each month.
You might consider opening a money market account, which combines features of both savings and checking accounts, or certificates of deposit, which offer some of the highest interest rates but no transactions before the CD matures.
Avoid Paying for Bank Fees
Free checking accounts aren’t always free — some are only free in terms of a specific factor like no minimum balance or no monthly service fee but they do have other fees and requirements. Fees are big revenue-drivers in the banking industry. In 2015, the “Big Three” — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — raked in $6 billion in ATM and overdraft fees alone. For many people, fees are one of the main reasons for switching from a large bank to an online bank or local credit union.
Check out all of the typical bank account charges and fees you might have to pay:
- ATM fees: Using an out-of-network ATM can incur double fees — one from the out-of-network ATM and one from your bank for using an out-of-network ATM. In 2016, ATM fees hit an all-time average high of $4.57 per transaction.
- Overdraft fees: Overdrawing your account usually incurs an overdraft fee. There’s no limit on what your bank can charge, so shop around for the lowest fee if you think you’re likely to overdraw your account.
- Account minimum fees: Many banks charge a fee when account balances drop below a certain required minimum.
- Maintenance fees: Many banks charge maintenance or service fees, usually $10 to $12 per billing cycle.
Find Out: Who Ranks the Best Banks?
Consider Online Banks
Depending on your lifestyle and occupation, an online bank might make more sense for you, even when compared to the best credit unions and brick-and-mortar banks. Some of the best free checking accounts and best high-yield savings accounts are from online banks. Online banks usually offer you better interest rates and reduced fees because they don’t pay the overhead associated with maintaining branches.
There can be some disadvantages to banking with an online-only institution, however, such as:
- No branches or teller service
- Difficulty depositing cash
- Difficulty cashing physical checks
If you don’t use these particular services often, opening one or more online bank accounts could be the right financial move for your money.
Compare Banks to Get the Best Deals on Bank Accounts
After you determine what type of account you need, shop for the best one by carefully examining and comparing all the advantages and disadvantages. The best checking accounts and savings accounts are those that offer these must-have features:
- Easy access
- High interest rates
- Low fees
- Benefits, rewards incentives or waived fees
Do a side-by-side comparison of the best accounts you’re considering to find the best bank to open a checking account with and the best savings account rate. By carefully comparing all the features of each account, you’ll be able to determine which of the best bank accounts can meet your needs.
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