How To Choose a Bank That Is Right for You

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The multitude of banking options available today can make choosing the right bank difficult, but having plenty of choices also helps you find a bank that can fulfill your unique needs. By asking the right questions you can sort out which bank is just right for you.

How To Choose a Bank

Finding the right bank takes time and patience, and it can be difficult to figure out where to start. Here are some tips on what to look at first when trying to choose the right bank:

  • Identify core values: One of the best things you can do is to research the bank branches in your area, read their mission statements and learn how their values align with yours. For example, you might want a more community-oriented bank rather than a big national one.
  • Determine your needs: Take a moment to identify the products and services you need. Check which banking services you are currently using and then find a bank that offers the same or even better options.
  • Read the fine print: If you think you’ve found the right bank, read the associated disclosures before opening an account. You don’t want to sign up for an account with requirements you’ll never meet.

5 Tips for Choosing a New Bank

Wading through all the different banking options available can be a head-spinning experience, so it’s important to tighten your focus. Outlining and narrowing your search criteria will come in handy as you search for a new bank. Here are five questions to ask yourself, and corresponding answers, to help you when choosing a bank:

  1. What kind of bank do you need?
  2. How advanced is the bank’s technology?
  3. What are the bank’s fees?
  4. How accessible is the bank?
  5. Is a bank or credit union better for your needs?

1. What Kind of Bank Do You Need?

Banks come in many shapes and sizes — from small community institutions to huge national and international banks — but all offer similar products and services. Here are some things to consider when identifying the types of accounts and services you need:

  • ATM availability: If you’d rather withdraw cash at an ATM instead of through a teller, your ideal bank should have ATMs near where you spend your time. Otherwise, you might rack up fees using out-of-network ATMs.
  • Minimum balance requirements: Some banks require you to maintain a minimum balance to avoid a monthly maintenance fee. You should make sure you can meet the requirements before opening an account.
  • Customer service options: If you’re willing to give up the personal experience of walking into a branch to speak with a bank employee directly, you might find better interest rates and account terms at online banks. On the other hand, an online bank might not be the best choice if you prefer having a branch nearby.
  • Types of accounts: You don’t have to find a single bank that meets all your financial needs. An online bank might be the best option for a savings account if it offers a high annual percentage yield. A local brick-and-mortar bank might be a better choice if you like to keep your checking account closer to home.
  • Travel convenience: If you spend a lot of time on the road, you’ll find it easier to access your cash — and avoid ATM fees — if you choose a national bank or one that’s a member of a large network.
A Better Way to Bank

2. How Advanced Is the Bank’s Technology?

Most banks are pretty good at keeping up with the times. This means offering high-tech bells and whistles — including digital tools — to accompany the usual suite of products and services. As technology continues to evolve, banking should evolve as well to meet consumer expectations.

Digital technology is a staple in today’s banking world, so you should expect your bank to offer the latest platforms. Search for banks with mobile apps and user-friendly websites. You should be wary of banks that don’t offer standard mobile deposits and electronic funds transfer functionalities. These features should also be free.

Other services that are becoming increasingly popular are peer-to-peer payments, which let individuals transfer money to one another directly. Chase QuickPay, Venmo and Zelle are just a few popular P2P platforms that consumers use. Being able to send a payment to virtually anyone, anywhere, at any time is a necessity for many consumers. If you’re looking for a modern bank, ask if it offers an integrated P2P platform.

3. What Are the Bank’s Fees?

Many traditional banks make additional revenue by charging customers fees for specific services that you might have thought were complimentary. Some banks have moved toward a relationship banking model, which means that certain services that would typically incur a fee are complimentary, depending on how much money you deposit with the bank or how many accounts you have open. 

Here are some examples of common bank account fees:

  • Overdraft fees
  • Withdrawing money outside of the ATM network
  • Not meeting minimum balance requirements
  • Monthly maintenance fees
  • Service fees
  • Debit card replacement fee
  • Stopping payment on a check 

Always ask for a schedule of fees before considering a new bank. Also, research and compare overdraft and nonsufficient funds fees, as these charges can fluctuate between banks. Be wary of accounts that require monthly minimum balances. If you cannot meet the threshold, you will often incur a fee each month.

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4. How Accessible Is the Bank?

You don’t want to bank with an institution that isn’t compatible with your needs and habits. If you’re not tech-savvy, for instance, then an online bank might not be the best option.

The best way to figure out if a bank fits your needs is to determine which products and services you need the most. This might include ATMs, personal checks or mobile deposits. Remember to weigh every aspect of a bank account. As an example, recurring fees can easily offset a higher-than-average interest rate on a savings account. Similarly, you might not want an account that requires you to sign up for certain services to avoid fees if you know you won’t need or use the services.

5. Is a Bank or Credit Union Better for Your Needs?

Banks aren’t the only places to store your money. Most credit unions offer the same services as banks, including  the following:

Unlike banks that want to earn a profit for their investors, credit unions are nonprofit financial institutions with member owners. You might find lower loan interest rates and higher savings interest rates at local credit unions than at commercial banks.

Final Take

Because so many banking options are available to consumers today, banks go to great lengths to bring in new clients. Some offer promotional deals or incentives to hook you into opening a new account. 

A Better Way to Bank

Don’t choose a bank based solely on a promotional offer or advertised rate. Investigate thoroughly and make sure there isn’t a catch that could come back to bite you later. Consider all the products and features a bank can offer before signing on with it.

FAQ

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to choose a bank.
  • What are three things to consider when choosing a bank?
    • Three things to consider when choosing a bank include the bank's convenience to your location, what services it provides and what fees are associated with the accounts you'd like to open.
  • How do you choose a bank for the first time?
    • When choosing a bank for the first time, here are some things to consider:
      • -What kind of services and accounts do you need?
      • -What are the bank's fees?
      • -How accessible is the bank?
      • -Would you rather a bank or credit union?
  • What is the best bank to bank with?
  • What are some differences to consider when choosing a bank?
    • When choosing the right bank for you make sure it covers your needs which may include the bank's convenience and proximity to you, what services and accounts it offers, and if you will be able to use it when you travel. 

Caitlyn Moorhead contributed to the reporting for this article.

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