12 Must-Have Features All the Best Bank Accounts Offer
When you’re looking to open a savings or checking account at a new bank, choose a bank that offers low fees, flexible banking options and products that meet your needs – along with convenience both at brick-and-mortar branches and mobile app technology.
GOBankingRates’ Best Banks of 2021 study ranked more than 100 banks and credit unions based on high yields, range of products, customer service and several other factors. It’s not always simple to compare these banks’ offerings, but you can look for a few key features to find your ideal bank.
Here are 12 must-have features all the best bank accounts have.
1. Attractive Interest Rates
Early in 2021, the Federal Reserve determined it would keep interest rates “near zero” for the foreseeable future. With the average interest rate for interest-bearing checking accounts at just 0.04% right now, and savings accounts not much higher, at 0.05%, you’re not going to get rich on interest no matter which bank you choose.
However, some offer better value for your money than others, and experts agree that higher interest rates should be one factor to consider when you’re choosing the best bank for your money. “Choose a bank that pays higher interest rates than average on your deposit,” says Charles McMillan, founder of Stand With Main Street, a company that assists small businesses with LLC services. “It’s better to compare the interest rates of multiple banks for better assessment.
Mason Miranda, Credit Industry Specialist at Credit Card Insider, agrees, suggesting that people consider online banks if they’re looking for the highest interest rates. “It’s easier than ever to open an interest-bearing checking account. You’ll find quite a few online-only banks offering such accounts, and they often provide better rates than traditional banks.”
Axos, named the Best Savings Account of 2021, is an online-only bank with a high-yield savings account offering 0.81% APY, with no minimum balance requirements to earn interest and a low starting deposit of just $250.
Simple, also an online bank, is one of the few checking accounts on our Best Checking Accounts of 2021 list that offers interest-bearing checking. You’ll get 0.60% interest if you carry more than a $5,000 balance.
2. No Fees
With interest rates so low, it’s crucial to find a bank that doesn’t hit you with a lot of fees, making your savings goals even harder to attain. “I look for banks that either have no monthly or annual fees or will waive the fees,” says Randy Charach, editor-in-chief at Income.ca. “I also look for low usage fees. Many banks charge fees for things like withdrawing from ATMs, transferring funds, making electronic transfers or even using your debit card in a store. I don’t want to pay to use or access my own money, so I avoid banks that have these types of transaction fees.”
If you find that you frequently use ATMs not provided by your bank, open an account with a bank that waives all your ATM surcharge fees no matter where you go. You might need to earn the privilege by being a loyal customer or earning a certain status, but the effort can pay off. For example, Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients get all ATM fees reimbursed — even if they withdraw cash from a competing bank.
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3. No Minimum Balance Requirements
Some banks have minimum account balance requirements. If your cash-on-hand often dips down into the hundreds, or lower, look for banks that don’t have any minimum balance requirements on their accounts.
“It’s important to think of a long-term relationship whenever you’re choosing a bank,” McMillan says. “Therefore, consider your financial status and decide if you can bear to maintain their minimum balance. Check your financial capacity and go for the bank which you can afford!”
4. Secure Online Banking Features
Nearly every expert we spoke to agreed that a solid, secure online presence is important for an ideal bank. Mobile and online banking puts your money at your fingertips 24/7, even when the bank is closed.
Whether you choose an exclusively online bank or open a bank account at a brick-and-mortar bank that offers secure online banking services, look for the one that offers the most hassle-free online transactions, such as smartphone check depositing, online transfers, online bill pay, peer-to-peer payment processing, such as through a service like Zelle, and other convenient services.
“Most banks offer online banking these days,” Miranda says. “These are essential to ensure you have easy access to your account.”
He recommends looking for online banking features that include enhanced security features – such as text or email notifications regarding fraud, or even the ability to get an email regarding every transaction you make. He also suggests finding a bank that offers digital and mobile wallet-friendly debit and credit cards. “Mobile and digital wallets are especially secure due to tokenization, so ensure that your new bank offers those services easily,” he says.
Also, make sure to ask about the bank’s fraud protection policies. How soon after you make a claim will the funds be returned to your account? “Look for a bank that will give you a temporary credit until the case is resolved,” advises Alajahwon Ridgeway, MBA, a financial advisor and owner of A.B. Ridgeway Wealth Management.
5. Mobile Banking Options
The Chase 2020 Digital Banking Study found that 80% of their bank’s customers prefer to manage their finances digitally, and 50% of Chase customers called the bank’s robust mobile app “a must-have.”
Our experts agreed that an easy-to-use, flexible, secure and reliable app is critical when choosing a bank. “Some mobile apps are easier to use than others,” says Miranda, “so make sure to check reviews.”
Shai Stern, co-chairman and CEO of CheckAlt, a company that provides item processing and treasury management solutions to financial institutions across the U.S. says, “Mobile banking solutions need to deliver a fantastic, intuitive experience in alignment with what customers are seeking. Customers want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to controlling their money.”
6. Credit Card Rewards
A bank with a credit card that offers exemplary cash back rewards can also make you feel like you’re in the proverbial driver’s seat – or even a literal driver’s seat if you use your cash back to fund a new set of wheels!
When you’re looking to open a credit card account with a new bank, keep an eye out for cards with generous cash back and rewards programs. Some banks make it easy to double up on the rewards. For example, Bank of America’s BankAmericard Cash Rewards credit card allows you to earn up to 3 percent cash back on certain purchases and $200 bonus if you apply for the card online and then spend at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
7. Great Customer Service
Today more than ever, great customer service counts when you’re choosing a bank. This goes for online and in-person service. “Customers should look for a bank that provides a personalized experience,” Stern says. “Successful banks have creatively adapted their ability to cultivate personal relationships to today’s digital-focused economy. For example, the personalized experience made all the difference for bank customers seeking and receiving Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans during the pandemic.”
Choose a bank known for its great customer service, especially if you like to make deposits in person with a teller or you want to see a personal banker at the local branch now and then. If you don’t go to the bank often, consider an online bank that offers 24/7 access to a personal banker over the phone. Quality customer service can make the difference between a good bank and a great bank.
8. Loyalty Perks
If you tend to stick with one bank for several years, seek out financial institutions that offer perks and incentives for loyalty. The best bank to bank with for your high yield savings account, retirement account, and other long-term accounts might or .
9. Bonus Offers
Look for bonus offers such as new bank customer promotions and introductory offers. Some of the best checking accounts and best online savings account promotions give you a cash reward.
10. ATM Network
Today’s best banks are all about convenience – from intuitive and user-friendly mobile apps to a wide, fee-free ATM network and branches in the regions where you want to bank. “Having easy access to your money is a no-brainer when picking a bank,” says Brian Meiggs, founder of My Millennial Guide. “You want to go for a bank with an extensive network of ATMs and a branch located near you for convenient visits.”
He points out that you don’t necessarily have to choose a large national bank to gain widespread ATM access. “Most community banks or credit unions are part of cooperatives with a network of ATMs with zero fees,” he says.
Most finance experts we polled agreed that finding an FDIC-insured account is crucial for your peace-of-mind. “Choosing a bank that is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) provides an insurance cover of up to $250,000 per depositor if the bank goes under,” says Meiggs.
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12. A Wide Range of Financial Services
Many people today want more than just the basics from their bank. Finding a bank that can provide additional financial services as your needs grow can help you avoid “bank-hopping” to find one institution that can serve all your needs. “Customers should look for a bank that provides expert services to guide them on how to reach their financial goals,” Stern says. “Banks should also be training their staff to provide a great experience while helping understand customers’ needs.”
Ridgeway agrees. “Banks are turning into advice centers,” he tells GoBankingRates. “You are looking for banks where you have a mortgage specialist, a business banker, and an investment advisor.These services can potentially save you thousands of dollars rather than gain you that extra .50 cents in your savings because your local credit union is offering an extra .01% in interest.”
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Sabah Karimi contributed to the reporting in this article.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Program.