When you’re looking to open a savings or checking account at a new bank, you’ll want to look for a few key features. These can include low fees, flexible banking options, convenience and products that meet your needs.
GOBankingRates’ Best Banks 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.
1. Attractive Interest Rates
With the average interest rate for interest-bearing checking accounts at just 0.03% right now, and savings accounts not much higher, at 0.06%, 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.”
2. No Fees
To meet your savings goals, it’s crucial to find a bank that doesn’t hit you with a lot of fees. “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.
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.
Mina Tadrus, CEO of Tadrus Capital, says there are a few security features you’ll want to look for when selecting a bank. “When it comes to your finances, security should always be top priority–which is why it’s essential to look for a bank with a high level of security measures in place. Some common security features in modern banks include two-step authentication, attack detection and prevention systems, encrypted data transmissions and hardware firewalls.
“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
Our experts agreed that an easy-to-use, flexible, secure and reliable app is critical when choosing a bank.
“Dealing with regular transactions should never be a chore; this is why having easy access to mobile apps with your chosen bank is a must-have for anyone wanting better control over their finances,” Tadrus says. “Mobile apps offer users convenient fast access from any device with an internet connection – check account balances, pay bills, manage investments, locate nearby ATMs – the list goes on! What’s more? Most major banks now offer fingerprint and face recognition logins for added security and convenience when you’re accessing your accounts from your smartphone or tablet.”
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 a $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 services. “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 provide checking account offers where you earn privileges like free checks or no fees on accounts for maintaining the relationship for a certain number of years or travel rewards if you meet balance requirements.
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 accountpromotions give you a cash reward. For example, you can get up to $200 deposited into your account when you open a Chase Total Checking account with direct deposit. This can be an easy way to get rewarded for starting a new banking relationship.
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.
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 by Chase. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Chase.