Sunday, January 18, 2009

Choosing a New Bank

While you may have opened your first real bank account as a teenager, by the time you reach adulthood it is probably time to reconsider your finances. Whether you are moving away from your current branch, need additional features, or want to try something different than basic checkings and savings, it is always a good idea to research your options before picking a new bank. Not sure where to begin when making this important decision? Here are some steps you should follow:

Step 1 – Consider your lifestyle
Think about how often you use your bank for different services. For example, do you need a physical branch where you can deposit a weekly paycheck? Or, do you get direct deposit so branch visists are less frequent? If the latter is true, you may consider a virtual bank. Also, ask yourself how often you tend to access an ATM. If you use it a lot, you will probably want a bank with lots of ATM locations and / or low fees for using other banks’ ATMs.

Step 2 – Consider Location
Your responses to step one will help you determine how local you need your bank to be. If you want access to a brick-and-mortar branch on a regular basis, try to narrow your search to banks that are a reasonable distance from your home, job, etc. If, however, you don’t really need to visit a bank, you may want to consider virtual banks, which tend to offer higher savings interest rates. Also, if you travel a lot, it helps to have banks that have branches across the country, or have a relationship with international banks in other countries.

Step 3 – Decide what you Want
Think about what kinds of accounts you may want to open at your bank. Are you looking for a basic checking and savings combination? Or do you want to open a CD, money market, or other specialty account. While you do not have to open all your accounts at a single bank, it can certainly simplify your life. Also, be sure to check out what interest rates and features each bank offers.

Step 4 – Look at what you Have
Some banks have higher minimum deposits than others. If you are not prepared to keep a considerable amount of money in your accounts at all times, then look for a bank offering accounts with a $0 to $500 minimum balance. Remember, if you can’t maintain the required balance, you are liable to pay extra fees.

Step 5 – Get the Details
Before you open an account, make sure you know all the details. What fees will you be charged? Is there a limit on the number of checks you can write? Are transfers included in the account? These are questions you will want answers to before you commit to a bank. You can get more information on Yahoo Banks and BankRate.

1 comment:

  1. FEES are my #1 consideration. I don't want to pay any. :D Since I live in Canada I've been pretty darn happy with PC Financial. Their checking account if FREE, plus they have a decent rate on their high interest savings account.

    The bank's location isn't a deal breaker, as I am fine with online access for 99% of my transactions.