There are so many options when it comes to choosing a bank and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with all of the “fine print” that comes with them.
How do you choose between national banks, local credit unions, community banks or online only banks?
You’ll have to review all of their services and features that provide value to you and your financial goals. Here are some important areas to review before deciding on which bank to bank with.
Types of Accounts
A standard bank will offer quite a few account types: checking, savings, money market, certificates of deposit, credit cards, loans and even some other products.
Many individuals tend to spread out their money into different account types and different banks, primarily to take advantage of any offers they provide. For example, some banks will give you better interest rates on car loans or credit cards if you bank directly with them.
There is no limit on the number of accounts you can have and a bank or credit union.
Just Starting Out: If you’re just starting out, we recommend looking at a larger national bank to have access to several different account types and it allows you to void some of the common bank fees.
Banking Fees & Rates
Most banks or credit unions charge fees and interest on various products they supply you. You’ll see maintenance fees, ATM fees, overdraft fees and transfer fees among others.
If you’re looking for a “one-stop shop” you’ll want to review all of the services they offer in one go before committing to any bank. You may find that a bank gives better rates for savings accounts than they do on their credit cards and loans.
You can get a lot of this information straight from a bank’s website. If you can’t find their website or they don’t have one, just place a simple call to their customer service or go and visit. Be careful while you’re there, many will try and talk you into opening an account before you’re ready.
Just Starting Out: Take a look at their website or talk to a banker. Credit Unions typically have higher APYs on savings accounts and other deposit based accounts. An online-only bank usually has better terms as well. National banks tend to have slightly worse rates but offer the most products.
ATMs & Branch Locations
If you’re always using cash or need quick access to cash, the ATM for your bank is your best friend. Depending on the type of bank you’re with, finding an ATM in a suitable location could be pretty hard.
You’ll want to determine your needs. For example, if you travel a lot you’re probably going to want to be at a national bank, like Bank of America or Chase. If you stay more local and you’re not concerned with driving out of your way every now and then, a local credit union may be better.
Ideally you’ll want a branch or ATM location within a mile or two of where you’ll spend your time, either work or from your home.
Just Starting Out: Each bank, and even credit unions, will allow you to find ATMs and branches through their website. You can usually find them on map apps like Google Maps.
Computers, iPhones, tablets – oh my!
We are in the digital age and if banks or credit unions don’t keep up they will lose accounts. But is that important to you? Do you think you’ll actually use their mobile application if they had one?
If you’re conscious about your money then you’ll want a bank that keeps up with technology. A lot of banks nowadays have a website, mobile app, or other means to manage your account and money. For example, if you don’t want to go to a branch or if you don’t have time to go to one, some banks offer mobile apps that allow you to remotely deposit checks. You may not always use it but having it there when you need it can come in handy.
Just Starting Out: The best banks for technology are typically national banks, online-only banks or mobile-only banks. These banks thrive on the latest technology and work hard to stay above the competition. Some credit unions may offer these services but they are usually behind due to the nature of not having the capital to invest.
This is something most people take for granted and assume is as good as it can be.
The FDIC, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., protects your money up to $250,000 if something were to happen with the bank (it closes). You should never go to a bank that isn’t backed by the FDIC.
Just Starting Out: It’s pretty easy to find the “FDIC Insured” badge at banks, on their website or even on paperwork they hand you. It’s a badge of honor for them and most banks actually carry FDIC coverage. You can always check the FDIC or NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) to see if the bank you like is covered.