What’s the Best Bank For You?
Think they’re all the same? Think again. A free checking account at one bank could be completely different from a free checking account at another bank. How? Because of all the other factors to consider – like locations, fees, and tools.
After reviewing the financial strength of a bank, here are several other things to consider as you decide what’s most important to you and your situation.
Online banking versus local branch
While having a nearby brick-and-mortar location is important to many banking consumers, you might find better interest rates with an online-only bank because they don’t spend lots of money to maintain physical branches. According to the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, 41% of people do all their banking online now. This is a pretty big shift from traditional banking.
While most basic banking transactions can easily take place online, one of the reasons you might need to visit an actual branch is to talk with a banker. If you believe you’d benefit from such discussion, make sure the online bank you’re considering will facilitate that for you.
Understand key bank fees
In addition to charging loan fees when they lend out money, banks bring in much of their revenue by charging fees on your deposit accounts. You’ll have a much more positive experience by ensuring your bank’s fees don’t outweigh the benefits of the account you’re considering. Here are three key fees to understand:
- Monthly maintenance fees. This is a monthly fee a bank charges on an account. Understand how yours works. Banks will waive these fees if your account is above a certain balance. Others waive the fees if you abide by their regulations. For instance, many encourage using a debit card versus writing a paper check. Others might want you to make direct deposits instead of depositing physical paychecks. Still, others want you to use their bill pay service. Understand this fee class and determine if you can abide by the terms your bank sets for them.
- Overdraft fees. These fees are charged to a checking account if you attempt to make a purchase but don’t have enough money in your account. There are a variety of ways to avoid overdraft fees, such as signing up for a protection program or linking your savings account to automatically pay the rest of the bill. Take the time to understand your bank’s options to avoid overdrafts and the cost associated with them.
- ATM fees. Some ATMs require you to pay money to use their machines, especially if the ATM you’re using isn’t in your bank’s network. Don’t overlook the opportunity to save money by ensuring that the bank you’re considering supplies ATMs in your area so you won’t have to pay a fee every time you need to use an ATM. Some online banks even waive ATM fees altogether.
Other banking tools
Banks often provide tools to help you budget your daily and monthly expenses. Many offer free credit scores and credit monitoring. Others offer automatic transfers into a savings account. Still, others offer the ability to open multiple savings accounts and label each account for different purposes.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you need to choose a new bank. With many different banks to choose from, a little research can ensure the bank you choose fits your financial needs and priorities.