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When you know what to look for (and what to avoid), picking a bank is easy.
This guide will teach you how to figure out what your needs are in a bank and what sets banks apart from each other.
Deciding what you need in a bank
Picking a bank is a personal choice. Which bank is right for you depends on your needs.
A savings account will keep your money secure and earn interest over time, but will limit how many times you can take money out.
A checking account keeps your money safe and makes it easy to access through debit cards, checks, or ATMs.
If you’re married, you may want a bank account that is in both you and your partner’s name.
Before you start shopping around, start by taking five minutes to jot down the things that are most important to you when it comes to banking.
7 boxes to tick to find the perfect bank
Now, that you’ve got your personal must-haves, there are a few other things to take a look at.
You put money in the bank to keep it safe.
It’s important to choose a bank that can promise security. Make sure your bank is backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
The FDIC is a U.S. government agency that insures the deposits of the banks they back.
Basically if your bank fails or can’t return your money, the FDIC will pay you the lost money.
You can learn more about FDIC deposit insurance here.
2. The account types you need
The most common bank account types are checking and savings accounts.
If you need easy access to your money, get a checking account.
Things to look for:
- Debit cards linked to your bank account
- Overdraft protection, or forgiveness for taking out more money than was in your account
- ATM locations or services that allow you to withdraw from non-bank ATMs without withdrawal fees
If you want your money to work for you and you don’t mind a limit on how often you withdraw, get a savings account.
Things to look for:
- High interest rates will make you more money in the long-term.
- Low minimum balance agreements so you don’t have to pay fees if you withdraw too much money.
Some banks are now fully online, while others still rely on local branches.
Decide how important online or in-person access is to you and pick a bank that can meet those needs.
Many banks have online banking and in-person branches. Check the website of the banks you’re looking at to see what they offer.
4. Low (or no) fees
Banks can charge crazy fees. A recent study showed some people pay nearly $1,000 in fees over a decade.
Fees to look for:
- ATM withdrawal fees
- Account maintenance fees
- Account transfer fees
- Foreign transaction fees
- Minimum balance fees
- Overdraft fees
Low fees are great, but no fees are ideal. New banks are giving older banking brands a run for their money, by bringing down fees.
5. High interest rates
If you’re going to be saving your money, look for an account with a high interest rate.
High-yield savings accounts have, well, higher than normal interest rates. The rate you’ll make is an annual percentage yield (APY).
Your bank multiplies the amount you have in your account by the APY to determine how much interest they’ll pay you each year. So if you have $1,000 in your savings account and an APY of 2.80%, you’ll earn $28 a year.
6. The right minimum balance requirements
Many banks, especially older ones, set minimum balance requirements.
That means that if your account balance ever dips below their stated minimum, they get to charge you a fee.
If you know you want to keep most of your money in a savings account with just a bit in checking to use as you need it, steer clear of banks with a minimum account balance.
7. Good customer reviews
You’re not flying blind here.
Do some sleuthing to make sure you avoid banks that have a history of bad customer service. A quick google search will tell you a lot of what you need to know about a bank.
Check the Better Business Bureau and look at customer complaints of the banks you’re looking at. You can also use Trustpilot and other review sites to find out what people are saying about their experience with the bank.
If you’re planning on banking mostly online, read reviews for the bank’s app, too.
Shop around until you find the bank that’s best for you.
Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Bancorp Bank (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).