If you’re trying to find a bank to fit your needs, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by all of the options available to you. Should you choose a credit union, an online bank, or a bank located in your area? And what should you prioritize when choosing a bank? Although there are a lot of factors to keep in mind, these five are among the most important.
- Fees and interest rates
Chief among your concerns should be the fees your bank might charge and the interest rates they offer. If you don’t plan on opening a savings account, their interest rates might not matter as much; however, if you are opting to open a saving account, you’ll want to choose a bank that offers higher interest rates on your deposits. You’ll also want to take interest rates into consideration if you eventually want to apply for a loan from your bank. But no matter what kind of account you open, fees matter. Your choice of bank shouldn’t charge you for basic account transactions (like monthly fees or assistance from a representative). ATM usage fees should also be a factor if you plan on using your debit card frequently.
- Mobile banking availability
In this day and age, most people do look for banks with mobile banking services. Banks with mobile internet banking will often offer online bill pay, transfer services, and online account statements. It’s a way to keep track of your spending and saving without having to wait for a monthly statement to arrive in the mail. If mobile banking options are important to you (and they probably should be, if you want to go paperless or conduct a lot of activity online), make sure your bank is equipped to meet your digital needs.
- Security and other protections
You can never be too careful with your financial information and identity, especially where online accessibility is concerned. When choosing a bank, make sure to ask about the security they offer for your funds. Banks should be protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, while credit unions should have protections from the National Credit Union Association. You should also find out how your bank regularly handles fraudulent transactions and identity theft. But that’s not the only kind of protection to be concerned with. Overdraft protection can be a real life-saver for many account holders, but not every financial institution offers it. Be sure to ask about these offerings prior to opening an account.
- Customer service
Although there’s a lot that’s computerized these days, there will be a time when you need to speak to a human representative. Whether you have a question about your account, have a concern about a transaction you didn’t make, or need help resetting your mobile banking password, you’ll need assistance quickly. Your bank’s customer service representatives should be helpful, friendly, and help put your mind at ease. Whether you choose to visit a local branch or opt to get help via phone or online chat, you deserve to be satisfied with the service you receive.
- Accessibility and/or location
There are people who are perfectly fine with having a bank that exists only online, while others want to be able to visit a branch in person to deposit checks and ask for assistance. In a perfect world, you might want both options. When choosing a bank, having a physical location nearby can offer valuable peace of mind in case something goes wrong. And if you’re not able to opt for direct deposit with your job but don’t like mobile banking, you’ll need a branch in your area. Operation hours and processing time for funds may also play a part; after all, you’ll want to be able to access your accounts whenever you need them.
Choosing a bank isn’t always easy, but these considerations should be a good starting point for this important decision. Always do your research and take your time when weighing the pros and cons of one institution over another.