How Do I Choose a Bank?

Maybe you just moved to a new area. Or, maybe, you are dissatisfied with your current bank—you’re getting hit with costly fees and are tired of the bankers pressuring you into getting another credit card. Whatever the reason, you’ve found yourself needing a new bank. But you have a problem—you don’t know where to start the search.

While most banks offer similar products, they are not the same. Each bank has its own strengths and weaknesses. So, it is necessary to decide what’s most important to you and then search for banks that can meet those expectations.

As you start your search, here are a few items to consider:

1. Protection. You need your money to be safe. It should be a given that the deposits at the bank are insured by the FDIC. The FDIC is an agency of the U.S. government, and they ensure up to $250,000 of an individual’s deposits. If the deposits are not insured by the FDIC, run. Beyond the FDIC insurance, you can check BankRate.com. They have a “Safe and Sound” rating system that’s worth using. Simply type in the search field the bank you’re considering, and BankRate.com will provide the bank’s rating. Sometimes, the search can be difficult if you don’t have the right name or if there are multiple banks or credit unions with similar names. For example, there are several credit unions with the name State Employees. So, you will need to find the correct one.

2. Fees and rates. A bank should help you increase your net worth, not decrease it. So, pay attention to the fees and rates banks offer. What are the account fees? What are the ATM fees? What are their mortgage rates? What are their deposit rates? You want the fees and rates that you pay to be low and the rates that you earn from deposits to be high.

3. Technology. What are your technology needs? You likely want your bank to offer some services online, like bill pay and transfers. You may want an app for your phone for mobile deposits. You may have no desire to ever step foot in a physical bank branch. So, before deciding on a bank, check out to see if their technology matches your desires.

4. Convenience. Technology has certainly changed the need to always be near a bank branch. But what about ATMs? For many, ATMs are still an important part of the way money is managed. Cash is still needed. So if you are one that regularly takes money out of an ATM, you may want to consider your future bank’s ATM locations. Are they convenient to where you do life? If not, you may unintentionally set yourself up for costly ATM withdrawal fees.

5. Reputation. How does the bank treat their customers? Are they known more for their customer service or their scandals? Are the bankers known for looking out for your best interest or their pocketbook? Do you know anyone who banks there? If so, what has been their experience? Reputation is important. Why? Because their reputation could likely become your experience.

Choosing a bank can be overwhelming. There are a number of options. So, use this list to help you think through what really matters to you as a customer. And then go searching for it.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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