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Choosing a Bank

How to Find Banks That Fit Your Needs


UBS Bank, Park Avenue NYC
Travelstock44 - Juergen Held/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images

Choosing the best bank for your needs is easy. First, you have to figure out exactly what you need from a bank. Once you know what to look for, you can quickly evaluate the competition and end up with the best bank account out there. This page offers a guide to choosing the right bank for your needs, and offers some ideas for starting your checklist.

What Will You Do?

The fist question to ask yourself is what you want to do with your bank account. Do you want to put money in there periodically and watch it grow? Will you move money in and out quickly? You need to know what your banking behavior will be like in order to find the right bank.

How Will You do It?

Next, get an idea of how you prefer to do your banking. If your schedule doesn’t work with most bank schedules, the best bank might just be the one that’s open at convenient times or is part of the CU Service Center network. If you’re a web-savvy customer, look for the banks that make it easy to do your dealings quickly and efficiently with the click of a mouse.

What’s it Worth to You?

Free checking accounts get a lot of hype. They get people in the door. However, free may not always be the best thing for you. If you value certain services or conveniences, you may be willing to pay for them. Once you get ahold of fee schedules from competing banks, consider if it’s really going to bother you to pay a few bucks each month for that “gotta have it” feature or service. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

Get Opinions

Finally, remember to ask other people for opinions. Ask your friends where they bank, and how happy they are. Numerous blogs out there have extensive information on customer experiences in banks. When searching online, just remember that negative experiences will be more common than positive ones. People upset at the bank are motivated to spread the word – but happy customers often don’t even realize that things are going well.

Here are some suggestions based on the type of account you're looking for:

  1. Where to Find Free Checking
  2. Where to Open a Free Savings Account

The pages above only get specific about a few online banks, and describe where to look for a brick-and-mortar account. Don't forget credit unions. If you're not sure about the differences between banks and credit unions, see Bank vs. Credit Union - Which One’s Best?

Shop Around

Once you know what you want, start shopping and comparing. You can use the list below to start a checklist. Most institutions will have everything you need on their Website. If not, call (or walk in) and ask – you'll get a preview of the customer service. Look for fee schedules, rate sheets, and hours of operation while you’re hunting online.

Be sure to limit your search to insured institutions that can keep your deposits safe. Banks should be FDIC insured and credit unions should be NCUSIF insured.

Ideas to Get You Started

Try the list below to get the process started. For example, if you:

Have a tight schedule…
Find a bank with convenient location and flexible (or weekend) hours, or that allows ATM Deposits.

Want to earn the highest interest rate on your cash…
Consider an internet bank account or reward checking account. They pay the best interest rates for deposits.

Feel more comfortable face-to-face…
Search out community banks and credit unions that are easy for you to get to.

Need to get a loan…
Check the newspaper and bank websites for special offers (like no closing costs on a mortgage). Don’t forget to look at local credit unions.

Write lots of checks…
Get the free checking option where available.

Hate licking envelopes and paying bills…
Find a bank that offers free online bill pay.

Use ATM’s frequently…
Use a local bank with an extensive ATM network. Or, get into an institution that will rebate foreign ATM fees. Be realistic about the “requirements” for getting this done. Are you really going to provide the bank with ATM receipts?

Tend to forget how much money you have in the bank…
Get a checking account with an inexpensive overdraft protection plan. If possible, go for the overdraft line of credit to save money.

Run a small business…
Ask if the bank does commercial checking accounts and if it offers small business loans.

Want a one-stop-shop…
Look for a bank or credit union that has everything you need: auto loans, mortgages, deposits, CDs, other investments, and more.

Need to put HSA money to work…
See our resource on HSA providers.

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