Having choices is good. Whether we're choosing a meal at a restaurant or trying to identify the right bank, it's always good to know that there's a broad menu of options. In fact, that's always the best way to find the thing that best suits our needs.
As frustrating as the process of choosing a bank can be, here are a few rules to keep in mind to help you make the right choice:
1.Know what you need and what you might need: Previous generations likely stayed in their professional field into the end and rarely were transformed overnight. Current bankers need to do a little creative thinking to plan ahead.
Starting a family or a business? You need to keep those factors in mind when selecting a bank for personal or commercial use. Think of variables such as international requirements, changes in deposit frequency, payroll services, commercial credit cards and the availability of SBA and other various government-backed loans. Maybe you don't need those services now, but how about next year, or five years from now? Create your own list of current and future requirements - it's okay to dream big - and match them with the services listed on the bank's site.
2.Ask about fees: Most fees are irritating but insignificant. Over time, however, they do add up, and that's exactly why they should be taken into consideration early on.
Depending on the type of account and the balance you plan to maintain, your monthly or yearly costs could vary. One bank might charge less than another for deposits, yet have no additional fees for wire or electronic fund transfers. Check the fine print, read online reviews and, if necessary, go the old-fashioned route: Walk into the branch and ask to meet with an account manager.
3.Evaluate community service: In a connected and borderless universe, it can be hard to understand the allure of community banks. However, for some, going local can count for a lot.
When choosing your bank, don't discount the local variety, and focus on factors like ATM availability: Is it part of a larger network, or will it involve significant fees every time you step out of town? (For the record, many community banks waive fees for out-of-network machines.) How about other fees - will you rack up costs with each transaction over a certain low threshold, or if a check bounces? Is it open on weekends? To get the answers to these and other questions, it's best to sample the famed customer service upfront, and look online to see what other consumers (and perhaps SMB owners, who are particularly sensitive to these factors) have to say.
4.Check out the tech: If online banking is such a great option, then the mobile alternative is surely even more irresistible - the bank is always at hand, literally. The question is, how does this help when deciding which bank to choose?
The reality is that most financial institutions are already on board with mobile banking, but considering your own banking habits, you may to consider specific technology offered by your future institution. Always sending money to friends? Make sure your bank or credit union has a great person-to-person payments program. Frequent shopper? See if the banks you're evaluating develop their own tools or partner with other companies to offer you local deals based on your location or offer mobile-only rewards.
5.See if you should branch out: If you're someone who does everything on your phone or computer, is an online-only bank the way to go?
While brick-and-mortar establishments offer the comfort of at least knowing that there are branches to walk into and don't allow some of the security risks of internet banking, going online-only can save you money in fees and make you money in higher interest rates. However, make sure you check out a potential bank's network of ATMs and additional services that normally require the traditional branch (mortgages, loans, etc.). Ultimately, finding a hybrid banking arrangement to suit your individual tastes and needs might end up being the best way to go. You can check out our post on some suggestions here.
All these choices are a good thing, but it makes it ever more important to think ahead and check it out before moving your money.
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