It would seem that with constant bank mergers, the choice of banks would be limited to a few with very long names. However, there are still quite a number to choose from. While there are many investment options available today, there is still a need for accessible funds in local banks. Therefore, it is worthwhile to review some of the options to look for when selecting your bank.
Perhaps the fastest rising concern among customers are the ever-increasing bank fees. Another growing concern is identity theft, which still limits the number of people who do their banking online. The convenience of ATM machines is also a major concern when selecting a bank. Below are some of the comparisons to make when bank shopping.
Fees: Banks are starting to charge for more services, such as copies of bank statements, opening and maintaining a checking account, check copies, cashiers checks, overdraft protection, wire transfers, money orders, cancelled checks, dormant accounts, bounced checks, customer inquiries and so on. Compare the most common fees and be aware of any transaction fees.
Interest rates: The reality is that interest rates for most bank accounts are fairly minimal. If you do not need specific bank services you might consider getting the same or even higher rates from a credit union.
Minimum balances: Compare minimum balances to open and maintain accounts without paying fees. Also inquire about linking accounts or "relationship banking," as it is sometimes called, where you benefit from having several accounts at one bank, thus eliminating the need to have a specific balance in each individual account.
Direct deposit: All banks offer direct deposit, but some will also offer incentives for signing up for it.
Locations: The convenience of a bank is important unless you are primarily banking online, in which case you can look for a lower rate from a bank that may be located across town. A bank with numerous ATM locations is important for many people. If the bank allows you to use other ATM machines, find out what the surcharge is for doing so. If you use ATM machines often, as many people do, these additional fees can add up quickly.
Bank services: See what other special services are offered and at what cost. From broker services to banking software to special accounts for children, you can sometimes find services that may be of benefit to you.
Online banking: While most banks offer it, the use of online banking is still limited. Concerns about identity theft, along with the familiarity of in-person banking, have made this new technology slower to catch on than anticipated. If you are interested in online banking, inquire about additional fees, security measures taken and customer service. Benefits of online banking include: no lines, after-hours banking and access to an updated statement daily.
Banks today remain very competitive. This means that you, as a customer, can benefit by shopping around and asking questions.
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