Choosing a bank should be a well-researched project. Which bank is the best for you depends on what features and amenities you most value, as well as the use and frequency of use you plan on making of your bank.
Banks come in a variety of sizes. Some are small town banks with but a few local offices. Others can be found all over town, and even all over the state. Which you choose depends on what you’re looking for from your bank.
If you’re pretty much a stay-at-home, traveling a few miles to work and stopping at the downtown branch once a week to deposit your paycheck, then a smiling face that knows your name and asks about your family may be most important to you. Keep in mind, however, if that one branch you’re typically going to rely on has severely limited hours and doesn’t offer an ATM you may find yourself running across town whether you wish it or not.
If however, your workweek finds you running all over town, or traveling far afield, you may well benefit from the larger multi-branch bank, and the one with the most accessible ATM locations.
Online banking is available now with almost any bank, but not all online services are the same. To assume that because a bank is online means you have 24/7 access and adequate convenience is a mistake. Where one bank may allow you to transfer funds from one account to another and offer instantaneous verification of this change in balance, others will delay the transaction, or at least your view of the transaction, by more than 24 hours. This makes using online access to keep track of your balances next to impossible and it can aggravate attempts to use the bill paying and other online features.
Some ATMs allow deposits and deposit with cash back. Others are designed simply for withdrawal. This can make a difference if that long-awaited payment arrives in Saturday’s mail and you’re out of cash.
When it comes to making your money make money it definitely pays to compare before you make a decision. Savings and even checking interest rates can vary considerably from one bank to the next, as can fees. Some banks offer free checking while others do not. The rule of thumb has always been that credit unions pay better interest rates and are more apt to offer a loan. While this is not always the case, it bears researching.
Prior to launching your banking comparison the way to start may well be by asking recommendations of friends and family. Ask each where they bank and why. Ask them if they tried any other banks. Then head for the nearest branch of their first recommendations. Once you’ve been to one start with the others by saying, “Bank ABC offered me this. What can you do for me?” It may be that without that additional probing you would not find out all the percs there are to know about the bank you are considering. Of course, if you don’t want to risk a “shop til you drop” you can explore each bank online, and by email, and then make your final point of determination – their customer service – the decider with a stop by the nearest branch location. This approach can save both time and money.
After all, isn’t that what shopping for the best bank is all about?