8 Things to Look for When Choosing a Bank

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Rachel MacAulay

8 Things to Look for When Choosing a Bank

When it comes to choosing a bank, there's a pretty wide selection. From online banks to bank-by-app to brick-and-mortar branches—there are many financial institutions competing for your attention, and your money. So how do you decide? While your banking needs and preferences are personal, these eight features may be useful to you when determining which bank to choose.

1. Variety of Accounts

The phrase "one-stop banking" exists for a reason: Many people want a bank that does everything for them. Instead of having a personal savings account at one bank, a checking account in another, insurance through a third party, and investments with yet a fourth business, it's often easier and more efficient to look for a bank that offers all of these things under one roof. Business banking? Home loans? Renasant has them all.

2. Fees

If the purpose of putting your money in a bank is to save and/or grow it, you likely won't be happy if fees eat away at your hard-earned cash. Some banks charge fees for ATM withdrawals, paper statements, account transfers, debit card use, and more. Make sure you know the fees involved when choosing a bank. This also includes maintenance fees on investment accounts, overdraft fees, and late payment fees, if they apply.

3. Online/Mobile Banking

Another thing to look for when choosing a bank is whether it offers the latest technology. At this point in time, every bank seems to offer online banking, but does it offer mobile banking? Can you deposit a check by taking a photo of it and uploading it to the bank's app? Some customers prefer to conduct all of their transactions without ever stepping foot into a bank. If this is you, ask about all the technologies available to customers, and ask also about the bank's security measures for all of their digital banking offers.

4. Interest Rates

Interest rates are currently relatively low, which is great for borrowing (i.e., loans) but less great for savings growth. Every bank offers different rates on their accounts and their loans, so if this is important to you, ask about the various rates (and terms) before signing with the bank.

5. Number of Locations for Bank and ATMs

If you prefer or need to do your banking in person, look for a bank with local branches near your home and/or near the areas in which you travel regularly. Many people have their paychecks automatically deposited and simply need to visit the bank or an ATM to withdraw money. If this is you, choosing a bank with many lobby or drive-through ATMs is smart. Even better, choose a bank that doesn't charge you, or reimburses you the fees, for using ATMs at other banks, in supermarkets, at convenience stores, and more.

6. Minimum Requirements

It's very important to find out the bank's minimum requirements for the type of services you need. For instance, if you're just opening your first savings account, what is the minimum amount of money you need to deposit to start off? How much do you need to keep in there at any time to keep it open or keep from having to pay penalties? No two banks are the same, and minimum requirements vary from bank to bank, so if this may affect you, be sure to ask.

7. Great Customer Service

When choosing a bank, especially when you've narrowed down your choices to two or three banks, customer service can be a game-changer or deal-breaker. Nobody wants to feel like a faceless number, especially to a business that you entrust with your life savings. Whether you prefer to walk into a bank and have the tellers know your name or just want to be greeted with a friendly voice when you call your bank with questions or issues, customer service is important. How your bank treats you matters, and you'll want to bank at a place that offers more than free pens and lollipops—answers to your questions and undivided attention are integral to good customer care.

8. FDIC Protection

Most—but not all—banks offer FDIC protection. This means that the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (an independent U.S. government agency) protects you against the bank's possible failure by insuring deposits at that bank. The standard maximum protection is currently $250,000. To find out if a bank is FDIC-insured, simply ask or look for a sign on the bank's door and/or website.

Of course, these are just basic features to look for when choosing a bank. Most people are looking to open particular types of accounts or apply for specific types of loans when they first go to a bank. Be sure to ask as many questions as you need to make sure the bank you choose fits your needs.

Written by:

Rachel MacAulay
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In Rachel's past life she was a technology analyst, and she still trusts data and research as the basis of business writing. She has been a freelance writer and editor for 25+ years, with experience writing about technology, travel, nutritional products, domain names, autism, food, exercise, general topics, and more.
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