Choosing the right bank isn’t easy when there are hundreds of financial institutions available. The process begins with understanding the fees, selecting an appropriate account, and then determining which size bank is the better fit.
Opening a checking account is a daunting task in this economy. With so many options available, it’s difficult to narrow down your search to that certain bank that fits your needs. Should you pick a large bank with branches spread out across the country or a loca Massachusetts Bank that knows your name when you enter the door? Here are three facts you should before your choose your bank.
Let’s start by jumping into the root of every bank user’s anxiety: the fees. When considering on opening a personal checking account, it’s important to remember that banks typically charge what I would describe as fees in sheep’s clothing. That is, unnecessary charges in the guise of legitimate expenses e.g. maintenance fees. Federal regulation in 2010 put a halt to overdraft fees but unfortunately that only made a dent in the system. Large banks have since increased other fees while adding entirely new money traps for consumers. So what should you do?
First, begin by considering how much money you plan to deposit. Some banks require you to keep a minimum balance in your checking account or suffer the dreaded “maintain fees.” Typically, checking accounts are only used for paying bills or other run-of-the-mill expenses. If you plan on using your checking account to store savings then be advised that some banks place a limit on the number of checks you can deposit before they start issuing fees.
That brings me to the second topic of the day: the offer of Free Checking. Anytime you hear the word “free,” palm trees and crystal water must spring up before your eyes. The reality of the situation is that the degree of “free” varies in the banking world. For some banks, charges still exist, e.g. monthly service fees under a certain minimum balance. However, others stay true to the account’s name by providing free ATM usage at bank branches and eliminating fees.
Shocked yet? Get ready for lesson #3: bigger is not always better in the banking world. A report published in 2009 by the credit-rating organization, A.M. Best Company, found that Community Banks trump the efficiency of industry giants. The reason for this lies in strategy. While big banks operate on the notion that they are too big to fail, local bank managers take few risks and spend their time strictly on garnering clientele from the surrounding community. Additionally, “community banks’ intimate knowledge of local markets and higher levels of customer service effectively provide them with a stronghold in their territories” (http://www3.ambest.com/DisplayBinary/DisplayBinary.aspx?TY=P&record_code=167306&URatingId=240312)
When choosing a bank to start your checking account, consider what you need in a bank. Local banks rank higher in customer service and typically maintain stronger ties to the surrounding community. However, large banks have branches across the globe so they might be a better fit if you plan to travel. It all comes down to the kind of service you need and how you plan to use the account.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Morgan is a resident of Massachusetts. She writes about local banking and the difficulties of choosing the best Massachusetts mortgage rates and Massachusetts small business loans. She also writes about Massachusetts auto loans and other local finance related topics.