Saving money is a cornerstone of financial well-being. For many of us, our relationship with saving started with our parents opening a bank account for us as children. But, over time, we have to learn to think outside of the piggy bank and manage our accounts on our own. Choosing the bank that’s right for your financial status as an adult can be a task mired in details that seem insignificant or even indistinguishable between competitors. To make this choice responsibly, it’s vital to know your dos and don’ts.
From alarm clocks to umbrellas and baseball hats, some banks offer ‘goodies’ for opening accounts. But your personal, financial investment is worth a great deal more. Take the time to learn the real advantages of each bank that you are considering. Some banks offer free coin counting, extended hours, and exceptional service—supporting a customer-focused banking philosophy.
As a savvy banking customer, you need to know all of the variables related to the account that you are interested in opening. Many banks claim to offer ‘the highest interest rates in the region’ or ‘no fees,’ but don’t buy the words on the billboard until you’ve done the research to compare each one for yourself.
The principles of outstanding customer service in banking are virtually universal. Yet, as banks have grown and merged, many have lost that personal touch we all deserve. Stop in the branch you will be visiting and see how you are received and helped. Call the bank’s call center and see how long you are on hold and pay attention to how you are helped. Are you getting your questions answered by a local, live person and not just an automated answering service?
For many people, the process of choosing a bank can become confusing, so before beginning, identify what is important to you. Is it free products and services? Friendly service and extended operating hours? Advanced banking technology and free access to ATMs? All of the above? Determine what matters to you, shop banks and align yourself with the one that meets your needs.
An investment in the community is an investment in all customers. A bank that supports the community will choose to engage with and benefit local non-profit organizations and youth programs. As a customer, understanding these worthwhile efforts can help you identify a bank’s commitment and investment in the people it serves.
If your bank does not belong to a large ATM network, you may be charged ATM fees every time you attempt to withdraw funds from an ATM that is not owned by that bank. Minimum deposits or a limited number of cash withdrawals per month can also handcuff you, keeping you from the financial freedom you seek. Surprise fees and charges can be hidden in the fine print and could go unaddressed if you don’t ask the right questions.
Banks may be institutions with years of history, but just like the rest of us, they’re subject to the ever-changing trends of today. In our increasingly digital, paper-free world, know that any bank you consider should have user-friendly online banking and a mobile app available for your use 24 hours a day. The banks that will still be around in decades to come are the ones that embrace the convenience of online banking while investing in brick-and-mortar growth for future strength and success.
Today, you may only be interested in opening a checking or savings account. But what does your tomorrow look like? Maybe you will need a loan? Maybe you want to start your own business someday? Know what kind of consumer loans, business loans and accounts your prospective bank has to offer. Or maybe you’re already dreaming of spending those golden years on the golf course or on a cruise around the world? Find out what your bank offers for retirement accounts. Whatever the future may hold for you, know how your bank can help.
When working with your checking account, mistakes can be costly. Your bank should have you covered with overdraft protection, automatically transferring available funds from a second account or line of credit to avoid overdraft fees. In addition, a lost or stolen ATM card should not keep you up at night. Your bank should be able to offer you a new ATM card on-the-spot at each location. In a time of need, you should know that you can rely on the support of your bank, so you can get back to business as usual.
Before you dive into a financial relationship, make sure you take the time to digest all of the details and information you’ve learned. There is no need to jump into an agreement that you may regret down the road. Practicing diligence and patience throughout this process will help you now, and for many years after you have made your banking choice.
When choosing a bank for your checking and savings accounts, research is key. Know the bank’s customer service philosophy, what products and services the bank offers, and where you stand financially.
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