Your Wealth, Health, And Lifestyle Newsletter

How To Pick The Bank That’s Right For You

By: Jason Markum

I’ll bet you don’t think about banks very often, but picking the right bank is very important. And picking the bank that’s right for *you*, is extremely important! Not all banks are created equal. Some banks are desperate for customers, they will bend over backwards to help you out in every way possible. Other banks are old and stodgy and could care less about you or your business. These banks are interested only in squeezing as much money out of you as possible.

Some banks specialize in certain kinds of loans. Other banks specialize in certain kinds of services. Some banks are not banks of all; but are instead credit unions savings and loan institutions. Some banks focus only on large corporations and aren’t interested in individual customers like you. Some banks are private, and only available to the very rich.

Some banks will charge you fees for everything, some banks won’t charge you fees at all, and some banks will offer some combination of the two. Some will work to offer you credit cards at low rates. Some banks will call you when interest rates have dropped enough to save you money on a house loan refinance.

The point is… all banks are different and finding the one that’s right for you can save you thousands of dollars over the course of your life. So how do you pick the right bank?

First, think of the bank as anything else. Think of it like a supermarket or a gas station. People have this strange notion that banks are sacred or scary when in fact, they’re just a business like anything else. You wouldn’t buy eggs from a supermarket charging you five times more than another supermarket would you? But people do this with banks all the time. You’ve got to think of banks like you would for any business and shop appropriately.

Watch and see how the bank handles customers during busy periods. Is there an express checkout line? Are there lots of lanes in the drive up window? Are there more than one branch near your house? Is it hard to get your banker on the telephone, and will they even return your phone calls? These are just a few things to keep in mind when evaluating a bank.

What basic rates of interest are they charging at the moment? Do those rates compare favorably to the national averages? Do they charge different rates for different balances?

Check to see if they charge fees if your account falls below a certain minimum level. What are those fees? Will they ever waive those fees? Do they charge the fees automatically or will you be billed separately?

What kind of transaction fees does the bank charge? Does it charge ATM fees? Are there checking fees? Do they offer online banking and if so, do they charge a fee for it? If so how much is that fee and will they waive it for a new customer? Do they charge a fee to mail your statement each month, and do they charge a fee to include photocopied checks in your statement?

Are there any penalties for closing an account? Are there penalties for overdrawing an account? And are there penalties for not keeping your account above a minimum level of activity in a given month?

Finally, is the bank FDIC insured?

These are just a few questions you should ask yourself and your banker before committing to any bank. Many times simply asking these questions is enough to know how seriously a bank takes its potential customers. How did your banker respond when you asked them these questions? Did they blow you off, do they seem impatient, or do they seem genuinely concerned with answering your questions?

Just remember, banks are nothing fancy. Shop for them like you would shop for anything else and you’ll be just fine.

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