If you're in a banking relationship that you're unhappy with -- of if you're looking to open a new account at an institution -- it's wise to figure out what you want from your bank. Maybe more one-on-one interaction would make you happy? Or is convenience at the top of your list? Surprisingly, more people will read reviews for things like restaurants or stores than they will for banks. And that's where we keep all of our money!
Your relationship with your bank doesn't have to be a bad one. But finding a bank that will make you happy really depends on what you are looking for.
Here are five questions that you must ask yourself before deciding where you should bank:
1. How big is the bank?
Big banks have gotten a lot of bad press in recent years for their hidden fees, shady practices and financial scandals. But there are some good reasons to open an account at a big bank -- especially if you're looking for something accessible. If having access to a bank that has branches all around the United States would make you happy, joining a big bank is the best way to go. Moreover, big banks can offer unique financial products and rewards that smaller banks or credit unions may not be able to.
2. How convenient is the bank?
Accessibility to a bank and its network of ATMs might be the most important factor when it comes to deciding where to bank. Are you constantly on the road? Do you need quick access to ATMs? A larger bank will probably have more branches and ATMs nationwide, but don't dismiss banking at a credit union either. If they're part of a network, you might have access to more ATMs than you think.
It's also important to consider online banks like Ally Bank, which offers ATM reimbursement so your trip to pull out money is always free.
3. How is its technology?
These days some banks are investing more and more money into mobile technology. Soon you might be able to use voice-recognition software to do banking. And who knows what the future of banking will hold? If technology and mobile banking are what will make you a happy customer, be sure to compare the mobile apps for the banks you are interested in. Chances are, the big banks will have the most technologically advanced offerings, but it doesn't hurt to look around and compare.
4. How good is its customer service?
If face time with members at your bank is important to you, it might be best to look at smaller, local institutions. Local banks and credit unions offer the same basic services that big banks do, but also have a few other benefits. At small banks, you're likely to enjoy more personal service and maybe even develop relationships with people at the bank. If being a part of your community makes you happy, opening an account at a local bank may be the right answer for you. Oftentimes, depositing money in a local bank helps businesses nearby.
5. How good are its rates and bonuses (and how bad are the fees)?
What will it cost you to open up an account at the bank? And what are the fees you might incur? You want to choose a bank that won't charge you an arm and a leg, in fees and one that has reasonable fees, which are comparable to nationwide rates. Also, do you get any bonuses for opening an account? While a bank's rewards should never be the sole criteria for opening up an account, it can be a nice extra to help push you over the edge if you're deciding between two institutions.
If you're looking to park your cash somewhere to get the best rate on your savings, you're going to have to do some shopping around. Unfortunately, yields on savings accounts are pitifully low. The average savings account has a painfully low 0.06 percent Annual Percentage Yield. But some banks or credit unions pay closer to 1 percent, so if a high interest rate will make you happy do your research.
These five questions should help guide you to a bank that you will be happy with -- but ultimately you have to decide what's important to you. If the most important criteria to you is how quickly checks are cleared, then choose a bank that gives you the best option.
Daryl Paranada is a writer for MyBankTracker.com.