There are many approaches to financial planning, but no matter which path you take, choosing a banking institution is an essential step. Selecting a bank no longer depends on the proximity of a branch to your home, as Internet connectivity has expanded the number of financial institutions available to consumers. Setting up an account with a bank or a credit union is simple and can be done online or in person at a branch. Better Business Bureau urges consumers not to allow the ease of opening an account to cause them to overlook small details that could be costly.
BBB suggests you review the following five factors when selecting a banking institution:
- Fees– Many bank accounts are free, however, there are some that have fees you might avoid if you’re familiar with the terms. Banks will often waive a fee if money is directly deposited in your account monthly. Another avoidable fee is overdraft charges. Some banks allow customers to link other accounts so if you do overdraw, funds from one account can be transferred to the other to cover expenses. Many institutions also offer low-balance alerts via email or text when your account is at risk of being overdrawn.
- Minimum Balance Requirements– It’s essential to have a good idea of your budget before signing up for a bank account with a minimum balance requirement. Small banks, credit unions, some online banks and specific no minimum balance checking accounts are options that may help you avoid this type of fee.
- ATM Access– While most transactions happen electronically, you may still need an ATM – whether to deposit cash and checks or withdraw money. Banks may charge you for withdrawing cash from an ATM that is not within the bank’s network. While it may seem wise to pick the bank with the most ATMs in your area, some banks, including smaller and online institutions, will reimburse fees incurred by using an out of network ATM.
- Online and Mobile Access– Nearly three-quarters of Americans access their bank accounts via online and mobile platforms according to the American Bankers Association. It’s important to ask about the digital platforms and ask what functions are offered. Checking your account(s), paying bills, making electronic deposits, transferring funds, updating personal information, and ordering checks are a few about which to inquire.
- Sub Accounts– It is also helpful to choose an account that will not only help you attain goals in the present but also in the future. If you have savings goals, a bank that offers a separate savings account may help you reach your goal faster. If you wish to buy a home, choosing a bank that offers mortgage loans may make the buying process less stressful.
When researching financial institutions, use the search function on www.bbb.org to find business reviews, BBB ratings and verified consumer reviews. If you choose to sign up for an account electronically, make sure you are on a secure website before entering any personal information. Visit www.bbb.org/bbbsecure for details on how to identify a secure site.