In the old days, opening a new checking account was easy. You’d stop by your local branch, give them your name and five dollars, and know you were in good hands. Banking today is not so simple. Navigating the products, services, fees, and interest rates of the dozens of banks out there seems impossible. However, it doesn’t have to be. Just follow these four steps and you’ll be on your way to making the most out of your money.
Step One: Gather a List of Banks
This step seems simple enough, but you might be surprised at how many banks are in your area. You want to look for banks that are within a reasonable distance from your home or office, and have hours that fit your needs. Once you’ve found the ones that work, make a list of them. This will be your starting point for comparison.
Step Two: Decide Which Product Fits You
Most Americans have a bank account, and the most common account is a checking account. However, many banks offer multiple kinds of accounts, including CDs and Money Markets. For ease of simplicity, we’ll assume you’re looking for a checking account.
Step Three: Compare, Compare, Compare
There are many factors that go into comparing checking accounts, but two of them outweigh the rest: fees and interest rates. Each bank should have a fee schedule on their website, along with information about interest rates, which typically have caveats.
Now is where your list comes in handy. Go to each bank’s website and write down any fees you may incur. Some common examples are foreign ATM withdrawal fees, as well as monthly maintenance charges. The latter are usually avoided by keeping a minimum balance in the account at all times.
Next, head back to each website and write down the current interest rates on the accounts. At this point, you may see one bank as a clear frontrunner. Before you apply, double-check your research to make sure you’re getting the lowest amount of fees (based off of your typical use) and the highest percentage rate.
Step Four: Scour For a Better Deal
Many banks have a standard checking account that anyone can open. But did you know that you may qualify for a checking account with a higher interest rate, less fees, or more perks in general? Banks often have checking accounts available to meet the needs of certain demographics, such as low-income, student, and middle-aged. These kinds of accounts can offer better services than a standard checking account. Beyond that, many banks also run promotional rates on accounts to bring in new customers. To ensure you’re making the absolute most of your money, look into each of these categories before applying. You may even save a few more bucks.
If you feel overwhelmed with finding a new bank, start with these four steps. You can also read online reviews or ask friends and family about their experiences. Just know there is a way to make the most of your income.
Alberto Washington is a successful financial advisor. To read more of his work, visit his website.