Six Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Bank

With so many choices available to you, consider things like fees, online apps and budgeting services, and security.

Whether you want to open your very first bank account or you're moving and need to transfer your money to a new bank, you'll want to make the best choice possible based on your specific needs. "The most important thing to consider when choosing a bank is does the bank offer you the tools and resources to help you make the most of your money," says Nicole Sanchez, managing director for Chase Consumer Banking. "[It should let] you bank how and where you want. It could be through a mobile app, on the phone, or in a branch when seeking more personalized financial guidance." To find the right bank for you, ask yourself these questions.

woman shaking hands with bank teller
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What bank products or services do I need?

Right now, you may think you'll be good with just a debit card and mobile banking access, but think longer term. Chances are you'll need more down the road, like a savings account, car loan, mortgage, certificate of deposit, money market, investment services, or a safe deposit box.

Should I also consider online banks and credit unions?

An online bank offers many of the same products as a traditional bank but without the physical branches you'd walk into to do your banking. Some may offer high-yield savings accounts and few fees. Credit unions also have similar offerings but you must pass eligibility requirements to become a member.

Is there a minimum to open a bank account?

Some banks have no minimum, but there are others that do require a nominal amount; however, those banks may require customers to keep a monthly minimum balance in their account or they'll be assessed a service fee. Other charges to ask about are ATM usage, wire transfers, and overdrafts.

How will the bank keep my money safe?

Your bank account getting hacked is a very real concern these days, so you want a bank that takes cybersecurity seriously. Since much of this security may be behind the scenes, talk to a bank representative. At Chase, for example, Sanchez says that the bank "invests more than $600 million annually in cybersecurity. We also use 128-bit encryption technology to protect your username, password, and other personal account information when you're using our site or apps." A bank should also should be frequently advocating that customers use a unique username and password to sign into their accounts. Look for security measures like fingerprint log-ins, texts set up to tell you when you've gone over a certain spending limit, and automatic alerts from the bank when any transaction is made to your account. Some banks offer a debit card lock-in, where if you suspect your debit card has been compromised, you can switch your card to "off" mode online or in the app.

Does the bank have an app or website?

If you're used to banking on your phone, check out banks that will let you continue to do that and are consistently adding more features. Many banks offer the online ability to transfer funds, deposit checks, pay bills, and check balances. If you like to budget online, look for an institution that offers budget tools built into their app or website that can help you track spending.

Is there an ATM near where I live or work?

Even if you rarely rely on cash to pay for purchases, it's a good idea to have an ATM close by, in case of an emergency.

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