Five Must-Have Features You Should Expect from Your Bank
Opening an account or even multiple accounts is a financial necessity nowadays, and while many banking options exist, the reality is that not all banks are created equal. If you're looking to move your money to another institution, it's important to do your due diligence. Any institution you consider should be FDIC-insured (so that you know that your money is safe and guaranteed), have a wide availability of ATMs (so that you can have access to your funds when you need them), and have top-notch customer service.
"Consumers should refuse to accept a bank that does the bare minimum and instead choose a checking account that does more," says Poulomi Damany, general manager, Credit Karma. "You shouldn't have to pay a fee or have to wait days to access your own money. The best checking accounts today are not only free but can also help you improve your finances and even reward you for good financial behavior." Ideally, your perfect bank should also have the following features.
The fees are minimal.
Banks help us to manage our money, but it's important to keep in mind that they are also in the business of making money. To do that, many banks charge fees on a monthly or annual basis for their services, so it's important to read the fine print that pertains to the conditions of an account. Banks that offer no-fee banking or low fees for using ATMs, making transfers, or using your debit card are out there, but you may have to do a little research in order to find them. The time you invest in finding out about fees upfront will be worth it, as you surely don't want to pay unnecessary fees in order to access the money that you've worked so hard to earn and save.
There is no minimum balance for an account.
Managing your money is responsible, and further motivation is that some institutions require their customers to maintain a minimum balance in order to keep their account in good standing. These minimum-balance requirements vary from bank to bank, so you should definitely take the time to inquire about a specific financial institution's requirements. Setting up direct deposit through your employer may be all that it takes to meet a bank's requirements, but regular budgeting will prevent you from having to pay unwanted fees and penalties, or even worse having your account frozen or closed.
They offer safe and secure online banking.
Technology has lessened—if not practically eliminated—the need for customers to perform their basic banking in person. With an online banking account, you can deposit checks easily with a smartphone, pay your bills and set up automatic payments, send money to friends and family as well as merchants and retailers, and more. However, the more transactions you authorize online, the more susceptible you are to online hackers. Look for a bank that offers enhanced security features for their online banking tools and sites. Review your bank's fraud protection policies so that you are prepared for worst-case scenarios, and also arm yourself with multi-step authentication.
You can use a mobile bank app.
More often, customers are opting to conduct their banking digitally, so banks are trying to keep up with this demand by offering their clients the option to manage their money by way of a banking app. One of the most prominent benefits to mobile banking is that it puts you in charge of your money, anytime and anywhere. Do your research and read customer reviews so that you can identify the best mobile banking app for you. The ideal app should be dependable, simple to use, and most importantly, secure so that you don't have to worry about your personal information being compromised.
You can earn bonuses and perks.
Owning money in the bank feels rewarding, but if you're really want to feel like you're "in the money," find a bank that offers introductory offers and customer promotions for its customers. The best banks offer customers a cash reward as a way to incentivize them to open an account, and who doesn't love a little extra free cash? Be sure to inquire about how much is needed in terms of an initial deposit in order to quality for this banking reward. Also, take time to read and understand the fine print, as many banks that offer this bonus require that your initial bank deposit for a specific length of time before the bonus fee is activated and deposited into your account.
Some banks also offer perks for maintaining a certain balance or being a customer for a certain number of years, so if earning travel rewards or free checks, or having account fees waived offered sounds appealing, you'll want to sign up with a bank that offers these benefits. It may take some time to quality for them, but it might just be worth it.