If you are like I was, fed up with high bank fees, poor service and low interest rates, it might be time to say goodbye to your bank and open up an account with a new one – like I did. But before you throw your current bank to the curb, there are six smart questions to ask prior to establishing a new relationship.
#1: How large of a balance do I need to maintain in order to to avoid fees?
Banks today are required to provide you with a disclosure outlining the minimum deposit you need to open an account with them and the minimum balance needed to avoid any monthly checking account fees. Read these disclosures carefully so you know what you are getting into a head of time. In my case, my bank required only that I set up a direct deposit to that account in order to stay fee free.
#2: What are the fees associated with out-of-network ATMs?
I chose a big-box bank who has a presence globally so that I have access to in network ATM’s. It’s bad enough to do a cash withdrawal and have to pay the out of network fee of $2.00 or more, only to be hit with an additional fee from my bank. To avoid lofty charges, a larger bank made sense to me, and making sure that I am not charged a fee for cash back debit transactions also made a difference.
#3: What about overdraft or NSF protection?
While I do my best to keep my finances straight and not rely on overdraft protection, I still made sure I checked into what policies were attached to potential new account options. In my case, opting in for overdraft protection cost less than any charge associated with bouncing a check or going over in my account, by simply attaching it to a linked savings account.
#4: How soon can I access my cash?
Most financial regulations require the first $200 of any deposit be available the next business day, but I found that many banks vary in policy when it comes to the remainder of any deposit being available. I went with a bank that credits the first $200 on the day of deposit and the remainder of the funds the next business day.
#5: Do you offer mobile banking and online bill pay?
I looked at a host of different mobile banking apps prior to my switch and selected a bank that allows me to deposit paper checks online, simply by entering in the numbers or taking a photograph of the check. It’s easy and convienient, and it cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend going to the bank to physically deposit a check.
#6: Is there a rewards program?
I chose a bank that offers cash back rewards when using my debit card as a credit card. It makes the most sense to me and helps me leverage (and even monetize) everyday transactions like paying bills and buying groceries. Of course, when asking the question, you have to decide what sort of rewards program (if any) is best for your lifestyle and unique financial goals.
So there you have it, if you think it’s time to end your current banking relationship and enter into a new one, these six questions will help guide you along the way to achieving banking bliss.
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