So, you want to open a bank account. Maybe it’s your first one. Or maybe you’ve had the same one for a long time and want to compare it against the current offerings.
Either way, according to Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, founder of financial coaching firm The Fiscal Femme, the value of each bank account on offer can be boiled down to two things: the money coming into your bank account and the money going in. The money coming in is interest and the money going out is fees. Octavia Ramirez, founder of financial coaching firm Paper & Coin, also endorses a simple approach. “I typically recommend that people have one checking account and two savings accounts,” she says.
Ahead, the pros share a few questions to consider before you commit to an account:
Most brick-and-mortar banks don’t offer significant interest; the rate can be around .01 percent even for a savings account. You can make significantly more in an online savings account, where the market rate is closer to 1.75 percent.
You definitely need a brick-and-mortar bank, because, for the current moment, cash still exists. But as online-only banks often offer way higher interest rates, your savings will accrue faster. There are also some psychological advantages, Feinstein Gerstley says.
For one, it’s easy to segment your savings online, so you can put a certain amount toward a vacation, a certain amount toward getting your ancient fridge fixed, etc. For another, it’s in a totally different place than your checking account, so you’ll be less likely to tap into it.
Will it cost me money to keep this account open? If so, how much per month? This is information you really want to consider.
If I dip below a certain number in my account, will I have to pay a fee? If so, how much is it?
Check out how close the bank’s ATMs are to your hotspots—your home, your office, and anywhere else you go on a regular basis. If there aren’t any affiliated ATMs nearby, do they have an ATM reimbursement program with any other banks? Are that bank’s ATMs nearby?
Will you charge me if I transfer money to another bank? If so, how much?
Does this bank account have unlimited transactions? If not, how many does it allow per month and what is the fee per transaction if I go over that number?
How many withdrawals am I allowed per month and per year? If I go over that number, what is the fee that I’ll incur?
If I spend more money than is in my checking account, is there a fee? If so, are there any overdraft protections offered? Is there a monthly fee for those protections?
Is it most important to you that the bank has a good app, good phone customer service, or good IRL customer service?
This might sound small, but you’re gonna spend a lot of time banking on your phone. Take a tour of the interface and user reviews. Can you pay your bill on the mobile app? Can you take a photo of a check and deposit it through the app? Does it have all the functionality available on the market right now? A great app is especially critical for “entrepreneurs who are doing a lot of digital transactions,” Ramirez says.
Where are their branches? Can you easily speak to a human when you call their customer service line?
Obviously the bank’s website is going to say the card rules. But what do sites like NerdWallet and WalletHub say about it?
“There’s no large bank that I know of that’s extra socially-conscious,” Feinstein Gerstley admits. There are, however, some mega offenders, who are heavily invested in sketchy industries or have especially dicey business practices.
If your bank’s values are important to you, she suggests looking into credit unions or small local banks. “A credit union or smaller bank is also sometimes able to offer you a higher-interest savings account,” Ramirez says.