How do you feel about your bank? Sure, it’s great if the bank never screws up your deposits, or has a website that is always available. But if you pay high fees or get lousy customer service, it might be time to shop for a better bank.
But, before doing that, look over the following 10 tips for finding a better bank for your buck.
1. Compare interest rates
If you’ve got money sitting in a savings account, CD or money market account, you’d be remiss not to shop for the best interest rate.
For years, interest on deposits was so low it was hardly worth asking the annual percentage yield. Now, though, you can find APYs of as much as 2 percent.
As we mentioned before, you can compare interest rates on CDs and checking and savings accounts in the Money Talks News Solutions Center.
2. Make sure an institution is insured
Before switching to a new credit union or bank, confirm that it is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC).
This independent federal government agency insures that if a member banking institution fails, each depositor gets money back. The amount you can insure is $250,000 per bank.
Use the FDIC’s “BankFind” tool to check whether institutions you are considering are FDIC members.
3. Consider an online bank
There’s a lot to like about banks that do business solely online. They don’t need to maintain a network of brick-and-mortar branches, so their expenses are lower, which can mean they pay higher interest rates and charge lower fees.
Here’s a possible concern, however: Online banks generally don’t have their own ATMs. They rely on agreements with banking networks. So, find out an online bank’s ATM policies and costs before switching banks. Better yet, find an internet bank that waives — or reimburses you for — any ATM fees you might incur.
4. Explore credit unions
Credit unions may offer the personal service you crave with the lower fees and higher interest rates you need. Also, they have a reputation for focusing on fair lending and investing in communities.
Just don’t assume you’re getting a good deal without comparing accounts you qualify for at a variety of institutions. For more pointers, check out “How to Pick the Best Credit Union for You.”
5. Check into community banks
Community banks are generally owned and operated locally, not owned by mega-bank holding companies. Many community banks pride themselves on keeping fees low and on making loans within the local community — but not all of them do, so check.
Use the Independent Community Bankers of America’s “Community Bank Locator” tool to find community banks near you.
6. Weigh convenience
If you value face-to-face contact with a banker, you’ll want to find a credit union or bank with many convenient branches near where you live and work.
Start your research by noticing which banks you see in the neighborhoods you frequent. Go to the website of each bank you’re considering and find its branches nearest you. Pay attention to hours and ATM locations.
7. Research ATM networks and costs
ATMs are a big part of the banking experience for many consumers. You’ll probably want your new bank or credit union to have a lot of ATMs that cost you nothing to use and are in safe, convenient locations.
Visit each institution’s website to find its list or map of in-network ATMs. Visit the locations you’ll use most to be sure you’ll feel comfortable there.
Also, learn about the ATM fees, both for in-network and out-of-network ATMs. Read the fine print on the bank’s site, brochure or contract. You don’t want expensive fees to hit you after you choose a new bank.
8. Decide if free online bill payment matters
If you love the convenience of paying bills online, make sure the bank you are considering offers an online bill paying service. Check to see if the bank imposes a fee for using the service.
9. Learn about the mobile app
The ability to check your balances and make deposits from your smartphone makes mobile banking one of life’s real conveniences. Great mobile apps are expensive features for banks to develop, which means that the biggest banks have some of the best mobile apps.
10. Ask your friends
Some bank features are harder to research. So, ask your friends what they most enjoy — or dislike — about the banking institutions they currently use.
Ready to find a new bank? First, check out “5 Simple Steps to Painlessly Switch Banks.”
What’s your experience changing banks? Share with us comments below or on our Facebook page.