Can't Decide Which Bank Is Right for You? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

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It used to be that you could only choose from the handful of banks with branches in your hometown. But the rise of online banking has led to an explosion of choices, and for many, that can lead to analysis paralysis.

There is a lot to take in when deciding which bank you’d like to work with. The following five questions can help you figure out what matters most to you and which bank checks most of your boxes.

1. What kinds of accounts are you looking for?

Traditional banks have a variety of offerings, ranging from checking and savings accounts to loans and credit cards. But some online banks have more limited products, at least for now. If you prefer to do your banking all in one place, narrow your search to institutions with all the major account types you expect to need.

There’s nothing wrong with spreading your money across multiple banks if you’re comfortable doing so. But it could make moving your money around a little more complicated. For example, you may have to wait a few days for funds to transfer between banks.

2. How much money do you plan to keep in the bank?

It’s helpful to have some idea of how much you’ll keep in the bank so you know if you have to worry about maintenance fees on your accounts. These are monthly fees you pay for owning the account, unless you meet one of the criteria to waive it. Usually, this means having a certain number of monthly deposits or maintaining a certain minimum balance.

You could always opt for a bank that doesn’t charge maintenance fees, if you prefer. But some of these still have initial deposit requirements. If one bank requires more than you have to open an account, that’s a sign it’s not a good fit for you.

3. How often will you need to deposit or withdraw cash?

Pretty much any bank can handle direct deposit and electronic transfers these days, but accessing cash is a little trickier. If you opt for a brick-and-mortar bank, you’ll want one with branches close by or at least a nearby ATM so you can access your cash fee-free when needed.

Online banks don’t have branches, but most partner with a nationwide ATM network, like Allpoint, so you at least have the option to withdraw cash when you want. Depositing cash is more challenging, though. Deposit-taking ATMs exist, but they’re rare. That’s why some people prefer to maintain a checking account at a local bank so they can deposit cash easily. Then, they can transfer those funds electronically to their other bank account.

4. What are its online and mobile banking tools like?

Most people prefer to manage their money for themselves through an online bank account or a mobile banking app. Most major banks have these, but they’re not all created equal. An app that’s clunky or frequently errors might be too frustrating to use.

It’s worth taking a peek at the reviews for the bank’s mobile tools before you open an account. Look for repeated mentions of specific problems and decide whether you can live with these.

5. How can you get support if you need it?

There are times when you may not be able to do all your banking by yourself. Perhaps you get locked out of your online account, or maybe you want to make a large cash withdrawal and you’re not sure how to go about it. In these situations, great customer service is invaluable.

A good bank should give you access to customer service in several ways. Most have phone support and, if you’re working with a brick-and-mortar bank, you can visit a local branch for help. Some banks also have online chat support. Make sure you’re comfortable with the options available to you and the support hours before working with the bank.

Hopefully, the above questions help you narrow down your search. Compare a few banks you’re interested in side by side before deciding which to go with. You can always change your mind down the road, but this can be a hassle. It’s best to make a decision you feel confident in from the start.

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The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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