Choosing a financial institution to open an account or borrow money from is not always an easy decision. With so many banks and credit unions to pick from, you may feel overwhelmed with your options.
However, a little research can go a long way in narrowing down your selection. If you have a bank or two in mind, use this checklist to see if the fit is right for you.
What to Look for in a Financial Institution
Here are eight things to look for when researching different banks and credit unions.
1. Fee-Free Banking
Many banks charge their customers fees for even the most basic banking services. According to a NerdWallet analysis, the average consumer will fork over nearly $1,000 in service fees, monthly maintenance fees, ATM and account use fees, and overdraft fees over the course of a decade.
Though some fees can be avoided by jumping through hoops like maintaining a minimum balance, never overdrawing your bank account, withdrawing money only from their ATM, and signing up for paperless statements, many banks will find other ways to nickel and dime their customers.
Fortunately, bank fees don’t have to be a fact of life. The key is to find a financial institution that has done away with fees altogether. Some banks and credit unions, including Amplify, are taking on new initiatives that eliminate fees on checking accounts, savings accounts, and basic services in an effort to better serve their customers and members and make banking accessible for all.
To find banks with no fees, look online for institutions promoting fee-free banking services. Local credit unions, which are not-for-profit financial institutions unlike traditional for-profit banks, are a great place to start your search.
2. An Array of Financial Products
Next, look at the range of financial products offered by the institution. At a minimum, your financial institution should offer services and types of bank accounts:
- Checking accounts
- Savings accounts
- Money market accounts
- Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
- Money transfers
They should also have borrowing options like:
- Auto loans
- Home equity loans
- Home equity lines of credit
- Personal loans
Credit unions and banks with more robust financial services may also provide:
- More loan offerings, such as home improvement loans
- Business accounts and services
- Commercial lending options such as small business loans, construction and development loans, and commercial real estate loans
- Credit cards
Even if you only need a checking account now, you might need a loan or a business account down the road. Opening an account at an institution that already has a wide variety of offerings can save you the hassle of having to open an account when you need those additional services later on.
3. High Yields, Low Loan Rates
After you get a feel for the products that a bank offers, take a closer look at the interest rates.
To make the most of your money, you want deposit accounts (checking, savings, etc.) that offer high interest rates. For instance, some institutions may offer a high-yield savings account. These types of accounts help you earn money by just keeping your money safe.
On the flip side, you want low, competitive interest rates on loans. Do a little research to compare how the bank you’re looking at stacks up against other lenders.
4. Investment Options and Financial Planning
Some institutions will take their offerings a step further to provide investment opportunities and financial planning. Look for credit unions and banks that offer services like:
- Wealth management
- Investment management
- Retirement accounts and services
- Life and estate planning
Keeping your investments and cash assets under one roof can simplify your financial planning.
5. NCUA or FDIC Insurance
When you put your money in a bank or credit union, you expect it to be safe. However, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility for a financial institution to fail. Two agencies— the National Credit Union Administration and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation— insure commercial banks and savings institutions.
If your credit union is insured by the NCUA (or if your bank is insured by the FDIC) you can rest assured that you won’t lose your money in the event that your financial institution closes.
6. Online Banking Services
In today’s digital age, online banking services are almost a must. Being able to check in on your bank account whenever and wherever you want offers convenience and peace of mind. Make sure the bank you’re looking into offers desktop online banking and a banking app.
7. Customer Service
Though many people choose to bank online nowadays, there will likely come a time when you need to speak to a customer service representative. Whether it’s on the phone, via chat, or in person, you want to ensure that you have a positive and helpful experience whenever you need assistance. Read online reviews and look on the bank’s website to see what their customer service options are like. Consider how and when you prefer to get help and see if it matches their offerings.
8. Community Reinvestment
When choosing the right bank, look beyond what they can do for you and explore what they do for their local community. Are they active in initiatives to improve the lives of others? Are they committed to certain organizations in your area? Do they donate time, money, or resources to causes that resonate with you?
Credit unions, in particular, are built on principles of community and giving back. Here at Amplify, we are proud to give back to three nonprofits in our Central Texas community: Saint Louise House, American Red Cross of Central & South Texas, and Caritas of Austin. It’s just one way we aim to make Central Texas a better place to live, work, and play.
Ready to explore a new bank or credit union? Start your search with Amplify. We’re proud to offer our members fee-free checking and savings accounts with competitive interest rates, as well as a wide range of financial products and services including investment help and financial planning. Browse our website to learn more about joining the Amplify family.