Choosing a Checking Account

When searching for a checking account, you will quickly find that there are numerous variations from which to choose. Even more confusing are the myriad banks that offer them. In order to select the best one, you must first consider your own needs. Decide what you will use your account for, and what features are most important to you.

What are you looking for in a bank? If you already have an established relationship with a one, your search could end right there. Many banking institutions have preferential accounts for customers who already have a business relationship with them, through a loan or Certificate of Deposit (CD), for instance. These accounts often have lower or waived fees, as well as included options that would otherwise have to be paid for.

If you don t currently do business with any particular bank, decide what s important to you. Do you want the convenience of many neighborhood branches and automated teller machines (ATMs)? Do you require the option of banking over the internet or by telephone? Even hours of operation can vary greatly among banks. Consider that if you can normally only get to the bank after five o clock, or on Saturday. And while you re comparing, examine the other services that are offered. You might not be in the market for a personal loan right now, but it may come in handy later.

What type of checking account best suits your needs and financial lifestyle? Virtually all banks offer differing accounts that range from Premium to free , with every shade in between. How many checks will you write monthly? Some banks charge a per-check fee after writing a certain amount. Will you maintain a large balance in your account? Some free checking accounts are only free if you maintain a pre-set minimum balance. Do you want to pay for the printing of your checks? On some Premium accounts, checks are free; you ll almost certainly have to pay for them with free checking accounts. Or will you primarily use a debit card for your purchases?

Does your employer offer direct deposit of your paycheck? There are checking accounts that waive fees if you have a direct deposit coming in. Need a savings account to go along with checking? Some banks require it, which means that more money will be needed to open the accounts. By the way, how much do you have as an initial deposit? Some accounts can be quite low; others can be very high. Do you want your account to bear interest? Most free checking accounts do not. How about overdraft protection (if you ve bounced a check or two in the past)? There are, needless to say, many different options to consider.

Fees should also be examined very carefully; they can differ greatly from bank to bank, even from checking account to checking account. Banks are required to disclose all fees before you open an account, so all you have to do is ask for them. Also, make sure that the bank that you are considering is Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured; not all internet banks are.

Decide what you need, then find out what s offered. As always, knowledge is the key. Although the choices are many, with just a little effort you ll be able to find a bank and a checking account that s just right for you.

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