With so many choices of financial institutions and types of accounts, finding the best way to bank can be a daunting task.
You need to compare multiple bank accounts and look at fees and interest rates, among other factors, to choose the arrangement that suits your lifestyle.
Whether you choose a local bank, a credit union, an online bank, or a big national bank, here's what you need to consider to determine what's best for you:
Checking and savings accounts explained. These are the most basic and common types of bank accounts, and each serves a different purpose. Checking accounts provide easy daily access to money, whereas savings accounts provide higher interest and benefits for accumulating money.
Checking accounts offer unlimited electronic transactions and transactions using checks and debit cards. However, these accounts pay little or no interest.
Savings accounts, on the other hand, offer higher interest rates, but you can't use checks or debit cards to access the funds they hold, and there's a legal limit of six transactions per statement cycle, typically a month.
You might consider opening a money-market account, which combines features of both savings and checking accounts, or certificates of deposit, which offer some of the highest interest rates but no transactions.
Beware these common bank fees. Banks with free checking accounts aren't always free - fees are big revenue drivers in the banking world. In 2015, the so-called Big Three - JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo - raked in $6 billion in ATM and overdraft fees alone.
Check out all the associated charges and fees that are typical of bank accounts:
ATM fees: Using an out-of-network ATM often incurs double fees - one for using the ATM and one from your bank. In 2016, ATM fees hit an all-time average high of $4.57 per transaction.
Overdraft fees: Overdrawing your account usually incurs these. There's no limit on what your bank can charge, so shop around.
Account minimum fees: Many banks charge a fee when account balances drop below a certain amount.
Maintenance fees: Many banks charge maintenance or service fees, usually $10 to $12 per billing cycle.
Online banking. Depending on your lifestyle and your occupation, an online bank and online account might make more sense for you. Some of the best free checking accounts are at online banking institutions.
Online banks usually offer you better interest rates and reduced fees because they don't pay the overhead associated with maintaining branches. However, there are some disadvantages to banking with an online-only institution, such as:
No branches or teller service.
Difficulty depositing cash.
Difficulty cashing physical checks.
Find the best deals. After you determine which type of account you need, then shop for the best one by carefully examining and comparing all the advantages and disadvantages.
The best checking accounts and savings accounts are those that offer:
High interest rates.
Low fees and charges.
Best benefits, rewards incentives, or waived fees.
Do a side-by-side comparison of the accounts you're considering to find the best banks to open a checking account and the best savings interest rates. By carefully comparing all the features of each account, you'll be able to determine the best of the best - the accounts that can meet your unique needs.
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