Are you picturing choosing a bank after reading that headline? If so, you can be forgiven if you immediately thought of unhappily trudging down to the big bad bank‘s local office and asking to set up a bank account. However, finding the right bank can make a big difference in enjoying financial solvency and giving you the tools to live better. Here are some tips to help you make this choice.
I Want Everything: The Big Banks
For people who want a bank that contains every possible feature of banking and then some under one room, then most big bank corporations will do just fine. These include the big four – Wells Fargo, Citibank, Bank of America, and Chase – and similar well known names. Here, you’ll find traditional checking and savings as well as expanded services for money market accounts, asset management, estate planning, brokerage services for investing, and bond investing. Big banks also provide a full portfolio of borrowing tools including credit cards, mortgages, consumer loans, business loans, home equity loans, student loans and more. Some also provide access to insurance services as well. Those who travel still swear by big banks as well, especially when going overseas, because these large banks are truly international in reach.
I Want Personal Service: The Community Bank
Let’s face it: big banks often come up short when it comes to making you feel like you’re working with a personalized, local business. Regional and community banks frequently fill this gap, maintaining both a local presence and a personal knowledge of their customers. Regional banks lack the size of the big corporations, so they rely far more heavily on their communities and neighborhoods and thus must compete on personalized service.
Regional banks can also frequently offer better interest-bearing accounts, better and more affordable loans for homes and cars, and for local small businesses a far more receptive ear for commercial and business loans. Community banks also tend to have fewer or lower fees than their corporate competitors.
I Want More Interest: The Internet Bank
The Internet bank has definitely hit its stride by 2013, settling in as another respectable form of banking. Today, most Internet-only banks are backed by major financial institutions.The success of the model was proven when a Dutch bank, ING Group, launched a U.S. branch with ING Direct. It was a hit, and ING’s American customer base grew exponentially with folks who just wanted better interest, the ability to choose their account types, and a place to save money easily and with minimal hassle. ING Direct was eventually bought out by Capital One, but it inspired this generation of Internet banks.
The Internet model is great for young people who just need checking, savings and a retirement savings account option. Further, if cash is needed, many Internet banks use other bankATM networks and then reimburse their customers for the ATM fees that may be charged.
The right bank for you will depend on what you’re expecting from a financial institution. Hopefully, this introduction gives you a solid place to start. One of my favorite professors used to say that thoughtful people get what they want, while the less thoughtful end up “wanting” what they get. Take your time to understand what you need from a bank, and you’ll be one step closer to a solid decision.