By Robyn A. Friedman
City & Shore Magazine
Thinking about opening a new checking or savings account? That used to be a simple task, but with so many institutions vying for your cash these days — from physical banks and credit unions to virtual ones — how do you choose?
“When shopping for a bank, clients should not only look for both products and services that fit their individual needs but also for a bank that has the right resources to be their advocate,” says Matthew Lookretis, a vice president at Florida Community Bank in Cooper City. “Associates are the differentiators. All banks offer similar services — it’s the people that make you decide this is my bank.”
Make sure the location of your bank is convenient as well — unless you plan to go with a virtual bank in which case location is irrelevant. “Those who do most of their banking through direct deposits and online bill pay can shop around, but those who are paid with paper checks or primarily use cash may want a bank with branches near where they live and work,” says Mary Harris, senior vice president at BankUnited in Miami Lakes.
Here are some additional tips from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to help consumers choose a bank wisely:
Comparison shop. Fees, interest rates and other terms vary widely. Look for the best deal at a bank that otherwise meets your needs.
Read the agreement. Federal rules require a bank to disclose certain information to you before opening an account. Read it, either in person or online. That will help you avoid surprises.
Ask what you can do to avoid or reduce fees. Some banks will waive minimum balance requirements or fees if you have your paycheck direct deposited; others will do so if you keep a certain balance in your account.
Bundle your accounts. The more business you do with a financial institution, the more likely you are to receive benefits such as fee waivers on checking or savings accounts or concessions if you apply for a mortgage.