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Banking: Finding the Right Bank

Provided by Visa, Content Partner for the SME Toolkit

Choosing the right bank is an important step. As with any financial decision, it’s good to sit down beforehand and figure out what you want and need. When preparing to open a checking account consider:

  • Location. Does the bank have branches in the areas of town you work, shop and play?
  • Availability of ATMs. Automatic teller machines, or ATMs, allow you to get cash from your account night or day. The ATMs owned by your bank won’t charge you to withdraw cash, but other banks’ ATMs will. Make sure your bank has machines in locations that are convenient for you.
  • Hours. Do you work during the day? Perhaps you need a bank with extended hours.
  • Customer service. If friendly service is important to you, you might consider a smaller, locally owned bank, many of which offer more personal service as a way of competing with larger banks.
  • Online Banking. The Internet has made it very convenient to keep track of your finances via online banking. Find out if the bank you’re considering allows online access to your account.

Other Benefits
These days, banks are more than just places to keep your money. Many serve as one-stop financial service shops. Among the services and products banks can offer are:

  • Credit Cards
  • Lines of Credit
  • Mortgages
  • Health Savings Accounts
  • Financial Planning
  • Investment Management
  • Health, Home and Car Insurance
  • Retirement Programs

Having all of these services in one place can provide not only convenience, but savings. Banks will often offer lower fees and higher interest to customers who use multiple services and products.

One possible downside, however, is that you might find greater expertise by working with companies that are more specialized, such as an investment firm or an insurance agency. Take the time to compare the banks' services with others before you decide.

Opening a Checking Account
Once you've decided on a bank, you'll want to open a checking account. A good checking account is an essential tool for building solid personal finances. It makes managing your money a lot easier. And over time it will save money.

  • Keep good records. With a checking account, you have an official record of every purchase you make with it, as well as money you receive and deposit. This can come in handy when crafting a budget, preparing for taxes or as proof of payment. Each month you’ll get a statement tallying every purchase you’ve made. And some banks will even provide you with a copy of every check you write after it’s been processed.

Choosing the Right Account
Banks typically offer a variety of checking account options. Some are free, and others carry a monthly fee. Often the free checking requires that a minimum balance be maintained.

Pay particularly close attention to the additional fees that a bank may charge. The charges are generally small. But they add up. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Check Fees. Banks sometimes assess a small fee for each check you write. Some accounts will allow a certain amount for free each month, and then charge for any above that amount.
  • Balance Inquiry Fees. Some banks charge you to find out how much money you have in your account.
  • ATM Fees. These can get you coming and going. For instance, if you withdraw from an ATM owned by a bank other than your own, your bank could charge you (for a withdrawal outside the system) while the other bank charges you for not being one of their customers.

Checking accounts can also earn you money. Some offer interest, just like savings accounts. These can be particularly beneficial if you plan on maintaining a large balance.

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