Five Things to Think About Before Opening a Checking Account

Author:     Sunday, September 07, 2014 12:00 AM


Many people think one checking account is much like another. But that's not always the case. Banks often vary widely in what they offer consumers. Some have lower fees, others offer better rates or a wider menu of customer services.

Let's examine five things to think about before opening a checking account.

Comparing fee costs

This is one of the most critical areas to research before opening a new account. Fee structures vary considerably from bank to bank, so it's important to look at things such as overdraft fees, service fees, account fees and ATM fees. Banks rely on such fees to generate a significant portion of their revenue, so it pays to remain vigilant. Online services such as offer consumers an easy way to compare the fee structures of banks in their area.

Finding the right type of bank

For those who live in a small town and don't travel much, a smaller community bank might be a great fit. Such smaller banks or credit unions offer a level of personal attention that isn't necessarily found at major regional banks. That personal touch may prove useful when it's time to apply for a loan. For those who live in larger cities or travel with regularity, a larger bank may be a better fit. Having access to hundreds of branches and a large ATM network offers a great deal of convenience.

Focus on the fine print

The vast array of terms and conditions that come with a checking account can bewilder even the more financially savvy among us. Hidden charges, account restrictions and general terms and policies governing accounts should be examined in detail, so there aren't any surprises later.

Hours of operation and accessibility

While "banker's hours" were once fairly ironclad, these days most banks have extended their hours beyond the typical nine-to-five. Some banks, particularly those with smaller branches in shopping centers and other non-traditional areas, offer extended weekend hours. These extended hours are often a huge benefit for the consumer -- in today's always on, interconnected world, it's helpful if our bank is as accessible as we are.

Personal comfort

While crunching the numbers is a necessity, it's wise not to overlook customer service. Consumers should feel comfortable and secure with their bank choice -- after all, the bank is being trusted with their financial security.

Opening a new checking account is an important decision, but it doesn't have to be an intimidating one. Follow these five steps and find the best deal for you.


Source: BFI