From basic free checking to bonus gold accounts, there are certainly a number of different kinds of checking accounts available to consumers. The average bank offers three to five different kinds of checking accounts, many with features unique to that particular institution. Finding the best checking accounts can take time and be a confusing challenge unless you are organized about your search. Here are four tips to help you ensure that you get the best checking account possible.
Tip #1: Understand Your Needs
Banks, credit unions, and online checking account providers are competing fiercely with each other to see who can offer the most perks, benefits, and other special features. This war of bonus features is a win for you as a consumer, but only if you know how to take advantage of the entire special offers. Signing up for an account that has tons of bells and whistles is great, but only if you can actually use them.
As you start looking for a good checking account, think about the way you spend and the ways that you like to access your money, pay your bills, and monitor your spending. This can have a dramatic impact on which accounts are going to give you the most benefit. For example, if you always get your cash as cash back from the grocery store, then an account with no ATM fees doesn’t benefit you at all. You might, on the other hand, get more satisfaction out of an account that gives you cash back for shopping at the local supermarket.
Tip #2: Watch Out For Fees
Checking accounts have fees. Not all of them apply to you all the time, but knowing what they are and how they might apply is important. You will save yourself anger, headaches, and stress by knowing about all the relevant fees associated with your checking account in advance.
Pay particular attention to activity based fees. Know what it will cost you to get money from an out of network ATM, or what you will be charged if your balance dips below a certain level. These are good apples to apples points of comparison that can help you choose an account that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Maintenance and account service fees are also something to consider. While some people shy away any account with a monthly service fee, sometimes the associated benefits more than offset the cost. Understand the benefits you are entitled to with the fees before rejecting these kinds of accounts outright.
Tip #3: Look For Good Access
A big part of checking account usage for most consumers is the ongoing monitoring of their account balance and the ability to readily access their cash. Thus, access points on a checking account are crucial points to consider. You’ll want to consider the ATM network, the mobile or online account features, and your ability to move funds freely. Checking accounts that provide more options for access help you integrate smart financial management into your daily life. Mobile banking access, telephone banks, and a broad ATM network all help reduce the stress of managing your money. In general, the more access points you have, and especially the more access points you have for free, the better the checking account is for you. Ranking your personal preference for account access can also help you weed through your options. If you like telephone backing, but the account only has an iPhone banking application, it’s not a match. Sort account not by what’s cool, but by what works for you.
Tip #4: Continually Shop Around
It really is a war for your business in the financial services sector. As a result, to ensure that you have the best checking account at all times, it pays to continually shop around. Make it an annual tradition if you like, but be sure to take the time to see what’s new in the market and assess if new features are more attractive than your current features. By keeping your eyes open to new developments and keeping abreast of new benefits, you will be able to get the most out of your checking account relationships.