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Finding the Right Financial Institution

Choosing the right bank is an important step. As with any financial decision, it's important to figure out what you want and need beforehand. There are countless banks to consider−some nationwide and some local−and there are also credit unions, which some people opt to use instead of or in addition to banks for their savings and credit needs.

Here are a few things to consider before you open a checking account:

  • Location. Does the financial institution have branches in the areas where you work and live?
  • Availability of ATMs. The ATMs owned by your bank won't charge you to withdraw cash, but other banks' ATMs will. Does the financial institution have machines in locations that are convenient for you?
  • Hours. Do you work during the day? Perhaps you need a financial institution with extended hours - some are even open on Sundays.
  • Customer service. Do their customer service offerings fit your needs?
  • Online banking. The Internet has made it very convenient to keep track of your finances online. Find out if the institution you're considering provides online access to your account.
  • Credit unions are an option. Credit unions differ from banks in several ways. They're designed to serve a particular group or neighborhood, and users are members rather than customers.

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