10 Key Features to Look for in a Bank
by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Jan. 17, 2021
Looking for a new bank? Don't settle for anything less than these perks.
When it comes to choosing a bank, there's a lot to consider. You can opt for an online bank, a brick-and-mortar establishment, or a combination of both. Either way, it pays to know what features to look for in a bank. To that end, The Ascent's recent study asked customers what's most important to them. Here are the top 10 perks they came up with.
1. Great customer service
Solid customer service is something you should demand from any business -- but especially your bank. Aim for a bank whose customer service team is easily accessible (meaning, no 30-minute waits to speak to a live person). Not only that, but make sure its representatives are knowledgeable and adept at handling issues as they arise.
2. Low account fees
Why pay money to keep your money somewhere? Aim to find a bank account whose fees are minimal or nonexistent. There are plenty of checking accounts out there, for example, that don't impose a minimum balance. And you shouldn't settle for a bank that will charge you for things like online bill paying or replacement debit cards.
3. Security and fraud protection
If a criminal gains access to your bank account, the results could be catastrophic. Aim to find a bank with strong security measures in place both at its physical locations as well as online. As a basic measure, your bank should require a complex password for you to sign in and access your account information.
4. Mobile and online access
Let's face it -- most of us are tied to our mobile phones these days. To that end, be sure to find a bank that lets you access your account on the go. It'll make managing your bills and money more convenient.
5. Solid brand reputation
You may have plenty of luck going with a local community bank that doesn't have dozens upon dozens of branches. But there is something to be said about choosing a bank whose name is easily recognizable and whose reputation is solid.
6. Convenient ATMs
Having easy access to ATMs won't just save you time -- it can also save you money. If you're tempted to take withdrawals from out-of-network ATMs because they're closer, you'll waste money on fees. Instead, find a bank with at least a handful of ATMs that are conveniently located for you. That could mean having an ATM near your home, near your work, or near the gym you work out at three times a week.
7. Competitive interest rates
Though savings accounts aren't paying a whole lot of interest these days, you should still aim to find a bank that offers a more competitive rate. This extends to certificate of deposit (CD) rates, too. During times when rates are higher, you can earn quite a bit of money from a CD if you look around and choose the right one.
8. A nice mix of accounts
Your ideal bank should offer a healthy account mix so it's possible to have your checking account, savings account, and CDs all in the same place. Doing so will make it easier to keep track of your finances.
9. Convenient branch locations
The location of your bank may not be quite as important as the location of its ATMs, since you're likely to use those the most. However, you should still aim for a bank that's reasonably close by to where you work or live. A bank branch might be useful for a safe deposit box, notary services, or another reason, so be mindful of location when making your choice.
10. Loans and other financial products
You may need your bank for more than just a checking or savings account. What if you land on hard financial times? In that case, wouldn't it be nice to turn to your bank for a loan? Similarly, a bank that offers other products might be useful, like an IRA for your retirement savings.
You work hard for your money, so it's important to find the right place to put it. Keep these features in mind when seeking out a new bank, as they'll help you land on the right choice.
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About the Author
We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.