The 7 Must-Have Features Americans Look for in a Bank Account

by Lyle Daly | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Feb. 23, 2021

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If you could choose a bank account based on just one perk, what would it be? Here's what other consumers said.

When you're planning to open a bank account, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the benefits on offer. A good way to narrow down your options is to start with one must-have feature you can't do without.

The Ascent recently ran a survey to find out what consumers want from banks. In it, consumers were asked what they'd want if they had to choose a bank based on a single factor. Here are the top seven choices, along with the percentage of respondents who chose each one. If you're new to banking or you want to know what to look for in your next bank account, these responses could be a big help.

1. Low fees (21.25%)

Over 1 in 5 consumers wanted to keep fees to a minimum. The good news is that bank accounts without monthly fees are more common than ever, especially among online banks.

Some bank accounts waive monthly fees, but only if you fulfill certain requirements. This could involve maintaining a minimum balance or receiving a minimum number of direct deposits. To avoid unnecessary fees, make sure you understand any conditions before you open an account.

If you want your banking to be as straightforward as possible, there are also bank accounts with no monthly fees or account minimums.

2. Mobile and online access (18.97%)

Whether it's an online-only bank or one with physical branches, consumers want to be able to access their accounts online. And they want to do so from both computers and smartphones.

This highlights the importance of quality mobile banking apps. Banks need to have mobile apps that offer the same services as their websites. You may want to save your banking login to your phone so you can conveniently review your balances, deposit checks, transfer money, and handle anything else you need to on the go.

3. Quality of customer service (10.66%)

Customer service comes in third, as it was chosen as the most important feature by slightly more than 10% of respondents.

There's a lot that goes into quality customer service, beyond how friendly a bank's representatives are. It's an advantage if a bank offers multiple forms of customer service, such as live chat and messaging, instead of only phone service. Response times are just as important, considering people rarely like waiting on hold.

4 (tie). Easy ATM access and convenient branch locations (8.37%)

In fourth place, there was a tie. An equal number of consumers picked easy ATM access and convenient branch locations as their must-have features. That's fitting, since there are similarities between the two. Each involves being able to do some of your banking in person if the need arises.

Obviously, these features matter much more to some consumers than others. After all, there has been a move to digital-only banks in recent years, and these banks don't have convenient branch locations -- or any branch locations at all.

6. A good brand reputation (8.26%)

Brand reputation is a critical factor for more than 8% of consumers. It's no surprise that people want to feel comfortable with the company that's in charge of their money.

We should note that U.S. financial institutions tend to be very safe places to park your cash. Most popular banks have FDIC insurance, which provides up to $250,000 per eligible account in the event of a bank failure.

7. Competitive interest rates (7.73%)

Interestingly enough, competitive interest rates were one of the less common choices. Consumers who haven't shopped around for accounts based on their interest rates could be leaving money on the table.

It's true that you won't get rich from bank account interest, and interest rates did keep dropping for most of last year. But a high-yield savings account will still pay a much better interest rate than the average. If you don't already have one, you should consider it to maximize the interest you earn on your savings.

There were quite a variety of responses when consumers were asked for the one factor they'd use to pick a bank. As you shop for a bank account, it's a good idea to figure out what your must-have feature is so you can find banks that will deliver it.

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