The banking industry is sometimes painted as a staid, drab industry, in part because banks want to exude calm stability and not the excited frenzy that other services might seek to provoke. Banking professionals may seem a little intimidating for someone who has never set up an account before, but rest assured, they want to help you get started. When you walk into your local branch to start an account, you'll need to speak to a banker who can go through your options with you to help you find the right account to suit your needs.
After you discuss what type of account you want, one of the first things you'll want to find out is whether or not there are fees associated with the account you're interested in. Many banks offer free checking accounts, but they're usually very simple accounts. If you need a lot of features and benefits, you may end up paying a few dollars extra per month for the service. You may also need to keep a minimum balance in the account to get the extra bells and whistles.
What kinds of features are important to you? For instance, will you need a safety deposit box? Are you going to use printed checks? If so, you'll want to know how much these features are going to cost you. How about online access and bill pay? What about cashier's checks? Are they really worth the extra fee or having to keep a minimum balance?
Some banks place a restriction on the number of checks you can write per month before incurring a fee. Ask your local banker to find out what that limit is. You'll also want to know whether or not you're going to incur fees for using ATMs, especially out-of-network machines.
If you're leaning toward an interest-bearing account, you should find out how much interest the account will pay. This is especially important if you're shopping around, because this information will help you compare different banks more easily. If it's important to you to have paper copies of your cancelled checks returned, rather than scanned and uploaded online, you should determine whether that's an option, or if you have to pay extra for that benefit.
As you search for the best bank, be sure to take your time, ask a lot of questions and make sure the employees you speak with know you're shopping around, as they'll be more likely to add extra enticements to land your business.