It's important to have a bank that provides the services that you need. Here are some things to consider when trying to pick the best bank:
- What services are you looking for? You might want to look at the following when picking a bank: interest rates, e-banking, banking by phone and direct deposits [source: Investor Guide]. After you define what you're looking for in a bank, see what bank best provides these services and features.
- Where is the bank located? Are there branches near your home, office and other places from which you might need to access your bank?
- What atmosphere are you looking for? Do you prefer a large, well-known bank or a smaller bank with more personalized customer service?
- Would you like a bank with a large network of automatic teller machines (ATMs) or one that participates in a surcharge-free network so you won't have to pay a fee when withdrawing cash from an ATM that's not affiliated with your bank?
- Will you need a "basic-checking account" option in case you're unable to maintain a large balance in your account [source: OCABR]?
Banks are required by federal and state Truth-in-Savings Acts to disclose all the information about account fees. Make sure to compare what different banks charge for and how much each bank's fees run. Banks often charge fees for:
- Going below a minimum balance (either daily or monthly)
- Carrying out transactions (e.g. writing checks, withdrawing from ATMs, etc) -- some banks charge a fee for each transaction, while others only charge after a certain number of transactions.
- Having returned checks
- Bouncing checks
- Having canceled checks
- Using an ATM from a bank other than your own
Banks will sometimes waive fees if you maintain a very large balance in your account [source: OCABR] or if you're one of the bank's shareholders [source: Investor Guide]. You may want to check this out.
The easiest way to compare banks is probably by gathering information from the Internet. However once you narrow down your choices, you may want to visit the banks in person before making your final decision.