There are banks all over the place. If you’re thinking about changing your bank anytime soon, it might be tempting to just go with whatever bank is closest to your home or workplace. But as with all financial decisions, deciding on which bank to use is not a choice you should make lightly. If you aren’t sure what criteria you should look for whole choosing a new bank, these questions are a good place to start.
Which banks are available in your hometown and the places you frequent?
This is probably the first thing you should consider when shopping around for a new bank. Your friend on the opposite coast might rave about their bank, but if the closest branch is two hours away, it might not be in your best interest to choose it. Additionally, if you travel often for work or split your time each year between multiple destinations, you’ll want to make sure you have access to your bank in each of those places. But that being said…
Do you want a physical bank presence?
Are you the type of person who likes to go into the bank every week to deposit your paycheck and pick up a few rolls of quarters for the laundry machine, or do you tend to handle everything over your phone’s apps and the ATM machine? The answer will help you determine whether you should go with a traditional, brick and mortar bank or an online-only one, like . If you get by just fine without a physical bank to go to, an online bank might be a better bet.
Do you want a traditional bank or credit union?
Credit unions appeal to the individual and are more localized than a traditional bank. They may have lower interest rates for loans and are not for-profit organizations, meaning they’re more likely to have your best interests in mind. However, they usually offer fewer locations than a traditional bank and may lag behind in the technology they offer (e.g. mobile deposits). A traditional bank could be better for those who need business loans, or people who travel a lot because they are likely to have a presence in more locations.
Does the bank you’re considering want to charge you to set up an account?
If they do, consider it a big red warning sign. When you deposit your money with a bank, remember that you’re doing a favor for them, not the other way around. You should not have to pay a monthly fee on any of your accounts to keep your money with a bank—in fact, many banks offer sign up bonuses in the form of cash, electronics, or even the tried and true free toaster.
Even as you ask yourself these questions and discover the answer, don’t just stop there! Thank back to what positive (and negative) experiences you’ve had with your former bank as a good way to assess what qualities are most important in a new one.