Selecting a bank looks like an easy task. But banks are not the same, and banking with the right institution can help you develop your financial knowledge while providing the right support and convenience.
Of course, people have individual priorities when it comes to banking. Some may require a bank that helps them with regular wire transfers at a reasonable cost, others may pick convenience above all, and other may have limited requirements — any bank would do.
Know these priorities in advance can help you decide where to do most of your banking. You still can have credit cards from other banks or use another bank for some transactions occasionally, but your primary bank is where you receive your paychecks and have regular payments scheduled.
If you are looking to switch from your current bank, here are a few points to keep in mind.
Match your top banking needs and preferences with what the bank offers. You may think that all banks would offer more or else the same rates and products, but that is not true. Even if most of them do, some have much better programs. So if you have a need for example to receive or send international wire transfers, you might find certain banks that have existing agreements with banks in your destination country.
Shopping around and asking people in your community or workplace are good ways to find the best offers that match your specific needs. But don’t take everything else for granted. Once you select a lender, check other basic requirements like online banking, various financing options, fees and rates, etc.
Reliability and support
Many people resort to their banks for financial advice. Although that should not be your only source of information, it is nice to know that you can get the guidance and help when needed.
In addition, you will need to have a bank that provides excellent customer services to all of its clients — not just to those who are part of some elite club. Think of times when you will need a six-month statement, need a check issued immediately, or have issues with your card. Your bank representatives should be there to provide the help and support you need.
Typically if you select a bank with a bigger network of branches that are well staffed, you are more likely to get a better experience. But again, nothing beats hearing personal experiences and reviews.
You may not think of what powers an ATM until you can’t cash because the system is down. Similarly, if your last-minutes bills can’t be paid because the website isn’t working right, you may wonder whether switching banks is in order. If you do switch, pick a bank that makes your life easier with the great power of technology. This bank may also provide you with better security for your financial information. So it is a win-win situation.
How to evaluate a bank’s technology? Go back to customer reviews. You also could ask about what fraud-prevention procedures the bank offers. For example, how unusual transactions are monitored and tackled, and how much control you will have over this process. Can you, for example, opt to be notified immediately?
Although a certain bank could be great for your daily banking needs, it may not be the best for a major transaction such as buying a home, taking a large loan or financing a car. So if your needs change or expand, make sure you don’t settle for what your go-to bank offers.
It could be time to shop again for a bank that offers the best deal for your needs. Although banking is based on loyalty, the variety of financing needs that you might have over the years means that you might needs to change and expand your choices as well.
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.
Get banking right
Know your current needs
Pick a reliable bank
Check for support and security
Know when to switch