Many try to keep all their banking transactions with one bank to be able to build a long relationship and reduce hassle. If new to a city or looking to change banks, you need to consider several factors when picking a new institution. Not all banks offer the same services or products, and what works for a friend might not be right for you.

That is why while word of mouth is a great start to begin the search, do some extra digging to ensure the bank will be able to fulfil all needs for years to come. Here are some points to keep in mind.


It doesn’t matter how great the bank is if you can’t get to it easily or find an ATM nearby. Although many of today’s banking transactions have moved online, you still want to make sure to have a statement or a more elaborate service on your way to work or on a weekend morning, if it is open.

Convenience also includes the availability of online banking for a variety of services. Most banks offer online, but the experience is not always the same. So, check out what the target bank offers and make sure it includes services you are likely to use often. For example, international transfer, utility pay or quick pay.

Customer service

A long banking experience is not possible if one is not heard. Customer service is something you will be able to sense from the first visit, but that is not enough. Ask around to know how others have experienced the very same customer services at different times and over a period of time. This is to make sure you will receive the appropriate support almost always.

In addition, ensure that customer service is available at hours that work for you. A bank that is open for part of the week or extended hours on week days can be important if the job doesn’t offer flexibility.

Efficiency is important as well. If the bank is short-staffed or crowded often, one might receive less care than what a customer deserves or has to spend more time to get anything done, because of inefficiency. It all goes back to how you value time.


From cyber- to ATM security and everything in between, security is your business because it’s your money. Check out the bank’s record of implementing technology and handling fraud. You will want to know that a breach is as unlikely as it gets, although no one could be certain. Make it a point to know the bank will have your back if the cards or accounts are compromised.

Banks offer various ways of alerting customers of suspicious transactions. Be sure you will receive the proper notification and support. For example, in case a card or account is compromised, you will be able to get back the money, receive a new card as quickly as possible, etc. In case you are overseas, be able to get any concerns addressed in a timely fashion so that you are not stranded without cash or having to spend a fortune on long-distance phone calls.

Variety of products

Over the years, the needs are likely to expand. While most banks offer checking and savings accounts, credit cards and other personal banking needs, they may not be the best option to get a mortgage or financing for a business. If wanting to stay with one bank, anticipate these needs in any search and pick a bank likely to work in these areas.

Having said that, it is always advisable to shop around whenever seeking financing, especially for the long-term. Even a slightly lower rate could save thousands of dirhams over the life of a loan. So weigh the loyalty and convenience versus the monetary value to make the best financial decision, every time.

The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.

Choosing a bank

* Know your priorities;

* Check locations and ATMs;

* Ensure excellent customer service; and

* Know the bank’s record of security

— R.O.