One of the best decisions you can make for your money — and your peace of mind — is where to keep it. But, the process of finding the right financial institution can feel a tad daunting. Review this list of 10 things to consider to ensure you select just the right place.

1Monthly service fees

Many institutions charge fees for their services. These fees are deducted directly from your account and can vary based on account features such as interest rates, free transfers, and waived transaction fees.

Ask: “What benefits, apart from my account, does the monthly service fee cover?

2Overdraft fees and overdraft facilities

Overdraft fees occur when a transaction is returned to the bank due to a lack of funds in your account. Overdraft facilities are services that allow you to withdraw more money than you have with the understanding that you will pay back the funds with interest.

Ask: “What are your overdraft fees? Do you offer overdraft protection, and if so, how much interest is applied to the funds?”

3Hidden fees

Hidden fees can include, but are not limited to:

  1. Stop-payment fees for transactions you want to cancel
  2. Statement fees for paper statements that you keep for your records
  3. Out-of-network ATM fees that are tacked onto ATM operator’s fees.
    1. This fee combines the charge from your bank and the ATM owner, for the convenience of using the ATM.

Ask: “Which of your services incur fees, and will the charges be automatically deducted from my account?”

4Interest rates

If you’re searching for a savings account, high-interest savings and money market accounts are great ways to make money while you sleep. Meaning, after you deposit cash into the account, your money will accrue compound interest on a daily, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

Ask: “What is the interest rate on your savings and money market accounts, and how often does the interest compound?”

5High-yield checking accounts

If you love to swipe that debit card and make a little extra money when you do it, this account may be for you. Here are a few qualifiers to keep in mind:

  1. Many high-yield checking accounts require you to keep a minimum balance and complete a minimum number of transactions per month.
  2. You may be required to consistently use services like direct deposit and ATM withdrawals.
  3. It is also important to understand the current annual percentage yield, or “APY,” as they change frequently.

Ask: “Do you offer a high-yield checking account? What is the current annual percentage yield (APY) for this type of account? Can you describe the steps that I need to take to earn a higher interest rate on my checking account?”

6Accessibility and technology

When selecting a financial institution, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and how you typically interact with your bank. Do you need a banking app, and what features are must-haves? Ask each potential institution what they do to make banking innovative and improve the customer experience. 

Ask: “Do you offer a banking app? How many branches and ATMs do you have across the nation?

7FDIC or NCUA insurance

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) are entities that not only insure $250,000 per depositor, per institution, or per ownership category, but they also set strict standards for financial institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of their practices.

Ask: If you’re a customer at a bank: “Are you an FDIC-insured bank?”
If you’re a member of a credit union: “Are you an NCUA-insured credit union?”

8Peer-to-peer payments

Sending money for thank you’s, birthdays, or graduation gifts is a long-standing tradition. In recent years, this gift-giving process has become more convenient thanks to peer-to-peer payment services like Zelle.

Ask: “Do you offer any peer-to-peer payment services? Are there any fees associated with using this service?”

9Withdrawal and deposit limits

Whether you want to deposit a check using the mobile app or withdraw money from your local ATM, you should be aware of what limits are in place and their time frames.

Ask: “Are there any limits on how much money I can deposit or withdraw using services like the mobile app or the ATM?”

10Product and services offerings

Products and services can vary from one financial institution to the other and include, but are not limited to:

  1. Ways for you to receive money, such as loans, ATMs, credit cards, and debit cards
  2. Customer service and consultancy services that help you manage your money
  3. Envelope systems to help customers improve their finances

Ask: “What products and services set your institution apart from the rest?” “Do you have any tools that can help me reach my financial goals?”