Cut Banking Time

To save time in those long drive-through bank lines, get your transactions ready ahead of time and beat the rush.

Don't you often feel like you always choose the longest line at the bank? Whether in your car at the drive-through window or standing inside waiting for a teller, lines can be long, boring, and draining, especially during rush times like the end of the month, Fridays, or holiday seasons.

To reduce the amount of time you spend performing this onerous task, plan ahead by preparing your transactions and zipping through the line ahead of other customers. Here's what to do.

1. Write out your transactions before leaving home. Deposit slips, withdrawal forms, and coin savers can be filled out and signed ahead of time. If you feel uneasy about signing a check for cashing or deposit before you actually arrive at the bank, especially if you have other errands first, then save that part for your last-minute signature. But get everything else ready, paper clip the items together, and place them in a specially designated area in your purse or wallet. You don't want to spend precious minutes searching vainly for these elusive forms as other customers fume behind you. The teller and other customers will thank you!

2. Get your identification ready. Place your driver's license, power of attorney form, or other needed documents in an easy to find place within your wallet or purse. Extensive documents can be inserted into a envelope and carried with you separately. Call ahead if you're not sure which documents might be needed, especially if this is a new bank, a new account, or a new kind of transaction for you.

3. Beat the crowd. First thing in the morning is usually a good time to show up at the bank. Sometimes there is a mild "rush" about nine o'clock or so, especially around the holidays. Around eleven a.m. is another good time to go, as well as mid-afternoon. The worst times to get in line are lunch-time and after work.

4. If you pull in and see a line of four or more cars at the drive-through window, consider going inside. Sometimes an outdoor line of customers means that there may be fewer inside. You can't tell for sure, but it may be worth a look. Or you can watch the outside line for a moment or two to see if it is moving steadily. If not, park and enter the bank doors for an inside transaction.

5. Don't plan for more than three transactions at the drive-through window. Most banks will direct you indoors for several items. Also, some banks will not accept coin wrappers at the drive-through, as these usually are counted for verification before the bank will accept them. Foreign currency, travelers checks, mortgage or other documents, and special needs, like requesting copies of past statements for an account are the kinds of tasks that typically must be addressed by an inside teller.

Don't waste time by randomly showing up at the bank only to discover you left your checkbook at home. Prepare ahead of time and be ready to roll when your turn at the window comes up.

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