Saving Money And Hassle: Get The Best Banking Services

Before opening a new account, shop for the best banking services in your community to save hassles, time, and money.

It used to be that people opened a checking or savings account at a bank affiliated with their place of employment or one that was located nearby for convenience. Nowadays, online banking options means that you might choose to open an account in another part of the country, or in another country altogether, for that matter.

Although the challenge of making the best possible choice can be daunting, the value of so many banking options allows customers to choose from among a plethora of institutions and services to find those most suited to their lifestyle and financial needs.

If you're not sure where to open an account or how to shop for the best services, here are some tips that might help:

1. Look for promotions. They're hard to miss. Banks now advertise new account enticements such as a $25 deposit or no annual fees through a variety of media, including building banners, radio announcements, and newspaper ads. Keep an eye on the local banks in your area, and if one in particular interests you because of its location or reputation, call or stop in to ask when a promotion might be offered.

2. Compare banking service. If one bank offers free checking but another will give you a lower credit card rate, weigh your options to see which will prove most beneficial. If you don't need another credit card, the first bank might be better. Or if you're planning to refinance your home, check out the mortgage rates, which can help you save a bundle over the life of the loan. Don't assume that because one service is a good fit, all of them at that bank will be. Try to get the best package deal overall.

3. Ask about hidden fees or conditions. When a bank offers a new checking account with no maintenance fees, this may mean you will receive a monthly statement but no cancelled checks. If this is unsatisfactory, keep looking for another bank. If you're not sure, ask about the trade-offs to various accounts and services. Another bank may tempt you with a half-percent lower refinancing loan for your mortgage. But upon further investigation, you learn that there is a three-point fee assessment for the reapplication process. Or you may be required to have your paycheck direct-deposited into a checking account there so the mortgage can be deducted each month. These stipulations may be acceptable, but the point is you need to be aware of them before making a decision.

4. Inquire about banking hours, locations, and after-hours options. Unless you prefer banking during typical bankers' hours, you may be interested in having an account where you can access it at various times. For example, there may be a branch inside a supermarket that you pass on the way home from work; the bank may remain open at that location until 8 p.m. If this is an attractive perk to your lifestyle, this may be the bank for you. Or even if a bank offers attractive low fees, if all the offices are located at some distance from your home, you may not appreciate driving those extra miles every month. Weigh out the pro's and con's before making a commitment.

5. Don't forget to check into online banking options. Find out if your account activity is secure and if the system is usually stable. A related service would be the option of using an ATM for electronic banking.

Managing your finances requires careful thought and decision-making. Visit several banks online or in person to find the best one for you.

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