Recent headlines have given many banks a bad name.
Runaway investments and shady practices (notably resulting in the downfall of the housing market), have painted some financial institutions as either 21st century robber barons or simply inept.
Consumers, meanwhile, are on the march, with a recent trend toward transferring money into local banks and credit unions. The move hopefully will prove beneficial for the entire industry, as banks compete once again for customers' hard-earned cash.
Not surprisingly, all banks are (surprise!) in it for the money. So it's the wise consumer who knows how to use financial institutions to their own personal advantage. That is, by shopping around for the best deals on savings accounts, personal loans, and credit cards.
Questions to ask before you choose a bank
• Is your local bank convenient to home or work?
• Do they offer higher interest rates on savings accounts and CD's than other banks in your area?
• Do they provide online banking? (Nowadays, this should be standard.)
• How big is the banking institution? Can you find a branch or an ATM while on a vacation or business trip?
• Is the bank catering to those with deep pockets? Or are they actively seeking customers with smaller bank accounts?
• Does the bank provide special touches such as stellar customer service or bank officers your can actually talk with?
• Is phone support provided locally or farmed offshore?
• How much are their service fees? Even small ATM withdrawal charges can add up to a bundle over time.
Much like choosing a doctor, or a local supermarket -- it pays to shop around for a local bank that's right for you! Once you've done your homework, friends or neighbors can also give you personal advice on their own experiences with local banks.
Just up ahead, check
out how to find neighborhood banks, credit unions, and secure online banking, together with tips on using checking accounts and
bank credit cards, and charts you can use to calculate current
bank rates, fees and interest charges...
More about personal banking around the Web:
Bankrate.com - Excellent
layout and deep content including daily bank rates on CDs, personal loans and mortgages. Also check out Frugal U. for related tips and tricks.
Action - Take your pick of hundreds of banking and financial
services publications with sound advice on secure banking, how to avoid overdraft fees, and related tips.
Move Your Money - A natural reaction to the big banking scandal with tips & information on how to move your bank accounts to local neighborhood institutions and credit unions, with related headlines, resources.
Find a Better Bank.com - Search by zip code in all 50 states for comparisons of local community banks and credit unions by customer service ratings, fees and other variables.
Locator - Find an automatic teller machine anywhere in