With a little common sense, most people won't have any trouble selecting a reputable bank. It's true that even reputable, big-name banks can fail (like Washington Mutual in 2008), but like we said, FDIC insurance will protect your money in those situations. Here are some criteria to consider when choosing where to open a checking account.
First and foremost, you want to use a legitimate bank. Sticking with a large, widely known bank should be a safe bet. If you're considering a smaller institution, or if you just want to be extra safe, use the Bank Find tool at the FDIC's Web site to make sure the bank is a member of the FDIC. If you want to do more in-depth research, see the FDIC's Institution Directory and its Call & Thrift Financial Reports.
Most people want to use a bank that has a branch close to where they live and/or work so that visiting a teller and the ATM to make deposits and withdrawals will be convenient.
If you never leave town, there's no reason not to use a small, local bank. However, if you travel, you should choose a national or international bank so you'll have easy access to your money when you're out of town and won't have to pay services charges to use another bank's ATM to access your cash.
Some banks don't cost any money to use as long as you keep your account balance in the black, while others nickel and dime their customers with fees at every turn. Even small fees can add up over time and eat into your account balance, so look at a bank's fee schedule very carefully before you sign up and make sure you understand what you need to do to avoid fees - even if you sign up with a bank that advertises free checking. (Find out how to get the bank to pay you for using their services, not the other way around, in Cut Your Bank Fees.)
This may be hard to determine if you've never had a checking account before, but consider what would make banking comfortable and convenient for you. Do you prefer to talk to someone in person or interact with a machine? Do you want to be able to write lots of checks or would you rather pay bills online? What time of day/day of the week is convenient for you to bank? How responsible/forgetful are you with your money? Different banks have different features, and even different checking accounts within the same bank are designed to appeal to different sets of needs. If you have some idea of what you want, it will be a lot easier to pick the bank that's right for you.
- Wealth and Worth
Some bank accounts are designed for customers with large amounts of cash. If you're not one of those people, that's okay there are also plenty of options for people with smaller balances.
Some bank accounts are designed for people who can have their regular paycheck directly deposited by their employer. If you won't be making deposits this way, you'll need a more traditional account.
Banking: Check-Writing 101
Personal FinanceTake advantage of the deals banks offer, and find the right account for your financial situation.
Personal FinanceIf you’re just getting started with managing your own bank account, these tips will show you how to do it right.
Personal FinanceFrom internet banking to credit unions, it's in your power to cut fees and maximize service.
Personal FinanceThis owner's manual will show you what to expect from your bank.
Personal FinanceWhether you're moving or have just found a better no-fee plan, find out how to switch banks with ease.
Personal FinanceFind out how to get the bank to pay you for using their services, not the other way around.
Personal FinanceNot only are bank account interest rates measly, but fees can take a serious bite out your balance. Here's what to do.
Personal FinanceLearn how internet banking services stack up against those of their brick-and-mortar peers.
Personal FinanceYour banker is not your friend, and the more you know about their motives, the better you can protect your money.
Personal FinanceFor many, online banking has become a day-to-day routine. Still, there are some holdouts who refuse to accept the method.