When opening a new checking account, one of the most important things to consider is the range of banking features to which you’ll have access. Research shows that when it comes to banking and financial management in general, technology is taking over. For example, according to a March 2016 survey from the Federal Reserve, 43% of mobile-phone owners who had a bank account reported using mobile banking services in the 12 months prior to the survey. 

6 Must-Have Banking Features

Certain bank-account features are indispensable if you want to have convenient access to your money as well as the ability to pay bills, make transfers quickly and manage your balances. Some important things to look for when opening a new bank account are:

1. A Debit Card

A debit card allows you to pay for purchases without having to carry cash. If you do need a few bucks, you can hit the ATM or get cash back at the register. A NextAdvisor survey found that 42% of consumers chose debit as their preferred way to pay. When opening a new bank account, be sure that a debit card is included and check to see whether there’s any fee for having one.

2. Online and Mobile Banking

Being able to check your balance from your smartphone or laptop is invaluable if you like to keep a close eye on your bottom line. That’s particularly important if you want to avoid expensive overdraft fees. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), banks raked in $2.5 billion in overdraft fees during the first quarter of 2016 alone. Knowing what you have on hand and what you’re spending can keep you from losing money to fees.  

3. Mobile Check Deposit

Mobile check deposit saves you the hassle of having to make a trip to the bank. You just snap a picture of your check with your smart phone and, with a few taps of a button, it gets deposited without ever having to hit the teller window or even an ATM. Just keep in mind that some banks enforce a longer check hold time when you’re making deposits via a mobile device.

4. Online Bill Pay

Online bill pay is another feature that you should look for in a primary bank if you’re tired of writing checks. Federal Reserve data show that as of 2014, the typical consumer wrote five checks per month, compared with making nearly seven electronic payments per month. Paying bills online eliminates the hassle of writing checks and mailing them. Even better, you can automate your monthly payments, so you don’t have to worry about paying late. (For more, see Automating Your Bill Payments.)

5. Email and Text Alerts

While you’re scheduling your automatic bill payments, you should also be setting up text and email alerts for your accounts. For example, you could set an alert notifying you when your balance drops to a certain point or each time a new transaction posts to your account. That could really come in handy if you’re concerned about a hacker stealing your account information and making fraudulent charges.

6. Excellent Security

Identity theft is no laughing matter. Nearly four in 10 consumers say their bank accounts have been targeted by cyber attacks, according to a KPMG report. When comparing bank accounts, be sure to ask about the security measures a particular bank has in place. For example, find out whether fraud monitoring and an on/off switch for your debit and credit cards are available. (For more, see Debit Card Fraud: Is Your Money at Risk?

The Bottom Line

One final thing to keep in mind when looking for a primary bank account is whether or not it is FDIC-insured. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation offers coverage of up to $250,000 per deposit account, but banks aren’t mandated to have this coverage. When comparing banks, check their insurance status to make sure your hard-earned dollars are protected. 


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