A bank is a bank is a bank is a bank right? So, why are there so many banks in the United States? Well, there are plenty of reasons but one of which is that each and every bank out there solves one problem or another for those people who hold accounts there. In the next few hundred words I’ll tell you which types of bank accounts you’ll need and where to go look for that type of account. By types of account I don’t mean savings, checking, money market, brokerage, retirement, or whatever account – I mean the purpose of the account. Once you identify the purpose of the account, it’s far easier to pick the right bank for you.
Daily Access Account
The daily access account is an account that you want conveniently located such that it’s easy for you to get your money very quickly. With the proliferation of automated teller machines (ATMs), it’s often just as good to have access to your bank’s ATM and not an actual full service branch. For me, my daily access account is a savings and checking account at Bank of America. I’ve heard of some horror stories from Bank of America (then again I’ve heard horror stories from every bank) but when it comes to ATMs, I don’t think anyone has them beat. Everywhere I go I see a Bank of America ATM and anytime I’ve needed money, a BoA ATM was just around the corner. What you need is a bank just like that in the places you go.
One important consideration with your daily access account is whether there are fees. Usually you can avoid fees by keeping a balance above a certain amount or by setting up a direct deposit. Since your daily access account’s interest rate will probably suck big time, you will want to keep as little as possible. You also want to pay exactly $0 in fees so pick this account wisely.
High Yield Savings Account
Let’s face it, right now CDs and bonds just don’t cut it. Everywhere you turn is another online bank that is offering you over 4.00% APY on your savings. While I’d be wary of picking any hole in the wall, ING Direct  and FNBO Direct  have been doing the online thing for quite some time. Emigrant is also an online extension of their brick and mortar bank. Either way, your high yield savings account is where you will want to store the bulk of your regular savings. Emergency fund? Stick it in a high yield savings account .
One recommendation I have is that if you happen to be one of the lucky folks who has their Daily Access Account at Citibank, you’re in luck because they also have a high yield savings account that you can link directly to your regular Citibank account. Instead of waiting the 5-7 days to transfer funds from one bank to another, Citibank customers can do it instantaneously. If it were convenient I’d have a Citibank account.
If you do a lot of traveling, an international account is a must. I don’t know how many banks do this but one big one is HSBC . Many of my relatives hav HSBC accounts that they can get access to whenever they are in Taiwan and China or here in the good old US of A. From what I hear, the international account and the domestic account are held separately but you can transfer funds between the two relatively easily. Either way, I think that this is preferable to exchanging cash at the ripoff counter at the airport. (if you have a Capital One card, you can make international purchases without that pesky surcharge , Discover too but that’s less widely accepted)
Good Loan Terms Account
Nothing beats a credit union in this department. In fact, I’m a member of a credit union only because they generally have favorable loan terms! (I currently have exactly $6 in my account there) Credit unions are designed to work in favor of its members, so it will usually have the best loan terms compared to a commercial bank (they are designed to work in favor of its shareholders). Everyone can find a credit union they can join and everyone should join one because it will likely cost you nothing and you never know when you’ll need a loan.
This can be at a bank or with a brokerage but having a retirement account is crucial. What you want to do is pick a bank or brokerage that has what you want with the lowest amount of fees. You want mutual funds? Life cycle / target retirement funds? Find the cheapest brokerage because those little percentage points are going to add up over the next few decades.
Everyone should have a brokerage account if they are saving their money and have more than they need in an emergency fund. This account can be tied into your retirement account but you will want one so you can start putting some of your hard earned money to work.
That’s it, those six bank account types cover essentially everything you need. (I hope! If I’m wrong or missed something, please let me know!)