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Your Take: What Do You Look For in a Bank or Credit Union?

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Ceramic Piggy BankThis week Liz Weston wrote about how to shop for a new bank and it made me think about how we chose the banks we work with now. For us, the criteria for judging a checking account differed from the criteria for judging a savings account. We use the two different types of accounts for different purposes, so the criteria for picking the “best” for us will vary between the two.

For a checking account, I’m looking for a brick and mortar back that is the cheapest option with the widest reach. By cheapest, I mean one where I won’t have to pay any fees as long as I meet fairly straightforward rules like a minimum balance. By widest reach, I want one where there are ATMs in as many areas as possible. That’s why we still have a Bank of America MyAccess Checking Account – no minimum balance and no monthly maintenance fee if opened online. There are Bank of America ATMs pretty much everywhere, so the reach part is satisfied.

For an online bank, it’s all about interest rates. Right now, most of our money is at Ally Bank because they lead the pack in high yield savings accounts. My strategy used to be to open an account at the highest yield bank and put any new savings into that account, but we’ve recently abandoned that practice. We’re trying to simplify our finances and opening a new account just to get a 0.1% difference isn’t worth it to us. (note: we weren’t rate chasing, as that rarely works out, we were only moving new money from checking to savings)

Lately, however, we’ve been thinking more about supporting local credit unions. When you go with a local credit union, it’s more likely that your funds will be reinvested back into the community. When that happens, the community, and thus you, benefits more than if your money sits on the balance sheet of a huge national conglomerate.

What do you look for in a bank and why do you do business with the ones that you are with now?

(Photo: alancleaver)

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46 Responses to “Your Take: What Do You Look For in a Bank or Credit Union?”

  1. Shirley says:

    My checking account is with the local credit union because their customer service is excellent. I use their free online bill pay service and write possibly 12 to 18 checks a year.

  2. Ken says:

    I like friendly faces when choosing a brick and mortar bank. I also insist on online access to my accounts. Anything less is caveman-like. I also like a bank thay makes efficiency a priority. I don’t like hoops to jump through.

  3. Kyle says:

    ATMs a very important when choosing a bank for your checking account. I made the mistake of using an online bank that had a lot of ATMs but none of them are convienient to my normal routine. It has ended up costing me more in ATM fees then I could ever hope to earn in interest from having the account online.

    Another thing to consider is hold periods on deposits. My online bank holds even my direct deposits for three days do it makes getting at my money hard sometimes.

  4. Revanche says:

    I’m really picky about my banking needs, which is probably why I’m still using three different banks to cover them:

    ATM access
    Reasonable B&M hours (9-4 is not reasonable. *cough* Citibank!)
    Full online access
    Savings subaccounts, easily linkable
    Reasonable hold on deposit/withdrawal policies.
    Competitive interest rates

    I’m looking forward to finding a bank that provides all of the above services so I can consolidate my accounts again.

  5. AndyG says:

    Why do you people consistently ignore Discover Bank ? Their current online savings rate is 1.6, which beats yor Ally by .11

  6. I look for the same criteria with both a checking and savings account. With a checking account, one thing that I do like is availability of the bank. I hate having to drive out of the way just to get some cash or deposit money into my account.

  7. JimmyDaGeek says:

    I’ve started playing the interest rate game, as a new bank comes online. But my banking is done with a B&M bank where I’ve had a free checking account forever, for the convenience of depositing checks and ATM access. I use ING for all my bill paying and my main savings account. ING’s bill pay has gotten a bit more expensive in that they take a week to send a check, but since I don’t pay postage, I won’t complain too hard. Although ING has free ATM access, you have to look it up on the computer to find them, while my B&M ATM is just up the street and easily found.

  8. hoht says:

    Credit Union all the way… until I get older.


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