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

This week Liz Weston wrote about how to shop for a new bank [3] 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 [4] because they lead the pack in high yield savings accounts [5]. 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 [6], 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 [7])