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ABA: The American Bankers Association
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Finding the right bank means assessing your needs first. Whether you're looking for a new bank or just want to evaluate how well your current banking relationship is meeting your needs, answering the following questions can help you identify your "banking personality" and perhaps make your shopping a bit less of a chore.

  • What is your goal in establishing a banking relationship? Answers may include "to save money," "to have a checking account," "to get a loan," or all of the above.

  • How much money can you keep on deposit each month and how many checks will you write? This will help you figure out how complex or simple an account you might need. "Packaged" or "multi-service" accounts offer a variety of services for one fee, while "no frills" accounts offer a minimum number of services at an extra-low price. Other accounts might be designed cafeteria-style: you choose from a variety of services and pay as you go.

  • Will you be buying a home or car or making another large purchase in the near future? You'll want to find out about the variety of loan products offered.

  • If you hope to save for a big expense or toward your child's (or your own!) future education, you'll also want to find out how many savings products are offered. Many banks now offer uninsured investments, such as mutual funds, as well as the more traditional insured deposit accounts.

  • What time of day do you expect to do most of your banking? Some people prefer to visit the bank during their work hours, while others prefer a bank located close to home that they can visit over the weekend.

  • Do you like the convenience of automated teller machines and other types of electronic services — like banking through your personal computer, or do you prefer to deal directly with bank personnel? Answering this question will help you determine if you'd be happier at a bank with an extensive branch network emphasizing regular, evening, or weekend hours, or one that focuses more on electronic services like ATMs and PC banking.

Now that you have the answers to these questions, call or visit several banks near your home or office — more and more banks even offer information over the Internet. Shop your current bank first if you think your relationship isn't all it could be.

Perhaps they have introduced new accounts or services you aren't even aware of that would better suit your needs. Let them know if the level of service or convenience don't meet your expectations and give them the opportunity to design a relationship that works for you.

Compare fees and service charges at the banks you're considering, as well as interest rates on loans and deposit accounts. What does each charge for services like cashiers checks, safe deposit box rental and ATM use?

Because price isn't the only — or even most important — factor for most people in choosing a bank, take a minute to think about how comfortable you feel at each institution. Are your questions answered quickly and accurately? Do customer service personnel offer helpful suggestions? Will the hours and locations save you time and meet the demands of your lifestyle?

Finally, look for an institution that is federally insured. This means your deposits will be protected by the FDIC. The FDIC has raised its coverage amount to $250,000 per depositor per insured bank. Look for FDIC stickers on bank doors and teller windows.