What Kind of Bank is Right for Me?

Last week we looked at how to choose a credit union and why you might be best off at a big bank. Let’s take a few minutes to recap and help you decide what kind of bank is right for you.

Credit Unions

Do you have fairly simple needs? Are you someone happy with a checking account, savings account, and an ATM at your bank branch? Do you stay around home and have limited need for mobile banking?

If you said yes to those questions, you are a perfect candidate for a credit union. As the detailed post explained, credit unions are great for a lot of people. If your banking needs are limited to what a typical checking and savings account offers, you don’t need to waste time or money with a big bank. Credit unions usually have lower fees and better customer service, so this is the route for you.

Online Banks

Do you have a complicated account structure? Do you need to link up your checking, savings, investments, PayPal, multiple credit cards, and use your accounts as an automated funnel for your finances? Do you need online and mobile access to your accounts 24-7? Do you hate cash and wish everyone would just split the bill with credit cards to make it easier?

If those questions describe you, you probably want an online bank. I rarely use cash and hate having to split the bill with people who refuse to use a card. I like transferring money with my phone and depositing checks with my camera.

I have lots of accounts with different purposes, and my online bank works great for transfers and automating my money.

If this describes you, take a look at Charles Schwab Bank, Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct), PerkStreet, or Ally Bank for online options.

Big Banks

Do you like cash and easy ATM access? Do you make regular deposits in person? Do you want to keep things simple and under one roof?

If you like the simplicity of dealing with one bank and enjoy having both physical banks and ATMs everywhere, you would probably be happy at Chase, Citi, Bank of America, US Bank, Wells Fargo, or one of the other big box banks out there.

These banks are not known for customer service or low costs, but they are everywhere and they have every service you might need.

What I Do: A Combination

I ditched my big bank account when they decided to charge me a monthly fee. I am now using a combination of an online bank (Charles Schwab) and a credit union.

For the bulk of my banking needs, Schwab is amazing. I get free ATMs everywhere (they automatically reimburse other bank’s fees) including international. I can deposit checks from my phone. I can transfer funds to other banks for free online. I can easily move money between my bank and brokerage accounts online or with my phone. I can use the online bill pay to send payments and I get a checkbook for free.

For the few things I can’t do with Schwab, my free credit union account lets me deposit cash or coins into a savings account. I have considered adding checking and a safe deposit box there as well.

In combination, the two financial institutions cover all of my needs. I keep my old 360 Checking account open for P2P transfers from my roommate for rent, but other than that I have closed all of my other accounts.

What You Do?

What have you done in the past for your banking needs? Based on what you read here, do you have any ideas for improving your efficiency or saving money? Please share in the comments.

Image by Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden

2 thoughts on “What Kind of Bank is Right for Me?”

  1. Combination works for me!  I use a large commercial bank for checking, ATMs and other services.  It is convenient and free.  I have a very long relationship with them and I leverage that relationship to get what I want. The commercial relationship was very important when I was i business.   I also have had a credit union relationship for nearly 40 years.  I used them for car loans and savings.  Everything depends on your needs and what you may need in the future.

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