Consumer Comeback Blog

7 Tips to Make Switching Banks Worth the Hassle

Written by Jeffrey Trull

bank-account-changeHit with another fee from your bank? You might be annoyed, especially if it’s a monthly maintenance charge just for having an account open or a fee you never knew existed before.

Aside from fees alone, there are many more reasons to switch banks. Although a lot of people don’t make the banking change despite wanting to, there’s money on the line as well as added convenience and potentially better service, too.

Here’s how to pick a new bank that’s worth the trouble of ditching your old one.

Find lower fees

One new trend in banking is the emergence of monthly fees just for holding an account.

For example, Bank of America charges a fee of $12 per month when you don’t meet their requirements to have the fee waived. U.S. Bank charges monthly fees from $6.95 to $19.95 per month, depending on the account you hold. Many more large banks do the same.

Fees at both Bank of America and U.S. Bank can be waived entirely with combinations of direct deposits and account balances, so you’ll have to keep an eye on these details to actually have a free account.

If you’re like me, you prefer a bank account that’s always free without having to worry about if that’s going to change. Many options are still out there that offer completely free checking without any monthly fees. Check out USAA Bank and Ally Bank, as well as local banks and credit unions.

Other fees can cost you money, too, like fees for ordering new checks or overdraft protection. Make sure to check the fees on your current account and compare them to other banks. You may be surprised to find there are many more freebies out there than you imagined.

Determine your in-person banking needs

Traditional banks have physical branches that you can walk into and make transactions with a person. While some people prefer to have this option, I’ve found I can get along without an actual bank easier than I originally thought.

There are tradeoffs, like online banks requiring you to mail in or photograph checks to deposit them. But if you’re open to online banking only, you’ll have more options and benefits to choose from.

Get recommendations from others

The best banks that you may want to consider might not be the household names that we see advertised on TV or when we drive down the street.

Check with family and friends to see who they recommend. Be sure to ask about their experience with customer service, too, since it can make the difference of not only convenience but money as well.

Look at online reviews, too. MyBankTracker.com has a list of the highest rated banks based on customer reviews in areas like customer service, fees, interest rates, and more.

Check ATM availability

No matter what bank you’ll choose, you’ll likely want easy access to ATMs without having to pay fees. But it’s actually become a myth that if you don’t use your own bank’s ATM you’ll always have to pay the fee out of your own pocket.

Some banks, like Ally Bank and Charles Schwab, let you use any ATM and recover the fee without charge. Others are part of networks of ATMs where it’s free as long as particular ATMs belong. Finding ATMs is easier than ever with smartphones, too.

Cover your online banking needs

Online banking offers many features, but that still depends on the bank you choose. If you haven’t changed over yet, this probably means avoiding online-only banks. But if you prefer to have statements emailed instead of snail-mailed, you’ll want to take a closer look at the online banking features available.

Some of these include:

  • Checking account balances
  • Making transfers between accounts
  • Online bill pay
  • Photo deposit from a mobile phone or scanner
Make sure to see if banks charge for these features, too. For example, some may offer free online bill pay while others may charge you for it unless you meet requirements similar to those monthly maintenance charges.

From my experience, the largest banks tend of have the easiest-to-use interfaces for online banking. But that will likely continue to change, too.

Any interest offered

It’s getting harder to find any accounts that pay interest that’s worth noting. If you’re looking to earn something on your money, there are several banks that offer interest of just under 1% on savings accounts, including Ally Bank and Discover Bank.

Some banks offer a return on checking accounts, too, but with rates so low, this might not factor into your banking account decision.

Rewards

There are banks that offer rewards for using your debit card, which is tied to a checking account.

Ally Bank offers their Ally Perks program, where debit card users can get money back for purchases at certain retailers.

PerkStreet Financial offers rewards similar to that found on reward credit cards. With PerkStreet you’ll receive 1% back on all purchases regardless of balance, and 2% with purchases at certain retailers.

Get bonus promotions

While bonuses and promotions shouldn’t be the one reason to open an account, they can be a nice bonus when you’re going to make the change anyway.

Some offers available include:

  • ING Direct – Get a $50 bonus when you open up an Electric Orange Checking account.
  • Citibank – Get up to $100 to open a new account when you meet offer qualifications.
  • US Bank – Get up to $100 when you open a new savings account and save at least $1,000.
Check local banks to see if they offer anything, too.

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