If you think of your financial life as one giant road trip with financial stability as the end destination, one of the first things you’ll need to do is find yourself a good co-pilot. Someone dependable, who will have your back if the going gets tough. Someone who understands you—how you operate, what your needs are—and someone you’ll enjoy having along for the ride!
In the context of finance, that co-pilot is your bank.
A good working relationship with a financial institution is part of a solid financial foundation, and it’s important to find the right one to work with. Depending on where you live, you’ll probably have several to choose from, so here are a few things to consider when selecting a bank:
• Location of branches and ATMs — While the days of traditional banking are giving way to online tools and mobile apps, it’s still good to find one that is conveniently located, in the event that you need to physically visit the branch. Also, consider their ATM locations in relation to where you live and work. Is there a branch ATM nearby? Many branches are also part of networks that don’t charge fees, so be sure to find out as you research different banks.
• Fairly priced products and services — Different banks will offer different accounts and services. Be sure to do a good comparison between banks you’re considering; take into account interest rates and fees associated with their various accounts.
• The overall “vibe” — Remember, you’re choosing a partner accompany you on your journey toward financial success. Interacting with your bank should be a positive experience, so be sure to find a bank that will take the time to understand your needs and genuinely wants your business. Trust your instincts—if you’re not getting the right feeling when you walk into a branch or speak to someone on the phone, find another institution.
When you walk into the branch, be prepared and know what you need, but also ask questions. Make sure you’re getting the products and services that are best for you. If you’re opening an account for the first time, you’ll need your Social Security number, identification and proof of residency. Consider signing up for some basic accounts and services: a checking account, savings account and ATM card are a good place to start. You could also consider enrolling in direct deposit to make it even easier to receive your paycheck.
Having all of these services under one roof and getting to know your personal banker can help keep your financial life simple, and can help down the road when you need other things like loans or mortgages.