I have always had a love/hate relationship with banks. Love too, you say? Yes, as I worked through most of college at banks, doing everything from check processing to mortgage collections, I gained insight and appreciation for how banks operate. Hate, as most people do, for as consumers we feel banks are not on our side and are just trying to slap fees on us and make it hard to access our money, among other choice topics I am sure.
As I have these negative opinions of my current bank, I have often considered leaving them for someone else. But why?
I decided to write down the features of consumer banking I am looking for. Rather than thinking of the type of bank (or credit union) I'd ideally like to move to, I decided to focus initially on my “pain points” - or the things I think about most often when banking.
So whether you are with a bank and looking for a new account, or a student in a new college town and looking for a local bank, here's what I am considering for my must-haves in a new bank.
- 1. All free – “All” includes checking, savings, ATM usage, foreign ATM usage, online banking, bill pay and cashiers checks, plus no minimum balances. Am I asking for a lot here? No, as bank accounts are the entre into loans with banks, where the real money is made.
- 2. True overdraft protection – As in a credit line, not to a credit card tied to your account. Granted most banks that have overdraft protection have real credit lines, however my current bank does not.
- 3. Non-cheesy online banking and bill pay – I always ask to see a demo, as some online banking is cheesy, especially for smaller banks who use third parties, or like my current one who has a “virtual wallet” metaphor that I never use and is just added clicks to getting to my balance. Oh, and I like to see my check images in online banking as well, especially as I always chose the paperless statements option.
- 4. Bill pay with money coming out of my account right away – This is one of my pet peeves. Where most people like playing the Checkfloat Game, I don't, namely as I lose all the time. If I use bill pay, I want the money out of my account right away.
- 5. ATM accepts cash and checks for deposit – I am hooked on depositing cash into an ATM, the ATM counting it, and crediting it right away.
- 6. Mobile banking with check deposit – Having the ability to not go to a bank or ATM to deposit a check is a wonderful thing.
- 7. Saturday hours – Despite what I said above, there are always the occasions when I need to go to a bank and talk with a human being. As my schedule doesn't always allow me to go during the week, going on a weekend day is a nice feature to have.
When I evaluate a bank, I will simply bring a printout of this blog post with me as my checklist. I would love to have your thoughts as to what features you look for, and feel free to leave them here in the comments to this post. That way they will be on the same printout checklist.
In the meantime, I’ll share this video for the song, “I Hate Banks” by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper from the 1980’s, which Chicago Cubs fans will especially like. Note it may not be safe to play at work, which of course depends on where you work!
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
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