It used to be choosing a bank was all about location, location, location. Did the bank have a branch near your home or place of business so you could conveniently make deposits and withdrawals? Technology has made location nearly inconsequential. A recent special supplement to the State Journal-Register offered tips on “How to Choose,” services including “How to Choose The Right Bank.” The information is reprinted below.
Selecting the Right Bank
Many times people choose banks because there’s a branch close to their home or place of work. But in today’s mobile world, location is hardly a factor, says Illinois National Bank’s Senior Vice President, Retail Executive Manager Kathy Greer. “When people come to us, they’re doing their research and asking smart questions.”
What about your products?
“Most importantly, people are looking for a bank offering the product they need now as well as those they think they’ll need in the near future,” says Greer. Most people start a banking relationship because they need a checking account. “Checking accounts aren’t what they used to be,” she continues. “Products are available today which provide benefits you didn’t find five years ago such as shopping discounts and cell phone coverage.”
Greer says savings accounts are more innovative as well. “You choose what you’re saving for; set your goal and savings target. You can have the money automatically transferred to your savings account, and when the goal is reached, you’ll have the cash you need instead of depending on credit.”
Though saving and checking accounts are often the basis of a bank relationship, as time goes on, most people need other bank services, so it’s ideal to choose a bank you can count on down the road. On the personal side, you may need mortgage and personal loans or investment and tax services. On the business side, you might need loan, cash management or lock box services. Greer explains: “So think long-term and find a bank that offers a full array of products.”
Does your bank provide me with secure, 24-hour access?
Make sure you’ll have secure access to your money and accounts when and where you need it. “Choose a bank that offers on-line, mobile and ATM services,” Greer says. “You should be able to look at balances, pay bills, make transfers, pay other people and deposit checks any time of the day or night.”
And while technology is critical to any good bank operation, does the bank offer the personal services of its staff?
How else can you help me?
Whether you’re just starting out as an early saver or a full-fledged business owner, your bank should be your financial partner. Look for a bank that provides education and training in the community and one-on-one guidance with its customers. Greer suggests you ask these questions: “Does the bank have educational materials on its website? Can I ask questions of my banker when I need to? If I need a general understanding of a financial concept, will someone take the time to explain?”
Do your employees care?
You need to be comfortable with the bank you choose and its employees, says Greer. “Does the staff greet customers by name? What are the bank’s values? Who makes the decisions? How does the bank contribute to the local community?” She says you shouldn’t be afraid to ask these questions when you sit down with a bank representative.
“Banks today are highly regulated,” explains Greer. Fees, interest rates, and safeguards for your money are pretty much the same across the board. It’s when you look beneath the surface that you’ll find the bank that’s the right fit for you.