Starting your first bank account can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. A good amount of planning and research can make the job a lot easier. The following tips are here to prepare you on the first step of your journey. Welcome to the wonderful and extremely complicated world of bank accounts.
1. Determine how much money you wish to put in the account.
Some banks require a minimum starting balance, commonly in the two figure range. Bring a check or cash with you when you start your account. There may also be monthly service charges for certain accounts, depending on the tier. Student and online banking accounts tend to not have these charges. It’s also a good idea to set up a schedule for adding to your bank account. Money does very little good sitting in your pocket, and you might as well earn some interest on it if you can.
2. Beware of the fees.
In today’s economy, a lot of banks are choosing to implement more and more fees and penalties for things people used to receive for free. Take some time to read the fine print. Will you be charged for going into the bank and talking to a real person? Does the savings account have a monthly fee? Will the company reimburse you for ATM transactions, or are you expected to cover those by yourself? Ask plenty of questions before starting an account.
3. Look past the free stuff.
Many banks will try to lure you in with promotions like “Spend $1000 in your first month and get $50 free!” This can be very unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Take into consideration the bank’s conditions, limitations, and general practices. Once the promotions are over, the cool bank that tossed you a few extra bucks might not be all that great.
4. Map out the nearest ATMs and branches.
This is one that’s easy to forget. If you don’t have easy access to a convenient ATM, especially one owned by the bank itself, it may not be worth your time. ATM access can vary wildly from location to location, so it’s best to do the research beforehand. Make sure you have at least one within your city, and also consider the places you tend to frequent (vacations, traveling sports destinations, etc.) Carrying cash these days is not as big of a deal anymore, but it’s good to have the option available.
5. Consider going “online-only.”
Many banks today, such as Ally and ING Direct, offer online-only banking services. If you have direct deposit for your job and you’re pretty tech savvy, these accounts tend to come with almost no fees and can be a great way to keep as much of your money as possible. They also usually cover any ATM fees you may encounter. The caveat, of course, is the fact that they are online-only. In other words, don’t expect to have a branch to go into if you encounter a problem.
6. Get used to the idea of money sitting still.
When you were a child, you probably spent money any time you received it. It might not seem like it, but money is actually more fun when you take the time to save it up. To do so, you have to learn to keep it in the bank. It isn’t burning a hole in your pocket; it’s actually biding its time for an emergency down the line, or a time when you really need it for something.
7. Don’t be afraid to walk away at any time.
You aren’t committing to a lifelong relationship with your bank of choice. If your circumstances change over time, whether you move to a new city or begin to share your income with another person, you may want to reconsider your options. Although banks do reward loyalty, there is no need to stick to one if it’s just not working. This is also true if you’ve just started banking with a company and they aren’t living up to your expectations.
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