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Whether you are just graduating from high school or college, getting your first job or just wanting a refresher, banking is one of those things that is pertinent to our lifestyles but is not something instinctual. We must learn it. In addition, going to the bank for the first time may seem a little intimidating, especially if you are not prepared.
Learning as much as possible about the basics of banking is a great way to create smart financial habits that will last a lifetime and finding a bank that will best meet your needs depends, in large part, on your spending and saving habits – or the ones you are trying to cultivate.
So, the more you know about how you are likely to use your account, the more effective your search can be. Here are some basic banking tips to help you take that first step.
All banks are not the same.
Before you settle on a place to bank, it is smart to know what your options are. You have more choices than you might think. Banks come in all shapes and sizes, and you may find yourself using one or two different types of banks at the same time.
For the most part, banks can be divided into five categories:
- National or regional banks
- Community banks
- Credit unions
- Non-bank banks
- Online or virtual banks
Each type may appeal to you for different reasons – from the services you need, to the accessibility you require, to the prices you are willing to pay. Different banks also charge different fees. And, in some cases, you may have to qualify to use a bank’s services, too.
Doing your research is the first step in making a wise decision about your bank.
Once you have chosen your bank, then you need to decide what type of accounts you want to open. The first and most obvious is your personal checking account.
A checking account gives you a place to keep your money and still have easy access to it. It also helps you keep track of how much money you have and how much you are spending. There are also many options that you can have with your account such as overdraft protection, bill pay, online access and direct deposit.
Normally you can add and remove options from your account as your lifestyle and needs change. Look for accounts that do not charge for such changes and that offer accounts that can adapt.
A savings account is another type of account that usually is obvious and should definitely be opened in conjunction with your checking account. Once again, there will be several choices of accounts and you will need to choose the one that suits you best.
Savings accounts too offer different options and features such as an automatic savings plan tied in with your checking account or with your employer. Money that you plan to save for more than a few months should be kept in accounts with higher compound interest, so that it earns more. Some types of accounts that would meet this need are CD, money market, or investment accounts.
The hardest account to decide upon is a credit account.
Many banks will offer low introductory interest rate card promotions to help sell their credit cards. Be very wise in your credit decisions, for that one decision could have great impact on your financial status.
There are tons of different types of credit cards and features out there and hopefully your bank has one that meets your needs perfectly.
Keeping all your financial tools at one institution is a great way to keep it all together. However do not discount having accounts at more than one institution if the offers are too good to pass up!
Once you get your banking experience off to a good start, then you should learn to keep track of your deposits and withdrawals.
Although banks do not usually make errors in addition or subtraction, they are not perfect. So keep all your deposit slips, ATM and debit card receipts, and other slips of paper until you have checked them against your monthly statement.
When your bank mails your statement, or when you check your statement online, you can compare the amount the bank says you have with what your records show. Figuring out how to make them match if there is a big discrepancy is not a lot of fun. Nevertheless, it will help you stay in control, financially speaking.
In conclusion, if your banking needs are limited to a single savings account, choosing a bank is probably just a simple matter of finding the one that is paying the highest interest rate and charging the lowest fees.
However, as your needs grow – to checking accounts, online accounts, and loans, for example – choosing a bank may take a little more thought.
Do your homework; choose the bank and accounts that are best for you and you can enjoy a long financial relationship.