There has been a lot of hoopla surrounding bank fees recently. Many of the big banks have been increasing their fees, and changing the rules associated with bank accounts. The situation can become frustrating, especially when you are being charged a $9 monthly fee. That’s the kind of money leak that can start to grate on you over time.
If you are looking for a better banking experience, it’s worth it to consider going local in order to get more competitive rates, reduce your fees, and even enjoy better customer service.
Advantages of Going Local
A lot of the time, we think of national banks as providing more services. Plus, they’re everywhere. A local credit union just won’t have the same number of branches around the country. The good news, though, is that technology is creating a situation in which you don’t necessarily need to access a brick and mortar version of your bank. Online banking makes it possible to pay your bills, and engage in other transactions, from anywhere. And, if you do need to visit a branch, check into co-ops. Many credit unions are part of a nationwide system that allows you to make ATM transactions, and even counter transactions with a teller, for free — as long as you are at a member institution.
So, with that big concern out of the way, it’s worth it to consider what a local financial institution may have to offer, including:
- Higher yields
- Low interest rates on loans
- Local decisions on banking, made by locals, and not so reliant on a computer algorithm
- Free checking accounts
- Variety of bank account options, including no-fee options
- Good customer service
- Investment and insurance services
- ATM fee refunds
In some cases, these financial institutions are even in better positions than the big banks, since they didn’t have as much leeway to engage in risky loans and invest in risky securities. While these advantages aren’t available at all local and regional financial institutions, it’s often possible to find what you are looking for in many cases. You can start by looking around town, or using a local branch finder online.
How about Online Banks?
You can also get good deals by going online. In many cases, the best yields are found when you choose online banks. These banks have lower overhead, and can often afford to pay better yields, and charge lower interest rates. Additionally, many of these financial institutions offer access to a network of national ATMs, and will reimburse you for fees. With the increased popularity of check deposit by cell phone, it’s also possible to make deposits without needing to mail them in.
Online banks offer a great alternative to some of the bigger banks, and you might find that you can have all the features, without the need for a brick and mortar banking relationship. If you value the ability to go into a bank and speak with someone face to face, though, consider a local bank. You might be surprised at what’s available.
Tom Drake writes for Financial Highway and MapleMoney. Whenever he’s not working on his online endeavors, he’s either doing his “real job” as a financial analyst or spending time with his two boys.