You may manage your money well, but do you also manage the bank that holds it for you? If not, you may be missing out on useful services and products, or paying more than necessary to receive them. Consider these tips that can help you to use your bank more wisely.
1. Shop Around – Banks offer a diverse variety of programs to attract and hold customers. Compare the offerings of different banks and do not be afraid to switch if another bank is better at suiting your needs — but first, make sure that you understand what those needs are. Do you need multiple locations and ATMs? Is online banking important to you? Do you prefer mobile apps? Is a smaller minimum balance required based on your cash flow? Examine your banking needs in detail.
Once you are confident that you know what you are looking for in a bank, you can make an educated comparison and maximize your benefits. Don't forget to consider banks that are completely online with no physical branches. Their lower overhead costs can result in better rates for you.
If you have decided that your current bank is not for you, speak with them and give them a chance to retain your business. You have leverage as a customer; don't be afraid to use it.
2. Watch Fees – Banks make a significant amount of money from fees. Annual fees, low balance fees, late payment fees — they can all add up. Make sure that you understand all the potential fees associated with any account, even if you think you will never incur them.
You may be able to complain and get certain fees waived, as long as you are professional about it. Banks would rather waive less consequential fees than lose your business. In any case, it never hurts to ask.
3. Link your Accounts – Linking your checking and saving accounts usually provides extra benefits such as automatic waiving of certain fees or a chance to improve interest rates on interest-bearing accounts. You can also avoid the costly "courtesy overdraft protection" by setting up your checking account to automatically draw from your savings account to prevent overdrafts and the associated fees. If you want to reduce your interest payments and lower your debt, try the free Debt Optimizer by MoneyTips.
4. Utilize Account Notifications – Almost every bank has rapid communication options for letting you know about account activity. For example, Bank of America has over twenty online alerts that can be sent to your mobile device, including online bill payment notification, direct deposit notifications, bill payment deductions, and payments due (or automatically paid) notices. Use any alert that can save you from making financial mistakes or that notifies you of unusual activity in your account.
5. Minimize Check Costs – With all of the payment methods currently available, including online and mobile payment, do you even need to use traditional checks? A debit card takes care of day-to-day expenses for many people, and larger recurring expenses can be addressed by automatic payment. However, if you do decide that checks are necessary, you can save money by ordering your checks outside of the bank. Check printing companies are available to print your checks for a lower rate that may be less than your bank charges.
For other information on getting the most out of your bank account, the FDIC has a helpful online guide.
By taking some time to examine the relationship you have with your bank, you may be able to save money while taking advantage of specialized banking services. Use your bank, but don't let your bank use you.
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