Gone are the days when the closest bank to your house or work was the best, says Holly Smith, vice president of Cove Federal Credit Union, based in the Greater Cincinnati area. Before you choose a bank or credit union to keep your hard-earned bucks safe, do your research to find the best offers out there. "So much of your finances can be managed online today," she says. "Opening and managing accounts, applying for loans, and even signing loan documents can all be done electronically."
If you're finding yourself constantly looking for an ATM, and inevitably, paying a fee to access your account through another bank's network, it might be time to find a new bank or credit union. With a large ATM network, you should never have to pay ATM fees, Smith says. "Large doesn't mean the most branches," she notes. "The best financial institutions offer access to multiple networks." A couple bucks a week in savings might not sound like a lot, but it's an extra stop at your favorite coffee shop.
The fine print can get you every time. That's why Smith advises when examining your relationship with your bank to make sure it requires no minimum monthly balance be maintained, nor a minimum monthly direct deposit required. Otherwise, you may end up with a surprise on your bank statement at the end of the month.
Check your bank statements regularly, and if you see a fee you don't recognize, ask what it is, advises AJ Smith, managing editor at SmartAsset. "Sometimes you will find out there are simple ways to avoid that fee — like by having your paycheck directly deposited or making sure to use your card a minimum number of times a month," he says. "Also you can often get that fee removed by asking nicely."
You don't need to pay the big bucks for credit score analysis or help rebuilding credit. Several banks and credit unions offer these services — free of charge. So before you pay for an outside service, get the most out of your financial institution by taking advantage of services like this.
In today's world, banks and credit unions with online bill pay and free mobile apps are necessary for many consumers. "Free mobile apps make managing your accounts convenient no matter when, no matter where," Smith says. "Online bill pay is a convenient way to stay on top of bills."
People often assume they are being offered the best deal for them and don't bother to ask questions, Smith adds. "Be clear on what you want from your bank and don't be afraid to ask for extras. They may say no, but they also may say yes."
What tricks do you use to get the most out of your bank or credit union? Sound off in the comments below.
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