Sunday, May 8, 2011

How To Open A Bank Account & Recommendations

If only I could find a bank where something like this community chest card event actually happens...  But more realistically, on to the actual point of this post.

So let's say you've done some research and you've found a bank that looks like a good match with your goals (and if not, I have recommendations throughout).  How do you go about opening one?  You can either open an account online or in person.  I would recommend opening one in person if it is your first time since you can ask any questions you may have.  Just make sure that you have brought enough money with you for the minimum opening balance or you have a check you can use to deposit.

When you open an account online, you simply go to the bank's website and find where to apply for the checking account.  You can usually use the website's search engine or Google it.  I would try to find student accounts if you are a student, particularly because banks are usually more lenient with maintenance fees if they do have any. Then you go fill out some personal information as well as a method to make the opening deposit and then you're done.

In terms good banks, I know that Bank of America often has a lot of maintenance fees and you have to jump through a lot of hoops to waive it (such as only use the ATM to deposit and withdraw AND sign up for online statements).  I would also make sure to keep an eye out for opening offers (some banks offer money when you open an account with them).  Just Google searching checking account offers leads me to see an ING Direct Checking offer of $50.  I got a $50 bonus when I opened my U.S. Bank Checking account and a free iPod Touch when opening my Bank of the West checking account (I actually opened Bank of the West solely for the iPod Touch, but their service has been great).  So make sure you stay on the lookout for these offers since it can be some easy money in your pocket (or your new bank account).  Another quick note is that these offers I got were over the summer so I'm not sure how time sensitive these things are.

Also make sure that you get your first order of checks for free with a checking account.  This was the case for U.S. Bank, Bank of the West, and PNC Bank, but I'm not sure if it is standard for all banks.  These three are the only banks where I have experience with their checking accounts.  I have also looked at Bank of America, but their fees usually persuade my to look elsewhere.  I have heard good recommendations for Wells Fargo though.

In terms of savings accounts, I like Discover Bank because I have their credit card and because it pays the highest interest rate I know of.  The thing about Discover Bank though is that it is solely an online savings account so there is no physical bank for you to go to.  This means that you must have a checking account or savings account at another bank in order to withdraw your money (I only use the ACH transfer to my checking account but I believe you can wire transfer as well for a fee).  They have no monthly minimum balance and no fee and the APY is 1.15% currently.  It isn't that much but it's higher than most of the other savings accounts I have seen so when interest rates do go back up, I expect Discover to stay on top.  A close second, however, is Capital One which has a 1.1% APY and a bonus 10% on interest you have earned in the quarter if you have their credit card or maintain a $10K balance.  I would recommend these online savings accounts, especially for students and young adults in my generation since we are usually more comfortable with handling money online.  If you aren't, then a normal savings account at a bank is fine as well, but I generally don't find too many with a leading interest rate on the account.

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