Choosing a bank is more complicated than it used to be because there are more options and services available. Many banks have unique account features that differ widely from their competitors.
Many people fall into their banking relationship without giving it much thought – they’ve banked there since they were a teenager, the bank is conveniently located, or they gave a good interest rate on a new mortgage.
The best place to start is with what you need and then compare the costs. Here are some questions to ask:
- Is there a minimum balance required in your chequing account?
- Is there a no-frills account available, or are lower fees offered for multiple accounts?
- If you are a saver, what rates are offered?
- How often do you use ATMs and are the bank in question's conveniently located?
- If you bank by telephone or online, is the technology easy to use and are there reps to speak to?
- Is it important for you to talk to a teller?
- Does your employer have a preferred banking partner that offers better rates or extra service?
- Are investment and estate planning services available?
Online banks and credit unions are good alternatives to traditional banking. ING Direct and PC Financial are popular, especially if you don’t need to physically go into a bank. Advantages include no-fee chequing accounts, higher savings and GIC interest rates, and lower interest rates on loans and mortgages. Most financial products are available.
Credit Unions are member-owned financial co-operatives. They may be community oriented, or serve the staff of large employers. Credit Unions offer competitive products and the opportunity for profit sharing. Surveys of Credit Union customers have consistently shown a significantly higher satisfaction rate with the quality of customer service.
There are many financial institutions that can meet your needs, so shop around before choosing a bank. Remember you are the customer and it’s most important for you to get what you want out of a banking relationship.
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If you’re unhappy at any point, say something. Most banks want to keep their customers satisfied and are often willing to waive charges, reduce fees or make other compensation to keep your business.