Before I begin my joyous rant, I must comment that I’m sure there’s no correlation between the massive amount of chocolate I consumed last night and the sleepies I’m feeling today.
None at all.
But, even a bad case of sugar-low can’t stop me from doin’ my monkey dance after I saw the news that Bank of America is dropping their $5 debit card fee. Much like Netflix recently was forced to step back from plans to split their service, Bank of America miraculously realized that screwing their customers might not be in their best interest.
Better late than never.
Choosing a bank is a little like choosing a spouse. It’s a tough decision. You don’t just walk in one day and say, “Hey, bank, wanna tie the knot?” You’re going to be together in some capacity nearly every day, so it might be better to date for awhile.
My favorite banks are much like my spouse: intelligent and low maintenance.
But you don’t know that at first. I used to be a Bank of America customer. Bank of America was the pretty girlfriend who said all the right things until I found the cap off the toothpaste. Then she became the wicked Bank of the West. When I wanted to talk about the toothpaste, she disappeared behind a phone bank of polite service people who “didn’t do it.”
To get the best bank possible, you have to date. Play the field a little. Sew your wild oats. Introduce a few of your friends over to see how the New Bank acts around the family.
Here are a few of the qualities I look for when deciding on the perfect bank:
1) Fees. Banks have, among others, checkwriting fees, teller fees, debit card fees, wire transfer fees and overdraft fees. I want a complete fee schedule before deciding on a bank.
2) Convenience. Is it easy to deposit and withdraw money? How responsive is the bank if I have questions? I mentioned that Fidelity will allow me to use my smart phone to deposit checks. How much more sexy can it get than that?
3) Range of services. I want to know what online tools are available. I love online banking, so I’m going to wine and dine these features before settling on a mate. Budget tools are also important to me. I need to be able to easily track my expenses. Banks with robust budget tools are going to get a second look from me.
4) Statements. This might not be important to you. My spouse doesn’t care for online banking, and wants a statement mailed to us. It must be easy to read. I know what you’re thinking. We also have an abacus at home to help the children with their math homework. Call us the Flintstones.
5) Interest rates. Is there a fairly high interest rate money market? I don’t use CDs often, but are their rates competitive? Use resources such as www.bankrate.com to decide if this bank is in the ballpark.
Those are the four most important areas to me. Maybe you have others. Much like dating, to some degree the mix of qualities one looks for in a bank boils down to personal preference. But also like finding a mate, it’s vitally important to become comfortable with the wide range of online and local banks to see what’s available. It’s better to be surprised about how lovely your bank still is many years later, holding your hand at age 80, rather than finding out too late that she’s been in your wallet again, stealing your cash or your breath mints.
Or leaving the cap off the toothpaste. I’m looking at you, Bank of America.