I think it’s fair to say that most Couple Money and personal finance blog readers are looking to get better results with their finances. One of biggest changes you can make with your money is optimizing your banking system.
Ordinary: Staying with a Big Bank Just Because They Have So Many ATMs
If you ask people about their banks I think many would either be apathetic about the no frills of their accounts or upset about being nickeled and dimed with fees.
I understand that banks are a business. They need to make money. On the hand, they are handling our money and we will act accordingly. When we first got married we opened a joint account at one of the big banks. It was convenient and while the we were going to earning much money, we had a way to pay the bills.
If you read some of my earlier posts you know that we had a horrible time with their customer service and we were getting fees left and right. Nothing huge, but they were eating away at our balance. The couple of pennies we got every quarter for interest wasn’t doing anything to make us feel better; in fact it felt like a slap in the face. After dealing with it for so long, we decided to switch. However the other big bank wasn’t really an appealing option.
I had read some personal finance sites and heard about online banking. They offered much higher rates and met most of our needs. However it felt like a risk. This bank was completely online. We worried what we could do if something went wrong. We decided to test the waters and signed up for ING Direct’s Orange Savings account for a few months. After being satisfied with everything we then switched our checking account to them.
It’s been a great decision for us as we have a hassle free banking and bill paying system with them. Knowing that other couples are looking at making a switch, I wanted to share some tips on how you two can find the right bank or credit union for your needs.
What should you look for in a bank or credit union? That depends on what important to the two of you. ( Whatever you choose, please make sure that it’s FDIC insured bank or a NCUA insured credit union. )
We wanted the following for our joint checking and savings:
- No monthly maintenance fee: I understand banks have the right to charge what they want, but I expect something in return. With most banks, the fees offer no extra services or benefits for us, so why even get an account with them. We wanted no fees for our checking account.
- $0 required minimum balance: I understand that if one gets a basic savings account, you’re not going to get a great rate. But then if the interest rate is pathetic, why would we want to keep a larger balance with our checking account?
- Free online BillPay service: This is a must-have on our list as we prefer to handle our bills online due to its convenience and control. Late payments are a thing of the past as we can easily adjust dates and amounts as our budget allows.
- Conveniently located ATMs: Whether we went with a bank or credit union we needed a way to access our money after bank hours. Having ATMs nearby is important as we’re trying to avoid fees from out of network ATMs.
- Earn some interest rate if possible: I know that the high interest rates of years ago is gone, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get anything. For our savings we’d like to get a competitive rates. Earning interest with our checking account is not necessary, but it’s nice that we bonus.
For some couples have ATMs close by is more important than interest rates or vice versa. The point is to make sure that you and your hard earned money get the service you deserve from whatever bank or credit union you choose.
Ally Bank is a fast becoming a popular bank among financial bloggers for a few reasons. They offer both online checking and savings accounts and their interest rates have been a bit higher than some of their biggest competitors. They offer everything on our wishlist, including:
- No minimum balance to open an account
- Competitive rates
- Make deposits with Ally eCheck DepositSM , online transfers or free postage-paid envelopes
- Real help 24/7 from customer care associates
- Simple online transfers
- Free Online Banking with Bill Pay
- Free Account Alerts and Notifications
- Free Sleeping Money Alerts
We’ve been using Capital 360 (formally ING Direct) for our joint checking and some of our savings for several years now and have been really happy with their service. Their online 360 Checking account has been a great fit for our budgeting needs and we haven’t had problems with it. With the addition of paper checks awhile ago, this makes the account practically perfect for us.
Like Ally, ING Direct also has all of the features that we look for in checking and savings accounts.No minimum balance to open an account
- Competitive rates
- Free Online Bill Pay
- Free access at over 35,000 ATMs
- Make deposits with CheckMateSM , online transfers
- Free Account Alerts and Notifications
You can open a checking account with Capital 360, simply click here to get started and get a $50 bonus!
Local Banks and Credit Unions
I realize that online banking isn’t for everybody. In fact, for those looking at great customer service may not to look far. Smaller, local credit unions and banks can be a perfect solution. My mother made the switch from one of the big banks to a credit union and she has loved it! She feels like she has a partner with her finances. Saving has become much easier and the competitive rates they offer has her paying down debts faster and investing for her future.
Not sure what credit unions are in your area? Please visit the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to see your local options. If you live in North Carolina, check out Coastal Federal Credit Union and State Employees’ Credit Union.
Thoughts on Working Smart for Your Money
Whatever your banking choice, please make sure it suits YOUR needs. Have your money to grow hassle free while you two take on other financial goals together. I’d love to hear how you have taken some action and improved your finances. Have you made adjustments with your banking, budgeting, or investing?
Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012
Just a heads up, this post does contain affiliate links for Ally and Capital 360.We use both banks ourselves for our banking needs. In the spirit of full disclosure, I also have a small savings account with a credit union