Pick the Right Account

by CNNMoney.com

 

Knowing your habits helps you find the best and least costly account. Banks offer several different types of checking and savings accounts: Some pay interest, some don't. Some offer perks, some don't. Some are specifically for senior citizens or students, while others are geared to those with low incomes. They all share one thing in common, though. They each have restrictions, fees, and opportunities to waive fees if you meet certain requirements.

When shopping for a bank, consider:

 

How much money you plan to deposit at the bank?

The higher your average balance, the more likely you are to get "free" checking with interest. Though minimum balance requirements vary widely from bank to bank, a fall 2009 survey from Bankrate.com found the average balance required for a no-fee, interest-bearing account was more than $3,372 if you want to avoid monthly fees. If you settle for a non-interest bearing checking account, however, the average minimum balance is just shy of $185.75 to avoid a monthly charge, according to the same study.

 

How many checks you write a month?

Some no-fee accounts limit the number of checks you may write and charge high fees if you exceed that limit. On the other hand, the consumer advocacy organization U.S. Public Interest Research Group suggests if you only write a few checks a month and probably won't meet the minimum balance required to avoid fees, you might benefit from a no-frills, flat-fee checking account.

 

How many related banking services you'd like?

If you use ATMs frequently, make sure the bank has plenty conveniently located near you. If you use another bank's ATM, you might pay $3.00 or more for the privilege, once you combine the surcharge imposed by the other bank and the fee your bank charges for going to a competitor's machine.

 

How many different types of accounts you want to set up at the bank?

The more accounts you have with your bank, the greater your chances of getting price breaks and perks on its services and products. So if you have a checking and savings account and are taking out a mortgage or signing up for the bank's credit card, be sure to ask if you're entitled to any discounts.

 

Using the Internet is one of the easiest ways to compare fees, yields and minimum deposit requirements nationwide. To comparison shop, use the search fields on CNNMoney.com's Banking page.