When looking at banks and accounts, and deciding which to tie your day-to-day transactions to, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. With nearly 100 account packages to choose from by more than 20 financial institutions across the country, you need to do your homework. Below are some key points for you to consider when comparing banks, so you don’t really have to think about the features of your chequing account after signing up.
While it may seem silly to start with location, your ease of access should be front-of-mind. Take a look around your home and work and determine which branches are available to you. You may think you never step foot in your own bank (and that can be true), but you’ll likely have to stop in at some point to withdraw money (to avoid pesky fees by using other banks’ ATMs), to make deposits, or to buy cheques.
That said, there are also remote banks like PC Financial and Tangerine that offer all services online and withdrawals through other institutions’ ATMs, so they’re worth checking out as well.
Account Types and Fees
Do you want a fee-free account? Do you want unlimited transactions? Each bank has several accounts to choose from, each with their own benefits. If you’re overwhelmed by the choices, write down how many debit transactions and ATM withdrawals you have in a given month and use that knowledge to match your needs to the available accounts.
Also weigh the value of a certain account to the amount you’ll be paying. While it may seem like a good idea to have an account with unlimited transactions, it’s likely better to use a rewards credit card for most transactions, then pay it off with a single blow from your chequing account. That way, you can have a minimal (or non-existent) chequing fee and are also banking valuable rewards.
You do more with your chequing account than you may realize. Look into cost and availability of any extra service you may use: email money transfers, full-service online banking, overdraft protection, and stop payments, among others. (Even check about replacement of your debit card—some institutions even charge for that!) While I encourage you to stick to a rewards credit card and continuously pay off your balance, these perks attached to your chequing account may come in handy and are worth considering.
Don’t Be Fooled!
There are often signing bonuses when opening a chequing account with a new bank—tablets, gadgets, and cash-back guarantees—so it’s easy to be lured into that switch. Be sure you understand, though, that you need to sign on to a top-tier account with high fees, normally for at least a year, with other restrictions. While you are getting a discount on the tablet in the long run, be sure you’re choosing a bank for your long-term needs, not for a toy.
Flickr: Ken Teegardin