The short answer: Go with either a credit union or military bank (if possible).
Do you remember getting your first bank account? When I turned 18 my parents took me to a local regional bank where we lived and helped me open my first account. It felt good to have my own checks and debit card!
Times have changed since then and now it seems as if banks pop up on almost every corner of a main intersection. Even though it seems there are more banks, there has been a lot of consolidation in the last 15 years. Each brand of bank has fewer competitors but the competition for deposits has increased. Because technology has also changed banking, banks are almost like a commodity now. For an individual or couple, many rarely need to even visit a bank now with mobile deposits and the many ways to send money online. So how do you leverage competition in the banking industry and use it to your advantage to get the best deal possible?
Which banks should you avoid?
Avoid the large nationwide banks at all costs. Since the majority of these banks are traded on the public stock market, their first priority is to return value to their shareholders. What does this mean to their customers, the consumer? It means they want to maximize the revenue per customer and take more money from you than other banks. Have you noticed tellers trying to sell you credit cards or personal loans? That’s a direct result of their leadership trying to increase revenue.
Which are the best banks?
One really great option for a bank is if you or anyone in your family has been in the military. Military banks give back to their customers, treat them with great respect, and often charge less for the same services. Military.com has a great list of military banks here: https://www.military.com/money/personal-finance/banking-and-savings/10-best-military-banks.html
The only drawback and requirement is either you or a family member has to have served.
Another great option to consider are local credit unions. After searching for credit unions in your area, make a list and compare the fees as well. Some credit unions may have membership requirements, but read through their website to find out specifically. Through your search you’ll find that many credit unions are employee owned so they don’t have stock holders to return value to. This means their customers actually come first and they’ll do more to serve and keep you as a customer rather than try to extract as much money out of you as possible. In the end, you’ll end up saving more with a credit union.
Ask for the fee schedule
If a large nationwide bank is your only option, ask for their fee schedule and compare it to others around. Make a list of the products you’re using (credit card, checking, savings), the miscellaneous activities you’ve used (paper checks, mail check, online transfer, etc) and compare the schedules to see which one charges the least.
So what’s the takeaway?
Bank with a credit union or military bank. Stay away from the national banks. Check the fee schedules!