Monday, October 03, 2011

Taking a closer look at savings accounts

Even on its best day, the banking industry struggles with its image. As more banks announce new fees, unhappy consumers, who are fearful in this unstable economy, are wondering what they can do to minimize the damage to their pocketbooks.

One thing that fed-up customers can do is change banks. But before they do so, they should do their homework. All banks are not alike. It pays to evaluate the bank products you use, and then compare the cost of those products with your bank's competitors.

I just did a query to find out what institution offers the best online savings account. I was surprised to learn that CNN Money placed Discover Bank at the top of the list.

Not sure how to do your homework? The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) offers some suggestions:

  • From time to time, check your accounts to make sure they are still meeting your needs.
  • Shop and compare. Check out other banks' websites and advertising to see if they offer better deals on the bank products you use the most.
  • If a certain service is essential to you, such as online bill payment, make sure the institution you're considering offers this service.
  • Dig deeper into the literature to make sure you know the most important fees, terms and limitations on the new accounts. You don't want any surprises, should you change accounts.
  • Before applying for a bank product online and supplying your personal data, make sure you're dealing with a legitimate financial institution. The FDIC provides a free service in this area. Call the agency at 1-877-275-3342 or check out FDIC Bank Find, an online directory of FDIC-insured institutions.

While you're doing your homework, check your credit reports for inaccurate or incomplete information that could prevent you from getting the best deals on credit cards, mortgages, or other loans.


You completed your homework and decided that you want to change banks. Switching banks will take a little planning, but it doesn't have to be a big hassle if you follow a few simple steps.
Many banks provide "switch kits" online. If you cannot locate one, you can follow these simple steps. Let's say you're going to open a savings account.

  1. Choose your new bank. You need to open the new account before you close the old one.
  2. Open the new bank account. Make sure you have proper identification.
  3. You'll need money for the new account.
  4. Switch your automatic deposits.
  5. Redirect your online payments.
  6. Once your new account is open, balance your old account and stop using it.

Hint: Ask about any possible early withdrawal penalties before you close your old account. For Certificates of Deposit (CDs), it is important to double check maturity dates.

Here's hoping you have a great banking experience.

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