Your guide to finding a bank account that meets your needs.
At finder.com we understand that everyone is different – so to help, we explain the different types of accounts, their benefits and what you need to consider before opening.
Want to know more about bank accounts?
What's in this guide?
- How do I choose the best account for me?
- How do I pick a bank account with the lowest fees?
- How do I link my Paypal account to my bank account?
- What are the different types of bank accounts available for me?
- Is the application process easy?
What’s a bank account?
A bank account helps you pay bills, go grocery shopping and withdraw cash from an ATM. Financial institutions offer bank accounts because you need a secure location to hold your money.
The benefits of owning a bank account
Having a bank account can help you manage your everyday finances and keep track of your money. Benefits of owning one are:
- A convenient way to organize your money. For example, paying bills, receiving your income, paying for goods and services or sending money to someone else.
- A safe place to keep your money. This is especially helpful during uncertain economic climates – the FDIC offers a guarantee on deposits of up to $250,000 per person, per institution.
- A place that records your transactions. When applying for a loan, lenders will be able to refer to your transaction records to assess how well you can save money. You can also see where you’re spending most of your income.
- A place to build your assets. Money held in your transaction account is easy to access – by linking it to a savings account, you can also earn interest.
What do you want from a bank account?
Everyone has unique banking needs. Some prefer convenience and flexibility, while others want to earn points on their purchases. One of the great things about bank accounts are they can be a short term commitment. So if you’re unhappy with your current bank account, you can always switch to a new one. Review your needs regularly to see if your bank account still meets your needs.The best bank account will help you manage your finances efficiently and reach your savings goals.
Are the fees worth it?
For example, assess your needs to see if you are utilizing the features that are costing you money. For example, being able to use ATMs at any bank is a great feature but how often do you use other ATMs? Some banks charge a minimum balance fee if your balance goes below a certain amount. If you’re someone who keeps a significant balance, than the fee shouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, if you’re someone who keeps a low balance, the minimum balance fee could pose a problem. As markets change, banks will move with them, offering new ways to avoid fees while offering more services.
Questions to ask when choosing a bank account
- At what stage of life are you? Your stage of life plays a minor role when it comes to choosing a bank account, but plays a much larger role when choosing a savings account. Are you currently building, managing or using wealth? If you’re currently building your wealth and are expecting a child or saving for a home, you’ll want an account that restricts the way you spend so you only buy the essentials. These accounts allow a certain number of transactions per month, charging a fee once you’ve exceed the limit. If you’re managing your wealth, focusing on tax planning, management and retirement, your options are open to most accounts. And finally, when it comes time to retire, you’ll want an account to help you effectively use your retirement savings.
- What type of bank account do I need? Transaction accounts are designed to meet your everyday banking needs – whether it’s an account to deposit your pay, or just an account to pay for bills and groceries. In the past, bank accounts that offered unlimited transactions did so for a monthly fee, and some limited the amount of transactions you can conduct for no monthly fee. However, in this increasingly competitive market, banks are now offering accounts unlimited transactions for no monthly fee.
Commonly asked questions about bank accounts
How much tax do I need to pay from the interest I've earned from my account?
The amount of tax payable depends on your income. The marginal tax rate is then calculated from there. See our tax returns guide for more information.
How long does it normally take for a bank to refund a bill pay error?
This process can take up to 14 working days as your bank will need to contact the biller.
How do I find out what my account number is?
You can find this information on your most recent bank statement or by logging into your internet banking account. Or you can call your bank directly.
Which banks let me deposit money into my account with an ATM?
Most US banks allow you to use ATMs to deposit checks and cash.
What happens when I deposit a check with the incorrect name order?
Unless a deposited check is made out in the depositor’s name or the name of the financial institution, the bank has the right to return it to you unpaid at their discretion.
Why are joint accounts helpful?
Joint accounts are great if you want to share your finances with a trusted person, like your partner or family. Most of the convenience comes from being able to organize your savings and spending budgets more easily. Do note that if you want to close the account, you will probably need the joint account holder to sign off.
I'm starting a job overseas, should I go with an international bank?
Going with an international bank could help, but be mindful that in each jurisdiction the banks are under their local regulations and are separate legal entities. Depending on how strict they are in the country that you’re working in, it may not be worth switching to another bank.
Some banks, such as HSBC or Citibank may be able to offer you worldwide assistance.
Having problems with your bank account?
Is the complaints process across the banks the same? Each bank will offer its own internal dispute resolution service which is your first avenue of appeal when you have a complaint. If you’re not happy with the result of this process, you can take your complaint to an such as the Federal Reserve or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
I’ve just gone through a divorce and my partner refuses to close the joint account. What should I do? If your joint account requires both you and your former spouse to sign in order for it to be closed, you can contact your lawyer to have the account frozen if your ex refuses to comply.
- Choosing the wrong type of account. Each type of account serves a very specific purpose. Not choosing the right one could result in paying unnecessary fees or penalty charges.
- Not having the right features. Look closely at each account to ensure that it has the features you need to make your banking needs easier.
Is it possible to use mobile banking apps on rooted phones? Yes it is, although you will need to confirm this with your bank. In some cases, certain app features may not be available.
Can I link my PayPal business account to my personal bank account? This is possible, but only if the name on your PayPal business account matches the name on your personal bank account.
What should I do if I think I’ve been charged twice by accident? If you’ve made a purchase, the first thing you should do is contact the merchant to see if you can sort out the problem. If this is not possible, contact your bank or financial institution to dispute the transaction.
How do I delete a transaction? In certain situations, a bank or credit union might perform a small transaction in order to verify your account, such as transferring a very small amount into your account. This transaction is then deleted once your account has been verified.
My debit card has been blocked, what should I do? You will need to contact the bank or financial institution that issued the card as soon as possible to find out why the card has been blocked.
Is it possible to have an unlimited amount of bank accounts? Are there any implications? It’s possible to open several accounts with one bank to help you budget for different purchases. For example, some banks allow you to open up to 10 sub-accounts inside another account to allow you to split up your funds into separate areas for saving and budgeting purposes.
Can I link my bank account to my PayPal account? PayPal can be both linked to your bank account, debit card or credit card. When you pay for items using PayPal, the default account is your bank account. If you’d like to pay with your credit card, make sure you choose this option specifically before actually purchasing your goods or services.
To link your account, log into PayPal > Wallet and Click on ‘Link a bank account’ or ‘Link a card’. Having PayPal linked to your account means you can buy things wherever PayPal is accepted (both online and offline).
How long do PayPal refunds usually take? It could take up to 30 days for a PayPal refund to appear on your statement, depending on your card. You’re able to check the status of a refund by logging into your PayPal account and reviewing your transaction history.Back to top
What are the different types of bank accounts?
Let’s have a look at the different bank account profiles below to see where you fit:
Basic checking account
A checking account is a place where you can keep your money safe and accessible. They offer basic functions at a low cost, but limit withdrawals and usually don’t pay interest. You’ll be able to pay bills, make purchases and withdraw cash from ATMs. Accounts offer a variety of options that can waive monthly service fees and give you features that you need.
Interest bearing checking account
These accounts tend to offer more services for a higher cost. Some will pay interest on running balances, give you unlimited withdrawals and waive fees for using your ATM at other banks. Interest checking accounts will often charge a monthly service fee if your balance falls below a certain amount.
These accounts can help you earn interest on money you’re saving for the future, with an interest rate that doesn’t change. Depending on the type of account, interest rates are based daily, weekly, monthly or annually. Look at your bank’s terms and fees to determine the account that is best for you.
Certificate of Deposit (CD)
When you open a CD you agree to keep the money in the account for a certain amount of time — from a few months to several years. It’s another way to earn interest on your money, with higher interest rates the longer you keep your money in the CD. Avoid early withdrawals, as they lead to fees and penalties.
Money Market Account
Money market accounts are similar to savings and checking accounts in that they will earn you money on interest over time. They invest your balance in short-term debt like Treasury Bills or CDs. You’ll need a higher minimum balance to start earning, but they offer higher rates. You can write checks against your account, usually limited to three per month. Fees will occur if your account falls below a certain level.Back to top
Quick tips for using everyday bank accounts
- If you’re paying for purchases using your debit card, ask for cash out at the same time rather than withdrawing at an ATM. This counts as one transaction, not two, and lets you avoid any potential ATM fees.
- If your account has a limit on the number of transactions you can make each month before fees apply, monitor your account regularly and try to work out ways to minimize your transactions where possible
- When you make a purchase, should you chose debit or credit? By choosing credit, you’ll be activating enhanced security or the complimentary insurance policies offered on your card.
- If you’re currently paying a monthly account-keeping fee on your account, ask your bank what options you have for getting that fee waived. They may suggest opening a savings account, signing up for direct deposit or maintaining a minimum balance in cash to get rid of that fee. They may also suggest a different transaction account that could end up suiting your needs better in the long run.
How do I open a bank account?
Once you’ve made a decision, it’s time to open your account! Applying for a bank account from finder.com is easy. Once you’ve chosen a bank account that you’d like to apply for, click on the green ‘Go to Site’ button and you’ll be taken to the bank’s website to start your application. Depending on your personal situation, you may need to consider the following:
Are you eligible?
- Typically you’ll need to be at least 18 years old to apply online (you can confirm this when you reach the bank’s website). If you’re not 18 yet, don’t worry, you can apply over the phone or in person at your local branch.
- You’ll need to be a US resident. Again, if you’re not a US resident, don’t worry, you can apply over the phone or in person at your local branch.
- Generally the accounts displayed on finder.com are only available for personal use. If you intend to use it for business purposes, these will be need to be over the phone or in your local branch.
Do you have your documents ready?
- You’ll need all your personal details on hand, including your full name, address, phone number, email.
- You’ll also need identification for your application, this includes birth certificates, driver’s licence or your passport.
- You’ll need money to deposit in to the account. You can transfer the money online, bring a money order, check or cash.
What happens after I’ve submitted my application? Depending on the bank, your account could be opened immediately, or within a few business days. Your bank will send you a package confirming the details of your new bank account, along with a debit card.
Is it possible to get a savings account as a couple? Yes, many of our US financial institutions allow for joint savings accounts.
What if I can’t open a bank account online? Not to worry – you can always open the account at your local branch or over the phone. However, applications may be restricted to business hours.
Should I sign up for text alerts?If you regularly forget to make transfers or pay bills, SMS or text alerts can be very helpful. Note that standard messaging and data rates from your cell phone plan may apply.
What are the typical features of a checking account
You don’t really earn interest
From the bank’s point of view, your bank account hold funds that are readily accessible and don’t accumulate interest as there is no incentive for holding your funds there. If you’re looking for a high interest rate, a savings account may be more suitable.
You should get free domestic ATM network and access
Your debit card lets you access your funds from an ATM. Your bank will also provide you with a network of ATMs that you can use for free.
You can link them to a savings account so you can easily transfer funds back and forth
Many financial institutions also give you the option of linking your bank account to a savings account. That way, you can easily transfer money back and forth to make the most of the higher interest rate from your savings account.
General bank account questions
Is there a fee involved for requesting a copy of my statement? You will need to check with your specific bank for statement frequency and any fees. With most banks now offering online banking, you could also view and print a copy from there for no fee.
Using your bank account for international transactions
Is it possible to reverse a foreign exchange transaction on my transaction account? You will need the help of your bank in most circumstances, but if you have the supporting documentation then you should be able to reverse a foreign exchange transaction.
Is it possible to cash out an international check? Yes, some US financial institutions will accept an international check deposit, although the funds could take longer to clear and you may be charged international transaction fees.
Do foreign banks charge a fee to receive an international money transfer? Yes, there are foreign banks who will charge your recipient upon receiving funds from an international money transfer. Remember to take into account exchange rates and recipient fees.
What’s the difference between a checking and savings account?
The typical account holder should have one bank account for everyday use and a savings account to hold their savings. See the table below for a summary of the similarities and differences.
|Checking account||Savings account|
|Purpose||Designed for spending and does not allow you to earn interest||Designed for savings or accumulating wealth and generally gives a higher rate of interest|
- Help! I’ve transferred money into the wrong bank account. If the account you’ve transferred to by accident doesn’t exist, then the transfer usually bounces back and a fee is charged from the bank for incorrectly entering the details. If the account does exist, then owner of the recipient account is legally required to notify the bank if they notice any extra funds that have been wrongfully put into their account. As soon as you’ve noticed that you may have transferred it to the wrong account, call up your bank to try and fix the problem. The whole process may take up to a month, as banks usually need to communicate with each other to attempt to get the money back.
- Help! I think someone is trying to take money from my bank account. If you’re suspicious that someone is trying to take money from your account, or possibly be attempting to steal your identity, speak to your bank right away. Ask exactly what information would have had to be provided to your bank for them to be able to access your account. If you’re worried about identity fraud, speak to your local police station — they may request that you change your driver’s license.
- What should I do if an ATM crashes halfway through my withdrawal? If you do not receive your money first check with your bank to see if the funds were withdrawn from your balance. If so, you will need to lodge a complaint and wait to have the issue reconciled.
- How do I find out what my bank transfer limit is? You could either look through the terms and conditions document sent to you when the account was opened, access that document online through the bank’s website or call the bank directly and ask them.
- Can overdrafting on my bank account affect my credit history? No, overdrafting on your bank account should not affect your credit rating. However, if you were to apply for a loan with the same bank in the future, any overdrafts would be displayed in your account records and your bank may query you as to why they occurred.
- How do I transfer money to another account? You can do this by visiting your nearest bank branch or using your financial institution’s phone banking service, but the simplest way to transfer money is through your online banking account. The exact transfer process varies depending on your bank, but you’ll typically have to select the account you want to transfer funds from, provide details about your recipient (their name and account number) and specify the amount that you would like to transfer.