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Compare the best bank accounts
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Each institution and bank account has its pros and cons, but choosing the right account can help you avoid fees, secure rewards and reach your financial goals sooner. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands of bank accounts out there, so how do you figure out which one is right for you? We’re here to help you learn how to compare the best checking account so that you can find the right one for your situation.
Editor's pick: American Express® Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account
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What makes a checking account the best?
First, you’ll need to think about what you want out of a bank account. Is it flexibility you need, or are you happy to trade some of that flexibility for no monthly fees? The considerations listed below can help you prioritize what features are important to you.
It’s linked to your other accounts
There are many banks that serve the US, all offering a range of different banking products. To make managing your money easier, you may want to consider doing all of your banking with one institution. If not, make sure the card can be linked to any of your other accounts.
It can pay interest
If you’re lucky, you might come across a checking account that pays interest. While you’ll generally earn more interest with a savings account, some checking accounts can pay a solid APY.
There are no monthly fees
The best bank account shouldn’t charge any monthly fees, or should at least make it easy to avoid them. Check the requirements to waive the monthly fee and try to find an account that fits your financial situation.
Waived ATM fees
Checking accounts are designed to provide access to your money, so you shouldn’t be required to pay when you need to make a withdrawal. Some banks will even waive fees when you make a transaction on an ATM that’s outside the bank’s network
You can bank online and on your phone
Many banks are now online, giving you better access to your money with internet, phone or mobile banking. If you prefer to do your banking through a smartphone, check for the availability of an app.
Customer service is available when you need it
Look to see if the institution is strictly online or if you have the option of calling or visiting a local branch. If you prefer to talk to a teller for your financial decisions, you may want to consider a financial institution that has a physical presence.
There are a large number of ATMs available
This is important to consider if you make frequent ATM withdrawals. Charges quickly accrue if you don’t use the ATMs in the bank’s network. Find a bank with a large ATM network in your area or one that provides fee-free access to other ATMs. Plus, some institutions operate globally, allowing you easier and cheaper access to your money when traveling abroad.
What’s the best bank account for?
Since everyone has different banking needs, there is no such thing as the single best bank account. The best account for you will depend on what you plan on using it for, so it’s important to identify what you value in your banking experience.
There are benefits to online banking — online financial institutions tend to have less overheads, and in turn, pass on their savings to their customers. The ideal bank account for a digital nomad is a bank that has an accessible online banking platform. In the US, CommBank was voted as the best bank for online banking and Beyond Bank as the best customer-owned institution.
See our moving to the US guide for more information
Teens and students
If you’re about to start your first job and want to save up some extra cash, there are plenty of banks to help you, so be sure to shop around to find the best deal. Remember that if you’re under 14 years old, you’ll probably need to ask your parent or guardian for permission to open a bank account for you.
Using your debit card overseas usually incurs the following charges:
- International transaction fees
- Currency exchange
- Overseas ATM fee (charged by your bank)
- Local operator ATM fee (charged by the ATM owner)
While exchange rates and operator ATM fees can’t be controlled, you can control the international transaction and overseas ATM fees. There are bank accounts in the market that don’t charge these fees and can save you money when you travel.
Businesses generally conduct far more transactions than consumers, so it’s important to find an account that is designed specifically for business use. These types of accounts make it easier to manage cash flow and keep track for spending for tax and accounting purposes.
Joint checking accounts are an effective way for couples to manage their money. The best couples checking accounts generally offer bill pay services, widespread ATM access and minimal fees, allowing you to make use of more of your money.
It’s never too early to learn responsible financial habits. Kids bank accounts can help children and teens learn how to manage their money and usually don’t have monthly fees. Plus, they often allow parents to control spending and monitor account activity.
If you’re 55 or older, you can enjoy the benefits of senior banking. This usually includes unlimited access to your bank account, including ATMs, branches, Internet and phone banking. Also, you can look forward to reduced or waived fees, as banks try to earn your business.
What kind of fees can I avoid with the best bank account?
- ATM withdrawals. Banks often limit the number of ATM transactions, charging a fee for going over. They can also charge for using ATMs that are out of their network. While the big banks tend to have a larger ATM network, you may not want to dismiss the smaller players.
- POS transactions. Some banks will charge transaction fees for using point of sale payments over a certain threshold.
- Branch assistance. Many banks charge fees for transactions made at physical locations, encouraging customers to use the internet or phone banking options.
- Excess transactions. You may be charged fees for exceeding the limits of transactions on your account.
- Account overdrafts. If you spend more money than you have available in your account you may be charged an overdraft fee.
How to choose the best bank account for you
Why most of us are unwilling to change banks
We don’t want to change banks for a number of reasons. If it’s not our priority to make a change, it may be because we’re getting exactly what we need from our bank or because it’s too much of a hassle to switch. If you’re satisfied with the services your bank provides, or even just loyal to the company you’ve been with for years, you might feel less inclined to change.
How do the best banks protect my security online?
- Banks invest in safety. Banks spend millions of dollars to protect your money, mainly because they are required to refund money to those who have been defrauded.
- Banks use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption. This gives an added layer of protection from hackers.
- There’s always password security. You’ll often find that your password needs to be a certain length and contain certain characters.
- Your personal information is encrypted. This means that the lock symbol is displayed in your browser, and the information coming in and out is scrambled.
- You’re locked out of your account if there has been too many attempts. In addition, you’re logged out of the account if there hasn’t been any activity after a few minutes. There are also firewalls in place so only authorized people can log in.
- You’ll need to use SMS codes. To ensure you say who you are, banks will also send codes to your phone to authorize new transactions.
How did we choose the best accounts?
Bank accounts are a dime a dozen, but the best ones can help you manage your money more effectively and even offer additional perks. We wanted to find out which bank accounts are worth seeking out, so we looked into variables like ease of use, ATM and branch access, deposit requirements, monthly fees and additional perks. In doing so, we were able to narrow down our list to highlight bank accounts that are best suited to help you manage your money.
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