Whether you are new to the Ames community, or just looking for a more convenient option, finding the right financial institution to fit your needs can be one of the biggest transitions a student makes while in college. Here are some things to consider before opening that new checking or savings account:
Location Does the bank have multiple branches in the area where you live and work?
ATMs The ATMs owned by your bank won’t charge you to withdraw cash, but other banks will. ATM fees are a huge budget breaker! Be sure to avoid those by choosing a bank with nearby and convenient ATM options. You may consider getting cash out at the gas station or grocery store first, as an alternative to paying a fee to withdraw your own money.
Hours Sometimes just getting to the bank can be a hassle in itself! Many banks and credit unions offer extended hours that are flexible to fit your needs.
Customer Service Do some research online to find customer reviews, or visit the bank to get an idea on how you are treated personally as a customer.
Online banking The internet has made it very convenient to keep track of your finances online. If online banking is very important to you, make sure you are easily able to make transfers, check your transactions, and complete other banking tasks without needing to be physically at the bank.
Fees Be careful to consider any hidden costs associated with opening a new account. The bank may charge fees for writing a check, overdraws, or even balance inquiries. The charges may be generally small, but can add up in a hurry.
Credit Unions vs. Banks If you are considering switching from a bank to a credit union, they are different in several ways. Credit unions are controlled by their members and are not for profit, whereas banks are run by a group of investors with capital, and are for profit. You may find that credit unions offer higher interest rates on their savings account options, but a bank might have a wider range of services. Do you want to be able to open a credit card some day? Maybe look into the credit card offerings from your credit union or bank.
Whether you choose a credit union or a bank, make sure to keep good records on all your accounts. Each month you will receive a statement of the transactions you made, as well as every deposit and transfer. This will come in handy when you are creating your budgets or preparing for tax season. If you need additional resources, a lot of banks and credit unions will also offer online services, like budgeting trackers, loan repayment tips and savings help. Instead of downloading a budgeting app, you may be able to utilize a spending tool built right into your bank’s online platform.
Not ready to let go? We are all somewhat attached to our old ‘hometown’ bank. Switching banks is not always a necessary move, depending on your bank’s online capabilities, and personal needs. Apps like Venmo and PayPal have made transferring money to and from friends a breeze, and almost every bank transfer can be initiated online! This is why it may or may not matter to you where your bank is located, but more so what services are offered instead. Wherever you choose to bank is a personal decision. We hope you use this information to help guide you on how to find the right bank or credit union!