4. Check into community banks
Community banks are generally owned and operated locally, not owned by mega-bank holding companies. Many community banks pride themselves on keeping fees low and on making loans within the local community — but not all of them do, so check.
Use the Independent Community Bankers of America’s “” tool to find community banks near you.
5. Weigh convenience
If you value face-to-face with a bank, you’ll want to find a credit union or bank with many convenient branches near your home and workplace.
Start your research by noticing which banks you see in the neighborhoods you frequent. Go to the website of each bank you’re considering and find its branches nearest you. Pay attention to hours and ATM locations.
6. Make sure the new institution is insured
Before switching to a new credit union or bank, confirm that it is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The FDIC, is an independent federal government agency that insures that if a member banking institution fails, each depositor can recover up to $250,000.
Use the FDIC’s “” tool to check on institutions you are considering.
7. Research ATM networks and costs
ATMs are a big part of the banking experience for many consumers. You’ll probably want your new bank or credit union to have lots of ATMs that cost you nothing to use and are in safe, convenient locations.
If so, visit each institution’s website to find its list or map of in-network ATMs. Visit the locations you’ll use most to be sure you’ll feel comfortable there.
Also, learn about the ATM fees, both for in-network and out-of-network ATMs. Read the fine print on the bank’s site, brochure or contract to be sure you won’t be hit with expensive fees after you’ve chosen a new bank.
8. Decide if free online bill payment matters
If you love the convenience of paying bills online, make sure the bank you are considering offers an online bill paying service and check to see if the bank imposes a fee for using the service.
9. Learn about the mobile app
The ability to check your balances and make deposits from your smartphone makes mobile banking one of life’s real conveniences. Great mobile apps are expensive features for banks to develop, which means that the biggest banks have some of the best mobile apps.
NerdWallet has of a variety of institutions. NerdWallet favors mobile banking from:
- Capital One
- Alliant Credit Union
10. Ask your friends
Some bank features are harder to research. My satisfaction with Wells Fargo, for example, had much to do with the sophistication of its online banking interface. But although I found numerous recommendations for online banks, I found nothing about their online interfaces.
So, ask your friends what they most enjoy — or dislike — about the banking institutions they currently use.
What’s your experience changing banks? Share with us comments below or on our .
Marilyn Lewis and Kari Huus contributed to this post.
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