In these times of economic crisis and growing difficulties in the personal finances of many Americans, banking has taken on a completely different meaning for many. 

Even while consumers still look for the traditional features that have made them stay with certain banks and shy away from others, people are also now more conscious of the value of saving up and are bent on getting the most out of their hard-earned money – right up to the last cent.   

So, what makes a good bank according to costumers? Here’s a list of the top 10 features that serve as practical considerations for consumers in choosing or staying with their banks: 

1. Convenient Location

Being able to access or visit one’s bank in times most needed remain high on the average consumer’s priority list. And while this factor most certainly pertains to traditional brick and mortar branches, the need for accessibility could well be the reason why banking with online banks are gaining more popularity these days. What’s a more convenient location than right at one’s fingertips?


2. Availability of ATMs

Having an extensive ATM network could also work much in a bank’s favor as this means having access to ready cash practically when and where needed.


3. No Fees and Low Minimum Balance Requirements

While it is said that nothing’s for free these days, having to pay any bank service fees for some, is a definite no-no. The great thing about this is that with the competition in bank products and services nowadays, this can actually be possible. Most online banks in particular, require the least minimum maintaining balance and charge no fees for many services that are offered. 


4. FDIC Insurance

One day you could be transacting with the bank that you’ve had for the last 15 years, and the next day it could be in the hands of another much larger bank, or worse, on bank holiday. The knowledge that their respective banks are FDIC-insured helps many people sleep more comfortably at night.


5. Good Customer Service

Even with the ubiquity of the internet and this time being the technology age, apparently nothing still beats good old customer service. Whether it’s that affable bank teller over at the other side of the counter or that customer service representative with the friendly voice dealing with you in the late hours of the night, making a customer feel right at home and in good hands is definitely a big hit with the bank-transacting public.


6. Free Online Banking and Bills Payment

With convenient location at the very top of this list, it is a small wonder that online banking, the ultimate way of being able to bank anytime, anywhere is also a feature that many consumers would want their banks to have. In fact, many are now using internet-only institutions as their primary banks instead of the traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Bills payment through the internet is also the fastest and one of the safest ways to settle your utilities and other regular payables.


7. Competitive Interest Rates

You would be surprised to know that many people wouldn’t think twice about changing banks in a heartbeat for just a mere fraction advantage in the interest rate of the latter bank. This is because these trying times call for consumers to be more prudent and smart with how they handle their finances. Ease in transacting money matters and warm, friendly service are all good, but many times it would all boil down to which bank gives the most returns for one’s money.


8. Free Checking Account

A free checking account that’s really free with no strings attached should have at the very least: no low balance fees, unlimited free access to ATMs, free checks, free online banking, and free deposit transfers. With these savings for your everyday funds, what more could one ask for?


9. Credit or Loans Availability

Due to the sheer number of mortgage loans going sour, credit availability is expected to take a deep decline in the next few months. Credit cards and small business loans in particular, will be more difficult to obtain by consumers and entrepreneurs. Those who are still good credit risks, however, would like to stick it out with the bank which still has the resources and the good sense to help in reviving the economy by making loans available to deserving entities.


10. Bank Reputation or Soundness

Even finance giants could fall. We have actually seen this with the takeover or demise of such well-known institutions as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, etc. People would want to protect what meager savings they have as much as possible, and therefore they have taken a conscious effort in finding out if their banks are still sound choices in the current crisis.

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