Choosing from the various banks to find one that fits your needs might seem like a daunting task, but it's actually a fairly simple process. You need to decide whether you need a place to put your money so it can sit and grow or if you'll be moving money in and out of the account fairly quickly. The bank you use also needs to fit your schedule, so make sure the hours of availability work with your needs. Financial institutions with online services could be a perfect fit for you because they enable you to handle bills and balances with the click of a mouse. Many big, well-known banks have online bill-pay options and account services. Of course, there are also online-only options. Also keep in mind whether you need an array of options including investment options, mortgages or loans. Find a bank that fits your needs, whether you want to save your money or spend it and at whatever hours necessary.
Although free checking is widely advertised, keep in mind that the services you need might not be available with a free account. Of course, if all you need is basic checking, a free account might be just right for you. One aspect of checking to consider is whether you write a lot of checks. If you do, then free checking is what you want. Also, the convenience your bank offers is important, and there are quite a few things to consider. Something many people don't stop and consider, for example, is how many ATM's your bank has available near you. When you use an ATM out of your banking network you'll be charged a fee. Sometimes you can have the fee refunded, but you usually need to supply the receipts. If you're not willing to hang onto your receipts to get the money you spend on fees back, it isn't worth finding a bank that refunds them.
Ask your friends what banks they use, and why, and take the time to shop around. There's no reason to use the first one you come across. Whatever bank you choose, it should be FDIC insured, and if it's a credit union it should be NCUSIF insured. The FDIC is an independent agency that monitors and supervises financial institutions to make sure they follow the law. The reason banks need to be FDIC insured is because it means your deposits are guaranteed. If the financial institution has trouble, you're guaranteed to get your money back. This practice began in 1934, and the FDIC claims no customers have lost any money in any banks they insure since the day they began. Deposits up to $250,000 are covered but only for checking, savings and certificates of deposit. Stocks, bonds and mutual funds are not insured. If you're not sure if they're insured, you can go to the FDIC's website and find out. Whatever financial institution you choose, make sure it meets your individual needs and provides the services you use most. Although choosing one can take some time, it's more difficult to change institutions later than it is to simply find a good one to begin with.