Working Effectively with Your Bank

Keep in mind that the banking industry is very competitive, so sometimes it pays to shop around, particularly if your current bank imposes high fees or is raising its fees. Also remember that credit unions often offer better deals than banks – higher interest on deposit accounts and lower interest on loans, but you never know until you do some comparison shopping. In fact, if you're in the market for a CD or loan, there is rarely any reason to stick with your bank or credit union if you can get a better deal elsewhere. To find out what banks are paying on deposits and charging on loans, visit: www.bankrate.com. Your local newspaper may also publish information on bank deposit and loan rates.

The key criteria in selecting a bank or credit union is to choose one based on the services you need, not on services it provides. Also, make sure you get the services you need, not what they want you to have. While most banks offer a wide range of financial services, including brokerage, retirement, and insurance products, for most people, a bank is for two things: taking money out (a checking account) and putting money in (savings accounts and CDs). You may now or in the future use a bank for taking more money out than you have. I'm not talking about robbery. I'm talking about loans.

Whichever bank you do business with, be sure to use online banking which streamlines a lot of the drudgery of writing checks and making loan payments.