One of the reasons I’ve used so many different banks over the past 10 years is that each bank has its own pros and cons.
For example, while I certainly just feel like another number with Bank of America, you can’t deny that their network of ATMs nationwide is incredibly convenient. They wouldn’t know me at all if I walked into a branch (which I have done), but I don’t use them for the “important” things.
I use a local bank for my business banking, because I know I can walk into a branch and talk to someone who works there and who understands what my needs are. It’s always good to know your banker — and the local banks do a better job of getting to know their customers than the national players.
When it comes to online savings accounts, I’m looking for something that has a (relatively) high-yield, thanks to their low overhead and digital infrastructure.
Long story short: it certainly makes sense to find the right bank for your situation. Even if that means you have accounts with a few different institutions, as long as you can keep track of what’s where, you can find the best choice for your need.
How Do You Find the Right Bank?
So the $64,000 question, then, is how do you find the right bank for your need?
Obviously, you need to figure out exactly what the need is first. Is it ease of access? Is it working with someone who understands your financial situation? Or maybe you want to work with a credit union, who’s not there for the profits?
You can certainly ask around and get referrals from friends, the personal finance blogosphere or dig in and do a lot of research. You may get recommendations from other tools you use, like Mint‘s suggested credit cards or mortgage lenders. You could use a multi-lender website like LendingTree here in the states or STKFinans.no if you’re in Norway (here’s some great tips on shopping multi-lender websites).
At the end of the day, if you’re doing business with a bank for the first time, you can’t be totally sure what the experience will be like. If it’s not a “major” banking relationship – like your mortgage or business banking – then you can test the waters, and walk away if it’s not the right bank for you.
If you’re just in it for the lowest rates on your mortgage or car loan, then you may not care about convenience of walking into a branch or having a person who knows your face and your account when you reach out. And that’s totally fine.
The Bottom Line
To find the right bank for you, determine your goal and your needs: whether its the best rates, convenience, a personal relationship, or something else, use that as a starting point.
Do your research, ask for referrals, use comparison sites and test the waters. I’ve opened accounts at credit unions I’ve never set foot in (and are across the country from me) because they had great HSA accounts – it just made sense.