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Choosing the bank that suits you

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      10.10.2006 12:12
      Very helpful
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      Look at the good points, but balance them out against the bad points.

      There are many considerations to think of when thinking of opening a Bank Account. Much like anything else in this life, your experience can be a good one if prepared well or a nightmare if you did not think out in advance what it is that you actually want from your Bank. Many things have to be borne in mind and here I have summed up some of the things that a potential customer should take into account.

      Type of account.

      For a normal current account with cheque book facility, it is certainly worth seeing if the Bank provide cover for fraud for both the cheque book and card, and at what price. It is something that many do not take into consideration and is really important in this day and age with fraud being rife. Also it is worthy of noting what a bank offers in the way of overdraft facilities and what this means to you, the customer, in the way of charges. If on a limited income, then the chances are that you will occasionally go into the red, and rather than wait until this happens, forewarned of these charges, you can be more in control of that little money that you may have.

      Joint accounts.

      Do you want to have a joint account with your spouse ? Does the bank offer cards for both parties ? Would this be a wise move ? Are you willing to take on the debts of your spouse should they overspend ? Finding out about what kind of account you want to use is essential and many banks will allow cheques only to be drawn with both signatures, and although this is not a normal thing, the option is available at most banks for those worried about the spending habits of their spouse. Nowadays with joint accounts, two statements are sent so that both parties are aware of the situation of their account.

      Deposit Accounts:

      If you think that you will be a regular saver or that you have a small amount of money that you would prefer to be in a bank account that earns interest, it is worth checking out the different rates of interest offered by banks as these vary considerably from bank to bank, and also with the market in Building Society accounts, it is interesting to see who offers the best return for your investment. Here, you could have transfers made from a Bank to a Building Society on a regular basis, or simply have a deposit account if the bank offers reasonable rates of return.

      Investment portfolios.

      Lloyds are particularly good with stock market investments and other banks offer advice on this aspect of investment, though looking at their track record and asking questions is essential so that you know which bank can offer you the best investment that suits you. Talking to a representative of the Bank on subjects such as this can help you decide if you want that particular bank to handle your investments, and to judge if the answers are readily available and the staff know what they are talking about.

      Credit Cards

      Credit cards are offered by all banks but here beware that although a high credit limot may be given to you, this is not always a good sign for a prudent bank. Remember that credit cards are in fact borrowed money and do need regular payments to keep them under control. One of the most important things to know about credit cards these days is whether the Bank gives you any cover for internet fraud, since credit cards are easily lost or stolen, and finding out what this is likely to cost you is imperative. Used correctly, credit cards offer you almost a month of free credit and if you pay your balance monthly are simple and effective. However, the temptation is always there to pay the minimum payment and spread the cost. Adcertisements tell us daily on the television about spreading cost; though if they worded it another way and said borrow a thousand pounds and pay us back One thousand Five hundred Pounds, would you be so keen on paying minimum payments because although the interest amount sounds paultry in some cases, you pay interest on the outstanding balance every month and believe me it is easy to get into debt.

      Branch Location.

      This really is important. You need to be able to visit your Bank or at least a Branch of the bank when the need arises: Once I was with a small bank thinking that the service I would get would be better than the more impersonal banks, although the error meant that there were not enough branches when I was on holiday or cash machines available to me in my travels. Cgosing a bank that is national and that has plenty of branches does make life easier for you.

      Cash Point Withdrawals

      With competition rife in Banking, ask Banks what they charge you when you use a cash point. I think it very wrong that people should be charged for access to their own money and yet some banks still do this, particularly if you use a machine that is not at one of their own Branches and a withdrawal from a cash point abroad can cost you a fortune. Mine costs 1.50 GBP every time I use it, so is not used any more.

      Establishing a rapport with a Bank

      It is important that you find out if your calls are all directed to call centres. These call centres are a nuisance and I know of no one that likes the experience. Ask if you can have a telephone number of your own Branch at the outset and do not be fobbed off with call centres. They are a frustration and a waste of time.

      Can you store documents at the Bank ?

      This is worth finding out as well as Wills and documents of this nature can often be stored at banks for no charge. It is worth finding out the price that a potential bank would ask, as many still do this as a free service to the customer, whilst others charge for the service.

      Internet Access

      Find out how good the website experience of your potential Bank Account is. Get the person you are talking to about opening an account to show you on the screen what their site is like to operate. Most of the larger Banks have good website facilities for transferring funds, keeping an eye on direct debits, paying bills, and generally having access to details of all of your accounts at your fingertips.

      I hope that this has helped someone with thinking about their choice of Bank. Things that tend to put me off a bank are unfriendly staff., no direct telephone link with my branch and a website that is a nightmare to navigate. Look out for snags during the preparation time because once you are with a bank and have set up your payments, changing bank can be difficult and very time consuming, so that in fact a well thought out decision in the first place would help your experience enormously.


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