When searching the web for guidance on how to select a bank, the most common advice focuses on rates and fees. Quantitative factors such as rates, fees, size of bank and number of offices are easy for writers to research and prepare an article. But, for most people, it is the qualitative factors that will have a longer-lasting effect on banking satisfaction. These factors include ease of access to an experienced banker with decision-making authority, the potential to be known, trust level, and the bank’s approach to customer service.
Here are some common quantitative questions:
How important are fees and rates in selecting a bank? Today, almost all banks offer a free checking option plus free online banking. This includes access from your computer or your phone. The service is virtually the same, big or small bank. Rates paid on checking and savings are variable and for the last four years have been near zero! Some banks offer a higher rate on checking balances (up to a maximum) if you meet a number of qualifications, such as using your debit card 12 times during the month, signing-on to online banking 8 times per month and more.
Do I need a large bank to have easy access? The large regional banks have thousands of offices across the country. They also have large ATM networks. But, regardless of the scale of branching, it is the ONE office that is nearest you that will be most important in building a long-term relationship. If that one office is the ONLY office of a small bank, you have not sacrificed ease of access, because most small banks offer online banking and free access to an ATM network.
Now, let’s talk about the qualitative factors in your bank selection. These are difficult to measure before you open an account. Referrals from friends can play an important role, but sometimes it’s your gut feeling about how you will be served and valued.
So, consider this:
A small bank depends solely on meeting the needs of its customers in your neighborhood or market. Every customer is important. A large bank is not structured in a way to measure success on a personal level. It’s measured at the branch level.
Because your money is near and dear to you, you should select a bank that appreciates that relationship and works with you in a truly personal way. Perhaps you select a bank for your checking account, but when you need or want a loan, your first choice should be a bank you know and a bank that has come to know you.
Trust is another factor. You have read about a large bank that was forcing new accounts personnel to open unwanted accounts to meet quotas. For that reason, you should select a bank that you feel does not sell, but rather, assists you in creating a rewarding, convenient relationship.
So, what’s most important is selecting a bank? It depends on what you want. If you want to be appreciated and have a trusting relationship, it’s wise to look locally and select a bank where their success depends on serving neighbors and the community.