Back to Basics: The Bank Account

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We support reforms to the financial marketplace that protect consumers from unscrupulous banks and lenders.

By Consumers Union on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

What should a consumer look for in a bank account?
When I did a quick search to find tips or helpful information on opening up a bank account, I was surprised there isn’t much out there.

Here are our 6 basic tips:

1. What are the fees?
Are there fees to open the account, maintain the account, use the account (i.e. ATM, bill pay, overdraft)

2. Direct Deposit
Usually, you can avoid opening fees and/or monthly fees by setting up direct deposit.

3. What’s the minimum balance?
Is there a minimum balance you must maintain to avoid fees?

4. Avoid interest bearing accounts
They usually require a high minimum balance, and if you don’t have enough money in the account—you’ll have to pay up–at a higher price. Besides, the interest you’ll gain isn’t likely going to be very much.

5. Keep an eye on your balance
Don’t let banks take more of your money away because of overdraft(s).

6. Opt out of overdraft
Ask for alternatives—to deny the transaction when there isn’t enough money to cover the purchase, tie it to a savings account or a credit card.

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