Business Banking Issues

How to Pick the Right Bank
Jeffrey W. Ward, South Side Trust & Savings Bank

A $20 bill from every bank in town looks the same. So all banks must be the same, right? If there were no differences between banks, there wouldn’t be so many of them. Here are some things to think about as you search for the best bank for your needs.

Safety and Security. Is the bank FDIC-insured? If you aren’t sure, check www.fdic.gov and click on Bank Find. In addition, do some research to determine if the bank is on sound financial footing.

Convenience. Is there a bank location or ATM on your way to work or where you typically run your errands? Do the branch hours fit your schedule? Are you able to handle your banking needs while out of town? If you prefer online banking, is the bank’s website easy to use and does it offer the options you need? If you have business locations outside the area, does your bank allow you to deposit checks from your offices?

Service. Visit the bank’s lobby. Does it feel comfortable? Are there long lines to wait for a teller? Do the tellers smile and engage their customers? Is there easy access to managers and officers? When you call on the phone, does a person answer the phone, or do you reach an automated menu? Can you call a local bank office or do you call an 800 number? Are your questions answered quickly and completely?

Fees and Interest. Most banks offer free personal accounts. If you keep a larger balance, are there options such as sweep accounts to allow your money to earn interest? Compare interest rates on deposit accounts and loans. Look for extra fees over and above the monthly charges.

Other Services. You may have banking needs, now or in the future, that go beyond checking and loans. Does the bank offer other services, including local trust and investment departments with the expertise to help you with more complex issues? If you handle a large volume of checks and invoices in your business, does the bank offer a lockbox service?

You might consider bringing your current bank statements and financial information to the finalists and ask them to give you their costs for the same services. Discuss what you like and don’t like about your current bank. Ask if they have suggestions for better ways to structure your accounts in order to maximize your earnings and reduce fees—they may offer alternatives that you hadn’t considered. Ask how they would assist you in moving your accounts.

Think about which bank offers you the best total package. Having your entire banking relationship at one bank typically gives you the best deal. Consider whether you have other criteria, such as the bank’s community involvement. Then make your choice.

The good news is that you have many options, and with a little research, you should find a bank that is perfect for you. IBI

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