Your bank need not be bleh.
Below is your refresher on the basic types of deposit accounts available, and the steps to getting the account opened. Once you know the type of account you want to open, browse banks to find the best one suited for your interests.
1. Pick the right type of account for you.
+ If you want your money insured, and available 24/7/365 for everyday purchases and living expenses:Open a checking account with an FDIC-insured bank. For most checking accounts, the biggest value to you will be to confirm that there aren’t any surprise fees. Ask about monthly minimums, overdraft fees and anything you need do (like set up direct deposits) to avoid fees. If you use ATMs, ask about ATM fees and ATM reimbursements. Mighty does our best to help you see this information, but a short call to the bank (or chat with a bank customer service rep online, if they offer that) is worth it, because:
If the bank knows you're interested in banking there because the bank’s mission matches your values, you’re a valuable customer and you may learn they can work with you and give you what you need, like fees waived or a better interest rate. Especially if you keep a large balance with the bank, set up direct deposits or have multiple accounts. Never hurts to ask. And if you’re going to let someone have access to your money while you’re not using it to wield influence with it, don’t you think a quick phone call helps you understand if the bank is a good fit for your values?
+ If you have a bit of cash to set aside, want it insured, and want to watch it grow for you and the matters you care about:
You have options.
Savings accounts, money market accounts, or certificate of deposits (CDs) in FDIC-insured banks are different types of deposit accounts that pay you interest in exchange for you stowing away some of your cash for a while.
If you don’t want to worry about a hefty minimum balance, and want to be able to access your cash if needed, try a savings account. A savings account is a good starter account for everyone to grow cash on hand for a rainy day, and your future goals. To help you save and earn interest, you can generally take money out of your account six times per month, no more.
If you have a good chunk of cash hand and want to earn a more aggressive interest rate, consider a money market account or certificate of deposit (CD). Both keep your money safe through FDIC-insurance (if your bank is FDIC-insured), and both generally pay higher interest rates than checking or savings accounts. Money market accounts generally require a higher minimum balance than CDs, but you can take your money out anytime. With CDs, you commit to keeping your money in the bank for a minimum amount of time, usually at least 3 months, and the longer the term of the CD you commit to (i.e. 12-18 months), the higher interest rate you can earn. If you take your money out early, you’ll pay a penalty.
Whether you choose a savings account, money market account or CD, as with all deposit accounts, be sure to talk to the bank to confirm the minimum balance, interest rate, any fees, and if any promotions or premium customer features can be made available for you.
*Pro tip: You’re not going to rake in record-breaking interest rates with a savings account, but it is a good starter account. You’ll earn some interest, and you should. But the primary purpose of a savings account is to have an emergency fund (six months of expenses) so you can weather what unanticipated expenses may come your way while keeping your cool.. Don’t have six months of expenses to set aside yet? Rome didn’t get built overnight, and neither will your savings. Start with $50 if needed, and go from there. Saving up is what savings accounts are for. Once you have an emergency fund built up, consider higher interest bearing accounts like money markets or CDs.
+ Still not sure what account is best for you?
Call a bank, or two. Any bank. And learn about what the bank offers. Most banks offer similar things, so asking a banker for advice about what you’re looking to do is an effective way to learn. Once you know what type of account you want, you can choose the bank you want to bank with.
2. Open your account.
It generally takes anywhere from 15 mins (online) to 30 minutes (over the phone) up to an hour (in person) to do this.
+ Get your creds
Whether you do it online, via phone or in person, the bank will need to verify that you are who you say you are. To confirm for them you’re you, you’ll need to have quick access to your creds:
- Your government issued ID
- Your social security number
- Your recent addresses
+ Fund your account
Now it’s time to put some money in your new account. You can do this in one of several ways:
- In your new bank portal, if available, enter the bank routing and account number of the place you’re drawing funds from.
- Or, in your old bank portal, if available, enter the bank routing and account number of the bank you’re moving funds to.
- Or, you can use a third party app to transfer funds to yourself, like Venmo.
- Or, ask your new bank about other ways to fund your new account.
3. Automate your account.
+ Online banking tools:
Things to set up:
- Direct deposits (coordinated through your employer and your bank)
- Electronic statements (set up through your online banking)
- Automatic payments and transfers
- Bill pay
- Set up spending alerts
Most banks offer these features. If they don’t, you can usually find a work around by using credit card or third party tools, listed below.
+ Credit card tools:
Things to consider:
- Automatic payments and transfers. To set up, you just need tell your credit card to pull from your bank account each month, which you can do by entering your bank routing and account numbers into your credit card account online.
Paying for everyday items with your credit card and then paying your card off each month with an auto-payment is a way to not carry cash, earn points or cashback for your purchases, and pay your credit card balance each month with your bank, with whatever bank you want to use.
+ Third party tools:
- Peer to peer payments (like Venmo)
- Money management (like Mint)
- Accounting (like Quickbooks)
You just need your bank routing and account numbers to set these up. For more idea on tools to use, see Nerdwallet’s list of best personal finance management tools.