It is very hard to live without a bank account in modern life. Clearly, some people manage it, whether because they operate solely in the cash economy or because they do not have any money, but this is rare. For most people, if you earn a salary, run a home and have bills to pay, a bank account is essential. It is the means by which you receive your pay from an employer, and it is the easiest way to pay regular bills, such as utilities and insurance.

There are plenty of banks to choose from, but the hard part is finding a bank that offers the right product for your current situation. Larger banks such as Colombia Bank NJ offer customers a wide range of different products, so you will be spoilt for choice, but before you decide fill in an application for a new bank account, here are some things you need to think about.

What Type of Account Do You Need?

A checking account is the most common type of account. This is the account you would use for your salary and bill payments. Checking accounts typically provide a debit card and a checkbook. You may have an overdraft facility included, plus a selection of ‘extras’. Some checking accounts are no-frills, but others are designed to offer all kinds of extras and are specifically designed for people with a high net worth. For the majority of people, a regular checking account is sufficient for their needs.

If you need an account for non-everyday money, i.e. savings, look at different types of savings accounts. Some are instant access and some are designed for long-term savings, so the longer the money stays untouched in the account, the more interest you earn.

Some accounts need to be opened in person whereas others can be opened online. If you already have an account with the lender, it is easier to open a second account, as they have already verified your identity.

Credit Scores

Banks look at your credit score before they let you open a checking account. If you have bad credit, your options will be limited and you may find it difficult to open a checking or even savings account. If you are able to open one, it is likely to be a very basic account with no debit card or checking facilities, and no overdraft. If you discover you have a poor credit rating, request a copy of your credit record to verify whether the information on there is accurate. Mistakes can and do happen, but unless you know they exist, you can’t have them removed from your record.

If you do have bad credit, look at specialist lenders who provide financial products for people with adverse credit ratings.

Account Fees

Lenders often charge fees for the pleasure of having a bank account. In today’s competitive financial market, you really shouldn’t be paying a fee to have a bank account, so if your preferred lender says you will be charged for writing checks or using your debit card, try a different lender.

Some accounts charge a monthly fee for ‘extras’ such as travel insurance and a no-fee overdraft. These extras might sound tempting, but assess whether you actually need them before you open the account.

Online or Offline Banking

Online banking is very convenient, so if you would prefer to bank online, make sure the lender has an online banking facility. Most lenders do these days, so it shouldn’t be a problem finding one. Some lenders even operate exclusively online so they can offer better rates to their customers. However, if you like the security of being able to go into your local branch and talk to a real live person, give this type of account a miss for now.

Balances and Monthly Transactions

Many checking accounts require that you pay in a certain amount each month. If your earnings are variable, this type of account may not be right for you. Some also specify that you maintain a minimum balance in the account, so decide whether this is suitable for your needs.

Switching to a new bank is now incredibly easy – the new lender moves all of your direct debits and payments for you, so you don’t have to lift a finger. With this in mind, don’t be swayed by a lender’s flashy advertising. Read the small print on the account terms and conditions, and if you are not happy with the account once it’s up and running, switch to another lender.