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Relocating? Here’s How to Choose a New Bank

Relocating? Here’s How to Choose a New Bank

Money Management
SouthEast Bank| April 15, 2024
Relocating? Here’s How to Choose a New Bank

Though the “Great American Move” has slowed down quite a bit, Middle and East Tennessee remain top destinations for residents from major metropolitan areas looking for affordability and recreation in their new homes. According to an annual report from U-Haul, Knoxville, Tennessee, was one of the top 20 U.S. Growth Cities in 2023, with Chattanooga receiving notable mention for its net-gain population.

If you’re one of the thousands of people who relocated to our region this year, you might need a new bank. Before you sign up with the first online bank or local branch you see, take your time to ensure you make the best choice. 

5 Questions to Consider When Opening a New Bank Account

Choosing a new bank can be an overwhelming task considering the wide array of options available, especially when you’re in a new city. Whether you’re just looking to open a new checking account or you’re also thinking about services you may need in the long term, it’s important to keep these factors in mind before making a decision.

1. What Are Your Banking Options?

Depending on your new location, you may have several banking options. There may be credit unions, national chain banks, and local banks near you, and you also could select an online-only bank. Each of these options has pros and cons. 

Credit Unions

Because credit unions are nonprofit organizations, they often have less stringent requirements for borrowers and may offer slightly higher interest rates on savings accounts. However, they will usually have fewer lending and account types than banks and may be limited in the types of tools and digital features they offer. 

National Chain Banks

Big-name brands have brand recognition and often offer a wide range of financial products, including checking accounts, loans, and even investment accounts. They may have the latest in digital banking technology, and it’s usually easy to find a branch or ATM. However, all of those features usually come with higher fees. And with a big national chain, you are one of millions, so it’s difficult to get personalized attention when you need help.

Online Lenders

Online banks are convenient, allowing you to open and manage your accounts from your couch. Because they don’t have physical branches, they have lower overhead costs and can pass the savings on to customers in the form of lower rates on loans and better annual percentage yields (APYs) on savings accounts. 

However, it can be difficult to reach a real person when you need help, and it can be challenging to find an in-network ATM or deposit large checks if your bank is only available online. 

An alternative if you’d like to be able to manage much of your banking electronically is to choose a local or national bank with robust digital banking options. Often, physical banks will offer mobile apps or online banking platforms, but branch locations are available to assist you if you need in-person help.

Local Banks

You may assume that local banks might have limited features or services, but that’s not true across the board! Local banks often offer a wide range of financial products and can still offer more personalized service. As you build a relationship with a local bank and they get to know you, they may be more willing to work with you when you need a loan to buy a home or car. Because local banks are small, they don’t have to pay dividends to shareholders, so they may also have lower rates than big chains. Plus, local banks often support your neighborhood through charitable donations, helping to improve your community. 

2. How Will You Utilize Your Bank?

Think about how you normally do your banking; do you still go to a branch and make deposits or withdrawals through a bank teller? Do you use your smartphone? Or both? Based on your typical habits, you can identify which banking features are must-haves for you. 

Some common features to consider include: 

Also, when choosing a bank, spend some time thinking about what services you need right now and potentially in the future. Nearly all banks offer deposit accounts and home loans, but you also may need services like business bank accounts, car loans, or features designed for specific populations.

For example, for the growing family or ambitious “DINKs,” pairing Bonus Rate Checking and Bonus Rate Savings accounts could help you round up everyday purchases into your savings while earning a healthy interest rate on your checking balance with minimal requirements.

If you’ve moved for a more enjoyable retirement, SouthEast Bank’s Thrive Checking account may be a better fit. Customers 60 or older can open an account with as little as $50, while enjoying free checks, an interest rate bump on CD specials, and more!

3. What Fees Can You Expect?

It’s important to ask questions and carefully review terms of service before opening an account. At some banks, the cost to have an account can be expensive. According to a study by myBankTracker, the average monthly service fee for checking accounts is $10.77. That means in one year alone, you’d pay $129.24 just to have a checking account. 

Not all banks charge fees. In fact, some SouthEast Bank checking accounts have no monthly service fees, and others will waive the fee if you meet certain qualifications. Consider how often you use your debit card to make transactions and other banking habits when reviewing your account options and how you may opt into discounts or fee-free services.

4. Where Are Nearby Branch Locations and ATMs?

If you have a checking account, you’ll likely need to visit a branch, deposit a check, or withdraw cash from an ATM, including after banking hours. But if you aren’t careful, choosing the wrong bank could cost you – literally!

Explore the branch locations a given bank has near you, as well as how close they are to your workplace or recreation areas. You may not always choose to visit a branch, but when the need does arise, you don’t want to be left stranded! If you bank with an institution that has few branches or in-network ATMs near you, you’ll likely pay an ATM fee, the average of which rose to $4.73 in 2023.

Did you know that SouthEast Bank customers can access Allpoint ATMs, a company with over 55,000 ATM locations, free of charge? You can use the Allpoint ATM app to find an ATM near you. 

5. What Do Current Customers Have to Say?

Sometimes the best recommendation comes by word of mouth. However, if you’re new to the area, you can typically trust online reviews to be the next best thing.

Customer reviews can provide valuable insights into the quality of service you can expect from a bank. Take the time to read reviews from a variety of sources like Google, TrustPilot, NerdWallet, and BankRate, and see what both customers and banking experts have noticed. Everyone had bad days, so use vetted sources to help you sift through the outlier reviews.

Don’t forget to look for red flags about the reputation and stability of the bank in question. Has it recently been bought by another bank? Does it have a long history of financial stability? How is the bank involved in the community in which it’s based or where you live? Answering these concerns helps ensure that your money will be safe and that the bank will be able to meet your financial needs in the long run.

Opening a Bank Account Online

Today, it’s quite common to open a new bank account online – not to mention convenient! Regardless of how easy it may seem, you want to prepare for the steps a new bank account will require. Here’s what you should expect:

Picking a Bank

Moving to a new state or city is challenging enough. Don’t let an impulsive bank decision add to the chaos! Spend some time evaluating account options, fees, and added perks from your nearby choices. By doing a little extra homework, you can find the right bank for you – and even save money. 

When all else fails, ask questions! Ask a new coworker or neighbor about their recommendations, and better yet, go to a bank branch yourself to ask questions. The right bank will make you feel right at home!

Information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only. Nothing contained in this blog should be construed as financial, legal, or tax advice.