How To Make Banking Decisions

Choosing Your Bank Accounts

Now that you’ve learned about the options available, it’s time to make some decisions about your financial future. Only you can decide which options are best for you, but here are some questions to consider as you choose your institutions and accounts.

If you have a hard time narrowing down your options, here is a list of banks on or near Penn’s campus. Additionally, NerdWallet offers account comparison tools that may help you narrow down your options. Use these links to access their comparison tools for savings accountschecking accountsCDs, and money market accounts.

Services Available

Questions You Should Ask:

  • What types of accounts will suit your financial needs?

  • Are there additional services you may want to use later, like credit cards or bank loan options?

  • Are there special accounts for students?

  • What technology services do you need?


Here's Why:

When you open an account, you should be sure that it offers everything you need. If you want to interact with one institution only, make sure the institutions you’re considering offer all the services you need. If electronic access is important to you, find a bank that offers an app. Many bank apps allow you to check your account balances, transfer funds between accounts, and deposit checks online. Some apps even offer budgeting tools! 


Questions You Should Ask:

  • Do you want all your accounts in one place, or would you rather spread your funds?

  • Do you need an institution available in multiple geographical regions?

  • Do you need access to a physical branch?


Here's Why:

Using one bank that's available in multiple geographical locations may be incredibly convenient, even if it's an ATM and not a fully serviced branch. If that's your first priority, then find a bank that fits that criteria. You can sometimes optimize your banking strategy by using multiple institutions. This allows you to find the best deals on fees, interest rates, and additional services. Even if a bank is not available in all of the geographic locations you may want it, using a debit card or withdrawing cash ahead of time could help with that. 

Associated Costs

Questions You Should Ask:

  • What are the associated fees and rates?

  • Is there a minimum starting deposit?

  • Is there a minimum balance required?

  • If you fall below the minimum balance, is there a fee?


Here's Why: 

Many institutions will allow you to set up a checking account for free (check the terms!), but some accounts may have monthly maintenance fees, ATM fees, overdraft fees, transfer fees, paper statement fees, and more. Identify the fees associated with each account before you select one and determine how those fees will affect your finances.

If you are opening a savings account and you want those funds to earn interest, compare interest rates across banks. Many online banks offer high-interest savings accounts, giving you a larger return for holding your funds with them than a traditional bank might. While you might be skeptical of the security of online banks, many are insured by the FDIC just as traditional banks are.


Questions You Should Ask:

  • How will your money be protected?

  • What is the reputation of this institution?


Here's Why:

Before you hand your money over to your new bank, find out what security measures they have in place to protect your funds and if they have a good reputation among clients. Look for banks that are backed by the FDIC and credit unions backed by the NCUA. This will ensure that your funds are protected in the unlikely event that your financial institution fails. Additionally, do a quick search to find out if the institution you’re considering is in good standing with its clients. Some large banks have had massive security breaches in the past decade, leaving many clients dissatisfied. Learn more about the institution to decide if you trust them with your personal information and money.