Is there a difference between the national bank you see ads for on TV and that community bank around the corner?
Not really, says Denise Winston, founder of the Bakersfield, Calif.-based Money Start Here consumer education series. "A bank is a bank. It boils down to the following: convenience, products, services, fees and long-term relationships."
Marcia Cornett, finance professor at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., agrees. "From a consumer's perspective, both national banks and community banks offer the same basic services," she says, adding that the main difference is that national banks, in general, tend to be able to offer services at slightly lower rates, while community banks pride themselves on more personal service.
But if you're one of those consumers who put service above price, you'll find a lot of choices when picking a local bank. According to the Independent Community Bankers of America, a Washington D.C.-based trade group, there are nearly 8,000 community banks, in more than 50,000 locations. So how do you choose the right community bank? Read on for five tips.