Bank-shopping? Here's how to choose

Speaking of fees ...

From time to time, it may be necessary to use an ATM that isn't connected with your bank, Ross says. Find out what it will cost. And keep in mind you may pay two fees: one charged by your bank, and one from the institution associated with the ATM.

"People don't realize that they're being charged on both ends," she says.

Aside from ATM fees, ask about the other fees the institution charges for the services you want, says Greg Hernandez, a spokesman for the FDIC.

Find out what the minimum balance is for each account, Hernandez says. "Do they charge fees if your account dips below a certain balance? Do they offer overdraft protection and how much does that cost?"

Overdraft fees -- charged when you use an account with an ATM card or check, but are short on funds -- will be reined in a bit later this year. On July 1, Federal Reserve rules kick in that say customers have to opt in to overdraft protection. At the moment, many banks automatically charge their customers, which can turn a $5 purchase into a $40 one if you count the cost of the item plus a $35 overdraft fee.

But the new rules don't affect overdraft protection fees charged for keeping checks from bouncing.

In addition, there may be fees charged each day an account is overdrawn in addition to the amount tacked on for allowing the transaction.

Does your bank travel?

If you travel, ask if your bank will travel with you, McKean says.

"Depending on how mobile you are, looking at those ATM fees is extremely important," she says. Ask about bank locations in other cities, states and countries, or if the bank is part of a network of banks.

If you will be traveling abroad and need cash, find out if a bank provides foreign currencies, what services are available outside the United States and what you will be charged for using your ATM and debit cards.

Compare rates

If you are shopping for interest-bearing accounts, compare rates among banks.

"If you want your money to work better for you, sometimes at an online bank you're going to get a higher interest rate," Ross says.

Consider the bank's credentials

In an era of multiple bank failures a month, you may find it hard to figure out who to trust. Find out how your money is protected and what happens when a bank fails.

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