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You can get better bank rates: here's how

You've probably seen dozens of commercials from banks offering great interest rates on certificates of deposit and other products, but how can you be sure to get the best deal? Interest rates are important, but they aren't the only factor in pinpointing what's best for you. Consider these important aspects before you sign on the dotted line.

Online versus local

Online banks often beat local bank rates because their overhead costs are much lower. Physical locations and employees are huge expenses, so online banks have an advantage. But if you need access to ATMs, the ability to make deposits or just like to meet a teller face to face, an online bank may not be the best option. Know exactly how an online bank communicates with you, processes deposits and withdrawals, and calculates the cost of using an ATM.

Know your habits

Some banks will reward -- or punish -- you based on your banking habits. How often do you use your debit card? Do you use an online bill-pay service? How much money is usually in your checking and savings accounts? Do you need a credit card? The way you manage your money will greatly affect the bank you choose. If you seem to constantly pay fees due to low balances or infrequent debit card use, higher bank rates won't be worth it in the end. Pay attention to your banking habits so you can determine suitable terms for your lifestyle.

Compare

Using comparative tools from Bankrate.com, you can easily find the best bank rates, online and in your area. You can compare rates, introductory bonuses, minimum balances, monthly fees and more. By educating yourself on each bank's terms, you'll be able to pinpoint the best option for you.

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