Most Americans are in banking relationships and they tend to last more than a decade.
Nearly 95 percent of American households have an account at a bank or credit union, according to a 2019 FDIC Survey and the average person has had a relationship with this financial institution for around 14 years, according to a Bankrate survey conducted in December 2020.
These are six things to look for to make sure your banking relationship is still going strong.
1. You’re not happy at your bank
Many Americans have had a banking relationship since around the time the iPhone made its debut in 2007. Over the years, the phone has evolved in many ways. So have banks. Some popular banks today didn’t even exist 14 years ago.
2. The customer service at your bank isn’t right for you
Accessibility is key. Beyond physical branch or ATM locations, you’ll want a bank that you can easily get in touch with, if needed. If bank representatives are only available during the hours when you’re working — or you can’t reach anyone on the weekend — maybe it’s time to move to a different bank or credit union.
A bank that’s there for you offering 24/7 customer service with live representatives might be a must-have feature for some and you have options. For instance, Ally Bank has 24/7 customer service and posts its phone wait time online. Some banks also have options to chat with customer service representatives online to get your questions answered.
3. The bank doesn’t have the products you want
Some banks have all the features and products you want. Other times, it might make sense to have at least two bank relationships. For instance, a checking account at the bank down the street and a high-yield savings account at an online bank might be a good combination.
Just be certain you’re able to get the monthly maintenance fee on those accounts waived. Also, make sure your accounts have the features that you like to use. For example, you might want the ability to turn your debit card on or off, or deposit checks using your phone while you’re away from home or socially distanced at home.
4. You don’t like the mobile bank app
Savvy consumers are looking for banks with a laundry list of features, like person-to-person payments, online bill pay and digital budgeting tools.
You may not be the kind of customer who needs an account with a lot of bells and whistles. But at the bare minimum, you may need a bank with a mobile app (some don’t have one yet). And depending on what your financial goals are, you could benefit from an institution with a virtual assistant that can identify problem areas (such as Erica at Bank of America or the U.S. Bank Smart Assistant) and help you get your finances on track.
Here are some of our favorite mobile banking apps.
5. Fees are costing you
It should be pretty easy to find a free checking account these days. Bankrate’s 2020 checking account and ATM fee study found that about half (47 percent) of non-interest checking accounts are free.
Getting hit with one fee is probably not a good reason to switch banks, but if you find yourself spending hundreds of dollars a year on overdraft and ATM charges, you may need to take a look at a different bank.
Out-of-network ATM fees can also be costly. A solution could be either to open an account at a bank with ATMs nearby or to open an account where the bank will reimburse ATM fees or to have an account at a bank that supports a large ATM network.
6. You’re not receiving a competitive yield
Those who like to go to their bank, or drive-thru, probably won’t be interested in an online bank. But you might want to consider at least one online bank to complement the brick-and-mortar bank. This might help you earn a higher APY.
“I think a lot of times people would also accept maybe a lower interest rate for that big bank name, like a Chase or Bank of America, knowing that, OK they’ve been around for a while, they have some credibility,” says Donovan Brooks, founder of Storyline Financial Planning in Saint Joseph, Missouri. “I trust that, I’m comfortable with that and I’ll take whatever they’re willing to pay.”
Online banks often don’t have minimum balance requirements. So as long as it’s a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) bank and your deposit is within insurance limits and guidelines, there really isn’t much of a reason not to give one of these a try.
Someone who gets paid mainly in cash should make sure there are a few physical locations or ATMs nearby, however.
It might pay to seek out a new banking relationship
If you decide to change your bank relationship, look for a payout. Some financial institutions will pay you to open an account at their bank through a bank account bonus.
These bonuses are usually for new customers. Just because you open a new account doesn’t mean you have to necessarily switch to that bank for all of your money needs. But the bank may require a direct deposit or have other requirements. So just make sure you won’t incur any fees that outweigh this new bonus. Also, make sure the bonus isn’t costing you a higher annual percentage yield (APY) that you could be earning at another bank.
Don’t be afraid to switch
Many bank customers are hesitant to switch banks in part because it seems complicated. If you’ve set up online bill pay, for example, and you have multiple automatic payments made throughout the month, unlinking all of your accounts could take some time.
“Sometimes, the only reason people use a particular bank is because they currently are using them and don’t want the hassle of making a change. I think this can be valid, yet short-sighted,” says Neal Frankle, a certified financial planner who runs a site called Wealth Pilgrim. “Yes, you have to go through a little work to make a change, but once you’ve made that time investment, it can pay dividends for years to come in terms of convenience, lower costs, higher rates, improved technology, etc.”
And if you’re concerned about forgetting a scheduled payment, leave your old account open until you’ve fully transferred everything to your new one.
“Make sure all transactions have cleared before switching,” says Paul Golden, spokesman for the National Endowment for Financial Education.
There are many perks to changing banks. You could earn more interest, pay fewer fees or have access to better digital products and customer service. But the reality is that deposit accounts remain sticky. Few people are willing to make the time to switch over their accounts.
Weigh the pros and cons and consider how you could benefit from kicking your existing bank to the curb. Do your research and compare accounts depending on what matters most to you. Don’t close your old account until you’ve double-checked and made sure that direct deposit and bill payments and recurring charges are connected to your new checking account. And consider whether it’s worth it to keep some ties to your former institution. Closing a credit card, for instance, could be a bad idea especially if it’s in good standing and you’re concerned about it impacting your credit score.
Note: Amanda Dixon contributed to a previous version of this story.