Now that you have the free banking world at your fingertips, it’s always a good idea to regroup and set the correct foundation. Most of us have no idea what we want in life—who we date, where we work, where we live….so it’s no surprise that we walk into our banks with no standards or expectations.
We at Banklovesme.com are committed to empowering consumers to make the best financial choices for their lives.
Which brings us to today’s topic: 3 questions to ask before opening an account. Many times we open accounts without knowing what we’re getting ourselves into. We sign on the dotted line and don’t ask the right questions. We also fail to read the fine print—which gets us in the rear end somewhere down the line.
Personal example: I opened a free checking account when I was in college at a major international bank. It was a college account and came with a bunch of perks—like no minimum balance fees, and a complementary savings account, also with no minimum balance fees.
Fast forward five going on six years later. I got a letter from the bank informing me that there would now be a $12 monthly maintenance fee and a $3 transaction fee on both my Checking and Savings accounts. Shocked and appalled, I rushed to the bank and sat down with a representative, only to find out my Campus Checking Account was only free for five years. The lady printed out the paperwork (a huge stack cluttered with tiny little words, by the way) of my account and pointed out to me that this was what I was given when I opened the account five years ago.
I didn’t ask the right questions and if you are paying fees on your account, neither did you.
So, here are three questions we must ask up-front to save us from heartache down the line:
Question #1: Are there any fees not advertised?
This is the most important question. You may not have the time or patience to comb through a thick pamphlet on the terms and conditions of the account, so make sure to find out upfront if there are any “extra-curricular” fees, such as transfers between accounts at the same bank and with other banks or ATM details like being out of the country. You want to think through your life and what you’ll be doing to determine what kind of fee scenarios you want to throw at them.
Question #2: Are there any conditions under which the terms of conditions change?
This is what I should have been crystal clear on with my student accounts. I didn’t realize that five years down the line, the terms and conditions on my account would change.
Lesson: When it comes to personal finance, you want to look at things holistically instead of just in the here and now. Things change. And so may your bank account terms of agreement.
Question #3: Are there any penalties for closing your account?
Think of it as asking if there is some kind of “pre-nuptial agreement” between you and the bank. The answer will probably be “no” but it’s your money, so just like the Boy Scouts, always be prepared.