Ask Chuck: Choosing a Good Bank
I plan to get married soon. My future wife and I plan to combine our money at that point. We both have checking and savings accounts. What banks do you recommend?
Choosing a Good Bank
Dear Choosing a Good Bank,
I always like to say that marriage is a lifetime of learning to make good decisions together. Your question about a bank is a practical one, and is only just the beginning of thousands of more decisions you will need to make together.
Marriage is about becoming one. One in everything: name, address, bed, and money. Keeping anything separate, including checking accounts, develops a “his money, her money” philosophy, which usually leads to a him-versus-her mentality. There should be no “his money” or “her money” in marriage. It’s God’s money that we manage together. So let me give you enough information to help the two of you make a united choice on where you bank.
- Location and accessibility (e.g. ATMS, branches, online-only, etc.)
- Products (e.g. checking accounts, saving accounts, money market, etc.)
- Fees / charges, minimum monthly average balance / number of transactions
- Interest rates
I would never deposit money in a financial institution that did not provide evidence that your deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) which cover up to at least $250,000 per depositor.
3 Types of Banks
- Traditional: For those who want personal service.
- Online: More competitive but have few–if any–branches.
- Credit unions: Nonprofit, member-owned; often more willing to work with you. May not have mobile banking or bill pay.
Research bank charges:
- Monthly maintenance fees
- Overdraft fees
- Statement fees
- Stop payment fees
- Returned check fees
- Wire transfer fees
- Cashier’s check fees
- Certified check fees
- Out-of-network ATM fees
Bankrate.com offers an excellent in-depth analysis of savings accounts.
Also check out Magnify Money’s list of:
- Best money market accounts
- Best savings accounts
- High yield online savings accounts.
- Checking account bonus offers
The only reason to maintain separate accounts is for business purposes; for instance, to manage accounting for expenses associated with one’s job. Joint accounts require you to relax your grip on money. Rather than being “mine” or “yours,” it becomes “ours.” It requires mutual respect, honest communication, and working together for a common good. You can no longer justify selfish spending because in marriage, you are called to serve one another.
Joint accounts simplify bill paying and force earnest cooperation. Trust can be established and accountability expected. Common goals can be met through teamwork. Love and respect are foundational in stewarding the money you share in a common account. Money is a means by which God reveals our strengths and weaknesses and teaches us to depend on Him more fully.
A Few More Tips
Open new accounts before closing any existing accounts. Keep enough in them to meet the required minimum balance and to cover any automatic payments or checks that have yet to clear. Change direct deposits to the new accounts and adjust bill payments to begin once your first direct deposit goes through. Once all automatic transactions have cleared, you can empty and close your old accounts. Depending on the institution, this can be done over the phone, in writing, or in person. Verify that all transfers have occurred.
There are a number of good reasons to build a long-term history with a single institution. You will likely garner the maximum customer benefits if you maintain healthy balances and keep your accounts in order. Over time, you will achieve a valued customer status which may help if you ever encounter problems such as identity theft or need a loan or other assistance.
I hope this helps you and your fiancée make the decision together. The best decision will be one in which you are united, regardless of the bank you choose.
This article was originally published on The Christian Post, July 10, 2020.