Whether you are new to the Iowa State community, or just looking for a more convenient option, finding the right financial institution to fit your needs can be one of the biggest transitions a student makes while in college. Here are some things to consider before opening that new checking or savings account:

Location. Does the bank have multiple branches in the area where you live and work?

ATMs. The ATMs owned by your bank won’t charge you to withdraw cash, but other banks will. ATM fees are a huge budget breaker! Be sure to avoid those by choosing a bank with nearby and convenient ATM options. You may consider getting cash out at the gas station or grocery store instead, as an alternative to paying a fee to withdraw your own money. 

Hours. Sometimes just getting to the bank can be a hassle in itself! Choose a bank or credit union that offers extended hours that are flexible to fit your needs. 

Customer service. Do some research online to find customer reviews, or visit the bank to get an idea on how you are treated personally as a customer.

Online banking. The internet has made it very convenient to keep track of your finances online. If online banking is very important to you, make sure you are easily able to make transfers, check your transactions, and complete other banking tasks without needing to be physically at the bank.

Fees. Be careful to consider any hidden costs associated with opening a new account. The bank may charge fees for writing a check, online wires, overdraws, and even balance inquiries. The charges may be generally small, but can add up in a hurry.

Credit Unions vs. Banks. If you are considering switching from a bank to a credit union, they are different in several ways. Credit unions are controlled by its members and are not for profit, whereas banks are run by a group of investors with capital, and are for profit. You may find that credit unions offer higher interest rates on their savings account options, but a bank might have a wider range of services.

Whether you choose a credit union or a bank, make sure to keep good records on all your accounts. Each month you will receive a statement of the transactions you made, as well as every deposit and transfer. This will come in handy when you are creating your budgets or preparing for tax season. If you need additional resources, a lot of banks and credit unions will also offer online services, like budgeting calculators, loan repayment tips and savings help.

Not ready to let go of your old bank? Switching banks is not always a necessity for students, depending on your bank’s online capabilities, and personal needs. Good luck, Cyclones! As always, give us a call with any personal finance inquiry - 515-294-0677 or loaneducation@iastate.edu 

Source: www.practicalmoneyskills.com