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Choosing A Financial Institution

With financial institutions behaving so irresponsibly these days, it’s tempting to just keep your cash in a sock under the mattress. But with a little research, you can find a reliable and affordable bank that provides the services you need to manage your money and organize your finances.

Automated Tellers

Checkmark-Iconhow many automated teller machines does your bank have? where are they located?

Xmark-Icondo you have agreements with any other banks allowing use of their machines at no cost?

Checkmark-Icondo you reimburse other banks’ ATM fees if I use an out-of-network machine?

Xmark-Iconhow many free in-network ATM transactions are you allowed in a month?

Checkmark-Iconis there a fee if you go over this number? what is the fee?

Xmark-Iconis there a fee if you use out-of-network machines? what is the fee?

Checkmark-Iconcan you have an ATM card that is a check card? one that isn’t?

Checking And Savings Accounts

Xmark-Icondo you offer free checks? how many books and how often can I order?

Checkmark-Iconwhat kind of monthly service charges can I expect?

Xmark-Icondo you charge fees for writing or cashing a large number checks in a month? how many?

Checkmark-Icondo you charge fees for making counter deposits? how much?

Xmark-Icondo you offer free online account access? free online bill-pay?

Checkmark-Icondo you offer free overdraft protection? can you draft from my savings account or credit card?

Xmark-Iconcan I automatically link my checking and savings accounts?

Checkmark-Icondo you offer interest-bearing checking accounts? at what interest rate?

Xmark-Iconhow do you calculate interest on my account? do you compound interest on my daily balance?

Checkmark-Iconnote — beware of banks that calculate only monthly or on your lowest balance

Credit Cards

Xmark-Iconwhat is the annual percentage rate (APR)? what is the interest rate?

Checkmark-Iconis there an annual fee? will you waive it for new or long-time customers?

Xmark-Iconcan I carry a balance? or do I have to pay the card off each month?

Checkmark-Iconwhat is my credit limit? how often can I have it increased?

Xmark-Icondoes your card offer any rewards (cash back, frequent flyer miles, etc.)?

Checkmark-Icondo you charge a late payment fee? can I set up automatic payments to avoid this fee?

Xmark-Icondo you offer a payment grace period before charging interest? how long?

Checkmark-Icondo you charge a transaction fee for a cash advance?

Xmark-Icondo you charge a foreign transaction fee?

Checkmark-Icondo you charge an over-limit fee? will you automatically deny additional charges to avoid this fee?

Xmark-Iconare there any other service charges?

Fee-Reduction Strategies

Checkmark-Icondo you reduce your monthly fees if I keep a certain minimum balance in my account?

Xmark-Icondo you reduce your monthly fees for direct deposit?

Checkmark-Icondo you reduce your monthly fees for moving to electronic banking?

Xmark-Icondo you reduce your monthly fees if I have a loan with you?

Checkmark-Icondo you reduce your monthly fees if I have multiple accounts with you?

Xmark-Icondo you reduce your monthly fees if I don’t get my canceled checks back?

Checkmark-Icondo you reduce your monthly fees if I swap my paper statements for electronic?

Minimum Balance

Xmark-Iconhow much do I need to open an account?

Checkmark-Iconwhat balance must I keep to avoid a fee?

Xmark-Iconwhat is the fee if I go below that minimum?

Other Services

Checkmark-Icondo you offer traveler’s checks? what is the fee?

Xmark-Icondo you offer money orders? what is the fee?

Checkmark-Icondo you offer notary services? what is the fee?

Xmark-Icondo you offer certificates of deposit, money markets, or other savings vehicles?

Checkmark-Iconwhat other additional services do you offer?

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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