Plan and Retire

What to Look for When Choosing a Financial Institution

Erin Palmer

October 26, 2017

comparing financial institutions

Since money impacts every area of your life, finding the right financial institution is a big deal. You want a place you can trust with great customer service. It should meet your financial needs and offer the products and services that are important to you.

With so many options out there, take time to figure out which one is best for you. Here are some important items to look for when considering your options. 

Consider the Differences between Banks and Credit Unions

One of the first things to consider when choosing a financial institution is whether you want to use a bank or a credit union. Both options offer a range of financial products and services, so what is the difference between them?

It comes down to ownership. Banks are for-profit institutions that are owned by shareholders. Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives owned by their members.

Banks have customers that they provide financial products and services to. Like any business, banks are designed to maximize profits to their shareholders.

Credit unions exist to meet the financial needs of their members. That’s why a credit union’s profits go back to the members through lower rates on loans, higher earnings on deposits and more free services.

Learn What Others Have to Say About the Financial Institution

Have you ever gone to a new restaurant after a friend or family member raved about it? Do your own research by reading online reviews. Consult various sources for different perspectives.

News and financial publications often recognize financial institutions based on readers’ reviews and experts’ rankings on the institution’s products and services. For example, Suncoast Credit Union was proud to be voted “Best Bank” by the readers of Creative Loafing, a local publication — this was exclusively based on local votes. Suncoast was also selected as the Best Bank in Florida by Money Magazine, a national publication. MONEY chose winners based on fees, interest rates and account requirements for checking and savings accounts. More than 800 accounts and 18,000 data points were compared in the process.

After you gather some outside input and do a little research, there are still some additional items to consider to decide what financial institution is right for you.

Look Past Short-Term Offers

Financial institutions can offer some awesome incentives to open an account or apply for a credit card. While it could seem like easy money to get $200 just by opening a new account, make sure that you look past the short-term offer to see if you will benefit in the long-term.

For example, what sort of fees are involved? Some accounts may charge monthly fees, fees if your account balance drops to a certain number or overdraft fees. Over time, you could easily lose the initial $200 to fees and continue to lose more as time passes. 

This doesn’t mean that all offers are not worth it. It simply means that you should consider the big picture before signing up for anything to make sure that you will get long-term value.

Pay Attention to the Details

Last, look at everything a financial institution offers before you decide where to join. Make sure that there is a full range of products and services.

Keep your future needs in mind as well. You may not need a mortgage yet, but perhaps you will in the next few years. When you have a good relationship with your financial institution, you are more likely to use them for a number of different needs.

You should also pay attention to all the details of a financial institution, like:

  • Rates
  • Fees
  • Number of free services offered
  • Earnings on deposits
  • Safety and security of your funds and information
  • Perks and rewards
  • Amount you can save over time
  • Convenience and ease of banking such as branch and ATM locations, plus digital banking options

There may be other details that help you decide as well. If you like to do your banking online, you’ll want to make sure there is an online option and mobile app to meet your needs. If you’re passionate about supporting your community, you might appreciate a financial institution that regularly gives back.

Take time to consider all of the things that are important to you.  With a little consideration for your needs and banking habits, you can find the perfect financial institution for you!

Suncoast Credit Union is a financial partner you can trust. Learn more about how to become a Suncoast member.

Find a Branch or ATM

We’re local, serving multiple counties in Florida