It’s fairly common for companies to take advantage of the convenience of direct deposit, requiring their employees be paid via direct deposit into their personal bank accounts instead of being paid by check. Even the government is doing it — people that receive Social Security benefits or SSI are required to accept electronic payments or are considered incompliant. While you can’t be forced to open a bank account, there are certainly a few notable benefits of direct deposit, like using less paper and postage (which will help you save over time).
If you don’t have a banking relationship somewhere or have never had a bank account before, you might be a little confused about some of the available options. Not only does the local bank want your business, so do many stores and the check cashing places located in strip malls. Some even advertise that you could get your benefit payment as early as four days before a paper check if you use their service.
So, how do you decide?
Although there are many options, the old rules still apply. Use the three “C’s” to determine where to send your direct deposits: cost, convenience and courtesy. Let’s look at the three rules closely to determine which option is best for your money.
Analyze the costs by asking about fees and minimum balance requirements before you commit to an establishment. If there is a minimum balance requirement, make sure you understand how it is calculated. You’ll want to know this to determine how much money you need to have in your account so you won’t be charged a fee. Some banks calculate fees based on the average daily balance or the lowest balance. Other charges may include fees for bounced checks, the ones you write as well as ones people might write to you. Consider other charges like stop payment fees and the cost to order checks if you need them. Fees can really add up. Make sure you know what they are and how they are charged before you make a decision.
Some people put more value on convenience than cost. After all, time is money. If you plan on visiting your bank often, then you probably don’t want to open an account at a bank across town, even if the account is free or costs less than your neighborhood bank. The cost of gas alone could outweigh the savings gained on a free or low cost account. Additionally, just because a bank is online doesn’t always mean that it’s convenient. There may be times when you actually need to see a banker in person. If your online bank does not have a branch in town, it could actually cost you both time and money to handle your banking needs over the phone or via the web. What happens if your computer is down? Likewise your local check cashing place or debit card merchant probably can’t offer you all the services that a full-service bank can, like an opportunity to earn interest on your deposits and borrow money for major purchases.
Courtesy is highly valued, especially today. People still want to do business with people they know, like and trust. Online and retail banking does not do that, whereas relationship banking does. If you are someone that doesn’t care about all the warmth and fuzziness associated with traditional banking, then maybe online banking is right for you. Keep in mind that one day you just might have a problem with your account and need to speak to someone in person. If that happens, having a name to call or familiar face to find is priceless. Consider how long you might have to listen to music on hold before you get an answer with an online bank. What if the bank is across town? How will you feel once you arrive if you had to combat traffic to access your cash? Sometimes knowing someone personally that cares is more important than saving a few bucks.
Today direct deposits are the rule rather than the exception. Use the above rules to determine which bank is right for you and your money. Now that you’re armed with the rules, find a bank that is worth your deposit!
The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else.