A bank or bank account that works well is one that doesn’t require you to think about it. It does what you ask it to do and offers the rates and services you need without charging you much. It’s good financial practice to review where and how your funds are kept. These are five banking mistakes you might not be aware of.
1. Only use a checking account
A savings account is required for anyone who has a checking account. You should keep your savings separate to avoid spending money you are trying to save for bigger purchases or emergencies.
Checking accounts generally don’t pay interest. These accounts usually offer lower rates than those that are free or require you to go through extra steps in order to get a good annual percentage return. The highest savings accounts currently pay around 3%. Compare this with the average national rates as of November 2022 — 0.04 APY interest checking accounts and 0.24 APY savings accounts — according the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Are you unsure how much cash to keep? Track your monthly living expenses to get a better idea about how much cash you should keep in your savings or checking account. You should aim to have enough cash to cover at least three months of your expenses.
2. Savings too accessible or inaccessible
Consider moving your savings to a bank other than your checking account if you find yourself frequently reaching for your savings. You may not be able to tap into your savings because of the extra work and time required to transfer cash from your savings account.
However, if you have too many savings — such as those locked up in certificates of deposit (which are savings accounts with a fixed rate, term, or savings bond) — it could be difficult to access them. This could lead to financial difficulties if you need cash in an emergency.
3. It is difficult to keep track of your accounts
Bank accounts are not one of those things. If you forget to pay your due date for a CD, your funds could be locked up until the next term. Many CDs renew automatically after the initial term. You should keep a detailed list of all your accounts and create reminders on your calendar for any accounts that are due. This will help you decide what to do.
Have you ever opened an account, then let it sit? If you don’t make any transactions within a year, some banks will charge a dormancy fees. If your account has been inactive for more than a year, a bank may close it.
You might be eligible to claim cash if you open an account you don’t use anymore. You can check online to see if you have any unclaimed property or cash in an abandoned bank account.
4. Fees for your account
An account that charges fees does not have to be your only option. There are many options for free accounts, including savings accounts with competitive rates. More checking accounts offer overdraft protections, with many reducing or eliminating them altogether.
There are no minimum balance requirements for free accounts. An account that penalizes a person for having less than a certain amount in it won’t charge a monthly fee.
5. Don’t take advantage of online or local options
You might prefer a large, national bank, but there are other options.
Credit unions offer higher interest rates because they are not for profit institutions. For example, take share certificates. These are credit union terms for certificates of deposits. According to the National Credit Union Administration, credit unions pay on average significantly higher rates than banks for certificates of $10,000 in terms that last from three months to five. As of September 2022, credit unions paid an average of 1.32% APY on a three year certificate, while banks paid an average 0.95%.
Online banks, being branchless, are able pass on savings to customers through higher interest rates. Online financial institutions, whether credit unions or banks, have been offering some of the highest returns on many CD terms since their inception.
It takes just a few minutes to ensure you aren’t making these bank mistakes. The payoff for your financial health is huge. You can save money by separating your savings and your spending money. You’ll also be able use your savings when you need it. You can avoid fees by tracking your accounts. To ensure you get the best rates, consider all of your options.