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Picking the right bank: Is online banking a good option for you?

Posted at 4:38 PM, Dec 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-13 15:06:23-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Everyone likes saving money during the holidays. But are you doing the most with your money year around? Before you even start to spend your money, it's important to consider where you put your money. It's important to look at all your banking options, from traditional to online.

"I was fed up with my regular bank," says Brad Helmink of Henderson.

He moved to the online bank Ally about 4 years ago.

"I just started looking around for something better essentially, and I don't ever go to the branch. So I didn't need a physical location. ATMs are everywhere now," says Brad.

Many Americans just aren't making the jump. A recent survey conducted for Bankrate shows the average U.S. adult has been using the same primary checking account for about 16 years.

Many feel it's just too much trouble changing banks. But it is worth considering. Online banks typically have lower fees than traditional banks. And MSN Money says interest rates are often 23x higher than the average savings account.

"With the Ally savings account I get 2% interest and even with the checking account, it's something like maybe .5%," says Brad.

He says he also likes having multiple accounts, all for free and with no minimum balance.

"I think I have 7 checking accounts set up under there, and 5 savings accounts... my wife and I share most of those accounts. But I have some with a business partner," says Brad.

What's the best option for you? Online or traditional?

"When you're looking for a bank, you want to assess your needs," says Phyllis Gurgevich, president and CEO of Nevada Bankers Association.

She says you should always consider your goals.

"Are you going to open an account so you can save? Or are you looking strictly for a checking account? Maybe you want to borrow money?" says Gurgevich.

Websites like WalletHub and NerdWallet are great tools to help you compare bank offers and services. And Gurgevich says be sure to look at specifics.

"Perhaps you're saving; do you want to save for your child's education? Or you want to save for your retirement?" says Gurgevich.

If something raises a red flag, don't be afraid to ask questions. For example, the bank you like may come with a service fee. So be sure to ask if there's any way to avoid that cost.

As for Brad, he only has one complaint with his online bank.

"You can easily deposit a check with a photo on your phone through the app. But cash, there's really no way to deposit cash," says Brad.

Be sure to check a bank's policy, if depositing cash is important to you. Some online banks accept wire transfers or money orders. The good news is, many banks can answer your questions 24-hours a day, by phone and even real-time chat.