Life changes fast. Maybe you just graduated college and you find out “adulting” comes with bank accounts that charge you fees. Perhaps you just got married and you are looking to open a joint account. Or say you are just sick of your bank all together because of the way they treat you or others, and it is time to say ADIOS! Whatever the change, it can be a challenge to figure out what bank accounts best fit your life.
Opening a savings account doesn’t have to be that hard!
You know how we feel about savings — heck, it’s one of our core beliefs that everyone deserves to save and be prepared to handle any financial emergency that comes their way.
So we’ve created this cheat sheet, to help you ask yourself the right questions when deciding which bank, and savings accounts, are right for you.
You mean, I don’t have to wait in line?
There are so many ways to bank today that the idea of going in person to banks and waiting in long lines is largely a thing of the past. Instead, you get to choose the relationship you want to have with your bank. When deciding on where to open your new savings account, it is important to ask yourself what type of bank is the best fit for you and how you want to interact with your bank. There are online banks, small banks with only a few branches, and big banks with a branch on every corner. It’s important for you to think about how often you want to access your bank branch and whether or not you would rather use online or mobile tools instead of always interacting in person.
Wait, you’re only located in Oakland?
Some banks are more localized while others are easily accessible from anywhere. Before choosing your bank, ask yourself if you move around a lot or plan to move in the near future. If the answer is yes, when you move or travel, do you want a bank branch in your area or easy access to ATMs? Consider your current and future plans to stay in your area. Once you know these answers, it’s easy to eliminate certain banking options that might not work for you.
The savings account
Fiesta or Ferrari?
What you are saving for often dictates the types of accounts to look for when opening a new savings account. Be sure to ask yourself, what are you saving for and how much do you want to save? You might be saving for:
- A short term goal like celebrating your upcoming birthday (I know, the fifth anniversary of your 21st birthday is a big one!)
- A long term goal like the midnight black Ferrari you’ve had your eye on so you can be more like the Caped Crusader
- An emergency fund for when you can no longer pretend to be a superhero
- Or an amount that make you feel safe and secure
Use your answer to these questions, to lead you in your savings account research. Just remember, no matter what you are saving for, accounts can have restrictions. Know the fees attached to accounts you open and how you can access your account before making a final decision.
So it turns out I need to use the funds in my account — tonight!
The good thing about a savings account is that you can access the money when you need it. However, the Federal Reserve Board sets a limit of 6 withdrawals per month for “convenient” transactions, such as initiating a transfer out of your savings account online, by phone, or through an automatic withdrawal.
As if that isn’t hard enough, some banks and accounts have their own limits that are even more strict, so it is important to think about how much access you need monthly and choose an account that will not cause you to incur unnecessary fees.
There’s a fee for that?
Be aware of the various requirements and fees associated with a savings account. Many accounts have a minimum amount to open a savings and monthly maintenance fees. Know these fees and the minimum deposits that you will need for each account you are looking at. Usually you can avoid most fees as long as you meet certain requirements. Overall, just make sure you understand the requirements and ask yourself whether or not you can meet them.
There are many other fees you might encounter as well, such as those related to overdrafts and excessive withdrawal fees. Sometimes there are even fees related to receiving a paper statement. Don’t let these fees scare you from opening a savings account and creating a better financial future. Just make sure you do your research first!
Hey that’s cool, banks will give me money too?
Many saving accounts will earn you interest from the bank. Be sure you know how much interest you are earning on your savings. Interest rates will vary between banks and accounts. It is important to take the interest rate that you’ll receive into consideration when choosing your perfect account. Higher interest rates are better for your money to grow but you may not want to pay higher monthly fees or sacrifice access to your funds. Find a balance for you savings needs!
You’ll need to provide certain documents to open up a savings account. Documents you might need include:
- A valid government-issued photo ID
- Verification of your date of birth, phone number, and email address
- A Social Security number (SSN)
What if I don’t have an SSN?
If you do not have an SSN, banks will allow you to open an account with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). ITIN’s are provided by the Internal Revenue Service to noncitizens who are working in the U.S. but are not eligible for a Social Security number. If you have neither an SSN or ITIN, some banks and credit unions will accept a passport number and country of issuance, an alien identification card number, or other government-issued ID number.
What do I need to open an account with another person?
If you are opening a joint account, you should expect that your co-owner will also have to provide the same identification information.
What is needed if I am under 18?
If you are under 18, most banks will need a parent or legal guardian to be a co-owner to sign legal documents with the bank. We know this can be hard for some teenagers, especially children in foster care or those who do not have a relationship with their parent or guardian. Some banks have special programs that will allow for a bank account to be open without a parent or legal guardian. You can often find out this information online or by calling your local branch or customer service line.
If you are opening an online savings account, you will need to provide the information for a funding account. Meaning, you will have to link an existing bank account to your online savings account in order to transfer money into the savings account. Depending on the online savings account, there may be other options for depositing money, but the linked account is the most typical way to make deposits.
That’s it! Once you’re all set up, you can sit back and start saving.
If saving feels like a burden, worry not — Flourish is here to make it fun!
We just launched to our first users, and you can join the waitlist to be one of our earliest adopters! In the meantime, have fun reading more of our tips and blog posts on savings.