The best nine questions to ask before choosing a bank
Choosing a bank is far from simple these days, with so many traditional and online financial providers available. The decision is all the harder to make as a bank tends to be a long-term commitment. Although changing banks has become much easier than in the past, it is still something of a chore. So take some time to think before you act, and answer the following nine questions before making a final decision.
1. Why do you need a bank?
This is the first thing you should ask yourself before comparing banks. People’s plans and needs are many and varied, as are banking products and services. Do you need a current account for your salary, a joint account to manage the family's joint expenses, and/or a business account because you are self-employed, for instance? Which payment methods do you intend to use? Do you want to run your bank account more or less independently, or do you want a close relationship with a bank advisor?
2. Are the products and services on offer appropriate to your profile and lifestyle?
One type of bank might be more appropriate than another, depending on individuals’ profiles and lifestyles. To choose the bank that best meets your needs, consider the following factors: your age, your work situation (young, in active employment, retired, etc.), the size of your income, the value of your assets, and the way you manage your money. So, for example, if you are often overdrawn, it would be in your interest to choose a bank that offers overdraft facilities at lower rates.
3. How much are the bank charges?
Cost is obviously the main criterion in selecting a bank. Go around the competition and ask each bank for a summary of its charges and terms and conditions, such as fees attached to bank cards, any management fees applied, interest charges if you are in the red, etc. Also bear in mind that some banks charge you a fee for keeping your current and savings accounts, whereas others offer this service free of charge.
4. Are borrowing rates attractive
Even if you have no plans to take out a loan, the question still applies. After all, you might need one in future, and if you do, your first port of call is likely to be the bank where you do your day-to-day banking. So carefully consider the question of consumer and home loans before choosing your bank. It could save you unpleasant surprises later.
5. Is it easy to contact the bank?
here is nothing more frustrating than a bank that doesn’t answer phone calls or emails. Check that the bank of your choice has a Contact Centre that is easy to contact and very responsive, that it answers your questions reasonably quickly by email and that it is very easy to make an appointment with an advisor.
6. What quality of contact have you had with any customer service staff you met?
Choosing a bank is first and foremost choosing a banker. When you visit banks, make an appointment with a customer advisor and ask yourself, after each visit, if you are ready to entrust your money to this individual and ask for advice. Trust is key in any banking relationship. If you have any doubts about the character of your advisor or if you are not satisfied, it would be best to move on.
7. How good is the local branch network?
Luxembourg might be a small country, but the branch network is important. Is there a branch near you? Can you contact your advisor quickly and easily? This might be important to you, especially if you need the personal touch for your various plans.
8. Does the bank have international branches?
If you often travel internationally, conducting banking transactions in branches of other banks can be expensive. The bank network and extent of its partnerships should therefore not be overlooked.
9. What online services are available?
While most financial institutions offer online services these days, there can be disparities between banks. Compare the look and feel of different platforms, the range of services offered (e-banking, notifications, online statements, etc.) and their cost. A decent platform can save you time and money, especially if it is available anytime, from anywhere, on any device (computer, tablet or smartphone).
Answering these questions may not mean you find the ideal bank (if such a thing even exists!) but it will prevent you from making a bad choice that you will regret later.
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