Finding The Best Bank Account

I recently read an article in the Daily Telegraph from the UK, which looks at finding the best bank account, a topic which I've of course written about before on Choosing The Best Account.

While the Daily Telegraph article focuses on UK banks and bank customers, the issues will be interesting to all those who are asking themselves “which is the best bank for me”.

The article found that the British public are very resistant to changing banks, especially when it comes to current accounts. I suspect that is true in other places as well and we'll talk about that later.

Banking Terminology – Current Account

Let's pause for a minute and sort out the terminology. For those that don't know the UK terms, a current account is roughly equivalent to a checking account in the US. Both are transactional accounts. As Wikipedia says on transactional accounts:

Transactional accounts are meant neither for the purpose of earning interest nor for the purpose of savings, but for convenience of the business or personal client; hence they tend not to bear interest. Instead, a customer can deposit or withdraw any amount of money any number of times, subject to availability of funds.

Wikipedia goes on to talk more about what a current account is and give some more information about what the typical current account is like in the UK:

Current account is the name given to a transactional account in the United Kingdom and countries with a UK banking heritage, offering various flexible payment methods to allow customers to distribute money directly to others. Most current accounts come with a cheque book and offer the facility to arrange standing orders, direct debits and payment via a debit card. Current accounts may also allow borrowing via an overdraft facility.

So that's what a current account is: a transactional account, similar to a checking account. Its purpose is to manage every day expenses, rather than saving money etc.

Reluctant To Change Current Account

Now that we've put the terminology to bed, we can get down to the point of the Daily Telegraph article. It states that the average customer in the UK is very unlikely to change their current account, despite widespread consumer dissatisfaction with UK banks. They quote a survey by Age Concern, a spokesmen of whom goes on to say:

Married couples are around three times as likely to divorce than to change bank. Despite a consumer backlash over unfair bank charges‚ many unhappy bank customers are still failing to vote with their feet.

The statistic about married couples being 3 times more likely to divorce than to change bank is a mind blowing one. You shouldn't just change banks for the hell of it, but it should be something which people are open to doing and are actively looking at on a periodic basis.

As for marriage, well, I'm not giving advice on that, but if you've got problems you should be asking yourself: how can I save my marriage? Give up on a bank? Yes! Give up on marriage? No! I hope we've got that straight now!

Great Incentives To Change Bank

The article goes on to say that banks are offering great incentives to open a current account with them, knowing that once you do, the chances are that you'll be staying with them for a long time. For example, First Direct and Alliance & Leicester will both pay you £100 to switch to certain current accounts.

Hmm, great incentives to switch account? That sounds like something I just wrote about in my last post on great deals at selected banks. As I said in that post, you better be wary of choosing a bank based on incentives only. The incentives may very well not last, then you'll be stuck with a bank that may not be the best bank for you.

This goes double for the UK, where people are so unlikely to change account later (although as I said above, I suspect that this is similar elsewhere). Once the banks have you, you're stuck – or so they think. Of course, you can change to bank which suits you better.

Leaving that aside, it's better to find the best bank for you the first time round, so be careful not to place too much emphasis on the incentives on offer. Instead, look at the other criteria as these are more likely to be benefits in the long term.

Anyway, I've said that before and the Daily Telegraph article is saying the same thing:

If you originally chose your bank because it offered a free Young Person's Railcard for a year, or some discounted cinema tickets, chances are it is not serving you well now.

To check whether you should be switching account, start by assessing your needs. Your lifestyle and the way you manage your finances determines which type of account is right for you.

Criteria For Finding The Best Bank

It goes on to offer some sound advice on what criteria to use when choosing the best bank:

If for example you usually spend your whole income and often (or always) go into your overdraft, concentrate on the overdraft interest and charges. If on the other hand you are always in credit, choose the account that offers the best credit interest and added benefits if you think you are likely to take advantage of them.

Of course, you can also take other things such as home loan rates, what credit cards they offer, customer service, location, number of ATM points, internet banking, telephone banking, what their fdic insurance coverage is like etc.

One point that the article highlights as something to be careful about in the UK is overdraft rates and charges. Some banks will punish you severely if you go over your limit. Something to watch out for! I always recommend that you don't use an overdraft facility, but there are times that you just have no option.

The article also says that the big banks came out with the worst customer service level in a recent customer satisfaction survey. That makes sense really - the smaller banks have to work harder to get customers so they often provide the best customer service.

Before you get excited and move to a small bank, you have to weigh this up with the security of being with a big bank. This is especially important in the current economic climate. You don't want to join a bank that may fold!

I can't help but point out that HSBC scored only 57%, which doesn't surprise me in the least, because I was a HSBC customer when I lived in the UK and experienced a nightmare when I tried to close my accounts and transfer the balance overseas (it took 6 months and 30-odd calls to finally do it!).

Well that's all for this post. Hopefully this has given you some hints as to what to look for when you are searching for the best bank.

Which Cities Have The Best Bank Deals and Rates?

I recently read Which Cities Have the Best Bank Deals and Rates, an article that highlights three cities in the US that have very good deals for people who are looking for a bank. While I wouldn’t recommend moving to one of these cities just to take advantage of these deals :) I thought I’d mention the article.

Here are the cities listed and a brief quote from the article (check out the full article for more):

Chicago, Illinois:

competition is fierce between smaller banks like Cole Taylor Bank, Amcore Bank, Millenium Bank, and Broadway Bank who have offered Chicagoland residents great rate deals on certificates of deposit, money market accounts, and savings accounts for years.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Bank 2, AmericaNet Bank, Bank of the Wichitas, and Evantage Bank are all offering their own branded reward checking accounts with yields of over 5%.

St. Louis, Missouri

the city has over ten banks which are consistently promoting their deposit products both locally in the St. Louis metropolitan area and nationally. Triad Bank and St. Louis Bank are offering CD rates of over 3% today

If you live in one of these cities and you are looking for a bank, then you may be in luck! If you’re not, stay tuned and we’ll have some tips in future on how to choose the best bank for you.

Note, although it’s always nice to get a good deal from your bank, it’s important not to focus too much on them. Deals come and go. Often the deals in place when you join a bank don’t last. Focus on the other criteria outlined on this blog (and others) for choosing the best bank for you, as they are less likely to change.

The Best Bank - Update

It's been a while since I've been able to update The Best Bank. I've been very busy and haven't had time to update the site. To tell the truth, although I want to write more about choosing the best bank, I'm wondering if I have the time to continue this site.

The original purpose of this site was to help people answer the question "which is the best bank for me". It's a question that everyone asks at one time or other – most of us ask it several times throughout life – as our situation changes, we consider changing banks.

The Best Bank was never supposed to give you the answer – I'm not going to name the one and only bank that is the best choice for everyone. That's just not possible. Such a bank doesn't exist! What's right for one person, isn't necessarily right for the next person, because so much depends on an individual person's situation. Choosing the best bank for you is a very personal choice.

Instead, this site was supposed to help you make your own choice about which bank is best for you. The original purpose of this site was to discuss the attributes of a good bank and the issues you need to consider when choosing the best bank for the your circumstances. It was going to paint a broad picture to help you make a more informed choice.

I had a structure planned – as I said in one of the early posts, I planned to look at the following issues:

  • Account Type
  • Services Offered
  • Loans and Mortgages
  • Fees
  • Convenience / Location
  • Customer Service options
  • ATMs
  • Internet Banking
  • Account Aggregation
  • Types of financial institutions
  • Security / Stability.

I managed to look at a couple of these (account type and location for example), but haven't been able to work through the rest. Now I'm wondering if I'll be able to complete this, because it takes lot of effort to do it properly.

Anyway, for now, I'll keep the site open and post when I can, but maybe the style will change. My original intention of making the site a series of ‘reference' posts, may have to give way to a more informal style of posting, where I just cover whatever issue comes to mind – although of course it will be related to choosing the best bank.

Not The Best Bank - Prepaid Credit Card

The purpose of this blog is to write about issues which will help you answer the question: what is the best bank for me? However, today, I'm going to leave that aside and look at something that is not associated with one particular bank at all - the NetSpend Prepaid Credit Card.

What Is A Prepaid Credit Card?

In particular, what is a NetSpend Prepaid Credit Card - it is a pay as you go credit card. It's created by a stand-alone company, not one of the traditional banks. So it's not going to help you decide which is the best bank for you - in fact using one means you're not using a bank at all!

It basically works like a normal credit card (or debit card), except that it's not associated with a bank. You have to add credit at a reload center, which are located at retailers, check cashing locations and supermarkets (such as Safeway), then you use it as you would a normal credit card.

So to sum that up again, it's just like a normal credit card (or debit card), but it's not tied to a bank account, you have to load money onto the card.

Personally, I like to think of the NetSpend card as a prepaid debit card, not credit card, but because it's a Visa debit card (or MasterCard debit card) you can use it in the same manner you would use a credit card - except that you can only use the prepaid amount, you can't actually use credit. So it's not really a credit card!

So Why Use A Prepaid Credit Card?

Well for me, the best reason is for buying things online. There are many things you can buy on the Internet, using a credit card, but there's always the (admittedly small) danger of having your details stolen by a computer virus, then finding your money disappearing from your account (although you should be covered by Visa if this happens).

Anyway, there's no problem if it's a prepaid credit card! Buying something worth $500? Put $500 on the card and buy it. If someone gets the details and tries to use it, the balance will be $0, so they won't be able to use it!

Of course there are many people who have trouble getting approved for a credit card. Often, these people are only blocked because of a problem long ago in their past, for which they are still being penalised. If you're unfortunately in this situation, a prepaid credit card may be the solution for you. It's not really credit, but at least you be able to get a card that you can use whenever purchases are most conveniently made via credit card.

Is NetSpend Trustworthy?

Well, don't ask me for an answer, go Google it! I've seen some very positive reviews, but I've also quite a few negative ones too. Be careful, do some research! It's a great idea in principle, but don't get caught out.

Are There Fees For NetSpend?

Sure, there are fees for everything these days! Don't take these numbers as gospel, but it costs about $4.95 to reload the card and about $1 to $1.50 per use (for most transaction). But then again, most banks will hit you with bank fees, so there may not be that much difference.

Anyway, that's all for today. Next time, I'll revert to something that's more closely tied with deciding which is the best bank for you.

The Best Bank - Privacy Policy

This policy discloses how personal information is gathered and used by the The Best Bank website (, referred to as 'the site' or 'this site' from here on.


I respect your privacy and I am committed to safeguarding your privacy while using this site. Your personal data will be kept as secure as possible. It will not be shared or sold to other parties. By using this site, you are agreeing to the use of your information as outlined in this Privacy Policy.


You are required to enter your name and email address to leave a comment on this site. Your name will be displayed next to the comment, but your email address will NOT be displayed. Your name and email address will NOT be given to any third party, unless required by law.

RSS Feeds

Subscriptions to RSS feeds are anonymous and no personal information is stored.

Log Files and Web Statistics

Like most websites, this site uses web statistics software to collect information about how users interact with the site. This stores information such as IP address, browser type, referring pages, visited pages, exit pages, platform used, date and time of visit, etc. Although this information is collected, it is NOT linked to personally identifiable information, nor is it passed on to any third party.


A cookie is a piece of data stored on the user’s computer tied to information about the user. Any information stored by the site in a cookie is only used to provide functionality. It is NOT passed on to any third party.


Third Party advertising companies may be used to display ads on this site. These ads may contain cookies and information may be collected by the advertising companies. I do not have access to this information. Please check the advertisers’ websites for their respective privacy policies.

External Links

This site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that this site is NOT responsible for the privacy practices of other sites. This privacy policy applies solely to this site. When you click on a link to another site, we encourage you to read the privacy policy of that site.

Contact Information

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me using the email address displayed in the sidebar.

Privacy policy last updated October 2008.

Which Is The Best Bank For Me - Considering Location

Location, location, location. That’s the mantra for real estate, but it’s also something that needs to be considered when deciding which is the best bank for you

It’s all very well to look which banks have the best loans and which banks have the lowest fees, etc. Sure that’s important, and I’ll discuss each of those in more detail later, but choosing a great bank is no good if you can’t access it easily!

In the city where I live, there is one small bank that has a very strong reputation as having the best deals on interest rates, home loans, fees,  etc. When you compare it to other banks, it wins hands downs. Great right? So everyone must use it? Nope.

The problem is that it only has a couple of offices and they’re all in the city center. If I want to go into the branch to pick up a new card, make a transaction, or even just ask a question or sort out a problem, I have to face a 40 minute train ride into the city. I personally chose a worse home loan than I could have got at this bank, because it was just too far away.

Of course, a lot of things can be done over the phone, or through the post, but being able to walk into the bank on those occasions when it’s necessary is extremely important.

A related issue is ATM location. How many ATMs do they have and where are the ATMs located? 

I may have been tempted by the bank with a great home loan, despite the fact that I couldn’t get into the branch easily, but what really killed the deal was that the bank had no ATMs near where I lived. If they did, then it may have been worth considering them as the best bank for me. However, without being able to withdraw cash from an ATM near me, I just couldn’t consider them.

One other thing to consider with ATM location, is that some banks are part of ATM networks. You can use any ATM in the network, even if it belongs to another bank. Be careful of this, because many banks will let you use another bank’s ATM, but then charge a fee for doing so!

Of course, location is not important if you’re considering using an online bank, with internet banking only and no physical locations. But that’s a topic for another time. If you’re not after an online bank, then when deciding which is the best bank for you, make sure you find a bank with a convenient location. 

Personally I find the convenience worth paying a little extra on fees etc. Think of all the other things in your life that you spend money on purely for convenience. Choosing a bank with a convenient location is surely worth it.

Choosing The Best Account

There are many features you need to consider when working out how to find the best bank for you. These include things such as the bank location, customer service, etc. We'll look at each of these in turn, but we'll start with account type.

If you want a certain account type, you need to make sure that the banks you are looking at offer the account type you want. They may be the best bank in every other respect, but if they don't have the account type you want, you better forget them and keep looking at other banks.

There are many different types of account. It's not possible to cover all types of accounts, offered by all banks, in all parts of the world, but we'll look at the most common account types and their advantages and disadvantages.

Note that some banks may use different names for these account types.

1. Savings Accounts

Banks may offer several types of savings accounts, but they generally have the following features in common:

  • They allow you to make deposits and withdrawals, although they sometime place limits on the number of transactions allowed in a month.

  • They often do NOT give you the ability to write checks. If writing checks is important to you, make sure you check whether the banks you are considering offer this.

  • They are normally intended to give you an incentive to save money, resulting in higher interest rates than some other types of accounts (such as a checking account).

  • You sometimes have a choice between: a) a passbook, where you can record all your transactions; and b) a statement, which is mailed to you periodically, showing all your transactions. While a passbook gives you greater control, a statement is more convenient.

  • Be careful about fees: there are many types of fees, sometimes hidden, such as a fee applied when your balance falls below a specified minimum or you pass your monthly transaction limits.

2. Regular Checking Accounts

Checking accounts offered by banks will obviously vary, but they have generally have the following:

  • They normally have lower fees, but as a result, provide just the basic set of features.

  • By definition, they give you the ability to write checks.

  • They often do not pay any interest at all.

  • As with savings accounts, be careful with fees. There are sometimes fees related to limits on the number of checks you can write within a month or to minimum balances.

  • Some banks offer the facility to link checking accounts with saving accounts, to offset the minimum balances.

3. Interest Bearing Checking Accounts

As well as the regular checking accounts discussed above, most banks offer a checking account which has more features. Here are some of the features normally offered:

  • They usually allow you to write as many checks as you like (ie unlimited checks)

  • They normally higher fees than a regular checking account.

  • By definition, they pay interest.

  • The higher your balance, the higher the interest you earn.

  • They often require a minimum balance to open an account.

  • There are normally fees related to to a minimum balance.

Note: If you can keep your balance high, consider a Interest Bearing Checking Account. If you can’t keep the balance high, then go with the Regular Checking Account. Otherwise, the interest earned may not cover the fees!

4. Express Checking Accounts

In addition to the checking accounts mentioned above, there are also Express Checking Accounts, which are aimed at people who don't normally go into the branch.

  • They usually offer unlimited check writing.

  • They usually don't have a high minimum balance requirements.

  • They have no (or low) monthly fees.

  • However, visits to a teller will incur a high fee.

4. Money Market Deposit Accounts

A combination savings / checking / investment account, which usually has the following features:

  • They require a high minimum balance to open an account.

  • You need to maintain a higher balance to avoid fees.

  • Your balance is invested in short-term debt such as Treasury Bills.

  • They offer a higher interest rate than checking or savings accounts, but interest rates can vary (based on market conditions).

  • There are often limits on how many checks you are to write and how many transactions you can perform.

  • There will almost certainly be a fee if your balance falls below a specified amount.

5. Certificates of Deposit

Also known as time deposits, certificates of deposits are accounts where your money is ‘locked away’ for a certain amount of time (anywhere from several months to several years). Common features include:

  • They offer high interest rates (the longer your money is ‘locked away’, the higher the interest rates).

  • They have a substantial penalty if you decide to withdraw your money early (ie before the CD matures).

  • Some banks allow you withdraw the interest before the CD matures.

6. Other Account Types

There are of course many other types of accounts, but we cannot cover them all. One type account that is becoming more common is the internet bank accounts (not just internet access to your normal account - actually a separate type of account). We'll cover these types of account as a separate topic sometime in future.

"best bank" - Twitter Search