For when the Best Banking Option for you isn’t in your neighborhood
So, what if you’ve looked in your area for Better Banking Options--or you’ve had us look for you (check out our offer for personalized banking research here)--and there’s nothing even remotely close to your neighborhood? What’s your next step? Keeping your money in a banking institution that doesn’t have a branch near you may seem counterintuitive, but with the right technology, it’s possible to do almost everything you would in a branch through online and mobile banking.
Even if you do have a bank branch of a Better Banking Option close to you, online banking is a great way to invest in a community where you want to make a difference. For example, Hope Credit Union is a great choice for anyone looking to act for racial justice, and anyone can do so by taking advantage of Hope’s online and mobile banking resources.
Whatever your reason, here are some tips to opening and maintaining accounts with banks that don’t have branches in your area.
Thoroughly research the online/mobile options at your potential new bank. While most banks and credit unions offer some kind of online and mobile banking, they don’t all have the same capabilities. Make a list of what you’ll need to do with their online systems, whether that’s paying bills, receiving electronic deposits or transferring between accounts. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the institution to ask questions: they won’t mind answering them if it brings them your business.
Look up reviews for the bank’s online and mobile banking systems. Not all banking technologies are equal. Although it’s really only feasible to see if a bank’s online and mobile banking options work for you by using them, you may be able to find reviews online that give you an idea of how consistently these technologies served other customers.
Keep an account nearby for emergency funds and cash transactions. As we all know, technology is not always reliable. If your long-distance bank’s online or mobile services go offline at some point, you should keep a small emergency fund in a checking account with a bank that is easily accessible. Make sure that account is easily able to transfer funds back and forth with your long-distance bank. This also allows you to make cash deposits locally then move the money to your long-distance Better Banking Option, and to move money to your local bank for cash withdrawals.
Reach out to the institution and find an advocate when possible. Although many banks and credit unions may be too big to do this, many smaller local institutions may have an employee at the bank who would be willing to give you their number or email address. It’s extremely helpful to have someone specific to reach out to in the event you’re ever having problems with your account.
Find an (preferably fee-free) ATM in your area that works with your long-distance account. While it may seem like ATM fees are an unavoidable part of banking, there are more free ATM options than you might think. Some credit unions may have “share” systems of fee-free ATMs near you, even if you don’t bank with them, and there are multiple ATM systems which may work with your institution. For example, MoneyPass works with many banks across the country, and Co-op Financial Services has a shared branch program for their participating credit unions that allows you to visit a branch in their network, even if that branch isn’t part of your particular institution.
OR use your local bank’s ATM for cash withdrawals, funded by moving money electronically from your Better Banking Option account, if needed.