OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT

September 7, 2007

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If you got the job then you will probably need a place to put your growing money stash. A girl can dream, right? An account at a good bank can work well for you.

First you will need to choose the right bank. Fortunately, this is not like marriage, you can “split” if you make a bad choice, or find a better bank. The right bank should have the combination of being nationwide, having free checking, no minimum balance, good interest rates, easily accessible ATM’s, an uncomplicated website, and debit cards.

Nationwide is important in that it is annoying to always have to switch banks when you move. This is an all important factor to a traveler like you. I have changed banks about five times in six years. In the end I finally went to http://www.bankrate.com and found an international bank that had all of the criteria I wanted, especially a great interest rate. They do not have a location near me, but I have direct deposit and send any other checks in.

Free checking is important, but almost an afterthought at most banks now days. No minimum balance can be fudged if you are rich, but in the bare bones days of college, you better not be charged every time you dip below one hundred dollars. ATM’s are nice because if you are like me, you will be scared to go up to a teller and show your ignorance of the whole process. We will go over this in more detail later. A good website is necessary for paying your bills, watching your balance, and jumping on good deals.

Debit cards are useful. Call me a stick in the mud, but I suggest that you do not get a credit card until you have waited a couple of years and established good money practices. They are just too tempting. I have way too many friends that got themselves over their heads in their first couple of years out of high school and are now paying for their mistakes. Therefore, your debit card will have to work in lieu of a credit card. You can run it like a credit card and sometimes even get points like on a credit card. It is more vulnerable to theft, though, so using good internet security measures (for example PayPal) are necessary. I will not diverge to talk about PayPal here, but I want to build your anticipation for the chapter on the internet.

Once you have finally decided on the right bank, gather your opening deposit (often it must be over 100 dollars), and a photo ID (passport or license). If there is a branch in your area, open your account in person. If there isn’t a local branch, dial the 1-800 number for the bank, or log on to their website, and go through the steps for opening a new account.

If you are walking into the bank, get your papers and courage together, and go in. Wait in the teller line and tell her, or him, that you would like to open an account. She will have you wait in the chairs off to the side while she calls another person.

They will then call you into an office. In the office the lady (or man) will be very nice so do not worry. She will have you fill out paperwork, make your deposit, set you up with checks and a debit card, etc. She will be really good about helping you if you let her know that it is your first bank account.

You will probably want to open a checking account, maybe even a savings account. With all of your graduation gifts and savings from your new job you may want to look into a Certificate of Deposit or a Money Market account. A CD has higher interest rates, but you cannot touch the money for a certain amount of time without fees for early withdrawal. A Money Market generally has higher interest rates then a normal savings account, but has different stipulations. You can look into all of that online at the bank website or the aforementioned www.bankrate.com.

From then on you will make deposits by filling out the deposit slip (on the table near the entrance) and giving it to the teller. She will then do everything else, while you grab a sucker and enjoy the whole experience. Or, you can deposit your money at the drive-up window, by mail like I mentioned, through direct deposit, or through an ATM.

Story: it was years before either my husband or I used the drive-up window because we were so unsure of ourselves and felt so silly. We were unsure of where to get the little vacuum tubes, or how to put our money in (is that with a deposit slip?), or how to talk to the teller. We would watch someone else do it, but it was hard to get up the nerve to do it ourselves. Finally we just did it and realized that everyone was not watching us or staring at us. They did not think that everything we did was stupid.

One thought—everyone feels a certain amount of fear doing something that is new for them. You will not look stupid doing any of this for the first time. In fact no one will probably even realize. Do not let the fear of the unknown stop you. As my husband just said, ‘it is better to do it now when your are eighteen (or so) then when you are twenty-five.”

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