One thing that can go a long way towards helping you achieve financial independence is choosing the right banking partner. Look for one that can provide the products and services you need to help you to meet your financial goals.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a banking partner:
1. Account types - Do they offer the type of account, or accounts, you need? For example, you might already have an everyday bank account to manage your day to day income and spending. But perhaps you are looking for a regular savings account so that you can keep your savings separate from your everyday spending.
2. Basic or advanced - Do they provide the account features you are looking for? Do you simply want a free basic bank account to deposit your income, make payments, and withdraw cash from ATMs? Or perhaps one that includes added benefits such as breakdown cover or travel insurance, but may charge a monthly fee?
If you have savings, an ordinary savings account that provides instant access to your money, might be ideal. But you could also look for one that pays higher interest in return for leaving your money untouched for a longer period.
Some banks offer online and mobile banking services in addition to a network of branches, while others are 100% digital, online only, and have no physical branches at all. Which one is right for you?
3. Digital banking - What is their digital banking experience like? You should be able to do most of your everyday banking without needing to visit a branch, or even make a phone call. Many banks now have mobile apps that let you:
4. Services offered - Do they offer the specific services you know you will need? This could be providing cheques, sending money overseas or setting up automated payments. Or, maybe there are specific features you're looking for, such as a fee-free overdraft if you are a student.
5. Interest rates and fees - The rate of interest offered on your savings, or charged on your overdraft, will be one of the keys to your choice of account and banking provider. Keep in mind that what you need might change over time. As a student, you might prefer an account that offers overdraft with low (or no) fees, or a savings account that offers instant access. Once you are working, you may be happy to pay a monthly or annual fee in return for additional services that would benefit you.
6. Values - Increasingly, people are choosing to trust their finances with providers who share their personal values. What kind of ethical credentials do you want your bank to have? Are they committed to reducing their carbon footprint? Or investing in specific environmental causes, like renewable energy companies or community projects?
You may wish to take time to research your banking partner's impact on the planet, and choose one that funds initiatives with a positive impact on society.
7. Competition and choice - There are plenty of banks to choose from, with strong competition between providers. It's perfectly normal to use multiple providers for banking, savings, credit cards and loans. You should review your banking needs regularly and shop around for the options that best suit your needs.
Choosing the right banking partner is a personal decision, and everyone's situation is different. It's about deciding which features and benefits mean the most to you right now, and considering how these will change in the future.
Initially, you may simply be looking for a convenient and secure place to manage your income or salary. However, you should also consider any features that might help you manage your finances more effectively, as well as other services you might need in the future, such as a mortgage, insurance, savings and investments.