Dear Money Mentor: How do I pick a savings or checking account?

May 29, 2019

With banks offering a variety of checking and savings account options, it can be difficult to figure out which account is the best fit for you. Use this financial toolkit as a guide to help with your decision.


Dear Money Mentor is designed to answer common consumer banking questions and offer guidance to improve financial wellbeing. Read on for tips and expert advice from Linda Wu, U.S. Bank product manager for consumer deposits, and Bart Davis, U.S. Bank group product manager for consumer deposits.

When it comes to checking and savings accounts, one size does not fit all. Everyone has unique financial needs, values and goals, which is why banks often offer multiple types of accounts with varying fees, interest rates and benefits.

Maybe you’re a student looking to open your first checking or savings account. Or maybe you are farther along in your financial goals and are ready to switch to a higher-interest-earning money market account.

Don’t feel overwhelmed. Let this breakdown put you on a path to financial success:


Types of Checking Accounts

Student checking accounts: These accounts provide the necessary basics for a transaction account and add specific benefits designed for students. Perks may include fee forgiveness at ATMs, a debit card and free checks.

  • Check-less debit accounts: If you have had issues overdrawing your accounts in the past, or want to start off with a simple account, this type of account might be right for you. These often lack checks or overdraft fees, enabling you to easily stay on top of your balance. They provide greater control over your spending because you can’t spend more than the amount in your account. 
  • Basic checking accounts: These checking accounts usually include words like “easy” and “everyday.” They often offer perks like debit cards and mobile check deposits, and the monthly maintenance fee may be waived if you keep your account balance at a predetermined amount. 
  • Premium checking accounts: At a premier checking account level, you may get added benefits including preferred rates on auto, home equity or personal loans. Possible perks might include a set number of ATM fees waived, overdraft protection, and even additional checking accounts or savings accounts. Depending on your bank, perks may come with a monthly maintenance fee. That fee may be waived if you open additional accounts or lines of credit, or maintain a minimum balance.

While one checking account may suit your needs just fine, it’s not uncommon to have multiple accounts to best utilize the resources available in your financial toolbox. For example, you may want to open a joint checking account with your spouse, but still maintain individual accounts for personal expenses, taxes or a rainy day. If you have children, you may think it’s time they have their own checking accounts to introduce them to the concept of banking. Or perhaps it’s time to start monitoring your parents’ deposits and withdrawals to watch for signs of elder financial fraud.


Types of Savings Accounts

Standard savings accounts: Great for beginners who are just starting their savings journey, these accounts are good for those who plan to carry a lower balance. A smaller initial deposit typically opens this kind of account, and monthly maintenance fees are usually minimal or even waived.

  • Money market accounts: At many banks, these types of accounts pay interest based on current rates in the money markets – typically a greater annual percentage yield than a regular savings account. In exchange for maintaining a higher balance, you may be able to write checks from it. 
  • Certificates of deposit (CD): Consider a CD if you’re looking for a greater return on your savings, and don’t mind that your dollars are locked for a specified time. These accounts have a fixed withdrawal date. The longer the term, typically, the higher the fixed interest rate. 
  • Relationship savings accounts: Generally, these accounts are available when you also have a corresponding checking account. Perks may include waived monthly maintenance fees and higher interest rates based on the type of paired accounts you keep open.

You can reach your savings goals faster by choosing the right type of savings account – but similar to checking accounts, you’re not limited to one. Perhaps the biggest benefit of having multiple savings accounts is the ability to separate your money by goals or interests. You might want a long-term account to save for college tuition or retirement, while another may be used for short-term savings goals, such as money for home improvements or a family vacation.

Before making a decision, it’s important to think about money habits and future plans to confidently select the best account for your goals and values.


Looking to open a checking or savings account at U.S. Bank? Explore your options.

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