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A Guide to Smart Banking for Beginners

Smart banking is an essential part of managing your money and achieving your financial goals. Learn about different banking styles below and start saving now.

FindBanks Editorial Team

Nov 2, 2023

Successful banking is an essential part of managing your money and achieving your financial goals. With so many different banks and accounts to choose from, how do you know which choice is the best one for you? Bank smart doesn't have to be a long and complicated process. Keep it simple: compare different bank features, including APY rates, fees, account types, digital offerings, and more.

Eager to get started? We've done the hard work for you. Thanks to hours of research and review, our team was able to create a list of reputable online bank comparisons, reviews, and key offerings here:


Decide What Type of Bank You Want

There are two main types of banks: traditional banks and online banks. Traditional banks have physical branches and ATMs, but they may charge higher fees and offer lower interest rates than their digital counterparts. Online banks operate entirely online, often including regular access to ATMs and customer service. When comparing your options, you should consider your unique banking needs and to what degree you prioritize modern convenience and digital accessibility.

Some factors to consider when choosing a bank are:

  • Location and availability: Do you prefer to visit a branch or ATM near you, or do you prefer to bank online or by phone? How often do you need to access your bank, and what are their hours of operation and availability?
  • Products and Services: What kind of accounts and services do you need, such as checking, savings, loans, investments, or insurance? How do they match with what the bank offers, and what are the terms and conditions?
  • Customer Service and Support: How easy is it to contact and communicate with the bank, and how responsive and helpful are they? Do they have online chat, phone, email, or social media support? Do they have a good reputation and reviews from other customers?
  • Rewards and Incentives: Does the bank offer any rewards or incentives for opening an account, making deposits, using their services, or referring others? How valuable and attractive are these rewards or incentives, and how easy is it to redeem them?

Comparing Bank Features: APY Rates, Fees, and Account Benefits

The annual percentage yield (APY) is the amount of interest you can earn on your money in a single year: the higher the APY, the more money you make. Generally, savings accounts offer higher APY rates than checking accounts, but they may have different requirements and restrictions, such as minimum balance, withdrawal limits, and maturity terms.

Fees are any charges that banks may impose on their customers for a variety of services and transactions. You should compare the fees of different accounts and banks, and look for ways to avoid or minimize them. Some common bank fees include monthly service fees, overdraft fees, non-sufficient funds fees, and ATM fees. Certain banks, especially online banks, may waive some or all of these fees if you meet certain criteria, such as maintaining a minimum balance, setting up direct deposit, using online tools, or joining a loyalty program.

Bank accounts offer different features and benefits that can help you manage your money better. You should compare the account offerings of different accounts and banks, and look for ones that satisfy your needs and preferences. Some common account offerings include debit cards, checks, online and mobile banking, bill pay, alerts and notifications, budgeting and tracking tools, cash-back rewards and perks, security and protection, and access to surcharge-free ATM networks.

Some factors to consider when choosing an account are:

  • Interest Rates and Fees: These expenses can help you earn money and save big, affecting how much interest you'll earn on your money, and how much you'll pay in monthly, annual, overdraft, or additional miscellaneous fees.
  • Balance and Transaction Requirements: Your account may require a minimum balance for initial opening and monthly maintenance. Additionally, there may be limits and fees regarding the amount of monthly transactions you can make.
  • Features and Benefits: These add-ons can add great value to your account, including online bill pay, alerts and notifications, budgeting and tracking tools, cash-back rewards and perks, security and protection, and access to surcharge-free ATM networks.

Consider Online Banking

Online banking is a convenient and secure way to access and manage your money from anywhere, at any time. Online banking can help you save time, money, and hassle, and give you more control and freedom over your finances. Online banking can also help you earn more interest, avoid fees, and enjoy innovative features and benefits. Utilizing online tools and resources can be a quick and easy way to compare reputable services and find the best choice for you:


Key advantages that make online banking stand out include:

  • Higher Rates and Lower Fees: Online banks often offer higher interest rates on savings and checking accounts than traditional banks can, thanks to savings from lower overhead costs that can be directly passed onto customers.
  • User Friendly: Internet and mobile services grant you easier access to your accounts, transaction history, bill payments, money transfers, check deposits, and more. Additionally, you may be able to set up alerts and notifications to monitor suspicious account activity and overall security.
  • Budgeting and Tracking: Digital tools and features can help you manage your finances with ease. Utilize spending and budgeting tools to set savings goals and track your spending habits. Access your credit score and financial products, such as loans and lines of credit, to improve your credit health.
  • Rewards and Perks: Online banks may offer the most competitive cash-back rewards and perks. Discover how cash-back on your purchases, discounts and deals from merchants, and other benefits, such as travel insurance, roadside assistance, and cell phone protection, can significantly enhance your banking experience and savings.
  • Innovation and Flexibility: Constantly innovation and digital improvements means online banks can offer new features and functionalities, such as biometric authentication, voice banking, and robo-advisors, making banking easier and smarter.

Find The Right Account for You

Banking smart is not hard, but it does require a little bit of research and comparison. With these tips, you'll have a better understanding of your financial needs and can choose a bank with confidence. Get the most value out of your money and get started today with this year’s best online bank services: