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Choosing a Bank or a Credit Union
You may need or want to set up some financial accounts for receiving money, keeping money, paying for things, and borrowing money. For example, common accounts include checking accounts and savings accounts. You might also get a debit card, ATM card, or credit card. Why Open a Bank Account?
Check out the Mint’s page Cash, Check, or Credit? to learn about the options you have for buying things, including cash, ATM cards, debit cards, checks, online banking or bill pay, and credit cards.
For most purposes, a bank and a credit union are the same. Before choosing a bank or a credit union, call or visit at least two and compare them.Banks in Texas include: Chase Bank, Citi Bank, Capital One, and Bank of America.
Credit Unions and the areas where most of their branch locations are:
- Security Service Federal Credit Union (San Antonio, South Texas, El Paso)
- University Federal Credit Union (Central Texas, Houston, Galveston)
- Greater Texas Federal Credit Union (Central Texas, Houston, Bryan, and Dallas)
- GECU (El Paso)
- EECU (Fort Worth)
- Amarillo Community Credit Union (Amarillo)
Things to Consider
Do you like to visit and ask questions or get help in person? You might prefer to look around at the bank or credit union close to you and see if it meets your needs. Some banks may require that you open accounts in person.
Online or Mobile Banking Options
If it’s not important to you to be able to go to the bank in person, the location may not matter. Most banks now have websites and apps that allow you to scan and deposit checks, check your account balances, receive text or email messages when your account balance is low, and transfer or send money to another account or person.
Most credit unions also belong to a credit union network, which means that you can look up a credit union in the network near you, and they will do the same for you that your own credit union does. For example, you could visit STU Credit Union and deposit a check there, and it would be deposited in your regular account at Greater Texas Federal Credit Union as if you had visited Greater Texas.
Questions to ask:
- Do you have an app I can download on my phone?
- What can I do on the app—check balances? Scan and deposit a check? Transfer money between my checking and savings accounts? Transfer money to my credit card account?
- Can I receive texts or emails when my balance is low or there is something strange going on with my account?
Different banks charge an “account fee” or “maintenance fee” on checking or savings accounts just for keeping the account for you. Look for a bank that charges low or no account fees.
Other fees include an “overdraft fee” when you write out a check from your checking account, and your account doesn’t have enough money. Almost all banks charge overdraft fees. Try to avoid those by always knowing how much money you have in your account, and “budgeting” or planning how to use your money wisely.
Questions to ask:
- Are there any account fees or maintenance fees on this account?
- What happens if I write out a check and there’s not enough money in my account for it?
Some banks require you to keep a certain amount of money in your checking or savings account. That can be as high as $1000! That means that if you use the money in your account, and your balance is $900, you get charged a penalty fee. Watch out! You should be able to find a bank or credit union that requires no or a very low minimum balance, like $50.00.
Questions to ask:
- Is there a minimum balance on this account?
- How much?
Are you under 18?
If you’re under 18, most banks will not let you open any type of account without an adult co-owner who basically shares the account with you. That means they can spend or take your money! It’s your money, so be careful who you get as a co-owner if one is needed.
Ask the bank or credit union whether you can open an account without a co-owner if you’re under age 18. They might do it, especially if you’re getting close to your 18th birthday.
Opening the Account
Once you choose a bank or credit union, to open the account:
- Have proper identification, including your social security card.
- Bring your initial deposit. If you aren’t sure how much, just call the bank or credit union and ask them how much you need to get started.
- Review and complete the forms you need to sign.
Debit or Credit Card? What’s the Difference?
Once you open a bank account, you will have the option to have a debit or credit card. Watch this video to understand the difference.