Relationship building… with a financial institution

Choose a financial institution that is a good fit for you.

A white building with four column in the front, a gold door and a money sign on the top.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

Choosing a financial institution is an important step in building a financial future. Especially once you start earning money from jobs and allowances, a financial institution can help with protecting the money that is earned and help with saving money for future goals. 

Michigan 4-H Youth Development, through resources from the National Endowment for Financial Education, offers some questions to assist in the process of determining what financial institution will best meet your needs. This choice can be the first step in a financial relationship!

Michigan State University Extension suggests starting with the qualities that are important to you in your financial institution. Establish the must-have and then nice-to-have criteria. Consider these types of questions:

  1. Will you be making your deposits online or in-person? This affects whether you use a more online-based financial institution or a brick-and-mortar financial institution.
  2. Where are you going to withdraw or deposit cash? At an ATM? At a store? At the financial institution? These choices should be researched for the best setup for you.
  3. How will you pay for things with your money? Will you use checks? A debit card? Online bill paying? Or some combination? What are the costs associated with these options?
  4. What other services might you need in the future? Think long-term. While you might not need a credit card or a loan for a car or home now, might you need one in the future? If so, what options are there at the financial institution you are researching? Changing financial institutions can be done but takes some paperwork and also means the time you spent building the relationship is lost. Considering this before you make a choice can help make sure it is a good choice for the future, too.

The best strategy is to “date” or research a few options -- a combination of banks and credit unions -- and then compare their “menu” of options with your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. You can look online and can go to the physical locations to get this information. The customer service experience is a part of your decision; you should want to feel like it is a good place to put your money! Then, identify the pros and cons for each of the options and select one that is the most logical for your personal situation. Remember, what works for one person is not always the best choice for someone else. Getting recommendations from friends and family is helpful but you will need to pick something that works best for you.

Once you have created this relationship with a financial institution, evaluate it after a few months. Are you utilizing the services you signed up for? Are you unhappy with the process of depositing money, paying for things, or with any fees that you have to pay? If so, make changes and adjustments to make the system work for you, even if that means changing financial institutions.

MSU Extension has a variety of trainings, articles and educational contests to help with success in the world of money management. Establishing an account at a financial institution can be a great step in helping establish your financial future in a positive direction.

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