You can get some pretty good deals just by opening up a checking account these days. Some banks will reward you with a free sweatshirt, free checkbooks, or even a small amount of cash–but don’t overlook the fine print. Banks will proudly advertise what they want you to know so that you can sign up, but they won’t reveal the less-than-savory bits. Make sure to ask your banker the following questions before you make the mistake of choosing a checking account that isn’t ideal for your needs.

Checking Account

1) What kind of account do I need?

Before you decide to open a checking account, you should figure out if you even need a checking account. Talk to the banker, and explain what exactly you want to do with your money. The banker should be able to suggest an appropriate account type for your needs. If you plan on saving money for the kids, for example, opening up a savings account would be more appropriate than a checking account because it will offer you more benefits like gaining interest on your savings over time.

2) Where should I open up my account?

Convenience is key when it comes to opening up a checking account. You should be able to access your money when you need it. This means being able to physically go to the bank location with ease during the hours of the day when you’ll have the time to. Find out where the local branches are in relation to your home or workplace, and also ask for their operating hours. Also ask about ATM locations and compatibility between banks. If using a specific bank seems like it might be inconvenient for you, move on to the next bank armed with the same questions.

3) Will I receive free checkbooks after opening an account?

If you know that you will be writing a lot of checks, ask if you’ll get free checkbooks by signing up. Some banks will give you several books when you open up an account. If they don’t offer free checkbooks, don’t buy them from the bank as you will likely be overcharged. Instead, order personal checks from http://www.checks-superstore.com/personal-checks.aspx where you can choose between many different styles at a discounted price.

4) What’s in the fine print?

Never sign up for a checking account until you know all of the details. Ask for the fine print in paper so that you are aware of all the policies and their associated fees. You don’t want to get charged for things you didn’t know about.

5) Will my money be safe?

All bank associates will tell you that your money is perfectly safe with their bank, but you should know better. Look for “FDIC-insured” labels on the bank doors and windows. These notices tell you that the bank is backed up by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that awards you with up to $100,000 in case the bank fails.

Before opening up any bank account, do your research online to learn more about your options. It might also be a good idea to go over customer reviews to see how others feel about the service they’ve received. In the end, choose the bank and account option that works best for you regardless of what others have to say.

Image Credit: Joseph Erlewein