Whether you’re over 50 or have parents who are seniors, you’re no doubt aware of the flood of discounts out there available to people of retirement age. Most of them are no-brainers in terms of the benefits they offer – but when it comes to banking, that’s where things get a little more complicated. Virtually all banks in the US offer what they call a senior checking option — and with good reason, by the way, considering three in five depositors in this country were born before 1964. But signing up for these accounts doesn’t necessarily mean automatic cost savings for all customers.
When it comes to senior checking, potential benefits are entirely dependent on your individual banking profile and preferences. For example – many senior checking accounts carry minimum balance fees. If you’re on a fixed income and your daily balance tends to dip below a certain amount, you could potentially rack up charges quite quickly. You also may have no use for some of the perks they offer, which is even more reason to be judicious. Here are three important steps to take before signing up:
- Determine What You Want. If you’re like most seniors, you prefer having a brick-and-mortar option as opposed to banking exclusively online – not just for day-to-day transactions, but also in the instance of potential financial fraud, an issue that dogs the senior population. So you’ll want branches that are nearby and convenient. Do you tend to write a lot of checks? Then you’ll want an account that doesn’t charge on volume. Do you prefer online bill pay? Then you’ll want to make sure the banks you’re looking at don’t charge fees for this service.
- Stay focused on what you truly need. Banks tend to throw out lots of potential perks that might sound great in the moment – but how much do you actually benefit? For example, many banks offer preemptive overdraft protection for a flat monthly fee, when actually you can simply instruct your bank not to pay for any withdrawal that isn’t covered – so if overdrafts aren’t a regular issue for you, why pay the fee in the first place? Other potentially appealing features like a discounted safety deposit box, free cashier’s checks, and cinema coupons shouldn’t become higher priorities than being able to, say, being able to maintain a low balance without triggering fees.
- Shop around. Take a few weeks to dig into the details to make a decision that truly puts money – not frivolous perks – in your pocket. There are a lot of online resources out there to help, including com, Bankrate, and Nerdwallet. And for a great piece on the best banks for seniors, check out Time.com.