Choosing A Banking Account

Primarily, there are two main types of traditional banking accounts; savings accounts, and checking accounts. And, while there can be quite a few similarities between the two at a prima facie glance, there are actually quite a few key saliencies as well. Both accounts can be used to deposit funds, as well as allow for easy withdrawals from the accounts.  In fact, most savings accounts and checking accounts are equally compatible with the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system, which is typically used to directly deposit, and/or directly withdraw funds electronically from an account. This is typically how money is transferred between institutions, or used to pay online vendors. The key difference between a savings account and a checking account is in their intended main function. Savings accounts typically have a higher prime money market that pays out more interest on the funds in the account, allowing the value of the account to grow faster. Checking accounts, on the other hand, typically come with features such as checkbooks linked to the account, and/or Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards that can be used as ubiquitously as any major credit card to make purchases.  Therein lies their key differences; a savings account is designed to help with the saving and accumulation of funds, and a checking account is designed to be used to take money out for common regular transactions (e.g. purchases, paying bills, etc).  

The next main choice most people face after deciding which type of account is best for them is ... choosing the type of bank at which to open the account. In this sense, there are two main categories of banks (based on their business model); traditional brick-and-motor location banks, and online-only banks. Just as the differentiation between savings and checking accounts, these two main bank business models differences are easy to infer from their names. A traditional brick-and-motor bank is one that maintains physical locations, to which clients can enter to do business or transact with the bank. Online banks do not maintain physical locations and provide all their services virtually to their clients. Neither model is better or worse than the other, but determining which one is better for each personal situation usually boils down to how one wants to interact with their account, and by extension, their bank. Not having a physical location can make it potentially more difficult to have bank services such as cashier's checks, or making cash deposits more difficult. However, many of these services are becoming less common, and there are now numerous banking alternatives that solve these same needs. The main advantage of an online bank is that the reduced cost to the bank, in not having to maintain the physical property, allows them to pass those savings on to their customers. Brick-and-motor banks' main advantage is if one wants to go in and transact with an actual person (face-to-face) it is possible to do so.