How Millennials Choose Bank Accounts for Their Needs

Millennial woman checking banks online

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When it comes to managing their money, millennials tend to think and act differently than other generations. That's especially true in terms of how and where they choose to bank.

According to Gallup, millennials are more likely than Gen X or Baby Boomers to manage their banking tasks online or via mobile banking. They're also less likely than older banking customers to visit a branch or rely on human customer service to get help with their account or banking needs.

With that in mind, the best banks for millennials often up end up being the ones that are actively adapting to fit their needs. In other words, they're not approaching banking the same way their parents or grandparents did. That makes choosing the right bank account crucial.

Here's what young adults should keep in mind as they shop around for a bank.

The Best Banks for Millennials Focus on Digital

It seems as if millennials practically live their entire lives on their mobile phones, and they need a bank that fits that mold. Some of the most in-demand digital banking features millennials want from their banks include an easy-to-use smartphone app, secure online account access, and the ability to easily send and receive money using mobile apps.

Overall, 67 percent of millennials want digital banking tools and 61 percent say mobile banking has made tracking their money and spending easier. In addition to mobile banking, features like budgeting tools and wealth management resources are also important.

If you're a millennial sizing up a bank's digital capabilities, these are the features you may be most concerned with having:

  • Online and mobile banking access
  • Mobile check deposit
  • Person to person payments
  • Online and mobile bill pay
  • Enhanced digital security
  • Mobile payment technology
  • Text and email account alerts

Some banks offer all of these features; others may offer only some of them. As you look at different banks and their digital benefits, think about the features you use most often. That can help in narrowing down which banks may be a good fit in that respect.

Consider Banking Costs

Keeping banking services low-cost is important for anyone but it may be especially so if you're a millennial who's on a tight budget. When you're paying down student loans, for example, or saving for a down payment on a first home the last thing you want is extra fees nibbling away at your savings. In a Kasasa survey, 93 percent of millennials said no-fee banking was important when choosing a financial institution.

The fees you may pay for banking depend largely on the type of account and where you choose to bank. With a checking account at a traditional bank, for instance, you may pay:

  • Monthly account maintenance fees
  • Minimum balance fees
  • Overdraft fees
  • Non-sufficient funds fees

An online bank, by comparison, may not charge monthly maintenance or minimum balance fee for a checking account. The same may also be true of online savings accounts. You will, however, have to pay an excess withdrawal fee if you're making more than six allowed withdrawals from a savings account in any given month.

If you're looking beyond checking and savings accounts to certificates of deposit, loans or credit cards, other fees may apply. With a CD, for instance, you may face an early withdrawal penalty for withdrawing your initial deposit before the maturity date. And with credit cards, you may have to pay an annual fee. You'd also have to consider the annual percentage rate for both loans and credit cards.

That's not to be confused with annual percentage yield, which is the rate you'd earn on interest-bearing accounts, like savings accounts, money market accounts, interest checking accounts, or CDs. Taking time to get to know the various rates and fees can help you find a bank that suits your budget and savings goals.

Convenience and Access

While you might prefer digital banking over visiting a branch, that doesn't mean you won't need to go to a branch occasionally or that you'll never need to hit the ATM. This is where the convenience factor becomes important when comparing the best banks for millennials.

If you're choosing an online-only bank, for example, you have to consider how you'd be able to make deposits and withdrawals. The mobile deposit covers checks but not cash. To deposit cash, you'd first have to deposit it to another bank account, then transfer it electronically to your online account. That's one scenario where traditional brick-and-mortar banks have the advantage since you could just head to your nearest branch to deposit cash.

Making deposits at the ATM is also an option but not every ATM is set up to accept cash deposits. And then there's the ATM network itself. With some online-only banks, you're using machines that are part of a broader ATM network. In that case, access may be widespread but with other online banks, that's not always true. You could end up paying foreign ATM fees to use another bank's machine. Some--but not all--online banks reimburse foreign ATM fees. And those reimbursements are not always unlimited.

Do Your Banking Homework

Picking the right bank matters because ending up with the wrong one can make managing your money harder than it has to be, and potentially cost you more in fees than you'd like to pay. To recap, consider whether you need a branch or whether you're okay going online-only. Regardless of which one you choose, review the ATM network for its size and fees. And be sure to get a full rundown of all the bank's features so you know exactly what you're getting and what it can bring to your financial life.