1. Bank accounts offer convenience
For example, if you have a checking account, you can easily pay by check or through online bill pay. It's also cheaper than buying a money order (and you'll have proof of bank statements that you paid your bills). If you get an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or debit card for the account, you can withdraw money easily or make payments at stores. A debit card is usually accepted for purchases anywhere credit cards are accepted.
2. Bank accounts are safe
Your money will be protected from theft and fires. Plus, your money will be federally insured so if your bank or credit union closes, you will get your money back. The maximum amount of money that can be insured is $100,000.
3. It's an easy way to save money
Many banks offer an interest rate when you put your money in a savings account. The interest will help your money grow over time. Be sure to shop around and check what fees are involved - you don't want to wind up paying more in fees than you are gaining in interest.
If you have a checking and saving account with the same institution, you can have your money transferred periodically from checking to savings, putting the money aside to help grow your savings.
4. Bank accounts are cheaper
Banks and credit unions generally offer their account holders free or low-cost services:
- Cashing checks: Using a check cashing outlet really adds up. You can deposit and cash your checks at the institution where you have a bank account for free.
- Paying bills: Without a bank account, you probably rely on check cashing outlets, telephone bill pay or money orders—all of which have attached fees—to pay your bills. With a checking account, you can write checks for free or pay online at a low cost.
- Transferring/wiring money: If you use a money transfer company to wire money to another person’s account, you will pay a fee, usually a percentage of the amount of the transfer. Depending on the amount you want to transfer, this fee can be expensive. If you wire from your bank account to another person’s account, your bank will usually charge a flat rate that is generally lower than the money transfer company.
- Accessing cash: When you need cash but don’t have a bank account, you may decide to use a credit card to get a cash advance from an ATM. The credit card company will charge you a transaction fee and interest. If you have a bank account and an ATM or debit card, you can access your money from your own bank’s ATM for free. Although you can access your money from any ATM, you will likely pay a transaction fee if you use an ATM other than your bank.
5. Bank accounts can help you access credit
Banks and credit unions can help you access credit to acquire a home, a car, student or personal loan, because banks tend to favor existing customers, particularly those who manage their money well. Plus, going to small loan lenders that lend you cash quickly can be quite expensive because they charge lending fees and high interest rates.
While bank accounts are preferred over check cashers and piggy banks, banks will also have fees that you should be aware of. For example, banks will charge you if you use your debit card on an ATM that is not theirs. Also, depending on the type of account you have, you must maintain a minimum balance of a certain amount to avoid being charged. It's always best to shop around for the best product that fits your needs.