Feeling stuck in a checking account rut? Turns out the right checking account for your lifestyle in your 20s may not be a perfect match in your 30s or 40s.
“It can be a mistake to keep the same checking account over the years because things in your life change and you might be missing out on certain benefits by not switching accounts,” says David Bakke, a personal finance expert at financial education site Money Crashers.
According to a survey conducted for Bankrate and MONEY Magazine, the average American adult uses the same primary checking account for about 16 years. While sticking with the same account may make you a loyal customer, as you get older, you may need to change your checking account through life stages.
What is the right checking account for my life stage? These tips can help you find the answer:
Banking in your 20s: Think convenience and cost
In your 20s, the right checking account for your life stage may be one that offers the easiest access to your money.
Forty-seven percent of millennials, for example, use mobile banking to match their active lifestyles, according to a joint survey by Jumio, a company specializing in online mobile payments and identity verification, and Javelin Strategy & Research. But the survey also reveals that young adults don’t want mobile banking to be over-complicated.
“Many banks now offer mobile services,” says Michael E. Diamond, senior vice president and general manager of payments at Mitek, a mobile deposit technology company. “The quality and functionality of these features can vary greatly, however. It’s important to compare the user experience and features of mobile services offered by different financial institutions when considering where to bank.”
Checking account fees may also be a factor when choosing the right checking account for your lifestyle in your 20s.
“Minimal fees should be the first consideration for any 20-something looking for a checking account,” says Eric Patrick, founder of Black Market Exchange, an investment education and entrepreneurship site for young adults. “Saving is extremely important in your 20s because the sooner you start, the better, but hefty bank fees can impede your savings growth.”
If fees are a priority when trying to find the right checking account for your life stage in your 20s, consider opening an account with no monthly fees for maintenance, like Discover Cashback Debit, which also automatically waives the first eligible fee you incur on your checking account each calendar year.1 This account also allows you to earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month,2 which is a nice perk if you’re a budget-conscious 20-something.
The average American adult uses the same primary checking account for about 16 years.
Banking in your 30s: Focus on features
“Getting married may cause you to want to have a joint checking account,” says Bakke, the personal finance expert from Money Crashers. “And if you’re going to start a family or buy a home, you might want to look for a checking account through a bank that offers financial and savings guidance for those goals.”
Kenneth Scott Perry, an aerospace project manager and baseball blogger, says major life changes have redefined what he needs most from a checking account.
In their early 30s, Perry and his wife bought their first home, purchased two new cars and had their first child, all of which had financial implications. With so many major financial considerations, he started focusing on checking account features like direct deposit for his paychecks, online bill pay services and overdraft protection. “These features, more so than in my 20s, are now very much what I consider to be necessary for the checking account I use at this stage in life.”
Banking in your 40s and 50s: Review your priorities
Planning your finances for your life stage means anticipating how your priorities will change as you get older. For instance, purchasing a second home, ramping up your retirement contributions or caring for aging parents may be on your radar during your 40s and 50s. The right checking account for your lifestyle is one that makes planning for these new scenarios as easy as possible.
When choosing the right checking account for your life stage in your 40s and 50s, you actually might want to consider what kind of savings products your bank offers to complement your checking account—and make sure that moving money into those accounts is both simple and secure. For example, you may want to be able to easily transfer money from your checking account to a savings account, certificate of deposit or IRA. When planning your finances for your life stage you can even explore setting up automatic transfers to different accounts so saving for your latest financial goals can happen on autopilot.
If providing care for your parents becomes a new component of planning your finances for your life stage, you may want to consider opening a joint checking account to help them with financial management and bill payment. You could also open a savings account that’s separate from your emergency fund to help cover any unexpected expenses associated with caregiving.
Don’t just set your checking account and forget it
Having the right checking account for your life stage means regularly assessing your financial needs and how well your checking account is meeting them.
“People tend to review their insurance coverage once each year,” says Diamond, from the mobile deposit technology company Mitek. “Checking account users might want to adopt a similar approach and review their banking options annually.”
If you reach a point where it’s necessary to switch your checking account through life stages, try to avoid costly mistakes.
“It can be a mistake to keep the same checking account over the years because things in your life change and you might be missing out on certain benefits by not switching accounts.”
“When transitioning from an old account to a new one, make sure there isn’t a fee associated with the transfer,” Patrick says. “Make a point to get all the details before starting the process.”
If you find the right checking account for your lifestyle, give yourself time to move your checking account to a new bank. Remember to update your direct deposit information for your new account, as well as any recurring online bill payments or automatic transfers. And most importantly, take time to shop around and compare your options each time you assess your checking account through life stages to find the one that best suits your current banking needs.
1 The first fee charged to any eligible customer account (which includes Cashback Debit, Money Market and Online Savings accounts) will be automatically waived and credited to your account. Eligible fees by product include: Cashback Debit (Insufficient Funds and Stop Payment fees); Money Market (Excessive Withdrawal, Insufficient Funds, Money Market Minimum Balance and Stop Payment fees); Online Savings (Excessive Withdrawal, Insufficient Funds and Stop Payment fees). Wire transfer fees are not eligible and will not be waived. Fees incurred prior to May 7, 2018 are not eligible for reimbursement.
2 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal™, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.