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Smart Banking Tips

Know your banking options

Managing your money may seem overwhelming at times. This information can help you understand your options and make decisions about your money with confidence.

Ask these questions when you’re deciding which financial institution (including banks, credit unions, or trust companies) will look after your money.

  • Does it fit your life?
    • Do you need to open an account at a branch that’s close to where you live or go to classes?
    • Would a virtual bank be suitable for your needs?
  • What does the financial institution offer for online banking?
  • What fees do they charge for online banking?
  • What online services do they offer for free? You can search online for “no fee banking” or “online banking” in Alberta.
  • Can you find what you want on their website/app?
  • Are you treated well on the phone, or in person?
    • You might not be a big customer yet, but you should have all your questions answered. If they make you feel uncomfortable or don’t have the time to explain things to you, think about choosing a different place.
  • Is there another financial institution that will offer you a better deal? Shop around for better interest rates, fees, or benefits.

Choose the account(s) that’s right for you

This is your money, and you need to know how it will be handled. Here are some things to consider when choosing an account(s).

  • Online banking
    • If you are paid by cheque, can you use your phone to deposit it? (mobile deposit of cheques)
    • Is there a free online budgeting tool you can use to keep track of your money?
    • What other features do they offer with online banking?
  • Service fees
    • What are the account fees for e-transfers?
    • Are there related fees for ATM and Interac access?
    • Are you charged per transaction, or is there a flat monthly fee, or a student discount?
    • Do you need the services that are covered by the fee?
    • Can you pay for big items, like tuition or rent, using free e-transfers, or automatic withdrawals?
  • Interest rate
    • What’s the interest rate on this account?
    • Do you need to have a minimum balance in the account before interest is paid?
    • How does the interest rate compare with other accounts that have different or fewer services?
  • Minimum balance requirements
    • Do you have to have a minimum balance in the account to qualify for its benefits?
    • How likely is it that you’ll be able to maintain the minimum balance for a full month, every month?
    • What is the penalty or transaction fee for services if the minimum balance is not maintained?
  • Overdraft protection
    • Does the financial institution offer you overdraft protection? If so, how much is it?
  • Benefits
    • What kind of additional services/benefits come with the account, like reward points?
    • Do these additional services cost extra?
    • Will you use these rewards or additional services?
  • Reporting
    • How will the financial institution help you keep track of your monthly transactions or records?
    • Do you want the bank to mail you a monthly statement or will you use electronic statements?
    • Is there a charge for this service?

Many students start the school year with a large amount of money, which has to last throughout the school year. Here are some tips for managing it.

Smart banking tips

  • Never give out your bank PIN (Personal Identification Number) or passwords. No bank will ever ask you to tell them your PIN or passwords, especially in emails or texts.
  • Put a lump sum into a savings account that maximizes the interest your money will earn.
    • Some financial institutions have special interest-earning accounts designed for students.
      • You’ll be moving money out of this account quite often, so make sure you won’t pay a lot in service fees to do so.
    • Put the rest in a chequing account to pay your monthly expenses, like rent and bills.
    • Transfer money from your savings to your chequing account when you need money.
    • Keep track of your account balances and make sure you have enough to pay for your regular expenses. If you don’t have enough, your bank will likely charge you a Not Sufficient Funds (NSF) fee, and the person or place you owe money to might also charge you an NSF fee.
    • If you keep your ATM transaction slips for your records, make sure you keep them safe to protect your privacy.
  • If you use cash, make a budget to figure out how much you’ll need for a certain period (per week or month, for example) and withdraw that amount in a lump sum rather than several smaller amounts. It’ll save you transaction fees, and help you stick to your budget.

Now that you have some smart banking tips, you can bank more wisely, more securely, and maybe more cheaply.

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