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Understanding Your Banking Options Traditional Banks Credit Unions Online Banks

Consumers have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to their banking needs. It can be confusing to sort through the benefits and drawbacks of each. As our world has become more technology dependent, online banks have started becoming the norm and the future of traditional banks (as we know them today) are in jeopardy. Here, we take a look at the main options: Traditional banks, credit unions, and online banks.

Traditional banks

Most people have at least one account in a traditional "brick and mortar" bank. These include national and multinational institutions, such as Wells Fargo, HSBC or Deutsche Bank.

Banks offer services such as checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts and investment options. You access your money at a physical location such as a branch or ATM or through online services. Banks also offer lending services for consumer credit, mortgages, and other loans.

While traditional banks offer the most services and flexibility in terms of access, many accounts require service fees and banking plans, which can be costly.

Credit unions

A credit union is a financial cooperative. As a co-op, the credit union is owned by its members, the account holders. As a result, fees and service charges are often lower than what is charged by traditional banks.

Credit unions generally offer the same services as a traditional bank, but attempt to differentiate themselves by being more community and customer oriented. In surveys, credit unions often outperform traditional banks in terms of customer satisfaction.

But due to their roots in the community, many credit unions do not maintain nation-wide locations or ATMs. As a result, it can be costly to access your money outside of your community. However, some credit unions try to avoid this issue by partnering with other institutions to allow their members to access their money from a wider range of service providers.

Online banks

As a relatively new addition to the financial industry, online banks have a the smallest overall market share in terms of customers and deposits. However, they are steadily growing in popularity.