Although using a bank is the most common method of storing and accessing your money, there are some alternatives you should consider. If you feel that your bank isn't giving you what you want, then perhaps it is time for a change. Here are some banking alternatives that might be able to offer you the features and services that you require.
Why use a bank?
Of course, the main reason to use a bank is the fact that banks are widely available, and they are the first option that comes to mind when dealing with finances. In fact, some people aren't even aware that there are alternatives to banking apart from keeping your money at home. Although banking has its uses, it can cost you money for day-to-day financial matters that you can get for less. Bank fees can be extremely expensive, but there are some alternatives.
Credit unions are one alternative to using conventional banks. Unlike banks, credit unions are not for profit organisations that are run by their members. Credit unions are used by people who share a workplace or occupation, or even a religion. They offer many of the same services as banks, but because profit is not their main function they can offer lower fees and higher interest rates on savings than normal banks. Credit unions can be fairly large and organisations, and some offer similar levels of convenience to a regular bank. If you are looking for cheaper fees and better interest rates on savings then a credit union might be right for you. However, credit unions are still small compared to banks, and you cannot simply join the credit union of your choice. You have to meet their specific requirements or be related to someone who is already a member in order to join. Also, you generally have to save money with a credit union before you can have access to other financial products.
Perhaps the best alternative to traditional banking is online banking. There are many banks that operate solely online, and there are a lot of benefits to this sort of bank. Although you might not be able to get money as easily as you could with a normal bank, you can transfer funds and pay bills much more efficiently. Also, online banks usually operate all day every day, meaning that you can access your account and carry out transactions whenever you want. For paying bills and transferring money, you can't really beat online banking
Although there are viable alternatives to traditional banking, perhaps the best way to save yourself time and money is to have a combination of accounts. If you are eligible for a credit union, then saving with them is probably the best option as you can get great rates and you might be able to borrow money at a much more reasonable rate if you need to do so in the future. You could combine this with an online account to pay your bills, as this allows you to pay bills quickly and manage your money more effectively so that you always pay on time. Thirdly, having a traditional bank account is usually a good idea, because if any problems arise you can go to your bank and speak to someone face to face. If you look around at all the alternatives to regular banking then you could save yourself money and make banking work more effectively for you.
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Peter Kenny is a writer for The Thrifty Scot.
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