8 things to consider before opening a checking account

By: Emily Jones

July 19, 2018

When the time comes to open a new checking account the best thing you can do is research. These questions will get you thinking about what you want from your financial institution and what they can offer you.

Should I open a checking account at a bank or a credit union?
You might think that all financial institutions are the same but they are not. Banks like other businesses pass their profits to their shareholders. Credit unions return profits to their account holders (members) in the form of lower fees and better rates. Where you do your banking is an important decision and the fact is that credit unions were founded to benefit the members they serve.

What checking account options do they have and what fees are associated with each account? 
Financial institutions usually have multiple account options to cover all the people they service at the various points in their lives. Not all checking accounts are the same and you should do your homework before deciding which is best for you. Some accounts charge monthly fees for services or grant interest on the money you keep in them and some are basic accounts labeled as “free” accounts. Verify whether you must keep a high minimum balance in your checking in order to maintain a free checking account.

MidWest America offers multiple checking accounts all with no minimum balance requirements. Whether you have $5 or $500,000, we have you covered. Our free account is called Freedom Checking. Keep your account active and you’ll be rewarded with no monthly service fees. This does not exempt you from overdraft or ATM fees, it just means we won’t charge to you keep the account open if you’re using it. If you’re looking for a way to earn premium dividends on the balance you keep in a checking account and ATM fee refunds our Reward Checking account may also be an option.

How can I access my account and can I talk to someone in person when I need to?
You want a financial institution that is close and convenient, but also accessible outside of business hours. At MidWest America we are available both in person, on the phone and online. We have 19 branch locations to help you open your account, answer all your questions and do your daily financial transactions like depositing cash or checks, something online banks don’t have. We also understand that you may want to do your banking outside of normal business hours, that’s why we have our ATM’s, mobile app, online banking, and telephone banking. MidWest America even stays connected through our blog and social media. We want to be accessible when you need us.

Does the account include a Debit Card? How long before I receive it?
It’s very important to ask this question because your debit card provides immediate access to your account so you can access ATM’s and make purchases directly from your checking account. MidWest America’s Visa® Debit Cards are available for instant issue meaning you can walk in, open an account and walk out with a new debit card in hand. This includes our Affinity cards where with every swipe you make, MidWest gives back to an organization of your choice.

Card Control is a feature of our mobile banking product which protects your Visa® Debit Card and allows you to turn your card on and off. Think you lost your card? Turn it off. Found it under the couch? Turn it back on. Not planning on using it while traveling? Turn it off. This feature is available on our mobile app and is very useful. You can even reorder a card if you know your card has been lost or stolen.

Should I chose to Opt-in or Opt-out of Overdraft Protection?
An overdraft happens when you make a purchase or write a check and do not have enough available money to cover the purchase. The financial institution may let the purchase go through and charge you a fee. This happens with ACH, share drafts or checks & reoccurring debit card transactions you have authorized to come out of your account.

For other one-time purchases or ATM transactions utilizing your debit card, you have the ability to opt-in or opt-out of having these transactions go through when you do not have available money. Opting-in means the purchase will be allowed, but a fee will be charged to cover it. Opting-out means if you try to make a purchase that you do not have enough to cover, the charge will be declined and you cannot make your purchase as planned. Opting-out is a great tool to help a young adult learn the ropes of managing a checking account or may even help you control your own spending. The choice is yours and at MidWest America you can set your accounts up either way.

Is my money protected?
Different financial institutions are protected in different ways. For example banks are insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) and credit unions are insured by the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration). Both are government agencies and both protect your money. The NCUA insures your savings to at least $250,000 and is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government. MidWest America also has ESI (Excess Share Insurance) which covers an additional $250,000 for a combined total of $500,000 in coverage.

What do I need to open this account?
By knowing this answer you’ll have everything you need to get started. When opening an account at MidWest America, provide 2 valid forms of ID (Driver's license, Passport, Military ID, Work ID, State ID, School ID, or signed Social Security Card). At least one of the required items must be either a driver’s license, passport, or state ID. Your ID should also have the correct/current address. Expired IDs or the BMV receipt (indicating a new DL or ID has been applied for) will not be accepted. A $5 deposit is also required to open your savings account which starts your membership at the Credit Union.

What are values of this financial institution?
This is an important question to ask because consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to their primary financial institution. You want to do your banking at a place that is not only invested in the community, but also invested in you. At MidWest America we are committed to providing competitive, quality services for our members’ financial success. We want you to reach your financial goals and when you succeed—we do too. Our roots have been in the community for over 80 years and we plan to continue serving our members well into the future. Whether it’s assisting our members with their first account or last account, mortgages, retirement savings, auto loans, small business loans and so much more, we are here for the benefit of our members. We are people, helping people and we want to help you.