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Resolve to Choose the Right Bank Account for 2017

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If the same stubborn money issues keep creeping up in your life, a new year can be the motivation to finally turn things around. One key to lasting change may be opting for a bank account that helps make those New Year’s resolutions stick.

Don’t pay for the privilege of paying bills

Bills are a scary enough cash drain even without additional fees just to write checks or make payments online. That’s why if you’ve resolved to improve cash flow this year, your checking account should be truly free. If you’re paying monthly maintenance charges, transaction fees or low-balance penalties, shop around for a better deal.

For younger folks, student checking is one popular free option that may still be possible after graduation. Financial institutions may simply impose an age limit or have these accounts expire within four or five years, leaving many young professionals still eligible for a while. Alana Rose, 21, of Morris County, New Jersey, works full time as an assistant manager and recently left college so she could move out on her own. Adjusting to the expenses of independent life hasn’t been easy, so she’s grateful her bank allows her to retain her free student checking account until she’s 26.

“Free banking with no minimum balance is really helping me get on my feet,” she explains.

If student checking isn’t an option for you, don’t worry. Lots of financial institutions offer free checking to adults of all ages, either as e-banking-only accounts or full-access arrangements.

Make your cash earn its keep

Make the most of your resolution to save more by shopping around for a savings account offering the highest possible interest. High-yield savings and money market accounts work well when you already have the necessary associated minimum balances, but be sure to explore possibilities including credit unions, which on average provide better rates than banks.

Leave room for human error

Let’s face it; humans will always make mistakes. With most banks, though, overdrafts can be expensive errors. Getting a heads-up if your balance dips into the danger zone can be a real lifesaver, as Rose has discovered. “I’m so glad I signed up for low-balance text alerts so I don’t have to worry about messing up the math and paying for overdrafts,” she says. “The whole point is to hang on to as much of my money as I can.”

That said, overdraft fees vary widely among financial institutions, so no matter how careful you’ve resolved to be, it’s wise to choose a checking account with the most forgiving overdraft policy possible.

Make the world your bank

With everything else that life throws at you, who wants to worry about banking hours? Look for accounts that offer free mobile banking so you can deposit checks, pay bills, transfer funds, check balances, receive alerts and much more from wherever you happen to be, 24/7.

No matter what you’d like to achieve in the new year, your bank account can make a difference. Whether you’re aiming for a nice nest egg, improved cash flow, better time management or just to be ready when opportunity knocks, the right bank account is one of your best tools for transforming resolutions to reality.

By Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet

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