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Banking & Saving

Protecting and informing consumers is an important part of the work we do every day at the Minnesota Department of Commerce. These consumer-focused tools and tips will help you make wise financial decisions, avoid scams, and protect your personal financial information.

Life line accounts

Minnesota law requires all federal or state chartered financial institutions, including banks and credit unions, to a life line account if requested. It works as a savings account that has no service or fee as long as the account has an average monthly balance of more than $50. As a savings account, there is a limit on the number of withdrawals you can make in a month, but it might be good a option to consider. Most financial institutions, do not advertise this type of account so you will have to specifically as for it.

Selecting a Bank or Credit Union

Deciding where to put your money is complicated these days. Banks and credit unions offer a variety of services and products so you need to find one that meets your needs and still be one that you can afford. All banks, credit unions, savings and loan associations, and deposit taking industrial loan and thrift companies are required, under Minnesota law, to carry deposit insurance from a federal insurer so deposit safety is not an issue in Minnesota. You still would want to diversify large deposits to obtain maximum coverage available under the deposit insurance.

Determine Your Needs

The first questions to ask concern what you need from your financial institution:

  • Are multiple locations necessary, or access to many ATMs?
  • Do you need access to international money markets? Do you have personal accounts or business accounts?
  • What are your borrowing needs?
  • What can you afford in fees?
  • How many transactions do you make each month? Do you use a debit card?
  • Do you have direct deposit?
  • How many teller visits do you average a month?
  • Do you want 24-hour banking by telephone?

Narrowing Your Search

After locations and services are narrowed down, fees are the next thing to look at. Financial institutions offer different accounts with different fee schedules. Match your method of banking with a fee schedule you can afford.

  • If you make many deposits each month, you need to ask if there is a charge for visiting a teller.
  • If you have direct deposits, does the institution offer a checking account with lower fees?
  • If you carry a large savings or certificate balance, do you get reduced fees on a checking account?
  • If you want to get your paid checks returned, does the institution offer that service and is there a fee?
  • If you have direct deposit and want to verify by phone the deposit has been received, is there a charge?
  • Will the bank pay an occasional, inadvertent overdraft or will the checks be returned?
  • What is the method of charging overdraft fees- per check, per day, a maximum charge?

Availability of Funds

Another item to determine is the bank's availability of funds. There are set limits on when funds from deposits have to be available for you to draw on, according to federal regulations. It depends on the type of deposit, how it was deposited, where the checks are drawn on, and how much the deposit was for.

For example: If an institution uses the full limits of federal regulations, the funds from the paycheck you deposit on Friday are not available to be drawn on until the second business day following the day of deposit, or Tuesday. That is, if the check is drawn on a local bank, does not exceed $5,000, and was deposited before the cut off for the business day at the institution. If a withdrawal comes into your bank before funds are available, your account could be overdrawn and you would have to pay overdraft fees.

Some banks give immediate credit on all deposits. Your bank's practice on funds availability is important to know to see if it corresponds to your cash flow. Finding out this information beforehand can save you a lot of time and a lot of money.

Once You Have Your Account

Once you have an account, always balance your checkbook on a regular basis. While consumers have protection under consumer protection laws, the same laws put the burden of detecting forgeries, errors, or unauthorized transactions on the customer and within certain time frames. Be sure to look at all of the inserts in your statements. When a bank is changing its fee schedule, the requirements for disclosure to customers can be met by adding a pamphlet or a note on a statement.

Bank Locator

FDIC Bank Find allows you to locate information on FDIC-insured institutions. If more than one institution meets the criteria you enter, you will be provided with a list of institutions. Bank Find can answer questions such as: Is My Bank Insured? Where Are My Bank's Branches Located? Where Is My Bank's Home (Main) Office Located? What Is My Bank's Website Address? What Happened to My Bank (Historical List of Events)? Does My Bank Have a New Name? Is My Bank Still Open? And more.

If you are looking for a bank or savings and loan that no longer exists, due to merger or sale, you can search for the institution under the name you are familiar with. The information on when the institution was acquired by another institution, plus all subsequent changes, will be displayed. With banks changing their names constantly, this is a very useful site. The FDIC website also has quarterly financial information on existing institutions.

Credit Union Locator

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) allows you to locate information on NCUA-insured institutions.

A Smarter Choice is a project of the nation’s credit unions and is sponsored by CUNA.

Have You Started to Save?

Many of us have good intentions to start saving for the future, but life often gets in the way. We are too busy, we have other expenses that take priority, or we think we do not have enough left over each month to save. Whatever challenges we face, it is never too late to start saving for the future--even saving the most modest amount today can make a big difference in the future!

The University of Minnesota Extension offers many resources to get you started—from thinking about what your needs and wants are for the future to determining what you need to save to reach those goals.

Learn More About Saving

It's Never Too Early to Start Managing Money!

Children, teens, and young adults learn from the examples in the world around them and this is especially true for money. By starting early and continuing an open and on-going discussion about financial concepts with the young people in your life, you are helping to create a lifetime of financial knowledge and money management skills.

Being able to manage money is a life skill that is used everyday. By introducing financial concepts at a young age, you can provide the opportunity to develop good money management habits.

Learn More About Managing Money

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