this is my first question so I apologize if I don't provide enough information or my description seems vague.

I'm 18 and live in the Midwest of the US. My parents helped me set up a bank account last year before I went to university, also in the Midwest. We used PNC Bank.

I currently have an internship on the east coast in a state that has 0 PNC Bank locations so I'm curious how to deal with the inability to access your bank domestically to obtain cash. I obviously should have planned ahead, but I foolishly assumed there would be PNC locations around.

Is it common or a good/bad idea to set up multiple bank accounts with portions of your savings in each one to ensure you can access cash anywhere in the country? Are there any recommendations for banks that might allow me to do this? Any information regarding this problem would be appreciated!

Thanks for the help! :)

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    If you are elligible to join USAA, they refund ATM fees pretty much everywhere (I got Baht in Thailand with a full refund once). – poompt Jul 11 at 16:22
  • I have PNC Virtual Wallet, and they refund ATM fees as well. I never have to go to an actual branch. Make sure to check what the actual policies of your account are - you may be fine as is. – David K Jul 11 at 16:25
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    Charles Schawb has offered a refund all ATM fees, free, interest paying checking account for a number of years. The only potential gotcha when I signed up a decade or so back was that they also insisted on your creating a free brokerage account with them. There's no obligation to use it though, so I assume it's just gambling that if you decide to buy individual stocks in the future you're likely to use their already existing account instead of creating one elsewhere. – Dan Neely Jul 11 at 17:20
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    @DanNeely FWIW, that's still the case in regards to Schwab. If you Google for it, you can also find the referral landing page which will give you $100 for opening the account. While my local bank has refunded ATM fees within the U.S. for a long time, I opened a Schwab account in order to be able to use international ATMs without fee. It's usually the best option for obtaining foreign currency. – reirab Jul 11 at 20:42
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    If you're on the east coast every Wawa convenience store should have a PNC ATM machine. – user662852 Jul 12 at 4:41

10 Answers 10

up vote 27 down vote accepted

It's not foolish, but it may not be efficient. In your case, one issue I can foresee is not having enough funds in either account individually.

If you need a transactional account (for quick access to cash), I would instead look for a national bank or credit union, or a bank or credit union that at least allows free ATM withdrawals in your area. That way you can access it from both locations.

If it's for savings only, you might be OK leaving it in the regional bank since you shouldn't need to tap savings that often (and might even help be a deterrent to impulse spending).

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    For a transactional account, I think a national bank is not as important as national access. I am a big proponent of credit unions in general, and won't go into the reasons here, but most credit unions are part of CULIANCE, which means you can use any participating credit union's ATMs wherever they exist, for both withdrawals and deposits. Also many credit unions have apps with mobile check deposit, so you should really never have to actually visit a branch except to open the account. You could do that in your hometown. – atheaos Jul 11 at 23:03
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    @atheaos There's even a further option -- a credit union that participates in the CO-OP network (co-opcreditunions.org/locator) lets you use most branch services of any participating credit union as if it were a branch of your own. Helpful to me since I live 1000 miles away from where my accounts are based. – Tristan Jul 12 at 14:44

When I moved out and to a different state some years ago, I previously had an account through a credit union which had no branches in the new state. I picked a new account with another local credit union because I didn't have any reason to believe I would move anywhere else. I never carry an ATM or debit card with me; only credit cards. It is very rare that I need cash. Now that I can deposit checks with my phone, I can't imagine too many scenarios where I might actually go into a branch office to conduct banking business. The only time I do is to use a free notary (I can do this at many banks where I'm not a member, but I use my own because it is close).

I could probably go the rest of my life without switching my daily spending checking/savings accounts to another bank even if I moved across the country. If your bank doesn't have a good mobile app that allows you to deposit checks, find one that does. If you need cash, use the cash-back option at the grocery store.

That said, I have had a few different online savings accounts where I keep the bulk of my emergency fund at a slightly higher interest rate. That may be a good reason to open a second account, though it has nothing to do with your expressed need to get cash from an ATM occasionally. As others have noted, there may be some in network ATMs that you can use without paying fees if you do a little research.

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    When I realize I'm hungry and also need cash, it feels way better to pay $5 for a sandwich at the grocery store in order to get cash, rather than $5 for nothing at the ATM. – spacetyper Jul 11 at 22:14
  • @spacetype: Why should you need to pay $5 (or anything) to use an ATM? Just find one that's on the same network as the bank (or credit union &c) that issued your ATM card. – jamesqf Jul 12 at 5:15
  • @jamesqf I've been in the same conundrum as OP where my money has been in a local bank while I've been out of town, and they charge ATM fees everywhere since they're not their ATMs – spacetyper Jul 12 at 5:34
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    @spacetyper - and if you happen to not be hungry, or don't like the sandwich selection at the time, you could buy any item, say a $5 item (any $ of course) and get cash back at the register, then immediately return the item at the service desk to get $5 more cash back, with no fees. A little more work than just checking out, but not much different than standing in line to get your sandwich made/wrapped. – Kevin Fegan Jul 12 at 7:51
  • It's worth noting that some places ONLY accept debit cards; likely due to the rates of charge or their customer base. As such, shopping at certain grocery stores (Winco in my area) require you to also keep a debit around. – blurry Jul 12 at 14:30

First check for free ATM networks in your area. They will tell you which networks they are on. Look to see if any of their logos are on the debit card linked to your PNC account. If so, you are good to go.

If not: then see if any local banks or credit unions use those networks.

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    Getting cash out of your account for free doesn't require an ATM these days; all you need is to go grocery shopping and use the Cash Back function at the checkout terminal. Instant withdrawal with no ATM fee, as part of something you were going to do anyway. – Mason Wheeler Jul 11 at 16:32
  • There is some enhanced risk to using debit rather than credit cards, however, especially given the ubiquity of data security issues with retailers. Credit cards have more protections. – Bryan Krause Jul 11 at 16:35
  • @MasonWheeler Most "Cash Back" checkout terminals I've seen do in fact charge a fee. – jpaugh Jul 11 at 16:37
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    @jpaugh They do? I've never seen that, across multiple supermarkets in 5 different US states. – Mason Wheeler Jul 11 at 16:43

I have moved a number of times, and moved banks a few times as well. In my experience you only need one bank account at a time. And changing is really hard too after you have things like direct deposit or bill pay setup.

PNC is a big bank. I actually used them remote for a while too. I am sure they have online banking where you can deposit most checks. For your payroll you should use direct deposit. At that point it is just cash. For that you can use your debit card at most stores to get a little cash back on a purchase. You should also be able to go on the PNC website and find 'partner' banks that will allow you cash a check or use their ATM for free.

When you do decide to switch, look at a credit union. They are more likely to have partner relationships with other credit unions where you can use the ATM for free and deposit/cash checks. My credit union is part of a network where every ATM at 7-Eleven is a free ATM, just watch for skimmers on the machines before you put your pin in.

Unless you deal heavily in cash deposits, you don't need a physical bank (if you need more than 2-3 ATM withdraws a month you're doing something wrong). I've moved a lot and ally has been amazing. I figure that by not having to pay to keep physical branches open, they can offer better services/rates to the consumer.

If you really want a physical branch, I'd get a nationwide bank like chase. Whatever you go with, make sure your account is fee-free and will reimburse ATM fees.

Also, YMMV but plenty of banks offer a sign up bonus. If you're switching anyways it's an easy way to earn a few hundred.

Personally, I think the most important consideration when setting up personal bank accounts is to avoid fees. The interest rates for personal accounts for the past few decades have been low enough that any interest you may earn could quickly be overcome by fees, and large amounts of savings are better off in money market or other investment accounts. It's simplest when the number of accounts you need to do this is one, but as in your case, you may need to open another account to avoid fees. I suggest that the number of bank accounts you want is the minimum needed to get the services you want and avoid fees. With more accounts, there is a headache in making sure you meet requirements to avoid fees in each one.

Depending on what kind of PNC account you have now, PNC may reimburse you for ATM fees. PNC offers a tradeoff between minimum balance and whether they reimburse fees, which effectively makes ATM use free.

There are actually many online banks that offer a similar tradeoff. The banks save money on physical locations and in exchange, you get free ATM usage if you meet stated conditions.

Many banks offer online check deposits through smartphone applications.

These are other bank services like a notary or cashiers check for which you need a local bank branch.

I used to live in France, Malaysia and Indonesia. That's probably a situation a bit more complex than moving to another US state

Have 2 banks, no matter what

First of all, even if you spend you whole life in your hometown, you need to have 2 banks and 2 ATM cards with 1000$. Or at least a line of 1000$.

Incompetence is a thing and one day or another, one of your account will be block 1 week for any bogus reason.

You need an international bank now

Something like City bank or HSBC (I don't know if they are any good, but they have branch where I used to be)

The reason you need it now is that it is difficult (unless your father is a powerful man) to do any operation when you are abroad.

And the most difficult operation would be to open an account at City Bank from abroad because it's the only US bank where you now live.

You may think that in a globalized world, to transfer money from one bank to another is easy But for a commoner it is the opposite: there are insane hurdle everywhere to make sure you are not into money laundering. And also because incompetence is a thing

But try to keep it simple

Having 2 or 3 banks is a safety net. But it is not advisable to evenly split your money.

Just chose one as your everyday bank and keep the other as dormant account.

The last thing you want is to worry that one bill may fall this week at bank#1 and another at bank#2.

Even if your main bank really do stupid things, you should be able to make an Internet transfer to another account of yours if need be. Well... unless your main bank is the next Lehman Brothers or if you have serious legal problems.

What to do depends on whether this anything other than a transactional account for access to cash and perhaps whether your parents will be making further contributions to your account to support you during college (local PNC branch convenience).

The simplest solution is to find a national bank that requires low to no balance and charges no ATM fees, etc. Transfer and close the PNC account.

Plan B is to open a local account and link it with your PNC account.

Behind Door # 3 could be a credit card that offers a cash-back option at WalMart, the grocery store, etc.

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    With regards to your point number 3, you may want to suggest a debit card; there are many kinds of banks and credit unions that offer debit cards that have the logo of a credit company (Known as Visa debit cards for Visa, Mastercard debit cards for Mastercard, etc.) that allow you to withdraw the funds from your debit account by selecting the cash-back option. However, doing the same with a credit card is taking a loan from your credit company known as a Cash Advance, and those tend to have a cash advance fee (Most common is 5%) and horrid interest rates if you go that route. – Davy M Jul 11 at 17:35
  • "transactional account" .vs. what other type account? What is a "transactional account" and what distinguishes it from other account types? – Kevin Fegan Jul 12 at 7:55

I went to school in California while my only account was with a bank that didn’t exist there. I literally just used the local supermarket’s “cash back” option for cash (and paid with card as much as I could). Worked well enough for me—well enough to make the hassle of switching banks not worth it.

The OP asked Is it common or a good/bad idea to set up multiple bank accounts with portions of your savings in each one to ensure you can access cash anywhere in the country? Which is one specific reason for setting up multiple accounts.

There is a different, common reason people would want to set up multiple bank accounts with a portion of your savings in each one: Your deposits in any given Financial Institution are insured by your Federal government up to a certain limit. After that, in the event of a failure, your deposits are lost.

This insurance works on a per-Financial Institution, per-deposit-type, per-depositor basis. So if you exceed the limit at one institution, the smart thing is to open another account at a different Financial Institution, ensuring as much of your deposits end up insured as possible.

In the US, it's the FDIC. Canada has the CDIC.

A quick example:

FDIC limit is $250,000. Jane Q Startup has $300,000 in a savings account at Bank of America. BoA fails. Jane is paid $250,000 of her $300,000 by the FDIC.

If instead Jane has $200,000 at BoA and $100,000 at PNC, and either or both banks fail, she is paid her full $300,000.

Granted, common reason is perhaps overstated; you do have to be wealthy to have this be a concern.

  • Downvoter, please give a reason. – studog Jul 12 at 0:38
  • +1 I like your answer, helpful. A little too brief though. Could be edited / improved to better relate to the question. – Kevin Fegan Jul 12 at 7:59
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    how does this answer the question? – mhoran_psprep Jul 12 at 10:17
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    There's been a far easier way to do this. Investment banks will set up a sweep account where your money is automatically distributed across multiple FDIC insured banks to allow several million dollars of insurance coverage. The money is swept back in as necessary, so to the user, it looks and acts like a single bank account. The user avoids account fees, transfer fees and delays, multiple statements, reconciliation, etc. that having multiple accounts entail. – user71659 Jul 13 at 0:50
  • TIL! That's superior to doing it yourself, but is limited to 5 banks currently. A self-directed sweep could use all the banks. Do you know if something similar is available in Canada? Googling did not reveal anything – studog Jul 13 at 12:22

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