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The two institutions you will deal with most are banks and savings and loan (or “thrift”) associations. These institutions differ largely in the types of loans they give. For the consumer, there is little difference. We’ll call them both “banks” here for convenience. Banks are usually open for business from Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. They do not close for lunch. Some banks have Saturday and evening hours. A great number of banks now have automated teller machines (ATMs), commonly on a drive-up basis.

Choose a bank that is insured (up to $250,000 of your deposits) by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Many banks and thrift institutions in the United States have failed in the last few years, so it’s wise to be careful. Chose a bank that has a reputation for stability. Convenience is also a factor. Many large banks have branches everywhere, but small banks can offer personalized service and a friendly atmosphere–and sometimes lower fees.

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