Private cord blood banks are commercial enterprises, each with their own pricing structures, policies and procedures. Most prefer arrangements be made no later than the second trimester, so it's best to start your research early (well before your expected delivery date) to find the company that you're most comfortable with.
With cord banking costs varying significantly between companies, price is an obvious factor for many, but there are other things you should consider when making a decision:
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now regulates blood banks nationally, including those specializing in private cord banking.
Blood banks are required to register and adhere to certain regulations as stipulated by the FDA in regards to...
...and a number of other regulatory requirements to ensure public safety and sufficient viability of stored blood.
A blood bank in the U.S. that not registered with the FDA is not in compliance with federal law and should not be considered.
Other countries have their own regulatory bodies which dictate safety standards and requirements for blood storage and transport, such as Health Canada.
The AABB is an international association (once known as the American Association of Blood Banks) who have established a strict set of safety and procedural standards that members must adhere to.
FACT serves a similar purpose, but is geared towards cord blood banks specifically through their "NetCord-FACT International Standards for Cord Blood Collection, Processing, Testing, Banking, Selection and Release" accreditations.
Registration with either organization is completely voluntary, those that have not are not necessarily inadequate; though some prefer the comfort of knowing that the company they are dealing with adheres to a specific code of conduct.
This includes both any offices you might be dealing with as well as the actual storage facility where the blood will go.
Some companies are not headquartered in the same area as their storage facilities, some lease storage space for the blood rather than maintaining their own storage facilities, and some have separate processing locations. Find out where the blood is processed, stored, and what the retrieval process is should it be needed for use or transported to another facility later.
Private cord blood banking is still a relatively new industry, but in the short time they've been around some are still more established than others, and a good track record may offer a sense of security.
If considering a new cord blood bank with little operating experience, companies accredited by AABB or FACT (see above) have at least demonstrated sound banking procedures to a third party with infallible credentials.
You may want to ask if the company has been involved in any actual transplants. Demonstrating a full circle of successful collection, transport, storage, then transplant shows a viable operation from start to finish.
If the company was for any reason to go out of business - what would happen to the cord blood being stored? While it hopefully won't become an issue - ask about contingency plans should the company become insolvent (regardless of their current financial situation.)
There has unfortunately already been one instance of a banking facility closing and some customers reportedly losing their cord blood deposits.
Of course, feel free to ask any other questions you feel are pertinent - the cord blood is irreplaceable, and it's important that you're comfortable with your decision.