Sunday, March 16, 2008

How do you pick a bank?

One of the minor hassles associated with moving will be changing banks. The local bank where I have my checking account has many branches in my part of the state, but there won't be any in the Delta. I hate to leave it behind since I've never had any problems, except the time they lost my $3,000 deposit, but that could happen anywhere and they handled it quickly, professionally, and courteously once I discovered their error.

My only non-negotiable criteria for a new bank are: low or no minimum balance to avoid fees, free transfers to and from online savings, good customer service, and being able to write paper checks. A somewhat convenient location would also be nice. I've withdrawn cash from an ATM around three times in the almost four years I've had my account so I don't think ATM locations will be tremendously important. I've never used bill pay or my current checking account's online banking so that isn't a big priority. Since I don't intend to park large sums of money in my checking account, earning interest doesn't matter all that much either.

Traveling and moving present fewer problems when there are branches and ATM's all over the place so the big national chains have some clear advantages. Unfortunately, the only national bank in my area is Bank of America, and I'd prefer to avoid them. They have a reputation for finding every possible opportunity to charge their customers fees.

Community banks and credit unions are an appealing option. Keeping money in the area would be nice, and I could pick a bank/credit union with locations near my home or school. However, I couldn't set up an account until I find out about my placement in July, and that wouldn't be convenient while in Houston or mid-move.

Setting up a checking account with USAA might be a good alternative. They've always offered stupendous service when I have questions or concerns about my credit card, and they are one of the most reputable companies out there. They offer an account with no minimum balance, no fees, free checks, and some small amount of interest. I'm not sure the option to deposit checks from home using a scanner and the refunds of ATM fees is quite enough to outweigh the complete lack of brick and mortar banks, but it would be convenient while my life is in transition.


Shuchong said...

I bank at Bank of America, and have car insurance with USAA. In terms of customer service, USAA definitely wins. Hands down.

If I didn't get my paycheck by check, and have a BoA ATM (where I can deposit said paycheck) in the building where I work, I would definitely consider switching to USAA.

SavingDiva said...

I currently use a lot of different banks. Right now, I'm using Charles Schwab as my primary checking account because they offer free checks and an interest bearing checking account.

E.C. said...

Thanks for the feedback! I'll add the Charles Schwab checking to the list of options to investigate. The more I learn about BoA, the less appealing they seem.

El Cheapo said...

Out of convenience, my primary checking and online savings is with Washington Mutual. Free checking, one free overdraft per year, no charge for on-site visits, free checks for life. Yeah there are some customer service horror stories out there, but I've never had any such issue.

The nice thing is that I can easily transfer funds between accounts online too. Makes for one less hassle.