What do you look for in a Bank?

marys1000April 8, 2007

Are banks mostly the same? I'm moving 4 states over and will need a new one.

My current bank is quite regional and not in the new state.

What do you look for in a bank?

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What do you want from a bank? I would think you would look for a bank that does the things you want from it well.

For example, my wife was recently elected president of a local nonprofit organization. As president, she is authorized to sign checks drawn on their bank account. So she had to go to the bank to be added as a signatory to that account.

First she tried to make an appointment at the local branch. Turns out that they don't publish their phone number. So she just went there and hoped for the best. Bad move: It turns out that they will only add a signatory at the particular branch that holds the account's signature cards, which is 15 miles away.

The organization is now in the process of moving its accounts to another bank.

More examples: What's the minimum balance on checking accounts? Do they charge you if you fall below the minimum? How much? Do they pay interest on checking accounts? How much? Some banks that advertise "interest-bearing" checking accounts pay only 1/4% or so. What are their hours? Do they have a drive-in window that's open late? If you have a pile of loose change you want to deposit, will they count it for you? And so on.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 9:10AM
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We recently moved from California to Oregon and was surprised to find out we'd need to change banks. I thought Citibank was everywhere and hadn't thought about it before we moved. But Citibank doesn't have any branches in Oregon. When I called the customer service line to confirm that, the rep tried to tell me that with internet banking I didn't need a local branch and I could make deposits at the 7-11 ATM.

Nope, I like a local branch. I want to be able to talk to someone in person if there's a problem or just to ask questions. Plus we have a safe deposit box.

Just make a list of what you are happy with at your current bank, what you'd like to change, and then find a bank that fills your needs/wants, as close as it can. Their websites or 1-800 services should be able to tell you what you want to know.

I looked in the local phone book to find out what banks do have branches here, looked at their websites to find which ones were close and other things that interest me. Citibank had a savings account that offered 5% interest - I wanted to match that here.

Ended up going with Washington Mutual. B of A and Wells Fargo also have multiple branches here, but WaMu offered everything I wanted, *except* that the nearby branch which now has my safe deposit box isn't open on Saturdays. So for the rare occasions I need to get into that I'll have to make sure I go during the week.

Moving accounts was easy. We have several. Just write a check from the old bank to yourself, then sign it over at the new bank and they put it into the new account. You may have to wait a week or more for large amounts to clear. For the savings account I just transferred it online to a checking account then wrote a check from it and put it into the new savings account.

Someone here mentioned recently that they have to pay just to go inside the bank ... I wonder what bank that is? I think that a few years ago B of A used to charge a fee to speak to a teller but that proved very unpopular and so they dropped it.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 1:21PM
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I just commented to Cathy about that, I cannot believe it!

Most of my larger amounts are parked where the interest rates are the hightest. I personally do not need a lot of handholding or services but some people like that. My father knows everyone at his local bank by name. Is this something you want? I mostly look for interest rates, no fees and a good website that is easy to move money around. I also use a credit card from the same bank so I can pay online at the last minute without risking a fee. I also pay bills online and like to be able to see copies of my checks on online so I do not wonder what the 7 check was

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 3:50PM
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Oh yes - if you do online bill paying, ask if they charge you extra for it. Citibank doesn't and WaMu doesn't either, but some used to charge a monthly fee for the "privilege" of paying your electric bill online. I don't know if any of them still charge for that service.

I think most of them will now give you free checking accounts if you keep a certain amount in at least one. You shouldn't have to pay monthly fees on any of your accounts, really.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 4:50PM
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Although be careful, Commerce and NorthFork are both overhauling their fee structure starting in May so you have to keep a minimum in EACH account. Driving me nuts

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 5:00PM
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We have large, nation-wide banks in Canada.

Most don't charge much in the way of fees to seniors.

I've pretty well been successful at avoiding fees, espcially the monthly kind.

I usually plan to keep only small amounts in a bank, as they pay interest ... at a rate that some would call a "pittance".

And that kind of income is taxed at top rate.

I've asked a number of bankers what's a better use of money than putting it into the bank, and when they ask what, I say, "Buying bank shares!".

They usually agree... sometimes with some laughter.

Dividends on Candian bank shares come at a tax-advantaged rate. Which suits me fine.

And, while the rates aren't in any way guaranteed, some paid me about a dime 40 years ago when I bought the shares for slightly over $4.00 each.

A few years ago just over a Dollar annual rate, a few months ago $2.80, then up to $3.08 per year. Share values about $100. each in recent months.

In Canada, there's a financial agency related to major supermarket that charges almost nil fees, and pays decent interest, I've heard.

Actually, though there's little said about it, their banking system is managed by the bank in which I own those lovely shares.

No kicking, here!

Some people here use a bank for depositing substantial amounts to leave for a while called ING, which offer better rates than many, but business is usally by cheque (or internet transfer, I think), as they have very few if any bricks and mortar branches. Dutch based.

They operate also in the U.S., I think, as I'm pretty sure that I've heard U.S. members here or elsewhere tell of using them.

You might want to check to see whether there may be any credit unions in the area that are accepting members from the public at large (some are only for certain people related by employment, etc.). They often offer about the best services around - they are owned by their members.

Good wishes for finding an agency that meets your needs.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 6:33PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

I dislike banks and having to go into a bank and wait in a line during their 'open' hours, or waiting in a line (wasting time and fuel to go through a drive thru.)

Years ago, when I was working, I joined the company Credit Union, 2 states away. It had many advantages...
My paycheck was automatically deposited,
I could/can move money around via a phone call day or night
They had/have no charge checking
No charge (interest only)preapproved overdraft protection up to $2500.00...that has now changed for newer members...a friend of mine pays $27 per transaction for this 'service' at her bank...what a rip! Others banks charge $4 per day until the amount is paid off, I've been told by another friend
Approved line of credit...just write a check up to $2500 for any reason
Stock secured loans...very attractive rates...They held the certificates
They also offer a money mover (?) card...which I can use at money gittin machines everywhere. I use it about once a month, and there is a $1.50 fee per transaction if I don't use one approved or associated with my CU. It is well worth it, as often I am only in town, or wanting/needing the money during non banking hours, or while I am out of town. It is just sooooo convenient, something that is very important to me.
Those are the things that were advantageous to me at the time that I took advantage of.
I'm still a member there, and have deposits go in automatically.

I additionally joined a local credit union, and was approved for a HELOC...great interest rate, and there were no fees involved to apply and get approval. They appraised my home (for free) and the credit is there if I ever want to use it.
They also have 'free' money orders for seniors...something that I get/use occasionally when buying on ebay or elsewhere on line.

When I had my house built years ago, I shopped around for the best rate. It was a local bank. My mortgage has since been paid, so I don't do any business with them....but I suppose if need be, I could get a loan, based upon my credit history, and 'score'.

Just to make a short story long, credit unions often offer a lot of service for a lot less money, since as OJ said, they are owned by the members. There are now lots of them that do not require you be employed at any certain place.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 8:43AM
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to be honest I think I have paid a service fee for using an ATM about twice EVER. I would not bank someplace that did not have convenient fee free ATMs readily available. I think a convenient branch is important too. Certain regular banks have interest only overdraft protection. I frequently use that (just lazy there so I guess they are making back my ATM fee in another way) and it costs me 2 if I go over by 1000 for a week or so (until I notice it). Another option would be to have money moved over from savings automatically to cover it. Often the fee for that is 5 per transaction so you might be better off at my bank with the overdraft protection

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 12:22PM
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"What do you look for in a Bank?"

Mostly ... money!!

Trouble is ... they don't want to give you any ... unless you gave them some, first. (Or ... can prove that really you don't need it!).

They want you to carry a bucket of money into the bank, leave it with them, and walk out of the bank with their promise to give it back to you ...

... later.

I thought that I was doing them a favour by letting them hang on to the money.

But ... they want to charge me for providing that service!

That I could understand ... if they just sat on the money, for they would be doing me a favour, protecting it.

But - they don't do that.

They use the money.

In fact, for every dollar that I brought in and left with them ...

... they lend out about 8 dollars, to others.

And charge the borrower for using it, of course.

When I say that it seems to me that, since that's my money, I should get at least part of that fee that they charge ...

... the bank has come to agree that, yes, we are doing them a favour by leaving money with them ...

... so they have agreed to pay us something for letting them use the money.

A "pittance", I think that they call it.

*They* make more on the use of *your* money ... than *you* do!!

A great deal more!!

But - they still charge you for doing things with your money, e.g. paying the phone, electric, tax, or whatever bill.

Unless (in this area) you're a senior.

There are some advantages to being a senior ...

... and, if you're senior enjoying good health ...

... every day is a good day - and the birds sing (if you're in a northern clime, I guess, in winter, those sounds were recorded, earlier).

By the way ... have you ever heard a radio program announcer say, at the end, "This program was recorded before a live audience."

Ever wonder before what kind of alternative audience they might have recorded?

Do they sometimes record in a cold storage place where they store the bodies in small towns in winter, to await burial in the spring?

And when you ask the bank to give you back the money that you left with them, earlier, they do give it back.

But ... just exactly the number of dollars that you gave them in the first place (plus their fee for the use of it).

And ... each of those dollars will buy less than it would have, when you put it in there!

So - you need to put part of the earnings with the original pot of oney ... [hey! what happened to that "m" in "money"?]

The word "money" shrank to "_oney" during that intervening period ... just like the value of each of those dollars that you put into the bank did!

Yes ... you need to put some of the earnings with the original pot of "money" to keep it able to buy what it would have, when you put that "money" into the bank, in the first place.

Hey, folks - what say we get together ...

... and start a bank???

A lot of folks in many places have done that, in the past - they call it a "credit union" ... really, a bank, but they can't use the name ... that's owned by the people that use it.

What a novel idea, huh?

To add insult to injury ...

... in Canada, the type of income that the bank pays for use of our money ...

... is taxed ...

... at *top* rate!

Are the guys who say that it's smarter to just spend it, on the right track??

Some appear to think so ... but I prefer to walk a different path.

Have a lovely spring weekend, everyone.

ole joyful

P.S. What's better than putting your money into the bank?

*Buying bank shares* (usually)!

Better to "own" than "loan"!

o j

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 11:31PM
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You really do have to evaluate based on your own needs.

What do I look for?

I want a small, local bank, that's been around for many, many years. One where the staff knows the customers by face and name.

Preferrably a Savings and Loan, or Mutual Bank as they usually are allowed to pay higher interest than commercial banks.

I don't want to have to pay for normal services--no transaction fee for cashing a check or making a deposit. I want my checking account to pay interest (and no fees there, either). I don't want to be charged if I decide to visit my safety deposit box.

I want conveniences--free coin counting, for example.

My bank has been in business for over 100 years. They only have 2 branches, and yet they have some of the best interest rates on savings in the area. They actually train a lot of tellers for the 'big' banks around here. They don't charge you everytime you walk in the door of the bank (my husband banks someplace else that's been taken over by one of those big multi-state bank chains--and everytime he drives by they charge him--okay, not really, but almost--LOL). I also like that my bank was willing to take a chance on 2 kids buying their first house, who had virtually no credit 34 years ago.

I'd say, your best bet is to visit several banks in the area where you'll be living. See what each offers, get their rates. Check out some of the smaller banks in the area--you may be pleasantly surprised at the advantages over a big bank.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 11:03PM
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Credit union.

I don't want to pay a fee for normal bank use. I don't need drama. I don't mind paying for the more unusual services (i.e. wire transfers etc.) My CU doesn't charge any fees (even for cashier's checks), pays decent interest, free online banking, kids savings / education programs no charge, etc.

I just avoid commercial banks.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 12:41AM
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+1 on credit unions. Much better deal for me than a commercial bank, I get to speak with a human any time I want -- and I'm an owner. The rates are more than competitive, too.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 7:30AM
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I get all of those services from a regular commercial bank and a great web site. I do most of my banking online so I want the web site to have access to my back statements and transactions going back for as long as possible, a 24 hour turnaround on bills (I sometimes have had websites say the check will not go out for 3 days, not good). I also like seeing the actual check online not just the amount of the transaction

Finally great rates.

I do think CU are good if you know you will not be able to meet the minimum balances at a commercial bank

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 4:30PM
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I do think CU are good if you know you will not be able to meet the minimum balances at a commercial bank

But why tie up so much money in commercial-bank minimums? At least with a CU you have lower (or no) minimums, so you can move your money to where it does you the most good. With commercial-bank minimums, you're mostly benefitting the bank.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 9:04PM
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Not if it is based on the relationship rather than the account, in one of my checking accounts I am often close to 0, I move money in from the money market I have there which gets close to 5% when I have to

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 2:22AM
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We use our brokerage firm for our main household checking account. We occasionally need some cash, so we also have checking accounts at our local credit union. Kids saving accounts are at the credit union, as well as the business account.

Some banks closed their doors here during our real estate crash in the mid-80's. The credit unions help up fine during that time. I can't see putting money into a bank.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 2:38AM
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How does that work exactly. I know Dave keeps talking about doing this overall thing where you pull money in and out of your mortgage so that the equity in your house and other assets is always working for you. Frankly I do not fully understand it but I am curious about non traditional arrangements. Is this soemthing you do or is it that the brokerage pays a good interest so that is where you keep your money?

Just curious

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 11:41AM
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saphire, this is just a Merrill Lynch brokerage account. Not anything to do with the house mortgage. We one of those families who likes having home equity and will pay off our mortgage ahead of schedule.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 3:41AM
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Convenience mostly.
My bank has locations all over the midwest.
Also, online banking adds to that convenience.

My mortgage lender, it doesn't really matter. As long as I can setup some sort of autopay so payments don't get lost in the mail.

Fyi. In the process of refinancing. Current lender wanted the highest interest rate and closing costs in the land, and they wonder why I'm taking my business else where.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 9:48AM
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