I’ve had the same bank account for quite some time now, but with changes that have happened with their locations, I’ve decided that it was time to change banks.
What happened with my old bank was that they used to have a location not too far from my house (about 10 miles or so, inside a grocery store). However, that particular chain of grocery stores that my old bank was allied with closed all of their locations in my state, leaving my bank without a location really close to me. For the first couple of weeks that I’ve had my job, I’ve travelled 18 miles just to get to a bank branch that is located in the city. With gas approaching the $1.00/L barrier (the average in the region is currently $3.466/gal which equals about 91.5 cents per litre), it can get a bit pricey to drive to the bank.
Of course, there was once a branch not too far from where I work (about 2-3 miles further), but in what was termed a reorganization gone bad, that branch just closed up this week. Combining those factors together, along with the fact that there are no ATMs for my bank within a 15 mile radius of me, the fact that they charge me a $4/month service fee, and the fact that, well, the account’s actually based in another state, led me to the decision that I wanted to go to a new bank.
When I started searching for banks, I went along with the guideline that there were a couple that I wouldn’t consider – one was a bank with only two or three branches, and which I had held a savings account with in the past, but the fact that they gave my mom a hard time with getting a check card in the past just kinda put a bad taste in my mouth. The other bank is a major regional bank which I didn’t like simply because they had an ATM fee assessed if you used other banks’ machines. That was the only thing that I was considering at first, so let’s just call this bank Bank A for now 😉 (I’ll be back to it soon).
My first thought was that I’d want to have something that was on my way to work so that I could get an early start on Monday and deposit my check there. So, instead of chasing around to all of these banks and asking them questions, I shopped them using their websites. This brings me to my complaint – a lot of banks don’t put their fees online. That is an important consideration for someone looking to open an account with them – what kind of fees could I face if I don’t meet the requirements of the account. However, I would not be surprised if more and more started to fix that. 😉
Interestingly, however, most banks do have free checking accounts that also give you a debit card – some go with Visa and others MasterCard, but I know that MC isn’t as much accepted as Visa is – both domestically and internationally, so the banks that had MC cards were out (which kind of eliminated one of my choices – which was on my way to work every day). The other banks also had some redeeming features – one (Wells Fargo) had an offer where you could open two accounts (one savings and one checking), and with an automatic $25/month transfer into savings, you’d avoid account fees. They also had a rewards program for their check card. The only problem with that was that 1) they charge you $1 per month to be a part of the rewards program and 2) you need to spend $2,600 on the card before you’re eligible for the most basic of rewards – most of which are $5 gift certificates.
Sorry Wells Fargo, and sorry to all the scammers asking me to open an account there, but I’ll pass them up.
At this point, all the banks I had investigated had mostly struck out – either inconvenient locations, or one thing, or another. So, that leaves me with Bank A. Sure, they charge you to use a foreign ATM, but I can deal with that. What sealed the deal for me was the fact that they have a lot of things that the other banks just don’t –
- A rewards card that actually gives you rewards – when you buy stuff at the grocery store, Wal-Mart, and many other stores, you get a bonus of 10% on your first $250 in purchases, along with a 1% bonus on all purchases at these stores afterwards.
- A savings program called "Savings Payback" which allows you to transfer a certain amount into a savings account there, and at the end of the year, they’ll match the average amount you transferred over the last 12 months and give that to you.
- They have convenient locations in the grocery store which is 3 miles from here, along with two branches in grocery stores that are on my way to work, plus they are constantly expanding their coverage of the area in terms of both branches and ATMs (btw if you know a good location in the region for one of their ATMs, let me know so that I can pass it along – employees there (of which I’m not one, but I have connections) get a bonus if one is installed).
- They offer you free checks for life. Right now, I still only use my check card for purchases, but if I ever needed to start writing them, all I have to do is ask and they’ll order them for me.
- If someone mentions your name when you open an account there, you’ll receive a $10 bonus, no questions asked
On Tuesday, I went and opened two accounts with them, one checking and one savings. I still have quite a few ties with my old bank (i.e. my phone, newspaper account, and a few other things), so I’ll keep that account open for a while, but I have to say that it’s really nice having a bank that is just a hop skip and a jump from home, instead of having one where I have to make practically a day-trip just to get to it. 🙂