I am a total banking n00b
May 18, 2012 6:57 AM   Subscribe

I need to open a local bank account so I can keep track of my money. But I'm thinking I might switch to an online banking service once it becomes available in my area. Can I open an account, deposit cash, and then withdraw it all and close the account again in the future without any hassle? Is there a particular bank I should lean towards using to make this process easier? I'm in Philadelphia, for what that's worth.
posted by Rory Marinich to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Most banks I work with have a penalty for closing the account within three to six months of opening it.

I'm not understanding the part where you say:

I might switch to an online banking service once it becomes available in my area.

Isn't online banking ... online? Why would it not be available in your area?

I have both local banks with online banking (for paying bills, viewing accounts) and online only bank accounts (I mail in checks or arrange for transfers or auto-deposits, and pay pills) ...

What are you trying to accomplish?
posted by tilde at 7:04 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even once you have an online banking account, you'll probably want to maintain a brick & mortar one as well, so you can deposit cash if needed, and then transfer it to your online account. I do this exact thing—I have a Fidelity checking account, but I also am still a member of a local credit union, just in case there's something I need to go to an actual bank for.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 7:05 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, just saw the title of self-proclaimed n00bness.

One reason it might be harder to get an online account (for example Ally or ING or Giant Bank) is if you don't have any sort of banking history; I've had accounts at one bank or another for 25+ years so I'm easy to find in their systems.

All banks and credit unions have the same federal requirements for identification and so forth; my suggestion is find out what you really need:

- ATMs
- local branches
- free and easy bill pay (some CUs and banks I've had had cRAPPy interfaces)
- coin counting
- direct deposit
- x number of checks per month
- over draft protection
- debit cards
- safety deposit box
- fee free checking or savings
- holiday or vacation club

And find a local bank that will do that (or credit union, I did love one credit union until they made a unilateral decision to charge everyone $1.90 a month in banking fees no matter what).
posted by tilde at 7:10 AM on May 18, 2012

I would be rather surprised if there was a single bank in philadelphia that DIDN'T provide some form of online banking. It is just so much cheaper for the bank and pretty simple to implement since all bank functions internally are done electronically.
posted by rockindata at 7:12 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are in Philadelphia, there should be basically dozens of banks where you can both visit a nearby, physical location AND manage your money online.

Perhaps elaborate on what you mean when distinguishing between "online" and "local."
posted by Patbon at 7:12 AM on May 18, 2012

And seriously consider a credit union instead of a bank! They offer the same services as banks.
posted by mareli at 7:43 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

More details and questions! Sorry for not being clearer – I am a complete idiot with finances and know nothing about any of this.

The online service I was referring to is Simple, which offers the services I need a bank for with some great budgeting and management features. But Simple's not open yet, and I need a bank where I can deposit bonds and the like – I've had an account for years at Affinity Federal Credit Union in New Jersey, but it doesn't have a Philadelphia branch, so I can't conveniently deposit anything.

Actually, on second look – Affinity has shared branches in Philadelphia, so would that mean I could use those branches to manage accounts? That would be much simpler than opening a new one here.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:46 AM on May 18, 2012

I have my checking account with E-Trade. Some of my favorite features: ATM fees are refunded up to $30/month, so I can use any ATM for free. You can transfer money between external accounts for free (Bank of America used to charge a fee for this -- $3? $6? I forget). You can deposit checks with the iPhone app by taking a picture of them (other online banks do this too, not sure if "real" banks are catching up on this.

What I don't like, and why I keep a savings account at a local credit union: The interest rates -- what initially attracted me -- are crap now, and most credit unions can beat them. There's no practical way to deposit cash.

Some big banks have cool online features. I really, really liked BofA's online bill pay. It was easy to use and could automatically connect to a few of my utility companies. But there were fees for the things I wanted to do, and the interest rates were crap.

Like tilde says, figure out what your wishlist is. Every choice has its pros and cons.

After switching banks a couple of times, I decided that I could maximize pros and minimize cons by having accounts at two banks -- checking at the online bank with lots of free feature, savings at a local bank for better rates and the conveniences of a physical bank. Neither has the awesome online billpay that BofA does, but I was able to set up autobilling to either checking account or credit card with all my utilities, so that's good enough for me.

(Credit unions also may have better rates on loans, and many have services like helping you negotiate the lowest possible price on a new car. Mine has a nice change-counting machine, which is something the big bank around here always lacked.)

To specifically address the ease of closing an account when you're done with it: I've done this at at least four banks now, and it's always easy. You go in, tell them you want to close the account (they'll ask why, tell them, they usually don't argue with you), and they close the account and write you a check for the balance of the account. They ask you if you have any other banking needs they can help you with, you say have a nice day. Make sure you don't have any transactions that haven't cleared yet before you close the account -- that's where the horror stories come from.

Call Affinity to see whether their local branches can talk to the NJ branch. I've had problems with things like this in the past. Like you could make a deposit at Branch A for accounts native to Branch B, but not the other way around. It depends on how each state/area's charter is set up, apparently. Calling and asking is the only way to be sure (unless someone else here has personal experience with that bank).
posted by katieinshoes at 7:51 AM on May 18, 2012

would that mean I could use those branches to manage accounts?

Yes, it looks like Affinity FCU of NJ is a member of the Credit Union Service Center network. This means you can conduct transactions at any other CUSC member branch without having to open a new account.
posted by Nothlit at 7:52 AM on May 18, 2012

Fantastic! Thanks, Nothlit!
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:12 AM on May 18, 2012

« Older Hip pain causes scoliosis? How do I fix it??   |   Recommendations for a vocal instructor / coach in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.