What bank do you like?
June 22, 2012 6:09 AM   Subscribe

I have Bank of America. What bank should I change to? Should I keep two banks?

So I've looked at some of the previous questions but I am still confused by a few things.

I don't really like using BoA because they charge for ATM use (whereas Charles Schwab and other banks will give you a refund at the end of the month) and their interest rates are pitifully low. At the same time, however, most of my family and friends all use BoA so if I need to transfer money, having BoA is really useful. I am also still on campus edge checking so I don't get hit by any of the fees and minimums that the regular account is subject to--not until fall of next year anyway. Also, they are popular enough that finding a location to deposit money isn't too big of a pain either.

But I'd ideally like to start looking for an alternative bank. I'm not really certain on all of the perks of another bank. It would be nice to not be charged for ATM use and have higher interest rates. Why do you like your bank/credit union? I will be moving around in the next couple of months to different states so it would be nice if the bank isn't one that's only strong in one geographic region of the U.S.

And lastly, is it a huge pain to transfer funds from one bank to the other? I would need to keep a minimum amount of funds in BoA to not incur fees, but I'd like to rest of it in Bank XYZ. What is the best way to go about this? Write a check to myself?

Additional info: I mainly use a debit card. I've never really used a credit card and don't understand them/feel the need to; I'd rather only spend the money that I actually have in the bank.
posted by pulled_levers to Work & Money (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've never really used a credit card and don't understand them/feel the need to...

Assuming you have the self-control, buying everything on a credit card and paying the full balance off at the end of each month is a great way to build credit and rack up reward points for money you're spending anyway, so you might not want to completely neglect credit cards when you're shopping around for a bank.
posted by griphus at 6:12 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Join your local credit union.
posted by Shoggoth at 6:13 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm here to nth joining a credit union.

It's very easy to close your account. First of all, you open your new account and get your direct deposit going into it. You can write a check from your old account and deposit it into your new account, leaving a couple of bucks in the old account to cover any fees or outstanding transactions.

When you're certain all of your transactions have cleared. You walk into the branch and tell them that you want to withdraw your money and close your account.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:20 AM on June 22, 2012

You'll get a better interest rate, but not better points/rewards/stuff, on a credit card from a local bank. So if you do pay off the balance each month (which you should) go with Amex Blue or some other card that gives you cash back or mileage.
posted by moammargaret at 6:23 AM on June 22, 2012

At the same time, however, most of my family and friends all use BoA so if I need to transfer money, having BoA is really useful.

Even my community credit union (which I work for) has online banking that allows you to do FI-to-FI (financial institution to financial institution) transfers. We can even do it with institutions that don't have their own online banking platform.

Credit unions are often part of a national network of surcharge-free ATMs. I can use the Citibank ATM in the 7-11 that's 3 blocks from my house at no charge, pretty convenient. Our rates on deposits right now are pretty weak, but our loan rates are lower too, our fees are less punitive, and every penny we earn stays in the community.

I agree with griphus that a credit card is a good thing to have to build credit. No credit is as bad as poor credit in some situations. There are all kinds of offers out there, so get a credit card that offers rewards that make sense to you, and pay it off every month. You build credit without building debt. You can get one with fuel-discount rewards, cash back, airline miles, etc. My visa is from Old Navy because it gives me ridiculous discounts all the time, and I have teenage boys.
posted by headnsouth at 6:30 AM on June 22, 2012

Just to go against the grain, if USAA is an option, they're pretty fantastic. They'll repay ATM fees and they have an app via which you can deposit checks. Allied will also pay ATM fees, but they don't (yet) have an app for checks.
posted by Flamingo at 6:35 AM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think both ING Direct and State Farm Bank (yes, they do banking) are good choices for decent interest rates. But if you want to build a good credit rating, definitely get into using a credit card of some kind (and pay it off each month to avoid any interest charges) like others here have suggested.

If you're looking for more of the walk in banking experience, which does have its perks, then I would definitely google online for reviews beforehand or ask friends and colleges if it is a small local branch.
posted by samsara at 6:43 AM on June 22, 2012

I am a fan of local/regional banks. I live in Massachusetts and right now I have a rewards checking account with a medium-sized bank called People's United (I had an account with DanversBank, which was my hometown bank, and then DanversBank was bought by People's United). I've been totally happy with both banks - I get my ATM fees refunded and something like 2.5% interest. I've had accounts with other local banks and I find them just as convenient as the big banks (except not as many ATMs when you're travelling, but if they're refunding your ATM fees who cares?).

I also have an ING account.

I agree, getting a credit card is great for the points! But it does make it easier to spend money. I try to pay off my credit cards before they're due - with online account access you can look at your balance and pay it off every week if you want.
posted by mskyle at 6:47 AM on June 22, 2012

I love my local credit union. I'm not a fan of their credit card rewards (points towards merch I don't want) so I have an Amazon Visa that gets me what amounts to 1% cash back on everything and 3% at Amazon (which sells pretty much everything, which, combined with Prime means I hardly shop at physical stores except groceries).
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:01 AM on June 22, 2012

Credit Union for debit card, savings, direct deposit of your pay and even mortgage if you buy a house. Credit card - doesn't really matter if you pay it completely off every month, but grab something with some sort of rewards if you can. I use my credit card when I pay for things online and at most stores and then pay it off with my debit card. Why? Because there are a lot of web sites that aren't that secure (and even the big ones get hacked occasionally) and any waiter can skim your card info. Credit cards offer protection against this and watch closely for suspicious charges.

Times so far there have been bogus charges on my credit card: 4 (oddly enough all very small amounts like $2 - credit card company says they do a small test first before draining accounts). To change my debit card with its direct deposits, automatic payments etc would have been a real pain, instead credit card company just mails you a new credit card and you're set again.

You could even get a Bank of America credit card, they are super paranoia and you have to call them before you go on vacation outside the US or if you buy something from a web site that uses a different currency.

Plus you are building up your credit score when you pay off charges every month and using a credit card wisely.
posted by meepmeow at 7:29 AM on June 22, 2012

For clarity, by "charged for ATM use", do you mean at the bank's own ATMs, or when you'd use the card at ATMs belonging to another bank or network?
posted by gimonca at 7:38 AM on June 22, 2012

If you or an immediate family member is in the US armed services, I strongly suggest USAA. We're stuck with BOA for the moment (they own our mortgage and until/unless we refi, it's easier to leave our banking there) but we have a second account with USAA and our credit card is through USAA. It has very similar benefits to a credit union in terms of friendliness and reliability, but it's very large and has the buying power of a national financial services company. They also do insurance, which is a great deal. They also reimburse for ATMs and you can deposit physical checks with the smartphone app if you have a phone.

We also have an American Express card, which is our primary card (some places won't take it). We're in the rewards program and I use the rewards points to get gift certificates to places like iTunes (funding my music purchases) and Zappo's (about to score some "tuition shoes" because we routed my husband's grad school tuition through it). Amex requires you to pay off all charges--some exceptions for "sign & travel" which we pay off anyway--every month. This was what I used to keep financial discipline when I was freshly divorced and had $0.29 in the bank account at the end of the month.

(I only use credit cards and pay them off. I don't use my debit card at all after a miskey by a waitress at a wings place resulted in a $15K charge into my savings that almost disrupted a house closing. We got our money back in time but it left me very aware of the risks of debit cards.)
posted by immlass at 7:41 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Please be aware that closing your BoA account doesn't actually mean "closed". If anything tries to hit your account -- a refund for a purchase you made on your debit card a month before, or an automatic debit from Netflix or someplace else you forgot to change over -- your account will re-open, you will be charged overdraft fees if applicable, and depending on what kind of account it is, you may be charged monthly maintenance fees as long as you haven't been noticing it (and you will get charged overdraft on those monthly maintenance fees if your balance is 0 or below). Keep a very, very close eye on it if you do close it.

Signed, someone who had nearly $200 in fees on her account 3 months after it allegedly closed, and 1.5 months after she told BoA in writing she did not want any attempts to debit or deposit to allow the account to re-activate.
posted by olinerd at 7:44 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a checking account with E*Trade because

- They refund all ATM fees.
- They let me move money between accounts -- in both directions -- without any fees.

I'm sure there are other online banks with those same features, but I've been a happy customer for several years.
posted by katieinshoes at 8:03 AM on June 22, 2012

> Why do you like your bank/credit union?

USAA! USAA! USAA! Great customer service, they refund ATM fees, and they've never done me wrong.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:20 AM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

USAA, definitely. Anyone can open a checking and/or savings account with them, and I'd you qualify by having family in the military you'all have access to their credit cards and insurance. Their interest rates aren't the best our there, but their customer service is the best in the business, hands-down, and there are no fees associated with checking accounts for anything (aside from over-drafting.)
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:34 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just n'thing things that have been already said. Almost any credit union is almost better than any bank. (One exception-- I've had an account with Navy Federal Credit Union for ten years, and they have been consistently very poor with customer service the whole time, and poor with extra, bank-like fees for the last three or four years.)

Also n'thing USAA, if you can get in. Find a military connection somewhere. They are literally the best bank I've ever dealt with, and have done things to help me out that have amazed me-- like calling VISA corporation IT department to get a cancelled debit card temporarily reactivated so that I could withdraw some money in an emergency in a remote location when I had foolishly brought the wrong card. USAA is the real deal. Can't go wrong with them.
posted by seasparrow at 8:35 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Man, my phone really mangled that paragraph, sorry.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:35 AM on June 22, 2012

Forgot to address your last question, which the answer also ends up being a plug for USAA-- they will let you transfer funds to and from other banks with no fees on their end. It is actually a feature I use a lot, mainly to take a little bit of money every week and transfer it to an account at another bank that I use to pay my rent. It's a nice easy thing to set up, easy to use, and they don't charge for it. So, USAA again, for the win.
posted by seasparrow at 8:44 AM on June 22, 2012

Okay, one more thing about USAA-- I qualified because of my grandfather's WWII service and my mother's USAA account. It really is the best.
posted by Flamingo at 8:57 AM on June 22, 2012

You mentioned Charles Schwab above, and I actually switched to Schwab several months ago. So far, I've loved having them. It does take getting used to, though, as having an online-only bank is definitely different. There is one physical bank location where you can go inside, it's in Reno, NV.

Setup is fairly easy; go online, create your accounts and transfer money. You need to create an brokerage account to get the High Yield Investor Checking account. They do have a couple of other checking accounts that you do not want. The Investor Checking will result in Schwab sending you a free box of checks and a free debit card. All ATMs will result in a refund at the end of the month (even skeezy ATMs such as ones in clubs). If you travel internationally, they give excellent exchange rates and don't charge currency exchange fees. You can move money back and forth to your brokerage account and put money into no-fee mutual funds and ETFs to actually get some gains on your savings, if you so choose. Otherwise money left in your checking will gain a pittance of interest, currently 0.15%. Their Android and iOS app allows you to deposit checks by taking a picture of them, which is handy.

There are only two things I have found difficult with Schwab. First is if you have cash to deposit. Because you can't just go to a bank, you have to get a money order (or multiple) and mail them in or deposit through the app. Second is the app only lets you deposit checks up to $1,000. Bigger checks have to be mailed in. Schwab does provide free envelopes (I think postage-paid) to send in deposits.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:00 AM on June 22, 2012

You do not need to have military in your family to join USAA. "USAA's investment products, most checking and savings products, credit cards, life insurance, and shopping and discounts are available to other individuals."
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:41 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

n-thing USAA. They're just like a national credit union.
posted by Evilspork at 11:22 AM on June 22, 2012

My local credit union is awesome.
* They do free shredding events once per year.
* They pay interest on their checking and savings accounts.
* They are locally owned and have local employees in their call centers, so the money stays in my community.
* Branch employees are generally friendly.
* Their interest rates on home and car loans are generally lower than big banks.
* They generally don't have hidden or ridiculous fees for anything.
* The CEO's total compensation is something like $600,000 per year. BofA's CEO makes something like $10 million per year.
* I once solved a technical problem with their Microsoft Money download. (They inserted a comma where a period should go). I did it for myself, because I was trying to balance my checkbook and it wouldn't work, even though the data appeared to be there. They sent me a HUGE gift basket as a thank you.
* They are a non-profit, which means they don't have a financial incentive to try to screw you out of your money.

As far as transferring money, you can always just write a check.
posted by cnc at 3:20 PM on June 22, 2012

Unlike BofA, you call them, and someone answers! AND they're very helpful. It's pretty amazing.
posted by Neekee at 3:45 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all, going to look into USAA!

Also, thanks for the knowledge on credit cards. Wish I used it on some of the more expensive items I bought recently....
posted by pulled_levers at 9:31 AM on June 25, 2012

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