Friday, March 23, 2012

Why I Love My Bank

I've mentioned once or twice (usually on facebook) my deep and abiding love for my bank.  As I understand it, most people are either neutral about or resigned about their banks (correct me if I'm wrong), but with mine, it's a love that knows no bounds.  Every time I start to feel ambivalent about my bank, they do something awesome.  Since I just received a letter from them outlining more awesome things they're going to do, I thought I would write a list of all the many reasons why I love them so.

1. Absolutely free checking.  I do not pay any checking fees of any kind, even though my balance is sometimes as low as $14 (why keep a lot of money in a non interest-earning account?).  Also, I get free check blanks and my debit card is completely free.  When all the big banks were going to add $5 fees, my bank updated their website with a message from the CEO:

2. Dime-a-Time rewards.  Every time I use my debit card, they give me $.10.  Now, they're starting a keep the change program where if I buy something for less than a dollar, I get the difference back.  Free money?  Yes, please!

3. Free ATMs.  Even though I live 1800 miles away from my bank, and there are no in-network ATMs, I do not pay ATM fees.  I get charged a fee every time I use one, but I just mail them the receipt, and they credit back the amount I was charged.  Now, they're going to automatically credit back the first three ATM fees every month, so I won't even have to waste postage. Since I rarely use cash/ use ATMs, this is perfect for me.  There is nothing I hate more than having to go miles out of your way to find an ATM within your network.

4. Free Cookies.  They have free cookies and coffee in the lobby, and they are good (coffee's a bit weak, but what can you do?).  When I lived in the same town as my bank, I used to grab a stack of cookies and bring them back to work with me for my co-workers.  After scoring a stack of the really good cocoa ones, one of my co-workers said to me "I love it when you go to the bank."

5. People answer the phone when you call.  There are no recordings, no 'push 0 for operator' a person picks up the phone and then transfers you to the place you need to be.  It's almost shocking to call a business and hear a human voice right away.

6. Quick resolution of problems.  Remember a while back when I was having that weird situation where my bank was cashing checks for more than the amount written?  Basically, I was writing a check to my landlord once a month for $530, but the checks were getting deposited as $536 and the next month $534. My landlord reported that he wasn't getting any extra money, so the error was the bank's fault.  I called them up, half expecting them to accuse me of some kind of shenanigans, but they took care of it right away, no questions asked.  Literally, the money was in my account within an hour.  The woman who helped me was so delightful, that I wrote the bank an email about how awesome she is.  Then she called me and thanked me for doing that.

7. Friendly service.  See above, and it's like that (maybe not exactly like that) every time.  I've honestly emailed this bank about six times telling them how happy they make me.

8. Bank by mail.  when I first moved to Rhode Island, I opened an account at the hateful local bank that would now like to charge a $10 fee for a checking account.  Every interaction I had with them just sucked.  The staff was always surly, there were always long, long lines at the teller window, the interest rates were laughable and they charged me $35 for the cheapest box of checks they sold!  I just hated knowing that I would have to deal with them, so I emailed my former bank (I had kept my account open and was in the process of switching over) and asked them if I could still do business with them from 1800 miles away.  Their response was immediate and enthusiastic: "Congratulations on your move!  Many people bank by mail and it's not a problem at all." They gave me the special bank-by-mail address to send deposits to and even mailed me a stack of pre-addressed envelopes.

What's most hilarious about my love affair with my bank, is that I never intended to get an account with them at all, and for the first couple years, I hated them.  About ten years ago, I needed to open a checking account, and I asked my friend Sara who she banked with and if she liked them.  She was with Bank of America, and said that she liked them a lot.  So I went to Bank of America.  The problem was, they were just down the street from State Bank & Trust, and they had taken their sign down for part of the day to replace it with a new one. Since these two banks are on the same street with a number of generic financial-type buildings, I wasn't 100% sure which one was Bank of America.  State Bank had their sign up, so I just got an account with them instead.

For the first two years, they charged $1.50 fee per month for my debit card, which made me loathe them.  Then, they abruptly canceled the fee, and started the dime-a-time rewards.  I immediately set out to earn back all the money I had wasted on fees by using my debit card for everything, and taking free cookies whether I wanted them or not (tacky, but delicious).

So there you have it, best bank ever.

Do you love your bank, or merely tolerate them?  Would you change banks if you found a better deal, or is that too much work?


  1. I adore USAA Federal Savings Bank! Since their core membership is military personnel and dependents, they are well-accustomed to dealing with bank-by-mail (and have done it for decades).

    I love being able to deposit checks by scanning them (my phone isn't smart enough to use their app for that) - even faster than using their prepaid deposit envelopes for single checks.

    USAA also rebates out-of-network ATMs (x per month), except when you're overseas. We've had wonderful luck using USAA debit card at ATMs in China, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands, and Jamaica.

    Their money market checking account & CD interest rates are competitive (no one has good ones right now), as are IRAs. Very easy to complete application online; no mailed back-and-forth paperwork required.

    If a direct relative is a USAA member, then they can request a membership for you. And don't get me started on how great their insurance coverage is, or I'll never stop!

  2. Gate City Bank, another local Fargo bank, also doesn't charge for checking and immediately refunds any ATM fees charged by others. No banks in the cities do that, so I'm sticking with Gate City for now.