Goodbye, Bank of America. Hello, ______?

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My first real bank was actually a credit union (Navy Federal) while I was in the Marine Corps – they were great, but I was a young, indifferent customer.  After I got out of the Marines in 1993, I signed up with Bank of America and have been with them ever since.  For the first 10 years I didn’t really think about my bank: when I wanted online banking they had it, my ATM card always worked…there wasn’t much else I needed.  In 2003, I decided to apply for a home loan and after a quick look at BOA’s high rates, I knew there was no chance that I would get my loan from them.  In 2005, we started Wesabe and that involved the movement of non-trivial amounts of money, and BOA was a royal pain at every stage.  Last week I decided to take a good hard look at BOA and here is what I came up with:

  • My checking account has fees (not sure why)
  • The savings account rate isn’t competitive
  • I don’t have my home loan through BOA
  • I do have an MBNA credit card, but that came through an acquisition and they still haven’t properly integrated it into online banking

I do know the bankers at my local branch. Chris K. has been a pleasure to work with (he went to Beverly High and I want to Venice High), and the branch manager has done everything she could do to help despite bank policies.  Still, I think we are at a structural parting of the ways – I don’t like being constantly reminded that my bank gives crappy rates and sub-par products because they believe that inertia works in their favor.

If I could choose any financial institution to work with right now I’d go to USAA, but since I’m not active military they won’t take my money, so I had to look elsewhere.  My wife banks with Wells Fargo, but after my experience with BOA I want to try something a little more community oriented, so I decided to look for a credit union.

After Googling “find a credit union,” I got a page where I could enter in my zip code and it popped up 23 credit unions in my area. I was on number 18 before I found one I was eligible to join (with most, you have to have a certain employer or live in a particular area).  I clicked on the “About” page of the one credit union I could join and it took about a minute and a half to load, and the information and design left me underwhelmed.

I live in Alameda County and I work in the technology field.  Are there any progressive/aggressive banks or credit unions that people can recommend or who want my business?  I’m also going to ask this question on AskMetafilter and report back the results.

30 Responses to “Goodbye, Bank of America. Hello, ______?”

  1. NFCU Member Says:

    I have never been in the military, but I am a NFCU member because my father-in-law is retired from the Navy. You should check the NFCU rules again. We use them for all our big-ticket loans (mortgage, car loan) and their rates cannot be beaten.

  2. Andrew Says:

    Did you close your NFCU account? If you left at least $5 in savings, then your account is likely still open. Like the above guy said, if there’s even a chance you could stick with NFCU, go for it. I maintain my NFCU account just so I can take advantage of their low rates.

    As for banks, I’m with First Citizens Bank. They’ve been very progressive with their services, and I’ve had good service from them so far.

  3. K Says:

    I too am looking for a new bank after becoming disgusted with Bank of America. I was debating between WAMU and BECU (credit union) but still haven’t checked out USAA yet.

    I recently came across this for USAA:

    now open to the general public…
    if you dont have military connections call
    1 800 531 2265
    and ask for a membership number , then apply online.

    from:
    http://www.cheapskatemonthly.com//wd_articles.asp?ID=36976

  4. nickd Says:

    I’m a little surprised USAA won’t take you. Their policies on potential member eligibility is much more lenient than it once was. If you haven’t actually called them and asked, I would not count them out. I’m quite happy with USAA and would recommend them over any lending institution I’ve ever dealt with and/or heard about. Give them a call.

  5. Robbie Wright Says:

    I’ve heard great things about NFCU and being so large and geographically dispersed, their online offerings are normally pretty good.

    Also try this locator CU locator. http://www.creditunion.coop/cu_locator/index.html

    It’s probably the most official one out there as it is ran by CUNA, the Credit Union National Association.

  6. Jason Knight Says:

    I just called USAA and I absolutely don’t qualify. People eligible for membership:

    – Active duty military
    – Veterans who have separated within the last year
    – Dependents of members

    I have to admit I…I’m a little disapointed.

    I’m going to see if I still have an NFCU account to activate.

  7. Paul Says:

    Jason, I’ll bet you a bottle of coca cola that’s not the case. My fiancee, who has no connection to the military and no legal connection to me*, has a banking relationship with USAA.

    USAA’s insurance services still require a direct family connection to active duty or retired military personnel, but I bet you can still get a checking, savings and brokerage account through USAA if you call the bank and not the insurance division.

    *To be clear: I’m the son of a retired Army Captain (30 years ago), but no one in my immediate family (me included) is serving active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces. As far as USAA is concerned, there is no connection between my fiancee and me.

  8. Jason Knight Says:

    Paul,

    I called…I asked to speak to a supervisor…I tried dropping names, (really I did) but none of it helped. In the past they took in “no-accounts” like me, but they now limit new membership.

    The supervisor did say that he was also a Veteran and wouldn’t have been able to join if he didn’t work for the company.

    Actually, the more I think about this the odder it seems – there is a bank that people *want* to join, and can’t. How hard could it be for other banks to copy what they are doing?

    Paul you owe me a bottle of coca-cola 🙂

  9. Matthew Says:

    If you live in Alameda County, you could join Technology Credit Union (techcu.com). They’re not as good as USAA (who I have my primary banking account with), but they’re a heck of a lot better than BofA.

  10. rakshan Says:

    Technology Credit Union rocks. They have excellent service and often go out of the way to help you. I’ve had an account with them since 2000.

  11. dp3 Says:

    USAA is pretty amazing, I’ve had nothing but great times there.

  12. mark d Says:

    E*Trade – hugely competitive rates.

  13. Jason Knight Says:

    I feel like I’m back in the family! I contacted Navy Federal and they set me right up with accounts.

    Thanks to everyone for the feedback and the suggestions, and I’ll let you know if I see any differences between banking with NFCU and BOA.

  14. Rob Rubin Says:

    I have USAA for my homeowners and auto insurance and I’ve been tempted to sign-up for their free checking account. I’m able to get USAA because my Dad is a retired Army officer. I know a few people with NFCU accounts that seem happy, but how do they handle ATM fees? I like USAA’s rebate program (up to $15 per month).

  15. Elaine Says:

    “it took about a minute and a half to load, and the information and design left me underwhelmed”

    I just started working as a webmaster for a credit union, and having worked on their site for a month or so, and having looked at other CU sites, I can say that web design isn’t necessarily anybody’s strong suit. 😉

    OTOH, I have been a credit union *member* at another credit union for more than six years, and I am intensely loyal, even though their site is…meh. (I’m so loyal that I don’t (yet) have an account at the place I work!)

    I know you got back in touch with Navy Federal, but for anybody else reading this, I’d recommend going into a branch before you make up your mind. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the customer service that I’ve experienced time after time after time.

  16. Jason Knight Says:

    Elaine,

    I’m happy to be back at NFCU, but I think you are right about the personal experience at branch office.

    Divided loyalties…that is rough:)

  17. Ron Shevlin Says:

    I was actually hoping to leave a comment about the mortgage ads (more recent post), but I keep getting an error message… Jason, can you check that out? Thanks.

  18. Jason Knight Says:

    Ron,

    Looking inot that right now. Sorry, I read “check out the photo” and thought it was blog spam.

  19. Paul Says:

    Jason, I realize this is now moot for you, but the whole situation puzzled me, so I called USAA to see if I could learn more. It turns out, they changed their policy last summer. To sign up for a USAA checking account today, you must be a member of the U.S. military or family, or live in the San Antonio area.

    I did ask if it was an internal policy or related to regulation from the outside, and the rep said she believed it was an internal policy. Apparently there was a window for the public to start a new banking relationship with USAA (when my fiancee and friends got in), but that window is now closed. Bummer!

    Glad the Navy Federal Credit Union came through for you.

  20. esteban Says:

    I’ve had pretty good experiences with Provident Credit Union (providentcu), if you live in Alameda among other places within SF Bay, you qualify.

  21. kenny Says:

    what about ING Direct? they have good rates, a good website, and are pretty friendly on the phone…

  22. Alisha Says:

    I’ve been with navy Fed and they’ve been great for me! and to reply to someone’s question above, they do offer ATM rebates as well. So you pretty much get free ATMS all over because with their e-checking you get free access to their own atms and then reimbursements for all others.

  23. Jake Says:

    I plan on closing my account with BoA as well. Can someone who’s done tell me how much of a hassle it is? I tried to find online how to cancel their account and it seems like I need to send a letter to their account closure department.

    Was wondering if I could just go to the branch?

    Also, are there any fees involved in closing the account?

  24. Jase Says:

    I have been with NFCU for many years and have been well satisfied with their services. Glad you were able to get back in with them.

    You also can join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. You do not need to even be a former military person. Join the National Military Family Association for $20 and your eligible to join PENFED. The National Military Family Association is open to anyone.

  25. Ken Davis Says:

    I wish I could join USAA too, that said, I’ve heard a lot of VERY good things about fnbodirect.com. Maybe they’re worth consideration.

  26. Cathy Says:

    Hi Guys, I have a wonderful credit union to suggest to you all that offers wonderfully low rates and has fantastic products and services available as well to all it’s members and best of all they can qualify anyone to join. PFCU is the 3rd largest credit union as passes great savings on to their members. Check them out, http://www.penfed.org. If you like what you see just contact the member service dept and they can set you up right over the phone for membership.

  27. Laura Says:

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  28. Chakrapanye Says:

    You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

  29. Flower Names Says:

    Finally, the answers that I was looking for! Cheers mate.

  30. Non-Military USAA Member Says:

    I would urge anyone who's reading these comments to give USAA a second try despite their reported change in policy. I'm with USAA, non-active-military (and my father hasn't been active for decades), and I'm pretty sure my accounts with them are less than two years old. So I got in somehow (?)

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