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First – a tale of two “banks”.  I’ve had my accounts at Bank #1 since my grandfather took me to get my first passbook account in LaGrange, NC.  If you don’t know what a passbook account is, you actually had a book and when you made a withdrawal or a deposit, it was actually written in and stamped by the teller.  Said teller also made you feel important, no matter how small the transaction.  I’ve kept those accounts through various jobs and marriages and businesses.  When I divorced years ago and needed to refinance my house to remove my ex-husband from the mortgage, Wachovia (who had held the mortgage for more than 10 years) literally did not want to talk to me about it.  I asked a few friends in various areas of the real estate and finance industry and got a recommendation to a mortgage banker at Bank #2.  She was terrific, got everything taken care of at that point and even (true to her word) called back when my “not so great deal in the long run but good for the short haul” mortgage was going to go south and worked through a refinance to a fixed 30 year.  Note that for all of this I had a steady income and solid FICO.

Fast forward – I now have checking/savings at Bank #1, mortgage and equity line at Bank #2.  Bank #1 seems to have trouble remembering our names when we go in the bank and the annoying little changes start.  Bank #2 offers us their “best checking and savings line” if we move since our mortgage is there.  After several months, I go look at the offer and yes, it comes up far higher than Bank #1 by comparison.  Not wanting to change all the ePay and autopays immediately, I take a block of cash and open the Bank #2 accounts with the intent to move over gradually.  Good thing I didn’t because 2 months in I start getting $25 monthly fees for having the account.  I go down and inquire and am told that my “total accounts” there don’t meet their “minimum” (by $2000 – remember, I have a mortgage there, so we are talking less than 1%).  They switch me to their budget checking which doesn’t have a monthly fee, but will suck out cash anytime I do anything.  We run our debit cards through the shredder and pack away the checks to make sure we don’t use them ever.

Where are things today?  Bank #1 has officially become Bank #3.  Bank #3 has added fees, changed my account types “to better serve me” and signed me up for some monthly fee protection garbage that apparently activated when my husband requested a replacement debit card.  Bank #2 is now charging a monthly fee to use their debit card.  I’m sure that Bank #3 is not far behind.  And I’m shopping for a financial home – again.  Interest rates are lower than when I last refinanced and I am well past the break even point on the last one, so savings will be worthwhile.  My FICO is good to excellent depending on which of the big three you ask (and well over the “get the good rates” number).  I have a solid employment history, low debt and substantial equity even with the housing crash.  Basically, I’m a danged good customer and I’m hoping someone out there is still interested in that.

Based on research over the last month the first two candidates are a small local bank and my employer credit unions.  My requirements are:  no-fee debit card transactions, electronic banking, no monthly fee checking, competitive mortgages, mobile banking, no “super sekrit special programs that enroll you without warning” and helpful customer service.  I do want all my main accounts, mortgage and regular transactions to be with the same institution for simplicity, though I’m not adverse to putting one of the savings accounts at another, just in case.  Results (and former bank names) coming in subsequent posts, so stay tuned. 🙂

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