questionswho do you bank with and why?

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If you live in Washington State, I highly recommend BECU, Boeing Employees Credit Union (open to all WA residents). Always the best interest rates (banking and loans), zero fees, and fantastic customer service. They were still making money when all other banks needed a bailout.

All large credit unions I know of have the services you mentioned except for free money orders. Most credit unions don't charge to use another companies ATM, it's the ATM company that imposes the fee.

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ING Direct for their better interest rates and good customer service if you don't mind an all online bank.
When in California I used Patelco Credit Union and was very happy with them - I'm still a member but don't use them for every day banking. We switched to Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) for convenience and the staff at the local branch were very helpful. Since the switch to Wells Fargo we're looking for something better.

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I won't tell you which one to bank at, as that is dependent upon so many variables. I bank with a credit union, and have since I joined the military. I have regular bank accounts too, but the credit union is better in almost every other aspect (mortgage rates, fees (none), office hours, telephone service, etc). I think most credit unions have an agreement that they will not charge a fee for using their ATMs for other credit union members. My credit union doesn't have a branch within about 200 miles of me, but I use another credit unions ATM machine (free).

I have a voice in my credit union, other than closing my account. I get to vote, and although many americans are too lazy to do it, I like to vote for who runs my credit union.

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For reference, I am in Southern CA. I have heard about ING somewhere, although I have no idea where. I need an actual bank because I need to deposit my wife's and my paychecks as we don't have DD. :(

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I use Chase because my grandparents set it up for me a while back.
/not helpful

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credit union. Pretty much ANY credit union. They are all owned by you, the customer, so they are generally much better about customer service and rip-off fees than pretty much any bank. If you are destined to stay with a bank, try a smaller local one, their service is also tons better than any of the big guys. As mentioned above, you get to vote for the board & president of your credit union... that goes a long way towards ensuring good service.

@psquishy: I'm in california as well, and I recommend Golden 1 credit union.

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Credit union because they treat my family like "family" and not an account number. Better deals on credit cards than most banks (although I will say USAA is pretty good).

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I actually use several banks, all for different things. The key is to just find the right one for you. I happen to be fortunate that I don't pay any banking fees at all and I use one of the banks mentioned by the OP. I will say that credit unions tend to give better customer service and better rates on just about everything.

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Okay, now that I've had coffee, and breakfast, and it's still too cold (27F) to play outside, I'll weigh in on this. Disclaimer: These are my OPINIONS. YMMV. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

Choosing a bank (or banks) is complicated. If you travel a lot (I used to), a credit union account is going to become very inconvenient, and you may find yourself paying exorbitant fees (in some cities) just to access your money. Not all credit unions are created equal, either. Some are excellent, most tend to be better than the big four commercial banks. Some are pretty bad.

JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo are doing well financially, and are pretty stable. That does NOT mean they are wonderful, and I MISS Washington Mutual ALL THE TIME. Back on point. Citibank/Citigroup, and to a lesser extent, Bank of America, are in a race to the bottom. Their current stock prices reflect the low opinions of them.

[Continued]

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[continued] There is US Bank, which perceives itself as national, and is in good shape. There are other regional banks poised to become national, within a few years (or perhaps less), due to acquisitions of banks that are not performing well more than to deliberate expansion. PNC is a notable example of this.

If your lifestyle permits, a credit union is often an excellent choice. They are more oriented to the community, and tend to network with each other as well. One of the problems with some credit unions is that they may contract out such things as online banking, or else develop it in house, and you need to check on EITHER case. In my own area, there are three available, and they range from stellar to abysmal.

There are also the online banks, such as ING. This type of bank works especially well for the younger professionals, and may be an option. I can tell you that I personally do NOT write checks to people that use them, though.

[Continued]

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[continued] Every time you write a check, you are extending a great deal of trust to the person you hand that check to. Your whole life is in those routing numbers, and the number of schemes to defraud you of your money is HUGE if the wrong person gets hold of them. When someone scans in a check to deposit in ING (or elsewhere), you have to ask yourself what they do with that check after they've done that.

I admit to writing very few checks. I use them with local businesses (because I'm aware of the 3% hit, give or take, on credit card purchases), and that's about it. I pay online, through my bank, for anything that accepts digital transfers. I allow NO ONE to debit my account for automatic payments.

I'm sure there's more, but that's a start.

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I use ING for savings but it takes 3 business days to move money so not a good plan for emergencies. I've not looked into their other types of accounts. Credit unions are definitely the best way to get away from the Big Bank Monsters, unfortunately we travel a lot and need access to ATMs, Bank of America seems to have one around every corner so we use them. I used to bank with Wells Fargo but when they wanted to charge fees to get points on my credit card I dumped them.

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@psquishy: You might want to visit the consumerist.com and search for any of the banks you're thinking of using. After the nightmare stories I've read, I wouldn't bank with some of them that have been mentioned here even if you paid me.

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Here's what SPDR thinks of various banks:

https://www.spdrs.com/library-content/public/ETF-XLF_20101231_145744.pdf

Please note that the significant thing is their investment in each (and that Berkshire-Hathaway is among their holdings). I will point out that I would not want Goldman Sachs stock, but that I love their corporate debt (which is A rated, or at least the ones I hold are A rated). XLF is a handy fund to follow, since it's financial services.

Oops. Segue.

I like credit unions, or at least the idea of them. They are not actually good if you have above a certain income, unless you are also using financial advisers from one of the more experienced firms, or have a very high level of knowledge and experience yourself. I also like ING, and a couple of the others that are online only (but the names escape me right this minute). I also like Deutsche Bank, but that's only good if you're in the VERY big cities (oh, and HSBC, too).

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I actually use a rewards checking account online where I store most of my money (My current interest rate better than CDs I bought a couple years ago). They have a physical location, but since they are a local bank more than two hours away, I do all my transactions with them online.

Since I like to have a quick way to access some money in case of emergency, I also have an account with Bank of America just so I'll always have access to money no matter where I may need it. I no longer use them for storage because their interest rates are abyssmal and their help doesn't know anything.

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@shadowhunter312: B of A is almost everywhere. Just don't get stuck in KY (I found out the hard way) unless you want to use an out of network ATM.

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@psquishy - The general consesus seems to be credit union and I agree. Where are you located in very general terms and we can make some more targeted suggestions.

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I use CapitolOne because it's free and rather simple to use. They'll do lots of punitive fees but it's ok.
<--- College student who just needs a way of turning cash into debit

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@theoneill555: Exactly, they are good for one thing, convenience (as long as you don't need something other than a deposit or withdrawal). Although they really do scare me sometimes. I go and deposit my fiance's checks there since we share an account. I once got asked to sign the check (my fiance already signs them and puts "For deposit only") that had her name on it so they could deposit it. I told them her name was on the account and the attendent was surprised. So in other words, you were just going to let me steal some women's check?

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Has anyone had any experience with Bank of the West???

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I use PNC for my checking account. Overall they're pretty good. I mostly went with them due to geographical issues. I was alternating between spending time in SE Michigan and NE Ohio, and they (National City at the time) were one of only a couple banks that had branches near where I lived. National City's customer service was pretty crappy, but they seem to be better as PNC. They're also I believe one of the few large banks that still offers free checking with no balance/DD requirements. PNC will also reimburse non-PNC ATM fees if you have a high enough average balance ($2000)

For my savings account, I use an American Express high-yield savings since it has a much higher interest rate (currently 1.15% APY, compounded daily) as high as 3% not too long ago. The only downsides are that transfers between accounts take a little longer than with both accounts at the same bank and you can't use an external account for overdraft protection.

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First of all, I greatly appreciate all of the responses so far!

@djbowman: I'm moving to the Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Alta Loma, Ontario area of Southern California. It sounds like I'm definitely going with a credit union. The question is which? I see some of the suggestions above and will certainly consider each. :)

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@shadowhunter312: I have had my account for eons and they didn't even blink an eye when I deposited an inheritance check but put me through the wringer when I tried to deposit two payroll checks at one time (dated two weeks apart).

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i use USAA for most everything but you can only join if you're military, former military, dependent, former dependent, etc.

there are so many credit unions that you can qualify for. for example i have an account at a Teacher's credit union since my mom was a teacher. even though i've moved states since then, i've kept that account open for 15+ years. my county has a credit union if you live, work, worship, go to school, volunteer or consistently do business in the county. the building where i work has one for employees that is open to anyone working in the building even if you're not a direct employee (subcontractor, etc). their credit card and auto loan rates are super LOW!

most of the time even if they don't have local ATMs closeby, they partner with other credit unions and some banks to offer free ATM services just like you're at your own.

try an About.com or Google local search on where you're going combined with "credit union", see if you get some leads to research online.

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@ferfong: I don't think the reviews are good. They're stable enough, as far as I can see (I tend to have more insight into larger banks, and publicly traded banks, and this is neither).

http://www.epinions.com/reviews/finc-Financial_Services-Online-Banks-Bank_of_the_West

http://www.mybanktracker.com/bank-reviews/view/Bank-of-the-West

Many of the reviews in the first link are old. Reviews tend to be from people that are unhappy, so take that with a grain of salt, too.

http://www.mybanktracker.com/bank-reviews

Lots and lots of sad people on that site. :-(

USAA (no surprise to @lavikinga) is rated very highly, though (as is the online version of AMEX, which I find amusing).

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I've had a credit union account for over 20 years. Actually 2. Both have fantastic websites that allow me to do virtually all my banking on line. You can take money out of any ATM at a 7-eleven for free with at least one of them. I can call and talk to an actual person at either of them pretty much anytime. I've opened probably 15 different accounts and 3 loans with no problem between the 2. Any time I've needed a little extra something, copy of paperwork or whatever, it's been provided with no problem or fee.
Look for something local. Talk to the people in the area and get recommendations.
That said, Wells is probably one of the more secure banks out there. If I had to go with a bank, that's most likely where I would end up.

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I use Charles Schwab. I have the high interest checking, it comes with free checks, free ATM reimbursement anywhere across the globe. No mim deposit with DD. It ties into my stock portfolio so switching cash around is easy. The drawback is not many physical branches. I left BOA and went to these guys. I have never had a hidden fee, or random throttling of my payments like BOA would do.. Big to small. The bill pay is awesome had more features then BOA. So for me it’s like a BOA but without the shadiness. I ran into a few problems setting it all up but the customer service reps were OVERLY helpful and very awesome while making things right quickly. At this point I love this bank.

I can't tell you about the home loans..I prob would not get one via Schwab.

http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/banking_lending/checking

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I Have Accounts @ Chase, Wells Fargo, & Charles Schwab...
BEWARE OF B of A! They burned me terribly in the past.
I primarily bank through Wells Fargo Though... Excellent promotions, rates, and customer service. (Credit Card sucks though)