Since I landed my first job at age 15, I have been with the same bank. It is a credit union open only to residents of Washington State and I love the perks it gives us. When my husband and I got married, we decided to go with my bank for our checking and savings account because the benefits of this bank far outweighed the benefits of his bank (which was also a credit union). Here are some the reasons I love our bank:
1. High Initial Interest Rate: On the first $500 in our checking account, as well as the first $500 in our savings account, we earn 7.5% interest. You pretty much can’t beat that for a savings or checking account anywhere else. Granted it is only the first $1000 combined, but you better believe we keep that $1000 in there at all times to take advantage of that interest rate that trumps even our high-yield online savings account that houses our emergency fund.
2. Interest Rate Received on Checking Account: I’m not sure if a lot banks give you interest on the money in your checking account, but I know there are at least a few that don’t. Even though it isn’t a large amount by any means (.5%) we earn interest on the amount that sits in our checking account. Again, it isn’t much, but it sure beats earning nothing on the money that’s just sitting in there waiting to pay bills.
3. No Monthly Fees: My husband’s former bank charged a $3 fee just for holding a checking account there. To him, $3 a month was no big deal. To me, it’s ridiculous. Sure, $3 a month isn’t a lot, but it’s a charge that is unnecessary when you can get a checking account elsewhere for free. And $3 a month adds up over time. As soon as I found out that his bank charged that $3 a month, we immediately transferred everything to my account (and set it up as a joint account) and closed his account down. That was the last $3 charge they received from us. Now we don’t get charged just for having an account there. Granted there are still fees for overdrafts and things of that nature, but not for simply having an account.
4. Automatic Overdraft Protection: Even though our bank does charge for overdrafts, it doesn’t affect us because we always have money to cover it. If our account were to overdraft (pretty much only when a bill is due the day before a paycheck comes) our bank will automatically cover that charge with money from our savings account in order to avoid a charge. Since we always have money in our savings account, we never have to pay overdraft fees.
5. Other Services Offered: In addition to checking and savings accounts, our bank offer multiple other services such as credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, CDs, money market accounts and much more! I got my first car loan from this bank and the payment would come automatically out of my savings account. I also got my first credit card from them. As a young teenager just starting my credit history, they gave me a card with a low limit based on my having an account there. I started learning financial responsibility with a credit card because they gave me something to start with. We have also had a few CDs with them that have offered pretty competitive interest rates.
6. Easy Transferring: In addition to having multiple services, it is very easy to transfer money to and from different accounts located at our bank. I can buy a CD with a click of the mouse and see the balance of that CD every time I log into online banking. I can also move money to and from my savings and checking accounts with the click of a button and the funds are moved instantly. Making an extra auto loan payment is just as easy. In fact just yesterday I was able to transfer money from our checking account to our auto loan and pay off the loan completely with just a couple clicks.
7. Co-op Banks: Since our bank is a credit union, it is part of a co-op group of other credit unions that are all over. Being part of this co-op means we can make deposits, withdrawals or any other transactions at any other credit union with no charge, including using their ATMs. This is more than just a matter of convenience for us since we don’t have an actual branch of our bank within 300 miles of our city. A couple years ago we moved across the state where they our bank doesn’t have any branches. But because of the co-op, we are able to use any credit union near us to take care of any transactions. We do most of our banking online, but sometimes we have to make deposits or get out cash and being able to do so free of charge at these other credit unions is extremely convenient and handy.
8. Quality Customer Service: In a time where it seems that quality customer service is virtually non-existent, it’s refreshing to work with a company that cares about their customers — especially when they hold your money. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with this bank for the past 10 years. Just the other day we had an unauthorized withdrawal from our checking account. I called customer service and they told me to go to their website, download a specific form, fill it out and fax it back in. I did that and less than an hour later the money was put back into my account. I was surprised to see it back that fast, but very happy about how they treated the issue.
9. Financial Classes: Our bank also offers free financial classes and web seminars on different financial topics, including personal finance, real estate and mortgage, retirement planning, small businesses, and trusts, wills and probates. In addition, they also offer free financial counseling to their members. As a non-profit credit union, they seem to be more interested in helping their members succeed than merely getting their money.
10. Scholarships and Grants: When I was in college and trying to make tuition payments, I applied for one of the scholarships my bank was offering. I was volunteering with the youth ministry at my church at the time and wrote an essay about what I learned from that experience and I also sent in a few letters of recommendation. They selected me as one of their scholarship recipients and rewarded me with a $2000 scholarship. The school I was attending was a smaller school, so that scholarship pretty much took care of an entire year of tuition. They also offer grants to schools to help with things like building a library or starting different learning projects for students.
There are many other credit unions and banks out there that might offer these same perks and I hope that you receiving these types of benefits as well. If not, I hope you see that there are banks out there that will offer you some nice advantages for the benefit of holding your money. There are enough businesses out there that just want your money and don’t care about you — don’t let your bank be one of them.