Ask The Consumerists: Know A Good Bank?

A request for aid from one of your fellow readers, Laura:

    As I am relocating in three weeks, I need to switch to a bank that is on the west coast. Having read all the horror stories here, I have a question – is there any good, reliable, nationwide bank left? Or am I better to take the few wads of cash I have cross country with me and deposit them in my friend’s mattress, where I will be temporarily crashing?

    Help a lady out!

What sayeth thou, Consumerati?


Edit Your Comment

  1. aixwiz says:

    I recommend using a credit union instead of a bank. Typically they don’t have fee this and fee that like banks do. Instead, they offer better than average interest for savings accounts, lower interest on loans, free checking and savings. I’ve been a member of credit unions for many years and I’ve never had a bad experience.

  2. factotum says:

    I’ll second the credit union advice. Most are members of the CO-OP network meaning you can use other CU’s ATM’s for deposits and withdrawals. STAY away from Wells Fargo and Bank of America, of course. Maybe the only acceptable big bank is WaMu. Nowadays, anyone can join a credit union, too. They all want your money!

  3. nweaver says:

    If you want to go with a widely geographic bank, go with WaMu. They, like all other big banks, are pure evil. But it is a slightly less evil pure evil.

  4. Danilo says:

    Wells Fargo is pure, unfiltered, disgusting evil. Avoid at all costs. Actually a big fan of Bank of America, having banked with them for over three years. Their phone support is the friendliest of any business I’ve dealt with and their branches are typically pretty competent. They also have a billion ATMs all over the US, so you can’t beat that.

  5. Let’s make it a majority: Credit unions are the only way to go! As factotum said, find one that’s one the CO-OP network (most of the are) and you can make deposits and withdrawals not just from other CU’s ATMs, but also from credit union service centers located essentially everywhere (there are over 2000 nationwide).

    Visit the CO-OP Network to find a credit union that works for you. In San Diego, I use Mission Federal and love them.

  6. Hawkins says:

    Are you military, or ex-military, or maybe have a parent or spouse who was? You may be eligible for USAA, which used to be mostly just for insurance, but now has full-service banking as well, including free checking with the ability to use any bank’s ATM several times a month for free.

    USAA’s customer service is very, very good. And they’re particularly good at bending over backwards for customers who move around a lot.

    Check your eligibility here.

  7. RandomHookup says:

    Quick question for the credit union crowd — have CUs caught up with mainstream banks for online banking?

  8. latrevo says:

    RandomHookup, to answer your question, my experience has been yes. I’ve been banking exclusively online with my credit union for 7 years. I don’t even go in to talk loans, just do that over the phone, they mail me documents. It’s wonderful.

  9. Amy Alkon says:

    Also, if you go to Europe at all, BofA has affiliates there where you can withdraw money without the $3 fee; in France, at Bank Paribas. That said, they just started charging me $16 for checks with stubs I’d previously been getting free, the bunwads.

  10. misskaz says:

    USAA. I say it again, USAA. Also, you don’t have to be military or related to military to get their basic checking account, I think.

  11. Grant says:

    I have had an account with Wells Fargo, Bank of America, WaMu, CitiBank and US Bank. While I agree with the previous comments (go to a credit union), if you must go to a bank, my best experience has been with US Bank. Amonsgt the bohemoth banking corporations they are relatively small and I do get very few issues/hassles with them and they are resolved in a timely manner.

  12. Drinker Nisti says:

    Banking comments brings out as many people as U-Haul…

    Avoid BofA like the plague. We use Wells Fargo, mostly for ATM access, and have no particular complaints. Most of our petty cash is in a credit union (Kinecta– if you’re movint to the LA area); we will hold onto the CU membership forever– it’s hard to beat their loan rates…

    It may seem sorta retro, but traveller’s checks will get you cross-country.

  13. clash42 says:

    I’m agreeing with the other 2 posters here, if you’re eligible, go to USAA, they do everything, and it’s been nothing but smooth since i’ve used them(about 7 years or so now i think).

  14. Elvisisdead says:

    I recommend USAA, as well. Both as a current member, and a former employee. You have to qualify to be a USAA member to get ANY services from them. We use them for banking, investments, and insurance. Their service is unbeatable. I’ve been with them for 15 years, and my parents have for over 35.

    You don’t have to be military, but one of your parents or your spouse does (either active or retired) if you’re just now applying for membership. If your parent or spouse is currently a USAA member, you can get membership, too. They also extend membership to various law enforcement agencies like the USSS and DEA.

    Their checking is free interest-bearing, with up to $15 in ATM fee reimbursements each month. Free web bill pay with direct deposit, too. So, if your use is normal and not in a strip club, all ATMs are free.

    If you can’t get USAA membership, then a credit union is your next best bet. B of A is pure evil.

  15. Morgan says:

    I’ve used Wells Fargo for six years now and I’ve never had a problem with them. They also have ATMs everywhere (at least in Southern California, which is probably a decent representation of their availability on the rest of the West Coast).
    I’m intrigued by this USAA thing, though. My dad was drafted in Viet Nam and as far as I know never used USAA; would I still be eligable based on his brief service?

  16. SpecialK says:

    Another ringing endorsement for USAA. I just bolted Chase for USAA and I couldn’t be more pleased with the service I’ve received. They also have hella good rates on insurance as well.

  17. anadune says:

    @ RandomHookup

    My CU has great online banking that is free.

  18. flyover says:

    thanks to all who replied – I will be in the bay area and I think I will take the overwhelming advice & go credit union.