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Local vs. National banks - Yankee 2.0
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Yankee 2.0

Local vs. National banks

About two years ago, I opened a Bank of America checking and savings account. I had received something in the mail offering $100 if I opened the account. I'd had an account with a local bank for about ten years, and planned to just open the Bank of America account, do the ten transactions or whatever was needed to get the money, and then close it. I found I liked BoA's online banking system (for paying bills) better than my old bank, and I liked how they rounded up transactions and put the money into savings. So I closed my local bank accounts and just used Bank of America. I was fairly happy, although I never seemed to be able to reconcile the account -- transactions seemed to pop up and then disappear. The online services were great, but the in-person service was pretty bad. They seemed to want to push customers to do everything themselves (use the ATM instead of tellers, use online services rather than in person customer service), but I dealt with it. Plus, there are BoA ATMs everywhere, so I never had to worry about a fee for using the ATM. I hated the Merrill-Lynch advertising on the online site, and I certainly think of myself as someone who prefers local banks, but I didn't really see myself going through the hassle of closing the account.

This spring, I started a new part-time job and the HR person told me that if I opened an account with (a different) local bank and had my paycheck direct deposited, I'd get $100. Again, I figured I'd just try it out and then close it. But the service at this local bank is fantastic.They sent me a hand-written thank you card for opening my account with them. They don't try to up-sell me every time I walk in the door. There are always plenty of tellers, and they seem genuinely happy to be working at the bank. As with BoA, there are no monthly fees, and my online bill pay is quick and easy. For a while, I thought I'd just keep the two accounts, because my mortgage is with BoA and it's easy to pay it each month by dragging the money from one account to the other. But it got to be a hassle divvying up paychecks between the two banks, so I decided to close the BoA account.

I went into one branch and the one and only customer service rep (non-teller) who could close the account for me was with a customer and had another waiting. I went into another branch, and the one and only customer service rep was with a customer and I waited 15 minutes to be seen. While I was waiting, two people in line disputed their transactions, and one person stormed off because the ATM wasn't working. Seeing all this unhappiness definitely reinforced my belief that I made the right decision.

 I'm looking forward to just having one place for my checking and meager savings to live. And I'm happy to support a local bank that makes an effort to thank me for my business.

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