First of all, because Bank of America is still in business…for now. So many banks have folded and/or merged that I am glad that BofA is still around. I have been a customer since 1995 when I moved to California from Massachusetts (before BofA was even in MA) and have always had great luck with them. As with any business, there are people who have had bad experiences with them, but I have never had a problem (knock on wood). However, when we moved to New Mexico last year, I had a choice to make as there was no BofA here at all. The closest branch is 23 miles away, and the next closest is 39 miles away. Kind of a long drive to do your banking, especially in the winter when mountain roads become kind of scary. After investigating several of our local, small-town banks, we chose to continue to bank with BofA and to start doing most of our banking by mail. I know I have written about “shopping local” before, and how it can benefit the community, and I feel the same about banks. Unfortunately though, our local banks don’t offer anything near what bigger banks do, and what they do offer they nickel and dime you for. So, we stayed with our original bank, and here are a few reasons why:
Small town = Few local banks with big time fees.
We have 3 banks here in town and one credit union. I cannot be a member of this credit union, but I could sign up at one of the 3 banks…if I didn’t like keeping my own money in my bank. They have charges for checking accounts, savings accounts, for online bill paying, and for just about anything else they could charge a fee for. BofA doesn’t charge me a fee for anything.
BofA online bill pay has every company I do business with in their database
My bank makes it easy to pay a bill – either find it in their up-to-date database and plug in the numbers, or just have them send a check every month. All for free. The online banking features of smaller banks have a lot of work to do to catch up to the capabilities of bigger banks.
BofA has a central place I can track all my different account balances
Instead of using Mint or any of the other online money management software, I just use what Bofa provides right within my online account. I can track account balances in my checking, saving, ING, TRowePrice, Scottrade, Lending Club, MyPoints, airline/rail miles, American Express points, and much more. All for free.
Banking by mail is actually pretty easy
I was a little worried about doing most of my banking by mail (sending in checks, etc), but it has been pretty flawless so far. I do drive any really large checks up to the bank branch itself to make the deposit, but most of the time I use the mail. And when I need cash, I just get cash back at the grocery store, avoiding all the ATM fees that banks like to charge.
I really would like to enjoy that hometown banking experience that so many people have in their communities, but it just doesn’t make sense for us right now. My mom uses a hometown bank, and they actually charge her if she uses her debit card. What kind of nonsense is that? For now I will stick with a big bank with the features I want that doesn’t charge me an arm and a leg to “let” me do my banking with them.
So, what would you have done if you had moved here? Do you have a choice where you live? Is it worth it to you to pay a sizable monthly fee to bank at a small local bank rather than a bigger one? Where do you bank and why? Let me know in the comments!