Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Services Available at One Small Bank

Last night, I was watching a video about the Move Your Money campaign that included a MSNBC clip in which the interrogators made some denigrating remarks about the level of services provided by community banks. The individual from MYM did not dispute these claims, which were in fact, not true; or at least, not necessarily true.

My wife and I are members of Mutual Security Credit Union.
  • I don't know when they started online banking at MSCU, but I've had online web access to my account since I opened it in 2002. At that time, when I left Bank of America for MSCU, online banking was only available at BofA by paying a monthly fee and using a proprietary online-banking software client. There was no web access possible.
  •  Online bill payment scheduling has always been available at MSCU -- free, as in "free beer." In 2002, online bill payment through my former bank was also fee-based.
  •  I have two accounts at MSCU, my wife has two and her two sons each have an account. We can move money among our various accounts at will, through the online interface. For example, Anne handles most of our bills and I buy groceries. I "reimburse" myself for the weekly grocery buy by logging into her bill-paying account and transferring the money for groceries from the bill-paying account to my account. If one of the boys needs to borrow money, Anne transfers it directly from her account to his. When he wants to pay it back (hey, it could happen!), he transfers it directly. My check is auto-deposited into my account; Anne helps herself by transferring a set amount of it into the bill-paying account.
  • You can move money between accounts over the phone by using MSCU's automated phone service, in the same way you can move it via the web interface.
  • My ATM card is VISA-based and I've used it all over the country. Of course, I pay a fee -- if I use it for cash at a machine. It seems to me that people who complain about ATM fees ought instead to look at their cash usage patterns. I don't pay a fee if I used the card to buy gas in Tulsa or pay the restaurant bill in Daytona Beach. The solution to the fee issue is, figure out your cash needs in advance, get the cash you need; don't keep hitting the ATM for dribs and drabs of money! When I travel on business, I get my cash before I leave and I almost never have to pony up $2-$3 for a refill. When we go on family trips, Anne gets the cash for expenses ahead of time, as well.
  • You can get almost all the help you need with your accounts through the online message system that is built into your account management interface.
  • MSCU provides credit cards, a full line of loans (auto, mortgage, home equity &c), investments. You can apply for mortgage, auto and equity loans online.
  • Our statements are "e-statements," emailed to us each month.
  • The only service that big banks provide that MSCU doesn't provide, is the opportunity to write a letter to Cardmember Services in Delaware when you have a problem with your account.
Of course, if you're thinking about changing banks, you have to shop for services just like you would shop for features in a new car, or for amenable design in a new house.  But the canard that you're sacrificing "services" by going small is easily refutable.   And, it should have been refuted on MSNBC by the MYM spokesperson.


  1. I would love to get away from BofA. Their customer service stinks. Not a lot of small banks left here. We have an account with Oregon Community Credit Union, but they closed the only local branch. They are based in Eugene. :-(

  2. hola,

    Credit Union National Association (CUNA)

    This outfit seems to have reasonable services: Advantis Credit Union. But you can search through a good-sized list ginned up by that locator.

    This is the locator from Move Your Money:

    IRA Bank Ratings Search Results for 97210

    I had BofA when they were just a west-coast bank. They sucked then. They still suck. It'd be great to see them forced off of that gov't teat, make them small enough that they aren't "too big to fail."


  3. Ooo, thanks for the info.
    Yes, they do, in fact, still suck.
    What's more, our mortgage is through The Bank Formerly Known as Washington Mutual. Had we known then that we'd be saddled with Chase, we would have run screaming.

  4. Ah, Chase. Yes, they will occupy a special place in Dante's Inferno. I believe they currently have a class-action lawsuit pending against them.

    Funny, I just saw a BofA commercial bragging up their "free online billpaying." What a hoot -- late to the party, folks. I find it especially ridiculous because I can't schedule recurring payments on my BofA credit card account. I can schedule a one-time payment only. I only have that card because it's through Working Assets, and for each use of the card, a donation is made to orgs like Planned Parenthood. WA should rethink their card issuer.