Why I Still Bank with Bank of America
When we moved from New Jersey to Virginia last September, we had to make a lot of changes after settling down in the new place. Among the first things I did was updating our new address with banks, credit card issuers, and mutual fund companies. This didn’t take too much time because all can be done online. Of course, we also had to get new accounts for internet, phone, gas and electricity. However, one thing that we didn’t have to change, one that I consider as the most important one, was our bank account. We used Bank of American in New Jersey. Here in Virginia, there are plenty of BofA branches, one is only a couple of miles from where we live, so we got to keep using our old checking account.
In the past, the idea of switching our checking account from a B&M bank to an online bank that also pays interests for the money in the account (like ING Electric Orange) occurred more than once. However, it was given up almost immediately because to me, changing a checking account is not as easy as going back and forth among savings accounts which I have done quite frequently. I have been with BofA for more than 13 years. Though it took a couple of mergers to become a customer eventually, I have never needed to change anything, except the name of the bank. I also moved a few times in NJ, but there was never a problem finding a BofA office nearby.
It’s really not that I have to use the bank, or that it offers something unique I can’t find with other banks. Rather, it’s the convenience of keeping using the same bank even when we moved 250 miles to another state. BofA isn’t just the bank where we can withdraw cash from the ATM machine. It is actually the center of our personal financial system. For all those year with the bank, I have tied pretty much everything to our checking account with BofA, from our direct deposits to dozens investments accounts (including both mutual fund companies and online brokers), from credit card bills to utility payments. Basically, every payment we made, whether it’s a bill or investment, came out of our checking account with BofA and every income goes into it. Imagine what will happen if I have to replace the heart of our financial system. It’s not that it isn’t doable, but it will be a mess and the real question is whether such an operation is worth it or not. So far, my answer is No.
I recently came across articles on Consumerism Commentary and Bargaineering about supporting community banks. The argument of staying away from the big guys like Bank of America is that they, on one hand, took billions of dollars taxpayer money to stay alive while, on the other hand, using the money to clean up their balance sheets and rewarding executives with 7-figure bonuses afterward, instead of lending the money out as they were supposed to do to help the economy and consumers who suffered from credit card debts and/or mortgage defaults. While I agree with the argument, I think I will make my decision whether to keep doing business with big banks like BofA based on my own experience. Since I became a BofA customer, I never had any issue with the bank (the only time I had to call them the first time in years was when I had the issue with Ally Bank about bank transfers last summer) because I have kept a simple relationship with them. What I mean simple is that I put money in the bank, I use it to pay bills, all done automatically, and I always keep enough fund in the account to make sure there will be no returned check or overdraft fee or anything. Without any major issue with the bank, I don’t see the reason of abandoning it.
BTW, when we moved to VA, I noticed that PNC Bank also has presence here, which meant I didn’t have to switch business account either. Isn’t it convenient to bank with national banks which have branches and ATMs everywhere?
Photo credit: nazret.com
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