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American Banks


arkel

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I'm not sure if I'm posting this in the right sub-forum, but I'm curious about (literally) The Bank.

The odds are that I will be moving to the U.S. pretty soon, and I was wondering if anyone had any advice about choosing banks. Are there any good online resources? Do you have any positive/negative experiences with banks?

Are all the major banks pretty much the same? Do any of them have special services for students (free accounts, free cheques, etc.)?

I'm just curious because my current bank (in spite of what their website might say) has dreadful customer service, which has resulted in a lot of frustration. I'll definitely be doing some of my own research in the coming months, but I thought it might be good to get an insider's perspective.

Thanks :)

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I think you're best resource might be the university you will be attending! My small college offered a lot of resources for undergrads when it came to banks and the like. They even had a deal with a local credit union (like a free savings account when you open a checking one).

As for my experiences with banks, I am with a federal credit union for state employees (through my mom). They've been nothing but helpful when I've had problems arise. My boyfriend has had serious problems with his national bank and recently switched to a new one.

Definitely do research. Some banks will offer accounts without fees if you deposit a certain amount at once. But like I said at first, ask around at your university or attend a merchant/vendors fair during orientation.

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my experience with US banks has been very good so far. am an int'l student, and opened my bank account within a week of arriving at my university. my university is pretty big, so it has a bank-branch inside campus area. i am sure most big schools do. opening the accounts (checking, savings) was free, and most if not all banks will charge you nothing for opening bank accounts. also, i don't think most banks charge you for getting new check books, but each bank might have its own sets of rules, and you might want to double check. most banks also have online resources, so e-managing money should help you save time, commute to the bank, etc. i never have had any credit-related problems (such as bank card theft, loss, overdraft, bounced checks, etc), so i can't speak from that angle. but whenever i needed a bank card replacement for whatever reason, the service has been great. and most american banks are good about issues related with customer relations. i have found most banks to be very cordial and helpful whenever needed. but other people here might have different opinion.

while choosing bank, it is important to choose one with many branches. wells fargo is mostly in the western and midwest parts of the US, US bank is almost everywhere but the number of branches is little sparse in out-of-the-way states, bank of america is another good one with a good spreadout frequency. chase bank is also gaining momentum lately. and there are more, which i can't remember. you can withdraw cash from atm of any bank, using your bank's card, but there is a nominal fee (around 3-5$ per transaction i believe).

hope this helps!

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Most of the banks around here are pretty much the same, most offer free checking accounts. Just be careful of those that require you to have a line of credit (in case of an overdraft) and charge you a fee for it. My husband ended up owing the bank money because they kept taking the fee out of his zero balance and charging the fee for the line of credit against his line of credit. Ridiculous! I think they are the only bank in our area that does this, so he didn't have a problem finding a different one that had totally free checking. I agree about most large schools having a bank branch on campus. Mine does and it also has its own credit union.

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I prefer small, local banks and credit unions; the big ones tend to be very fee-heavy and not really care about us little people.

You may want to ask your supervisor, or ask her/him to put you in touch with current grad students, to see what their experiences are, in terms of local banking options. Some areas will have much more selection than others; unlike some countries not every bank is a nationwide bank. There are small, regional and nationwide banks.

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I agree with Henry and Gunner. The largest banks all have patchy records--- I had a series of very bad experiences with a certain unnamed bank (but it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to guess which one... they're the national one with all the class-action lawsuits filed against them), and pulled all of my money into a Local Credit Union. Not only is the service better, the account is actually free (whereas with the-bank-which-shall-not-be-spoken-of charged nearly $10 a month for the privilege of screwing up my accounts). So I would strongly recommend local credit unions--- one affiliated with your school if possible (and it usually is).

The only downside to these banks is that they are, well, local. Travelling can then pose challenges. I have a credit card which works for this, but bear in mind that if you travel even within the US, many of the local banks might not have the same kind of "reach" as the nationals. So, when you get a checking account--- make sure you can obtain a debit card, or an ATM card which is backed by Visa/Mastercard/etc.... this way, even when you are out of town, you can use ATMS and still have remote access to your account.

Hope this helps.

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Thanks, Gunner, Henry, and nescafe! That does help a lot!

My problems here are with a big national bank as well, and it makes a lot of sense to look into local credit unions.

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Welcome. One of the big benefits of a big corporate bank is convenience- they have branches/ATMs in every city, which is nice for people who travel a lot. Chances are, as a grad student you'll be pretty much staying put, so I don't see a compelling reason to put up with all the crap they pull :P

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Welcome. One of the big benefits of a big corporate bank is convenience- they have branches/ATMs in every city, which is nice for people who travel a lot. Chances are, as a grad student you'll be pretty much staying put, so I don't see a compelling reason to put up with all the crap they pull :P

crap like...?

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crap like...?

A good example of "crap": http://www.consumerismcommentary.com/bank-of-america-settles-overdraft-fee-lawsuit/

Another example of said crap (same bank, different suite, for the same issue): http://jurist.org/paperchase/2011/02/bank-of-america-settles-excessive-overdraft-fee-lawsuit.php

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very interesting. didn't know of this policy the banks adopt. perhaps because i haven't suffered yet. will definitely keep this in mind if i decide to switch banks or open a new account. regardless, smart money managing is required no matter the size of the bank.

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I have been very happy with my credit union, PSECU. This one happens not to have any physical branches, but I prefer internet banking anyway.

Credit unions do have restrictions on who can apply, but they often quite lenient.

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Please explain to me: With an ATM-card from Bank X, I can only use ATMs in branches of Bank X?!? Then what's the sense of an ATM-card anyway, if I can't use it to get money when I need it? That's really strange to me... With my foreign card I can use any ATM in any country in the world* - and of course all ATMs (no matter which bank operates them) in my country.

(* ok, well, I'm not entirely sure of that; but until now I just used it whereever I needed it and I've never had any problems in Europe - no extra charges - and in Asia and North America, where I had to pay extra charges for the exchange to the local currency when I used the ATM)

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Please explain to me: With an ATM-card from Bank X, I can only use ATMs in branches of Bank X?!? Then what's the sense of an ATM-card anyway, if I can't use it to get money when I need it? That's really strange to me... With my foreign card I can use any ATM in any country in the world* - and of course all ATMs (no matter which bank operates them) in my country.

with atm card from bank X, you can use in ATMs of banks a-z (all banks and credit unions - credit unions are down-sized version of big banks, and are locally operated, in most cases) but there is a charge. last time i checked, it was 3$ per transaction. so for example, if you have atm card (often called debit/bank card in the US) from bank A, you can use it to withdraw cash from ATMs of any other bank, but your account will be charged 3$ - no matter how much you withdrew. therefore, i see it is as a wise option to open account in a big bank. if you do online banking, you won't be dealing with bank people very much, so the PR problems as mentioned above shouldn't really bother you that much.

and of course, you can use american banks' atm cards all over the world.. last summer i visited few countries in the europe, and i went home as well (nepal) and was able to use the cards with nominal fee. i was not very happy to spend those extra $ but it was convenient.

Edited by bhikhaari
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thanks bhikhaari for the explanation... I didn't know that there was a fee even if you use an ATM in the same country (but from another bank), since I don't pay a fee all over Europe (except for the countries who don't have EURO currency). I guess I'll be getting a credit/debit card anyway, so I could use it when I'm somewhere where there's no ATM from my bank or if I don't want to spend 3 dollars for nothing.

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... I didn't know that there was a fee even if you use an ATM in the same country (but from another bank)..

some banks might have mutual policies that allow fee-less ATM withdrawals if the transaction is made in ATMs of those participating banks, but for most part, this isn't true... i don't know of any banks so far that follow this, to be honest.

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A lot of credit unions actually have those kinds of deals with other credit unions, to extend their "reach". Even though my credit union only has physical branches in part of my state, if I go online I can give a zip code and find out where there are a ton of free ATMs anywhere in the country.

A large ATM network is not a reason to choose a large bank over a credit union. If you really need cash that often (why not just use your bank card?), almost every business offers cash back on purchases. I can go to the grocery store, buy a pack of gum, and get cash from them.Or, just go use one of the many free ATMs that your credit union probably has deals with somewhere.

Edited by breakfast
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A large ATM network is not a reason to choose a large bank over a credit union. If you really need cash that often (why not just use your bank card?), almost every business offers cash back on purchases. I can go to the grocery store, buy a pack of gum, and get cash from them.Or, just go use one of the many free ATMs that your credit union probably has deals with somewhere.

Well said! The banks would have you believe that's a good reason to use them over a credit union.

And a credit union is not just a down-sized bank...it's actually owned and operated by it's members (like me..!). They are very different. And there is no set cost for ATM fees....they can range from $.50 to $3.00, depending on the ATMs owner (the bank, gas station, etc.)

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I agree with Henry and Gunner. The largest banks all have patchy records--- I had a series of very bad experiences with a certain unnamed bank (but it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to guess which one... they're the national one with all the class-action lawsuits filed against them), and pulled all of my money into a Local Credit Union. Not only is the service better, the account is actually free (whereas with the-bank-which-shall-not-be-spoken-of charged nearly $10 a month for the privilege of screwing up my accounts). So I would strongly recommend local credit unions--- one affiliated with your school if possible (and it usually is).

The only downside to these banks is that they are, well, local. Travelling can then pose challenges. I have a credit card which works for this, but bear in mind that if you travel even within the US, many of the local banks might not have the same kind of "reach" as the nationals. So, when you get a checking account--- make sure you can obtain a debit card, or an ATM card which is backed by Visa/Mastercard/etc.... this way, even when you are out of town, you can use ATMS and still have remote access to your account.

Hope this helps.

As far as I know, all (at least most) credit unions are linked. As a credit union member, I can use the ATM of any other credit union without penalty. 7-Eleven also has a deal with credit unions, so you can use their ATMs without a surcharge (I have even used my ATM card at 7-Elevens in foreign countries without penalty). Granted, this network of ATMs probably still won't offer the same convenience as a larger chain. Nonetheless, it is never too hard for me to find an ATM that I can use.

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