Goodbye, old bank

For a long time, I’ve been thinking about switching banks.  I’ve had my money in an international bank for almost a decade, when I first started working in New York City.  I chose a place that was around the corner from the bookstore where I worked.  My choice was also based on the fact that they had lots of ATM’s, and I hate the idea of paying fees.  It came in handy to have a bank with locations in Australia, England, and Amsterdam, I went to all those places and took cash out with ease.

But then a thing happened.  The economy went to shit.  And my super international bank, that saved me who knows how many tens of dollars in fees over the years got a bailout.  And they started charging me little fees here and there, like when in desperate circumstances I had to get cash from an alien ATM.  And even though they have a handful of branches here in the Hudson Valley and a catchy marketing plan touting how well they know the locals, they’re not really local.  The same goes for the banks that are holding my two credit cards.

So today, after a year of knowing it was time for a change, I finally got up and opened an account with a local bank.  They’re so local, they even have “Hudson Valley” in their name.  And they’re not a bank.  They’re a credit union.  They donate money locally, and many of their employees are loyal donors and volunteers for the very non-profit where I work.  In fact, my new bank is Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union.  And it helping inspire me to take this step was the Move Your Money campaign on the Huffington Post.  I usually don’t like being told to do like that, but I was thinking about it anyway.

I haven’t opened a new checking account since the ‘aughts, and it took no time at all.  I showed my license, made up a PIN, gave ’em a fiver for the new account, and walked out with five starter checks and a new debit card.  (Although just today I learned some interesting stuff about how those really work.)  Cliff Notes version: Visa always wins.  The next step is to go in there with my credit card statements and move those balances over to an institution that won’t raise my rate to 28% because I paid the bill late one day late.  (On five separate occasions.  Despite my best efforts to alert myself…)

The only drawback I see is that I’ll have to think ahead if I want cash without an ATM fee if I happen to be somewhere other than the Hudson Valley.  So I have to plan ahead.  I think I can handle it.

If you need inspiration, check out this clever mash-up of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and a buy local movement.  And then go find your local bank!

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7 responses to this post.

  1. You have a great site here. I have a site myself where people come from around the world to debate on popular issues. I’d like to exchange links with you to help spread some traffic around between us. If you would like to, please leave a comment under my “Compadres” page letting me know when you’ve added my link and I’ll return the favor.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jason
    DEBATEitOUT.com

  2. The way I handle banking when I’m somewhere where I can’t find my ATMs is that I just get cashback at a store. You can’t take out a ton of cash, but you can get money if you forget to plan ahead. And you don’t have to pay a fee!

    Everyone I know up there uses HVCU and loves it! I even have some friends who work there.

  3. Our bank got changed over several years ago when Citibank sold off all their Western NY branches. At the time, I was really annoyed, but I love our bank now. It was a happy accident. And over the past few years, we’ve built up a nice relationship with the people in our local branch. That makes a HUGE difference. It’s nice to have an actual conversation with an actual person when there’s an issue.

    I hope your new bank works out well!

  4. Posted by Jennifer M. on January 7, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Awesome actions! As for the ATM issue, see if your CU participates in the CU service centers – basically you can use other CU ATMs and (and even branches for deposits and withdrawals!) without fees. Or be like me and never ever seem to have cash on hand.

    I’ve been thinking of joining a credit union because in about 2 years I want to buy a new car (mine’s already 11 years old) and with a CU they often have good loan rates and/or belong to UBS so you get pre-negotiated prices. I’ve been researching 2 – one I can join as an alum of my grad school and one I can join based on my county of residence.

  5. My bank has a branch in the grocery store, which is nice. I don’t have to make an extra stop if I have a check to deposit.

    The ATM thing doesn’t really enter my mind anymore. I almost never have cash anymore — you’re right, Visa always wins.

  6. I belong to a local credit union, and it belongs to an affiliate of credit unions, and I can use my ATM card almost anywhere and not pay fees. And if I do happen to use an ATM that charges a fee, my CU reimburses me. Yay, credit unions!

  7. I keep meaning to switch banks too, and the “Move Your Money” campaign is reminding me I really need to do that. Know what happened when I ran their little search engine to find a local bank they recommend, though? They recommended the same damn bank I’m already a member of. Grr. I need to look into credit unions. I don’t really know how the fees there work, and I don’t think I could deal with having to go to a branch instead of doing things online, but surely some credit unions must have online banking, right? I hope?

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