Banks and Credit Unions

Parent Q&A

A service-oriented bank in berkeley? Oct 23, 2020 (2 responses below)
Credit Union, East Bay branch preferred Jun 9, 2018 (7 responses below)
Credit union referral Mar 21, 2018 (2 responses below)
Does anyone else store extra money in savings? Jul 9, 2016 (7 responses below)
  • A service-oriented bank in berkeley?

    (2 replies)

    I opened a Mechanics Bank account some years ago because of their reputation as an independent and service-oriented bank. That's changed over the years, so I'm looking for a new bank.  I need it to be in Berkeley and to have safe deposit boxes available. Thanks for any recommendations.

    WE love Bank of the West. Great people, good service. Don't know if they have safety deposit boxes

    We switched from Mechanics for the same reason- to Fremont Bank.  Their customer service is beyond excellent.  We work with Faridah in the Rockridge office. She always knows who we are when we call or come in and makes us feel like valued clients of the bank.  They also do the ATM reimbursement like Mechanics used to do.  

  • Credit Union, East Bay branch preferred

    (7 replies)

    Please send me your referrals for a reliable, customer/member-oriented credit union in the Bay Area. I would like the following: a branch in Berkeley, Albany, or El Cerrito (if the credit union is amazing, Oakland is fine too); optimally no fee for ATM use; savings account options that pay decent interest (a long shot, I know).

    I was planning on going with Patelco, and had heard good things in the past, but when I read some recent reviews, it sounds like the bank has taken a nosedive in the customer service department the past couple of years. Thank you.

    I've been very happy with Provident Credit Union and its customer service. I know they have a branch in Alameda; I'm not sure where else in the East Bay. If you work in SF, they also have a couple of branches near the Financial District. You can use ATMs without a fee at any of the partner credit unions, and if you get the Super Reward Checking and meet the requirements every month, they'll refund any fees you incur at non-network ATMs. I don't have a savings account there, but the dividends paid on the Super Reward Checking account are fantastic (I typically get a dividend of between $30-40 each month). 

    We are longtime Patelco customers and have had minimal problems with their customer service over the years--I actually think it's one of their assets. When there have been issues, it's usually been around younger staff learning how to do things (e.g., accidentally opening up duplicate accounts), and they've always been very gracious about fixing it. My main issue with Patelco is that their online interface leaves much to be desired (despite a series of recent updates). But it's usable, and I rarely have to go into a branch or call them. I also use Provident Credit Union for business and am happy with them, too, although they are more limited in what you can do online (despite, ironically, having a much better interface for this!) But their nearest branch is in Alameda, which is a pain. Both credit unions have good rates on savings (2-3%) if you have the right accounts. We belonged to USE in the past and did not have a good experience with them--they just kept making errors and while they'd cheerfully fix them, I'd have to call every other month, and was over it before too long.

    I have not met a Credit Union that I did not like, and I am a member of three of them. My current favorite is First United Services Credit Union, which began in the basement of the Alameda county Courthouse for county employees, and has since expanded to branches near the Berkeley YMCA and by the Rockridge Safeway, as well as the courthouse. I have my mortgage with 1st USE, and have recommended others who like it fine. My second favorite is USE Credit Union with its branch on Shattuck near the Staples store, which makes a convenient place to park, especially if you need paper or pens. My oldest, but now last, credit union is sadly, the Cooperative Credit Union, the last dying vestige of the once thriving and popular Consumer Coop movement of the idealistic times.

  • Credit union referral

    (2 replies)

    I have wanted to shift over to a local credit union for many years, but it has always remained a task buried beneath more urgent ones. I am finally ready to pursue it more proactively. Can people recommend local credit unions that they have good experiences with? Free checking with no minimum would be nice, as would friendly staff, overall user-friendly and relatively transparent policies, etc. Thank you.

    RE: Credit union referral ()

    We've been with USE for the last 6 years. No complaints. Don't use the branch much, but got a used car loan with them and they were helpful and friendly. 

    RE: Credit union referral ()

    We’ve been doing nearly all our banking with Patelco for a while. We’ve never paid a penny in fees and get cash back on our credit card. I have only been in a branch a couple times, but they were pretty friendly. 

  • I've been looking for options for money that I've socked away in my Savings Account. I was told after I've saved 3-6 months worth of income, any dollar more in my savings loses money. (yuck) I asked several of my friends the same question and they at least admitted to having the same problem!

    So in case others have the same issue, here's what I found. Def not an exhaustive list but was enough for me to make a move. 

    CD -- super safe, makes 1-2%. Better than savings, although not by much. Penalty for taking your money out early so make sure you don't need the $$ anytime soon.

    Earn Account -- supported by Treasury Department, makes 3%. I like the fact it supports local and women-led businesses. You determine when you want to take $$ out.

    Ally Savings Account -- online bank that offers 1%. Can access your money without issue by transferring it to another account.

    Good luck and let me know if you find other options! 

    Try one of the Internet banks or investment companies like Weathfront.  The first $10 or $15 K is free.

    Any dollar money more in savings loses money because of inflation, which historically runs around 2-3% per year. Unfortunately, none of the options you listed are actually better than inflation, and would not be a good place to store your money in the long-term. (The math is simple, just take the interest rate and subtract inflation to get the "real" interest rate. So a 1% ally savings account means your money would have -1% to -2% real interest per year, so it would actually still lose value every year.)

    Best two questions to ask: what is this extra money used for? When do you need it? That will determine what kind of investment you need. If you just want to save the money and you don't need it for more than five years, put it into a mutual fund (preferably a passive index fund). Stock market returns average about 9% historically; after inflation, this means your money doubles almost every ten years, which is hard to beat. Unfortunately, in any given year the stock market can do crazy things, which is why this is some place to park your money only if you don't need it soon (also, many mutual funds have restrictions on withdrawals). If you need the money for a down payment within a few years, then you should pick something like a high-interest savings account (or a CD if you are absolutely sure you only will need it after a set number of years). Sure, you may still lose some value in your money, but over just a few years it won't affect much, you'll be protected from a bad year on the stock market (which is the most important thing), and you'll be able to withdraw when you need it.

    I have this exact problem and have been wondering what to do for months. Thanks for posting!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Recommendations for Banks and Credit Unions Banks and Kids Problems with Banks Related Pages

2011 - 2012 Reviews

Credit Union with good online mobile services

Oct 2012

I read the archives but would like recommendations of credit unions specific to my needs. In the wake of the occupy movement last year, we switched from big bank B of A to a local credit union. I didn't do much research and am finally frustrated with the lack of technology at the Cooperative Federal Credit Union (corner of Ashby and MLK in Berkeley). I can't use because of an antiquated security code system to log into the bank accounts so my info doesn't upload automatically, I've had tons of errors on online bill pay, couldn't access my electronic statement on a mac, online bill pay doesn't do e-payments only checks, etc, etc... the list goes on and on. Problem is, it is the closest to our house and most convenient. Can anyone recommend a local credit union that would still allow me to use the ATM at this branch for free? AND that has good technology and mobile banking services? I rarely use the teller...just need to get cash weekly and deposit checks occasionally. Maybe patelco? UGH...I'm dreading doing all the work to switch again, but this is driving me nuts. Moving my money....again!

If you are open to something that's not a credit union, I've been really happy with Mechanics Bank. They are a local bank, they have full online banking services, and (awesomeness) *they reimburse you for ATM fees*! So if you use an ATM from another bank/ credit union, Mechanics Bank not only doesn't charge you, but they reimburse any fee that the other bank charges you. Happy local banker
First tech federal cu. was Addison ave, before that HP. Have banked with them for nearly 20 years. Great bank!!! Have done car loans, mortgage loans, regular checking and savings. You can use mint. They are always improving their mobile banking 'stuff'. Free ATM usage - but there are limited ATMs for deposits (mostly south bay). Love my cu!
We use Golden1. They used to be only for State Employees but are now open to everyone. I do all my banking online and they do have a mobile app now too. the system works well and I have never had any problems. They are part of the network and easy to find ATMs with no charge. Golden 1 customer
We also switched from BofA to a credit union - Patelco Credit Union and I love it. They have mobile deposits (take that BofA! They also have online/scan deposits) respond to emails and works with You can also use atms at any 7/11 (even make deposits!) free of charge along with any other credit union's atms (I think they need to be part of the credit union coop?) As well as Bank of the West atms/banks. We even refinanced our car with them too. It was formerly with Wells Fargo. We were able to lower our rate and monthly payments considerably.

When I do go into the branch (downtown Oakland) I really feel as though I am a member. They remember me and my kids. It helps that they have a teeny kid area too. Good luck! Patelco Member

I have Patelco that works with and seems to have good mobile banking. So far so good. For future reference, you can see which atms are available with your credit union at I still mostly use my childhood credit union from Oregon and can use Cooperative, and virtually all other credit unions in the country, for free. Patelco also lets you use Bank of the West which is nice. L
I've been happy with Patelco since they bought Cal State 9 a few years back. The online services are good and they have a new Android app that you can use to transfer funds, check balances, and even make a deposit by taking a picture of the check (haven't tried this yet). You'll be able to use the CFCU ATM at MLK and Ashby (and at the Berkeley Bowl) for free, along with pretty much any other credit union ATM. happy camper
We have been with Patelco for about a year and have had no complaints. Their iPhone app works well and allows mobile deposits, so you won't have to visit a branch to make deposits. I find their website easy to use and offers all the features I expect (bill pay, etc.) I used to live very close to the Cooperative FCU, so I know they are on the same credit union network. (The ATM in Berkeley Bowl is much newer and better than the one at the credit union, by the way.) I don't know how it works with - I know I wasn't able to use with my Bank of America account when I tried a couple years ago, so it isn't just a credit union problem. We have a credit card with them as well and therefore qualify as a ''commitment household,'' which has some perks that we haven't yet taken advantage of. We get 1% cash back on our card, which is nice. Banks make a lot more profit off credit cards than small checking accounts, so you'll want to think about switching those too. Laura
I highly recommend Patelco. We switched for the same reasons you mention about a year ago and it has been a very positive experience. The branch on Shattuck Sq. is decent, and their mobile and online banking capabilities are great, rivaling that of Wells Fargo et al. Melissa
I highly recommend Provident Credit Union. You can use credit unions within the Co-Op network for branch services like deposits, money orders, etc. You can do the whole phone photo check deposit thing, too, if you like. I usually just mail my checks in for deposit. You can issue on-line checks and bill pay. And best of all, they will refund you ATM fees for using an out of system ATM. Yep- use whatever McBank ATM you like- no charge. They also actually pay interest on their checking accounts. I've had them for years- excellent customer service, and the lack of an actual branch near me has never been an issue. I honestly don't why anyone uses a big bank when you can support a non-profit community lender- Provident makes it so easy. Kris

SF or East Bay credit union

Oct 2012

We're looking for a new credit union, preferably based in (and with branch and ATM access in) San Francisco (FiDi would be awesome) or Oakland/Berkeley. We've been with Technology Credit Union for umpteen years, but their not having branches anywhere near SF or the East Bay, combined with the recent board attempt to convert the CU to a bank have prompted a search for something better... One good thing about Tech CU was their being part of a big CU network, so there were a fair number of ATMs downtown that we could use. Any CU we switch to would need to be part of that. Thanks! Need a new CU

Hiya! I just posted my response regarding Patelco Credit Union to another poster's question. Patelco has branches in SF (close to FiDi too - 2nd street, I believe) AND the East Bay - but you can also use atms at 7/11, Bank of the West and other credit unions that are part of the co-op network. They have mobile & online capabilities. I have never deposited a check in person and only occasionally at an atm (at 7/11!). I predominately use their online and mobile apps. Patelco Member
We have been happy with Patelco. They are one of the larger credit unions in the area, so they have 40 branches in the area, including downtown Oakland, downtown Berkeley, and the Financial District. They are also part of a big credit union network. However, we haven't had easy reason to visit a branch since we joined, since we can take care of all our banking online. Laura
Just a repeat of a shout-out for Provident Credit Union. Excellent customer service, use any ATM you want (ANY- big bank, 7-11, whatever)- no charge, earn interest on your checking account, easy on-line services. Use any Co-Op network credit union for branch services. I can't recommend Provident more highly. As far as I know, there's only one branch in the East Bay- out by the Oakland Airport, and then 2 in SF (in Chinatown and in the federal building)- so you might have to go out of your way to actually open your account. But after that- couldn't be easier. Kris

Interest-earning account with easy access?

May 2012

We'd like to put most of our tax refund in some kind of account until the cash is needed to pay property taxes (December and April). We'd love to earn a little interest and also have the money be very easy to withdraw when we need it. Any recommendations? Could be a brick-and-mortar, or online institution, I suppose, as long as you've had good experiences with it. Thanks! Trying to be better with money

We love ING - we've had online accounts with them for several years and they pay a decent interest rate (for a savings or checking account) and is super easy to access - you can pay bills online, withdraw money fee-free through Allpoint ATMs, use your ATM at the grocery store and get cash back, write paper checks, whatever you need. They've just added the ability to deposit checks using your smartphone, too. Saver
The good news is you can open up a brokerage account with many brokerages which have no yearly fees, and in an individual account you could have access to the funds very quickly (in around 3 days depending on what they are invested in.) The bad news is in such a low rate environment there are very few products which will give you a decent return without assuming some risk. If you have no risk tolerance at all your best bet may be to find a moneymarket fund returning around 1%. If you are willing to assume a little risk you could safely earn somewhere around 3-4%. Feel free to email me if you would want further information about different brokerages and what to look for if you decide to invest it. David

Good Credit Union or Community Bank in Berk Oak?

Feb 2012

I just read that the city of Berkeley was pulling their $300 million dollars out of Wells Fargo. I'm ready to move my money out of that Big Bank as well. Anyone have a good experience with a community bank or credit union? I'm looking for good ATM access, good customer service and would love if I can find one with a credit card. Thanks! Sara

I can recommend Patelco Credit Union. We switched over late last year and I have no complaints. I have emailed them a few times because I hate calling and have always received quick responses. The local branch I signed up with also remembered me when I was pregnant when I had to come in for my work's HSA account before I switched over, so that was nice. They have credit cards, a debit rewards program ($25/annually) and have ample locations (bank of west, 7-11 atms are included) - they state at least 34,000 nationwide. However, I hardly if ever, go to the atm. I make deposits online (using my printer/scanner) and although they do have an online bill pay - I haven't used it - instead I use the bill recipient's online system and use patelco's routing number. I also plan to re-finance our auto loan (wells fargo) so that I am only dealing with Patelco -moved our money
We recently made the switch from B of A to the Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union (main branch is at corner of Ashby and MLK in Berkeley) and I am SO glad we did. It feels great to not give big banks my money anymore. We went through a short sale of a property in Florida with B of A and after that hellish experience, I will never give them my business again. The Co-op FCU was more than willing to give us a credit card with NO annual fee to help us rebuild our credit AND approved us for a car loan with a great interest rate, right after we became members. The customer service has been great for the most part. Here are my pros and cons:

- High interest checking account (2% interest)
- ATM access at 7-11 stores and at almost any other credit union atm. if you have the high interest checking account you can even use big bank ATMs and they will refund you the fees on your statement each month.
- MUCH more community oriented- they give loans and credit based on relationship- they can take into account your specific situation and overlook things like the short sale on our credit report since we have perfect credit and NO debt otherwise.
- Still have online billpay and online account access just like B of A

- sometimes you have to wait to do things while the bank is open rather than there being a 1-800 number you can call (for example, to activate your credit or debit card when it arrives, order checks, etc.)
- the online banking system and bill pay seems not as ''flashy'' as B of A...not sure how to describe it but it just seems like an older system or something. but it works, so I don't care.

Really, the pros far outweigh the cons. Go for it! Their website is
- Keeping my money local and not-for-profit

I love Mechanics Bank. They have very few ATMs of their own, but they refund the fees other banks charge to use their ATMs. heidipie

Good bank for home equity line of credit

Jan 2012

College tuition is coming up in the fall, and it's time for me to think about opening a home equity line of credit for college expenses. Any ideas for a good place to go to or avoid for this? Is a line of credit done with a loan broker or directly with a bank, usually, or how? Your ideas will be welcome and much appreciated! soon to be empty nester with empty pockets

I have a HELOC with BofA, which I was lucky to get in 2006 before the economy, and my self-employment income, tanked. The interest rate is below 3%. A few months ago they tried to lower the credit limit ''because home values in [my] neighborhood had plummeted,'' which was B.S. When I contested it, they sent an appraiser, who validated my home's value, and they promptly restored the original credit limit. I was a BofA customer at the time I applied, but don't know how much that made a difference. I explored another financial institution with whom I did business and realized I would not meet their criteria. Wherever you apply, you will have to qualify. Start getting applications from your bank, credit union, etc., and see who's a good match. Good luck! anon

Bank/credit union research

Nov 2011

So in the wake of all of the move your money/occupy coverage, I am wondering how to compare the relative merits of different banks and credit unions. There has been lot of noise about BofA and Chase, but what if I am a member of a different bank? I don't want to blindly go from my bank (which I know little about except that I have been very happy with their service) to a credit union just because ''banks are bad''. I don't even know exactly what information I should be looking for, their capitalization? total deposits? whether they sold bad mortgages? the bonus their CEO got last year? Advice please!

Sadly, most of the Berkeley credit unions are rather incompetent (check out Yelp reviews). Good news, Mechanics bank is great. Local, they donate, and are not greedy and hope-crushing like the big dogs. Good luck! Fellow Occupy Supporter

Which bank to choose?

Oct 2011

Dear BPN community, I need to ask a question about where to keep your hard earned money those days. All of you I'm sure are aware of debit card fee BofA imposing on their customers soon. Also as part of the ''Occupy Wall Street'' movement, it is suggested (and make sense to me) that people could respond to big banks by closing accounts and moving their money to local banks to support local communities. I'm quiet new to Berkeley, have my account in BofA and thinking right now about other options that would make sense. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Anon

Mechanics Bank is really great! Personal (people in my branch greet me by name). Responsive (when there was a problem with bill-pay not going through, they talked to the vendor and fixed the issue on their site). Low/no fees (they don't charge for the debit card, and don't charge for using other banks' ATMs, even in Mexico and Europe). merry
I'm a big fan of Patelco Credit Union, which is based in San Francisco with offices throughout the Bay Area, including Berkeley and Oakland. We've had a variety of accounts there for over five years and have been extremely happy with them. They have ATMs all over the place (they belong to a network of local credit unions and also partner with Bank of the West and a few others to blanket the area with fee-free options for both deposits and withdrawals) and when I've called with questions, I am quickly connected to real, competent people who can actually solve the problem---such a refreshing change! I initially chose them because they offered a good combination of progressive community outreach and solid financial standing, and we continue to be pleased with the work they do on that front. They don't have a lot of bells and whistles (e.g., very simple online interface) and can't always match the big commercial banks on interest rates (though we've found their mortgage/loan rates are terrific, as are their loan counselors), but I'm of the mind that you get what you pay for. You might also consider the many other credit unions in Berkeley---some other good contenders there as well. Happy Patelco customer!
I have been a customer of Mechanics Bank, following B of A and Wells Fargo, for at least 10 years. They are locally, privately owned, and I have been very happy with them. I bank at the N. Solano branch at Colusa. I can do many of my transactions over the internet (transfers, bill pay, etc.). coco
We recently switched to Mechanics Bank from Wells Fargo and we're very happy. They know me by sight, when I call the 800 number I get a real person and never have to go through a phone tree, and ATM fees get reimbursed. They certainly do not charge people for using their debit card!! I do online banking and bill pay and it works fine. I primarily use the branch on San Pablo near Washington but my friend uses the downtown Berkeley Branch (Shattuck near Bancroft) and he really likes the staff there too. I love that they're local. It feels like the way it used to be when I was a kid and I'd go to the bank with my parents. I highly recommend them. It can be a hassle to move your money, but be patient and give yourself a few months. Good luck! Laurel
Ally Bank is for you! I have just closed all my accounts with Wells Fargo due to the ridiculous fees they have started charging. Ally Bank is an online bank, with all guarantees, AND with interest on your checking account! Since Ally Bank has no branch, they are available 24/7 online and on the phone. You can withdraw money from any ATM at no fee. Pretty good deal, uh? I am making better use of my money now by not paying any fees (wires are free). If you want to compare other banks, I recommend and you'll see what each has to offer. Isabelle
Torrey Pines Bank is a solid smaller bank (used to be called Alta Alliance Bank). They keep their loans (meaning they don't sell them to be securitized), and more germane to you as a daily user, you can use ATMs anywhere and they will reimburse the ATM fees. Jessica

Credit Union suggestions in East Bay

Oct 2011

I am considering switching from the big banks to a credit union but don't want to jump from the pan into the fire. Help! Nori

Provident CU - I've been with them for 2 years. The only disadvantage is that they don't have many branches for the 1 or 2 times each year I need to do something in the branch. They have free interest checking accounts, free automatic bill checks, like for monthly rent, and free ATMs at any 7-11 and co-op ATMS. Roy
I've been a member of Patelco Credit Union for years. I have my personal and business checking/savings with them and have had car loans as well. I bank in Lafayette and know everyone that works there. It's not a very busy branch, so it is very personal. They have been so helpful with all kinds of issues over the years. I wouldn't dream of changing banks. Patelco Fan
I'm a member of several different East Bay credit unions: Alliant, Provident, Co-op, and Patelco.

Roughly speaking, I'd recommend them in that order. Alliant pays a relatively good interest rate on standard savings accounts and has excellent service. Provident has a special checking account that pays a higher interest rate, but for which you have to jump through some hoops. Nothing really stands out about the Co-op, but they're friendly and conveniently located for me. Patelco bought my old credit union, and I don't like them much, but they're still better than most banks.

Patelco and the Co-Op have Berkeley branches, while Provident is near the Oakland airport and Alliant is in downtown Oakland. These days, I think just about anybody can sign up for any credit union if they're willing to pay a few dollars, though if you meet certain qualifications, you may be able to sign up for free (for example, Kaiser members can join Alliant for free). Credit union member

For more than 20 years, we have been extremely satisfied with our credit union, Financial Benefits Credit Union in Alameda. Check them out! anon
Try cooperative center federal credit union in berkeley I have been a member since I was a student over 12 plus years ago and they are fantastic !!! Vanessa
We have been with Patelco for years (before it was Cal State 9) We have been very happy there and have many accounts for kids and us. We are glad to have our money in a credit union and not in one of the big banks. anon
Patelco! I can't say enough good things about them, and we have been customers for over 20 years. Claire

Good bank to use for HSA

Jan 2011

I have become eligible to open a Health Savings Account and would like to do so, but the credit union where I do my banking does not offer HSA's. I don't want to switch banks, so I'm looking for somewhere where I can just open an HSA, hopefully with a minimum of fees but with the kind of service that gets makes the transactions simple and hassle-free. I'd prefer an institution where I can do most of the transactions by mail, although I'd consider a local bank where that's not the case (I live in San Leandro). Having never done this before, and being a single parent with very little time on my hands, I'm looking for something that is reliable and easy to navigate. Have you found an HSA institution that works well for you? Thanks for your help! - New to HSA's

I have been using Falcon National Bank in MN for several years now and am very happy with their service. Clear quaterly statements, the only interest bearing svngs acct that is actually making money for me at 1.5%, midwestern politeness when I call, etc. (877)368-2265 (320)968-6300. They have checks and cards etc, but I find that with proper record keeping on my part, you don't need any of that. Just keep really good records in a file on what you contribute to the acct for which year, what expenses you write checks or use credit cards for, and since you can use last years funds for current payments, just track your total expenses to date to make sure they stay under your total contributions. Falcon also has stock accounts that you can select to transfer you HSA svngs into, which was why I went with them in the first place, but I never had time to check it out, and then with the recession I ended up having to use the $ in my acct on medical expenses (vs just saving it). Love my HSA
We have our HSA at Bank of America. It was easy to set up online, and neither good nor bad really so far - they reimbursed us fairly quickly for expenses; that's really the only interaction I've had with them. My only complaint is that it's totally separate from our other BofA accounts - I chose them thinking it would be simpler to transfer money and manage accounts, but the HSA has a totally separate login, they send us paper checks rather than just putting the money in our checking account, I must send them paper checks to fund the account, etc. Other than that small hassle, they're fine, and the fees were comparable to other institutions I looked at. Health Saver
Hi, We use Patelco just for our HSA account. There are no fees and the first small batch of checks are free. They have lots of branches, including one in downtown Berkeley. Jamie
I use Patelco credit union for HSA after another bank I was using closed their HSA program. It's great because you don't have to send any paperwork in to get the approved transactions, just pay your bill directly. RDT
I've been using for almost a year. It has been perfectly acceptable. The fees for our employee group are about $2/person/month. You get a Visa card to pay your medical bills. I make all my deposits by mail, all debits using the Visa, and check my activity online. My daughter broke her arm, so there have been tons of bills, and using the HSA Bank has been fine. -- a mom
I don't know for sure about hsa's, but a very responsive and personal banker- and her bank is the same- is Nancy McCarthy at Mechanics Bank, El Cerrito Plaza. It is a full-service low-fee, real local bank. Peter

2009 - 2010 Reviews

Credit Union Recommendations?

June 2010

I want to transfer my $ from the goliath Chase into something more local & progressive. Anyone have experience w/any of the following? 1.People's Federal Credit Union 2.Oakland Municipal Credit Union 3.Alliant Credit Union 4.Patelco 5.Provident 6.1st United Services Credit Union 7.Financial Benefits Credit Union Factors such as customer service, ease of access to branches / ATMs, access to online bill pay, rates of return on various investments are all important. Thanks! JB

I don't know why everyone doesn't have their money at Patelco. We have been there for over 20 years, and think they are wonderful. The people we have dealt with there have always been friendly and helpful, and there are fairly modest requirements for being what they call a Commitment Household. If you are a CH, you get free accounts, no ATM fees at their member branches (and that includes other locations, such as 7-Elevens and Bank of the West ATMS), free online banking (which is super easy to use and we have never had an issue with), free notary services, etc. We had a car loan with them for a while, and they set it up so was a deductible home equity loan and they matched the slightly lower rate we were offered elsewhere. I haven't tried it yet, but they even just started a new service where you can make a deposit by scanning in a check image and uploading it to them on-line. With everyone complaining about how they are treated by banks and the exorbitant fees (which I just heard are likely to go up even more, as banks eliminate most ''free'' services to make up lost revenue), it seems a no-brainer to switch to a credit union, and we have been extremely happy at Patelco. Claire

Looking for a good credit union

Dec 2009

Looking for a good credit union. Would like it to have strong: -Online Banking -Telephone Service -Low Fees Thanks for your help. nina

We really like PATELCO. I think the fees are very reasonable, and you can get cash out of any 7-11 without charge. I think the CSR in the branches is quite good, but I have had 1-2 snippy interactions over the phone. Regardless, I think you should check them out. Hate Banks

Best place to open a child's first bank acct

May 2009

I'm looking for a bank to open my child's first bank account. Something with no monthly fees and a very low minimum balance. allison

Bank of the West on Shattuck and Vine (right next to Safeway). $100 to open the account, no fees for custodial accounts for kids. Plus, they are friendly with the kids and support Cal. Bank of the West customer has AMAZING interest rates for their online checking accounts. It takes a little more work to set up than walking into a bank but if you're looking to save some for the long term, the good interest rates are worth it. No monthly fees, no minimum amount. Once you get it set up they will send you an ATM card or you can transfer money from another bank online (no fees to do so). If you're looking to set up an account for your child to go in and make deposits and learn about money, this may not be the best option but I seriously recommend looking into it. savings conscious
How about a credit union? I go to Patelco and have several account there, including one savings account I share with my daughter. anon
Hi Allison,I recommend you try ING Direct.I opened joint accounts with each of my children(since they are minors).There is no minimum balance and no fees attached. All the banking can be done over the phone or on line. It's quick and easy, no hassles.Hope this helps. Denise
We use Wells Fargo, and they have a kids saving account program and a teen checking/debit card account. There is a minimum you have to deposit each month to keep it fee-free, but they waived that because we have checking and savings with Wells. You might might want to check with your current bank. Even if they don't have an advertised kids' plan, they would most likely set one up for you because you are a customer. I had this offered to me previously by bankers at other banks I have used.
I like Bank of the West on Shattuck at Vine because it is free etc and also, right now everyone in there is pregnant and it just feels good. They all seem to love kids and it is folksier than a lot of banks... although, there is no play area... There are chairs for sit down business. Real live Security Guards... a camera where you can see yourself in line, a little parking lot, wheel chair/stroller access, ATM, not fancy but quite pleasant. They have never made a mistake with our accounts... (touch wood)
I have had savings accounts for both my children at Mechanics Bank for several years. The kids were very intrigued with the concept of interest. I have seen some good books for kids on investment, money management, etc. I like that Mechanics is a smaller, family owned, local bank. If you want higher interest, go with an ING savings account online. I have also used them for several years and it is easy to transfer money from your regular bank account to theirs and back again. No transfer fees with ING. Paypal also pays higher interest but there are fees to send the money elsewhere. kl
I think most banks allow you to open a child's saving account with no fees - especially if it's where you do your own banking. Just ask! Of course, the interest will be tiny (isn't it all, these days, though!). R,K,

Looking for a small, local bank

March 2009

With all the banks misbehaving lately, I am thinking of going more local. I don't care that much about interest, since no one is giving any these days, but I think that a credit union might be more appropriate for a small time savings and checking. I have banked with WAMU for years which bought my Great Western and has now been bought by Chase and JP Morgan. I am tired of these big fish that eat the little fish and want something smaller. Any advice or recommendations would be appreciated. I wish to find one like Jimmy Stewart ran in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Jeanie

I have been extremely happy with Mechanics Bank for many years (after uneven experiences with Wells and B of A). I am at the N. Solano Ave. branch. I recommend you see Chris O'Brien, Office Manager, at the Kensington Office, 279 Arlington Ave., 527-2225. Please tell him I referred you. Checking is free with one direct deposit. They will reimburse you for the fees incurred at other banks' atms, and they are family owned. kl
If you want a great bank that makes you feel like you're in ''It's A Wonderful Life'', go to the Mechanics Bank in Kensington and ask for Chris O'Brien, (510) 527-2225. Since moving all my accounts to their bank I feel like a king when I walk in and talk about special treatment! This bank is top of the line and you won't believe how helpful and friendly they are. You won't be disappointed. L. Lynch
For a great local bank, I would try Mechanic's Bank. They give extremely personalized service and are the only local bay area bank that I know of. There is a wonderful gentleman named Chris O'Brien at the Kensington branch, but you could count on any branch that is near to you. They are very community-minded and also green certified, if that is of value to you. Good Luck! Leah
Mechanics Bank is a local bank with great press. My own experience has been good, and I've heard good things from clients and friends that I've referred there. They're very stable financially, besides being just plain nice folks. They also provide free ATM access at ANY ATM, which is a nice perk in my eyes. Kathleen
Hi - Many banks have been merged into larger institutions as a result of this crisis. Its not necessarily a bad thing to have a larger institution with more financial backing behind your bank. Also with a regional bank, you have to be aware of branches and ATM fees. Most of the banks that have failed (17 year to date!) were small, regional banks.

That said, my clients have had good experiences with Fremont Bank ( They have an SF branch and the rest are deeper in the East Bay. Another surprisingly good bank is First Republic, which is actually owned by Merrill Lynch. Clients have reported excellent service and good rates/products - especially for small business owners. Hope that helps ~ Julie Asti

It's not a small institution, but I love ING direct: I've had a savings account with them linked to my Wells Fargo checking since 2000. I'm not usually ebulient over financial matters, but I love ING. I earn interest like a CD (or better), my money is totally liquid (very easy online transfers between accts), and their default policy is to never share my info with any company ever - I would have to ''opt in'' for all the marketing nonsense that every other financial institution makes you actively opt out of. They now have a checking option, too with free atm access. ING believer
Yes!! One California Bank is based in Oakland is very committed to serving the local community. They offer all the basic banking products, work with local small businesses on loans, and are an all around great company. You can check them out here: Please support community banking and local businesses! Elizabeth

2007 - 2008 Reviews

East Bay banks & credit unions

July 2008

I'm another Cal State 9 customer who will soon be part of Patelco Credit Union. Any opinion of Patelco? Or of the Mechanics Bank here in Berkeley?

I'll probably give Patelco a chance, but I'm particularly interested in finding an institution that's stable and deals well with overseas transfers, as our daughter is going to school in Britain. (And, of course, one whose ATM card is accepted overseas!)

Also, can anyone recommend a credit card that donates to good causes? I had a Working Assets card for years until it was taken over by MBNA and the fees miraculously increased. Melanie

My husband and I have been Patleco members for almost 20 years and we LOVE it. We travelled to England, France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Italy and the Czech Republic and had no problems using the ATMs in any of those countries. We also financed two cars, opened an IRA and have had money wired to us using Patelco. Are only gripe is that there aren't very many branches in the East Bay, so making deposits can be a pain. Stephanie
We decided to look elsewhere as we did not like the way Cal State 9 handled their demise -- we read about the problems first in the newspaper, then got a letter from the CU -- not confidence-instilling. We are in the process of moving our accounts to Mechanics Bank, where I have banked for 25 years. Unlike my usual experiences with Cal State 9, the Mechanics staff are friendly and helpful, their ATM cards work everywhere (and they rebate the fees to you) and, best of all, the bank is locally owned (started to help mechanics working at local refineries, factories and railroads). They are also consistently ranked as one of the safest banks in the state. Longtime Mechanics Bank fan
We've had good luck with Patelco, although we've mostly dealt with the North Bay branches. During years of banking with Cal State 9, their customer service degenerated from very good to being surly, slow and inaccurate, so personally I think almost anything is an improvement. So Far, So Good

Savings account for kids

June 2008

I'm looking for a savings account for my kids(10 & 12)that will earn more interest then they are currently getting at Wells Fargo (.25%). We make deposits quarterly, but it's hardly worth it with such a low rate. What's worked for you? Karen

Both of our kids have savings accounts with ING Direct. It's an online only place so you just transfer money into the accounts electronically. Of course we were earning over 4% at one point but not now. It's 3-point-something percent now. (Maybe even 2?? can't remember) It is also very easy to open up CDs with great rates w/ the money that is in there. We are extremely pleased and love this place! If you open an account for one kid, you can ''refer'' the other and get $10 or something like that. In fact if I refer you I get $10 and you get $25. I think. Then again, I'm sure you could find someone that you know to refer you! :) mssonatina
WaMu has a deal right now where if you open a checking account online, you get up to 3.30% APY on your savings account. We are also considering creating an ING account ( for our kid -- you have to have a brick-and-mortar checking account at another bank (like Wells Fargo) to transfer money to the online-only ING account, but we've been really pleased with the ING account we have for our grown-up finances -- they average about a 3% APY on savings. Making My Money Work
If you're looking for a better rate on a regular savings account (not a cd, etc.) then I recommend using and the orange savings account. The current rate is 3%, which isn't great, but a lot better than .25%. This is the lowest the interest rate has been since I've had my account with them. Trying to be a saver too
So you're looking for a savings account for your kids that gives you more than .25%. If you just want savings and the kids won't be withdrawing, some of the banks (i.e. Bank of America and others, I'm sure) are offering an 11-mo. ''RISK FREE'' CD that offers 4.5%. The risk free means you can withdraw money without penalty but not add. There may be a minimum deposit for this. Another option I like is Charles Schwab, but then l mail in my deposits, and your kids wouldn't have the physical experience of going to the bank and checking their balance, which I think is important for them. Trying to save
Have you looked into your local credit union? We have found that CU's tend to offer better interest rates than mainstream banks. We have our checking account at a bank, for convenience, and our savings account at a credit union. Lisa
I started my daughter with a California State Employees Credit Union savings account when she was born. Every month we took found and gift money to CSE. When she started earning money I had her put in 75% of her earnings into the account. When the amount was large enough I opened a CD and explained how that works. Now she has, which is offering 3.5% for an online savings account. You just have to factor in the 3-business day lag time for money to move in or out of that bank. We have it linked to an account at Washington Mutual which she uses for ''quick access''. Happy wealth building! Barbara

Good credit union or bank

Nov 2007

I would like recommendations for a good credit union or bank that has good rates, low or no fees, and friendly, efficient service.

My favorite Credit Unions (in no particular order): Kaiser Lakeside Credit Union, also called Kaiser Credit Union - friendly people for the most part, no waiting in line, free checking and bill payment, low rates on car loans and credit cards.

Patelco Credit Union - they are everywhere. Low rates on auto loans, easy home banking and lots of ATMs. Not so friendly staff and long waits in line on payday, but you can avoid all that with direct deposit and ATMs

Mechanics Bank - You get what you pay for - GREAT service - nearly perfect. No mistakes, no lines, but you pay about $8 per month. Love Great Service

Truly free checking?

Nov 2007

We recently got a letter from our credit union, Cal State 9, stating that the institution is now in a conservatorship. We've never been too enthused about Cal State 9, and the fact that they were slow to notify ''owner-members'' of the problems (only the Chronicle reported on the cause -- too many bad loans) has us looking for a new place for our checking and savings accounts. Does anyone have a bank they can recommend? We are looking for truly free checking and reasonable interest rates on savings. We hate paying fees for the privilege of loaning our money to a bank. Looking for a better deal

I use Washington Mutual and get totally free checking. Rita
I have free checking at Bank of America. One account is free because I keep a balance of $1,000 in it and I usually keep a little more so I am never under $1,000. The checking other account is free because I have my work check directly deposited in it. judy
I have a checking account at WaMu. It is free. I do have to buy the actual checks, but there are no account fees (unless I bounced a check or something). I have a savings account set up through ING. I can easily (and without charge) transfer money back and forth between my WaMu checking account and my ING account. Hannah offers free high yield checking accounts (here is the direct link:, but if you need quick access to cash, can be a bit of a drag. Advice- keep a no-cost savings account for cash or check deposits/withdrawals at wells fargo or some other easy-access bank. Paypal money from that account to the schwabb account and back when cash needed. Schwabb offers ~4% interest on checking, free bill pay and free atms anywhere (including the fee that the owner of the ATM charges) and VISA checkcards. Works for me. I haven't found a catch yet. free

Looking for Socially Responsible Bank

Sept 2007

... in Berkeley or nearby, for CD's and a checking account. autumn

For a socially responsible bank, try a Credit Union which may be very locally supportive, or the very green San Francisco Based New Resource Bank . New Resource helps various non-profits (e.g. City CarShare), among other efforts. Bryce
We bank at the Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union-they invest in the community, are local, you get real people on the phone.

Looking for a good local bank

April 2007

After yet another bad experience w/ Bank of America, I am ready to find a new bank for both checking and savings. Prefer a local bank that still believes in customer service. Recommendations please? Amy

I've finally found a banker and a bank who wants to specialize in customer care! Call Jack Lucas at Bank of the West, Orinda, to get started. Then go to any of the branches. Jack has pulled me through some messy situations and manages to always champion my causes! Julie G
I love Bank of the West. I use it for business and the people in our branch are very friendly. Also, I think that they still answer their own branch phones so that if you need to call them, you're able to talk directly to your own branch. Judy
If you want personal service from an excellent bank, call Brandy Smith (510) 558-2319 at the Mechanics Bank. I've been with Mechanics Bank for 38 years, and I have not had one problem in all that time. They put the customer first.
If you want personal service from an excellent bank, call Brandy Smith (510) 558-2319 at the Mechanics Bank. I've been with Mechanics Bank for 38 years, and I have not had one problem in all that time. They put the customer first.
I understand your frustration with Bank of America. I was a customer for close to 30 years and have an excellent credit score (low 800's). Twice I was charged exhorbitant fees $35.00 each, for insufficient funds that amounted to being overdrawn by $15 in my account. There unwillingness to waive fees after all my years of being a customer, prompted me to go into my local branch and see what they could do. They refused to waive fees too! Right then and there, I pulled all 6 of our accounts (including all three of my children's savings accounts) and went across the street to Wells Fargo. That was the best thing I could have done. Wells, albeit another large bank, was great about setting me up with the right account to avoid ever being overdrawn. Good Luck. fed up with BoA
I too was looking for a new bank when Bank of America, after 10 years of good experiences, started treating me very poorly. We were using their online Bill Pay service and for some reason, the automatic payments we make (mortgage, etc.) reverted to being drawn from an old account that had very little money in it. We were charged really high overdraft fees, given the run- around on the phone (after long, long hold times) and then in- person, at our branch, were told that branch employees no longer had the power to override charges. These decisions are now made by the computer - no joke. They have an algorithm that determines how ''valuable'' a customer you are and that determines your fee. I am apparently about 20% valuable despite having had car loans, home equity lines, and credit cards with them that have always been paid on time and are now paid off. I think that's the catch. If you don't owe them a lot of money that you're paying interest on, they couldn't care less.

I wanted to use a bank that still had personal service but had a large network of ATMs. I chose Wells Fargo. I have a personal banker, I have his direct phone line (shocking! no voicemail tree!) and there are actually more Wells ATMs than BofA.

Wells Fargo is still based in San Francisco, which makes me feel good. BofA, although originally from SF, is now headquartered in North Carolina.

By the way, if the plentiful-ATM thing weren't such an issue for me, I'd bank with Bank of the West in a heartbeat. bite me, BofA

I was surprised to see Bank of the West recommended. Maybe it really depends on the personnel. The El Cerrito branch appears small and intimate, but when I opened my kids' savings accounts (under $200 each) , one account was free and the other had a monthly fee. They weren't able to explain it so I could understand why (different types of minor accounts), but more troubling was that they could not correct the account with the fee, so I closed my accounts there. JJ
If you're eligible, I recommend Cal State 9 - the staff are like your old fashioned personal bankers. Cal State 9 has been our bank for 10 years, and they've taken care of any problem we've had promptly and professionally. They have all the services of the big guys - online banking, credit cards, loans etc., and it's great to support a local business. Their ATMs are scattered around, and you can also use the ATMs in any 7-11 for free. The Berkeley office is on Shattuck just south of University. happy with our bank

2005 - 2006 Reviews

Local Credit Union for line of credit?

June 2006

I am looking to establish a home equity line of credit. I am wondering if it is wise to do so through a credit union. Would I get a better rate than through the bank, which has quoted me a rate of prime plus 0.25%? I don't know much about credit unions, and as far as I know I have no access to one through an employer or professional organization. Are there any local credit unions that are accessible to the average person that I might be able to approach? Would I also need to have another account with them in order to get a home equity line of credit? Would appreciate any and all education. Thanks Amy

Regarding establishing a home equity line of credit through a credit union versus a bank, I'm a mortgage broker and if my clients have good credit and need a HELOC only, I steer them towards banks that offer great rates like prime plus 0% or Prime minus .25%. Try Fremont Bank or National City Bank, or do an online search. Jessica B

Time to switch banks?

May 2006

We're tired of paying expensive annual fees AND quarterly fees to our long time, very user friendly brokerage/banker. We do a lot of online banking and online bill paying. A safe deposit box would be handy, too. The Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo name seem to be popular. If you'd like to comment (good/bad) about your banking services, please do! Anon

I really love Mechanics Bank...or at least their office at the top of Solano, I don't see the other branches. They know most of their customers by name, and always call when there's an overdraft so you can run in and fix the situation before getting dinged. My wife does most of her banking online and seems satisfied with their online presence. They're even dog-friendly and hand out treats to the pets. Also, to make up for the fact that their ATMs aren't as available as other national banks, they reimburse your account for ATM fees. Best of all, I get warm fuzzies dealing with a local bank that I know has a stake in our community, instead of a big faceless multinational. My wife talked me into switching to them from Wells Fargo several years ago and once again, she was right. jeff
We have been using Washington Mutual for about a year now and have been happy with them. We basically do everything online. Their online bill paying tool is very easy to use - and free. my two cents
Why not try a credit union? You can use other credit unions' ATMs (there are several in downtown berkeley), none of the insane fees the big banks like BofA will finagle you with, and a lot of them offer online billpay - and CD accounts with fairly competitive interest rates. the little guy
I have banked with Wells Fargo, BofA, Washington Mutual, 3 Credit Unions and Bank of the West. And overall I have found it is who you know at the Bank. The Bank Representative that takes care of the customer. I work with Frank Sacarro, a premier banker with Bank of America. I am not sure which branch he maily works with, but I make all deposits at Albany bank and some poeple know him there. He is great. He is upfront about the charges, fees, and different accounts you can maintain. Wells Fargo, Credit Unions, Washington Mutual, and Bank of the West All Lie. They want the account, then they don't tell you about holds if you are a new account, the charges for cashier checks if you have one acct versus another, and are not good at explaining accounts in detail. The little things like charges per mo., Check fees if re-ordered, if you talk to a banker fees, and if you view the acct online fees. I could go on. Point: Frank Sacarro is amazingly great at customer service and does work with BofA. Look him up. He is wonderful to work with. A Banking Diva

Good bank for in-person checking account

March 2006

Our brokerage checking account increased their fees to $125/year, unless we keep 25k in the account, so we're looking for a change. We like the ability to bank online and see checks, transfer funds, pay bills online. Will need to make cash deposits in person on occasion so ''internet banker'' is not a good fit. Does anyone have a recommendation for a reliable, long term, free/low priced checking account? anon

We switched a few years ago from Wells Fargo to Washington Mutual, and have been very happy. Free checking, free online bill paying (which was the reason I switched--Wells wanted $7 a month for a service that actually saves them money), convenient ATMs and branches. Happy WaMu customer

Bank for personal and business use

March 2006

Both our business and our personal accounts are with Bank of America. Too bad such nice individuals work for such a lousy institution. This week's saga involves the bank cancelling my atm card because THEIR information was compromised. They informed me by snail mail. We found out when the card was refused, very embarassing. Email and phone are not in their toolbox, apparently.

Their letter advised that I check on-line banking for fraud. I tried, but they cancel access to on-line banking, ''as a matter of course'' when your atm card is cancelled. The phone numbers that they tell you to call can never help, etc.

Looking for a replacement for personal and business. Can anyone recommend a bank that has reasonable branch coverage in N Calif, less nit picky fees, on-line account access, and possibly some idea between departments of what folks are doing and how to help? nc

Hi, I have had a bank account with ING for the last 20 years, It is a real bank and they have tons of branches all over the world. ING is a Dutch bank and I highly recommend them. Nicolette nicolette
Sorry to hear about your bad experience with BofA. It's hard to find a bank with the conveniences/coverage of a large one, without getting a lot of bureacracy and inefficiencies, not to mention sometimes impersonal ways of handling customers. We've stayed with BofA mostly because, when we travel, we have lots of access to ATMs without the rip-off charges, whether on the east coast, or in Europe. So, I try to keep a minimal amount of money in BofA, with the rest in an interest-bearing account like ING-Orange. I will funnel money from ING to BofA for online bill paying, which is a real convenience that some of the smaller banks can't handle very well. If your workplace allows, you can auto-deposit just a small amount of money into the BofA account, which keeps it free of charges. You have to work them, as much as they're trying to work us, unfortunately. anonymous
I have had an excellent experience with City National Bank. They do not have as many Nor Cal locations as some but I have used them for 3 years first for personal and then for small business banking. Always very professional, felt like we were treated really well, branch staff greeted me by name, etc. Ask for (Mr.) Amika Prasad in downtown SF office. Loyal CNB customer

Is ING Bank safe? Other high-interest savings?

March 2006

Is ING Bank a safe place to deposit money? Are they a ''real'' bank with the usual safeguards and security? Are there any other banks which offer a high rate of interest for a relatively small amount of savings in a savings account? Thanks!!! small nest egg, big dreams!

I've banked with ING for several years now, and have never had any trouble. They're insured by the FDIC, which I assume makes them as safe as any other bank. Internet only banks can keep their costs low because they're not paying for the bank building or for salaries for tellers and other employees who deal directly with the customers.

However, you can get better interest these days from Emigrant Direct -- another internet bank, insured by the FDIC, also with a minimum deposit of $1. They're currently offering 4.5% interest vs. just 3.8% from ING (ING is running a promotional deal where you get 4.75% on new deposits for a limited time period, but that deal is over in another month or so -- and then all of your money, including the new deposits, goes back to 3.8%). I have had an account with Emigrant for about a year and have had no trouble with them either. There's another bank called HSBC whose rate is slightly higher - 4.8% (I'm pretty sure that's not a promotional rate). I haven't switched to them because a difference of 0.3% isn't big enoug to motivate me -- plus, since they tend to compete, when one goes up, often the others do too (ING has been trailing the others for a while though). You can track rates through . Happy saving! Diane

I haven't checked to see if ING is FDIC-insured but I can tell you that I've been very happy with them. There's no brick & mortar bank; everything is done over the phone or via the internet. But it's very easy to move one's money and the interest rates are great. satisfied customer
I love ING Bank! I switched all of my savings over to them about a year ago, after hitting a wall with Wells Fargo's terrible, fee-driven service. I have the Orange Savings account, which was very simple to set up and has a great interest rate (3.8%). I do all my banking online, and it's easy to transfer money between my checking account and the ING account; the only catch is that it takes a few days for the transactions to go through, so you have to plan ahead.

For checking accounts, I highly recommend Mechanics Bank ( - it's a small community bank. They don't have many branches, but you can use any ATM and have your fees reimbursed (!!), and there's no fee if you do direct deposit. Their customer service is fantastic - much better than any of the big banks. Kristine G

I opened an account with ING Direct about a year ago and have been happy with their service. At the begining you have to jump through a few hoops for security purposes while setting up your checking account with ING Direct. There will be a lag time of about 2 days from transferring from ING to your checking account, but the interest rates are great and just about the best you can get.

However, the best rate I have found within the last month, is with Emigrant Direct ( Same thing as ING just better rates. I just started an account with them to try it out. Not sure I am sold on the lay out and found for the first few days I was getting unsolicited emails, but those have slowed down and the verdict is still out and their interest rates are the highest I can currently find (at 4.5%). Check out this link. I think this might help a bit. Joshua, Fellow Ing & Emigrant User

Ing is a 'real' bank. It is based in the Netherlands and is one of the largest banks in the world. I can't comment on any accounts that they are offering here, but they do have to adhere to US banking laws for the business that they do here. jan
ING Direct is perfectly safe (FDIC insured) and legit - they are a big dutch financial company (I think ING stands for International Netherlands Group.) A good place to find out what banks give the best interest is the finance board at fatwallet - - there are lots of people there who have accounts in multiple banks and shuttle the money back and forth to the bank with the highest interest rate. I can't be bothered, but there is lots of good financial advice there. Right now the best savings acct. interest is HSBC Direct but that is always changing. michael
My husband and I began with ING direct last year and we love them! Easy to set up and save, not so easy to take out. Great for those of us who might spend impulsively! As far as I know they still have the best savings rate as well. Julie
I just started banking with ING, so I hope it is safe. It's a FDIC member. Citibank just introduced its e-savings account with 4.5% APY. jp

ING Orange Bank

May 2005

I've been getting lots of solicitations from this ING bank, and have seen billboards and such around, too. I finally read one, and it sounds like a good deal - a bank with no physical locations, but it gives a good interest rate. Has anyone opened an account, and are you happy with them? Thanks julie

We opened an ING account about 2 years ago, after receiving a few junkmail solicitations. We're very happy with it. The interest rate is great--and is only going to improve as Greenspan continues to push rates up! It's easy to navigate online and the phone customer service has been very helpful, too. Happy Orange
I've had ING for at least 6 months now. It's got a better interest rate than most banks out there and it's quite user- friendly. Once you're a member you can refer others and get a kickback bonus if your referrals sign up for an account. Caroline
We've used ING since it first opened for business in the US, having had a good experience with it in Canada. We've used the savings accounts and CDs. Very good service, very easy, clear website, excellent rates and no hassle. I think it's a great deal. We especially like the fact that you can open as many accounts as you like for no fee and no minimum balance, so we have various saving accounts, for kids' education, for vacations, etc. that we can add little amounts to regularly. satisfied customer
I opened an ING orange savings account a little while ago and love it. It's really easy to move money back and forth between it and my checking account, through their voice-mail system. I haven't had any problems with it. And the rate of interest is so much better than what I was able to get elsewhere. They sometimes have deals in which they'll give you $25 for opening up an account - you might want to look for that. a happy customer
Yup! We love Orange. They have a great interest rate for a plain savings account, which means your cash is liquid, if that's how you're looking to keep some $$$$ around.

the great thing isthat there are no minimums & you can refer family members and get a referral fee! When you refer your spouse, for example, and s/he opens and funds an account (even with $1!!) you receive a $10 referral bonus and they get a $25 opening bonus! I have friends with quite a few children, and they have referred all the way down the line, making a few hundred dollars.

We have had nothing but GREAT experience with them, and are thinking we might even get our home loan with them because it sounds like a great deal. The ONE thing that is kind of annoying to me is that you have to remember your individual account number; they don't let you log on with a name or ''handle'' -- but that is a minor inconvenience for the great rate, IMO. -making my $$ work!

I opened an account with ING Direct in January of this year and I'm pleased so far. The savings rate is good. I've started directing more money to the account automatically from my checking account. I look forward to hearing what others have to say about the online bank. anon
I'm very happy with ING Direct. I have been with them for over a year and they keep raising the interest rate they pay. As a financial professional I have to say that interest rates are so low these days that you should have the majority of your savings in real estate or the bond or stock markets. However, for the money you want to put into a very safe and very accessible condition, ING is excellent. When you want to move your money to a checking account, they make it very easy to do that by phone or over the internet. Not only that but they give you a little bonus ($25 I believe) if you are referred by a current customer and the current customer gets $10 too. If you don't already know another ING customer, I'll be happy to be that person. Lindy
My wife and I have been ING account holders for a bit over a year now, and we've been pretty satisfied. The interest rate is definitely better than all the other banks I surveyed, and they'll raise it to keep that edge, as everyone else's rates go up. Yes, it's all ''virtual,'' and that takes some getting used to. You can link up to 3 of your other accounts at other banks and move money back and forth, as needed. The quickness of the transaction hasn't been as fast as I'd like-- while ING has said 2-3 business days, it usually takes at least a week, before your money is actually deposited or transferred. So, don't expect to transfer your money and be able to grab it right away. If you leave yourself some cushion, you'll be fine. The one time I called their customer service, it was polite and friendly. Email responses had also, generally, been helpful. Jim
I am thrilled with Ing Orange Bank. Excellent interest rates which keep going up. No frills, and they don't drown you in email messages. I also contacted them for a mortgage on a home I was purchasing two months ago--they had the lowest rates and best terms I could find. I was able to talk directly to very helpful representatives (no mu-sack and delayed wait times, or many push buttons on the phone) and they faxed all materials to me instantly. They wanted way lees paperwork than another agent I was working with. I ended up not using them as my agent finally agreed to meet their terms (which resulted in a huge rebate to me) and be there in person at the closing, which Ing cannot do. In the end, he wasn't there, so I maight as well have used Ing. I am really impressed.

My only complaint is that when the money transfers, it takes a day or two more than I expected it should, so be careful if you have tight deadlines. A Happy Customer

Yes, I have had an account with Ing Direct for over a year. I like their service, and have closed my savings account at local bank which gave me hardly any interest, but had to keep $ in it with a minimum balance in order to avoid service charges. I have my Ing account linked to my checking account and transfer money online easily and within 2-3 business days. I have no complaints! Anon.
My husband and I set up an ING account about a year ago, and we're very happy with it. We have it linked to our Bank of America account where our paychecks are deposited, and you can easily transfer money back and forth so you can use B of A's ATMs while keeping the bulk of your savings in ING, where it gets higher interest (about 3 percent, last time I checked). The website is easy to use too. Kelly
Hi Julie, I've had an account with ING for a couple years now and haven't had any problems with them. For your convenience, you just need to have another account with a real bank like Wells Fargo or B of A where you can access your checking account (that's linked to the ING account) online. You should expect to be able to transfer money in and out of the ING account with a few days notice electronically. Also, they do provide you with financial compensation if you recommend someone who ends up signing up for an account (such as an account for your husband or child, etc...) which I didn't know until after I'd signed up for both my husband and me (so I lost out on this referral benefit). It is a bit of a hassle to try to get into the ING account online since they do ask for several security questions, but I don't mind too much since it is for my own protection. Anyways, if you have any other questions, feel free to email me. Christine
I have used ING Direct for years for myself and the kids. We love it. You can link all your other accounts and transfer funds easily from any banks you deal with. The interest rate is the best you can get from a standard savings with no fees attached. Happy ING customer
I started an account for my son, who is now 5 months old, with ING Direct as I wanted something which would earn interest while we figured out what other kind of investment instrument we wanted to have for him. I figured it was a good short- term account to put some money aside and earn interest at the same time. I have called customer service a couple times and have had all my questions answered (and it was a bit complicated setting up the account as I had checks made out to Nathaniel who obviously can't sign his name yet but I wanted to put the account in his name). Lori
We love ORANGE savings. We have been members for about 5 years - it really is as hassle free and easy as it sounds. The biggest hassle is getting it set up - you have to send them a check from every account that you want linked. I think you can link up to 3 checking accounts to each savings account. This is really great for me and my husband to mix finance - we each get our paychecks into our own checkign account, and then transfer money into ING. We let it sit there and then transfer it into one checking account when we need the money to pay bills. They say it takes 3 days for an transfer to happen, but we have found that the money is usually available before that. You can also set up automatic transfers - so that every month (or week) you can have it transfer x dollars into ING, which is very helpful. And the interest earned is higher than anywhere I have ever banked (including my credit union). I love it!!! Shahana

2004 & Earlier

Banks for Kids' Accounts

April 2000

My 10 year old has saved some money and is ready to open a savings account. Any recommendations for free savings accounts for kids? Many thanks. Sarah

If you are a member of a Credit Union (such as Cal State 9), I'd suggest checking with them. I had considered opening an account for our daughter at a local bank that offered free savings accounts for children. The catch was, if they started withdrawing money (i.e. they saved their money and then wanted to use it for some special purchase), the bank would then change the account to a 'regular' savings account, and start charging the normal fees. This seemed to be the norm, at least at the few banks I checked into. And, given the low interest rate being paid on the accounts, and the anticipated low balance in a child's account, this just didn't seem logical. Good luck! Leslie
Wells Fargo does free passbook savings accounts for kids up to 18 year's old. Only about 1.5% interest, but no service charges. Heather
Oct 1999

I am looking to switch banks and would like to get recommendations for ones that have free or very-close-to-free checking. That is my main consideration. I need very little other banking services. I will be using the ATM but the ATM charges are not as big a consideration. I also want branches of the bank in Berkeley so it is convenient to go to.

In addition to that recommendation, my 5 year old son wants to start a savings account at a bank so that his money will collect interest. Do any of you know of a bank that has kid's accounts with very low minimal balance requirements that pay interest? Thanks in advance for your suggestions! Kate

Nancy 10/99
Try the USE credit union on University. they have a special piggy bank savings program for kids that's pretty cute. I believe that their checking is free if you have automatic deposit and maintain a certain minimum amount in checking and or savings. You can join if you work for UC or LBL, and I think also if you are a student. Or a state employee, too, I think. they have a lot of services available. downside is that there arent' too many branches, so there aren't a lot of ATMs available without fees.
I have a recommendation & a dis-recommendation. I'll do the dis first since they're so much more fun. I had a small savings account at Wells Fargo a few years ago, which I didn't pay much attention to, it was less than $500, I never put anything in or took anything out, but theoretically it earned interest. Well, I began to pay attention to my statements & noticed my balance was getting *smaller*, so I called up the bank and got the following explanation: accounts are charged a maintenance fee every month that the balance falls below a certain amount, around $500. The maintenance fee was higher than the interest the account was earning. So I asked the guy you mean my balance will just keep getting smaller and smaller until it disappears entirely? and he say yes. So I yanked my money out of there immediately, closed my checking account too, opened accounts at Cal Fed in El Cerrito & am very happy with them (no fee checking). So whatever you do, make sure your kid's little account doesn't fall victim to this practice, or he may get an economics lesson that you hadn't planned on!
From: Andrea (2/99)

I'm not sure if the situation is the same now, but 6 years ago I compared the two university credit unions (USE and Cal State 9) and Cal State 9 was far superior to the other one in all areas - loan rates, quality of service, fees, etc. I have been very happy with the Cal State 9 Credit Union service ever since then.

See also: Washington Mutual , Cal State 9 Credit Union , and World Savings

Small Business-Friendly Bank

After 10 years of working for others, I'm about to make the leap and start working on my own. One of the hundreds of things I need to figure out: can anyone recommend a local bank that is interested in working with small business? Very small. I think at this point I will just need a business checking account, but I'm sure there are other considerations that haven't occurred to me yet. Thanks in advance
I am a self-employed graphic designer and I've been very happy with Mechanics Bank for my business accounts. When you call them you don't deal with a phone tree - the person who answers the phone will help you. And I couldn't live without the convenience of their drive-through locations for my frequent deposits!
I had a small business and moved once to I was with two banks, a smaller one in NY, and Bank of America here. Both were very similar ... $10/month for a basic business checking acount, free if you kept a high average balance (I didn't). You could call around to see if any other bank has a better deal, but for me it was fine. You'll need your business license from the county before you go to the bank.
We found Wells Fargo to be best for our needs when we opened a business checking account. They had the most choices, lowest rates for the most minimal choice, and required fewer copies of business papers to open the account. One feature we wanted was the return of our cancelled checks. Most banks charge extra for this. This is standard for Wells Fargo accounts, and I think they give a slight discount if you don't want the checks returned. One nice bonus is that the downtown Berkeley branch has a separate line for business customers.
Having been in business for 18 years - a small business we got fed up with the big bank we had been using for those 18 years and switched to Summit Bank. They have offices in Emeryville, Oakland, Pleasanton and Walnut Creek and specialize in small business banking. Have found the switch to be hassle free and pleasant, its a good bank to work with

Cal State 9 Credit Union

Dawn (10/99)
I bank at Cal State 9 Credit Union. They have free checking options. They also have low min balance savings accounts that pay a small amount of interest. These have a limit on how many times you can access them in a month (otherwise, they're checking accts, not savings!), but it might be appropriate for your son. Of course, to belong to the Credit Union, you have to be eligible, which means a State employee (UCB employees are eligible). One downside is that they have few actual branches, but they do have reciprocal agreements with many other credit unions, so you're not completely out of luck. It's just not as convenient as, say, BofA (but then, you get treated like a human being, which was not always my experience at BofA).

You might also check out Washington Mutual. They have free checking accounts (no interest). They are open to anyone, and have many branches. Since I don't bank there, I don't have details, but I have considered switching to them for the higher convenience factor.

I would strongly recommend you do NOT use Cal State 9 Credit Union. When my daughter was 8 I opened an account for her and automatically deposited money in there from my paycheck every month. This money was to be used for school or something. When my daughter was 16 I started having 'teenage problems' with her and at some point I went into the credit union and had a note put on her account saying she could not withdraw the money (they cautioned me that once she turned 18 this would not apply - no problem). Six months later my daughter got a job and needed an account. We went to the credit union and asked to open an account for her. They refused to open another account and said she had to use the one she already had. I explained to them that I was not comfortable with that since there was a hefty sum of money in the savings account and I did not trust her to have access to it since we were having problems. This was not easy to say to a stranger, but I had to. They were very understanding and assured me that the savings and checking would not be linked. The ATM card she got would not have access to the savings....should I go on? Six months later (two years ago) the problems with my daughter reached a critical (beyond critical) level and I desperately needed money to get her some help - I went to use the monpey in that account and guess what? It was all gone! All of it. Since the checking account was empty when she used her check card, they took the money out of the savings, since the money kept coming out, she kept taking it!

You cannot imagine the feeling of desperation I felt at that moment. I almost collapsed right then and there in the lobby. The teller felt sorry for me and printed for me the notes attached to the account where I had clearly stated that she was not to have access to that money (in case they tried to cover up). Needless to say, that was the only sympathy and understanding I got from Cal State 9. As far as they were concerned she took the money and it was my problem. The fact that they assured me that she could not access it - a lie or a mistake - was irrelevant. Too bad. I did not even get an apology. They told me that if I took action against them, they would take action against me because she was under age. I could not pursue it at the time with everything else going on and the feelings of rage and frustration are overwhelming even as I think of it now. I certainly don't trust them with my money anymore!

From: Andrea (2/99)

I'm not sure if the situation is the same now, but 6 years ago I compared the two university credit unions (USE and Cal State 9) and Cal State 9 was far superior to the other one in all areas - loan rates, quality of service, fees, etc. I have been very happy with the Cal State 9 Credit Union service ever since then.

From: Olga (2/99)

For people who belong to Cal-State 9 Credit Union: I thought you might all like to know that there is a newly installed Cal-State 9 ATM in the ASUC store. It is near the stairs and the candy store.

Safeamerica Credit Union

Myriam We just recently got a very good deal on a car loan at Safeamerica federal credit union. I got the account through a former employer, but I think they are pretty open as to who joins. I've found them quite competent, their deals on loans (we've had two car loans through them) to be better than anyone elses (we tried on line and through our other traditional bank) and fairly convenient. They also financed a car that we bought through a private individual which saved us money and got us a better car than we would have through a dealer... They also handled the paper work which was great since they know how to do it and we don't. They also turned it into what they call an auto-equity loan which allows us to deduct the interest on our taxes.

The downside is that they have are located in Hayward, and while they have long hours that can be a bit of a drag to haul down there. They also don't have ATM's but it's free to use the ones at Safeway. If you're interested they have a web site at

Washington Mutual

Washington Mutual advertises its free checking accounts all the time. But we've had lots of problems with them and I don't recommend them. (We inherited them when the bank we chose left Berkeley and then its replacement was bought out by WM.) We've been much happier with an account we have at Wells Fargo. If you don't qualify for a free checking acct. with Wells (i.e., keep a high enough balance or have your paycheck automatically deposited), I believe they have an ATM-only checking account with very low fees. Both Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual have branches on upper Solano and near Berkeley BART. Wells also has ATM machines in a lot of different places, such as Andronico's on Solano.

My 6-year old son has a savings account with Washington Mutual. I believe it pays interest. Its minimum balance is either very low or $0. Many banks offer such accounts to minors.

I'm sorry to hear someone had a bad experience with Washington Mutual. We have had nothing but excellent service there. We bank at the WM at the top of Solano. Many of the tellers have gone out of their way for me on several occasions. The day I set up my first account there, my baby decided to go ballistic in the middle of everything and two of the tellers (it was a slow day) held him and played with him behind the counter while I signed everything. They always remember us- if my baby's not with me, they ask how he is!

The service and products (FREE CHECKING!) are excellent. I have never had a problem with any of our three accounts there. I am thrilled to be away from Wells Fargo- it seems like they charge you a fee for passing by on the sidewalk. When I pulled our five accounts (3 checking, 2 money market) out of Wells Fargo to go to WM, the teller confided in me that her son had just done the same.


I am an evangelist when it comes to banking with USAA. If you are eligible (some military or govt. experience by you or your close family), then it is so worth it. THEY PAY YOU MONEY WHEN YOU USE OTHER BANKS' ATMS! They have very neglible fees (and often no fee), they have a special account set-up for little kids to have their first money/saving experience, they are in my experience extremely service-oriented. Its wonderful to be free of the Wells Fargo/Bank of America stranglehold.

You said you wanted a bank close by, but USAA makes it very easy to have a long-distance banking relationship, so if you are open to it, it is worth the switch.

Clarification about banking at USAA: Sharon (10/99)
Someone recommended USAA Federal Savings Bank in the last edition. I wanted to make a correction to that post. USAA Banking Services are available to the general public, not just military personnel or their children. (USAA insurance is, however, restricted to military personnel and their children). I have been banking with them for the last 9 years, first from France, and now from California. They are, by far, easier to deal with than my local bank. USAA is accustomed to providing services for people who are far away from home and they are very good at this. I highly recommend them.

USE Credit Union

From: Monica (2/99)

I have nothing bad to say about USE Credit Union. They made a big goof-up with my checking accounting once and confused it with my mother's, but they took care of correcting all their mistakes right away. The office is conveniently located in the same building that I work in, so I never have a problem getting to my money or accessing my account information. All the employees are very friendly and willing to give an extra hand. Also, I hear their auto and home loans are excellent.

I just had to reply to the recommendation to USE credit union. I'm sure some people have had a good experience with this institution. I, however, have not. I had--rather still have--a savings account with USE that I have tried to close 4 times. Every time I have closed the account, there was some screwup on their part! I've reached the point that I am now writing to the head of the company to complain. When I had my credit card there, they bounced several ELECTRONIC payments! Now, how the hell does an electronic payment bounce?!? They accused me of not having enough money taken from my paycheck to cover the payment. Yet, the my paystub indicated the deduction while the credit union could not find it. After several frustrating phone calls the teller was kind enough to reverse the returned check and overdue fees--but only on the understanding that I would not bounce checks to them in the future.

I initially joined the credit union to refinance the loan. The first loan was not a problem. I paid it off early and they discharged the loan. When I took out a second loan, they were very quick to process it. This time I paid the loan off about a year early (if not 2). They were quick to show a zero balance on my statement, but they never discharged (i.e., closed the account) the loan. I several times why the loan continued to appear on my statement and I was told not to worry since it was reported as paid to the credit reporting agencies. Finally, I called someone down in the main (San Diego) office and I was told the account was not closed. The loan was considered a 'line of credit' and was usable at any time I chose. So, I would have to specifically ask to have it closed. Now, the original loan documentation did not call the loan a line of credit. It clearly stated if I wanted to borrow more money, my application would be subject to the normal processing procedures. It would also constitute a refinancing of the original loan. This is NOT considered a 'line of credit' in my book! I did not request a line of credit, I did not want one, and I did not sign a contract agreeing to one. Yet, the representative claimed a line of credit is what I had.

Okay, so I figured there was a minor glitch here and there because of changes in tellers, change over to a new computer system, etc. So, I continued to stay with them for my savings account. I paid off the loan, closed the account (and I even have a letter documentating that), cancelled the credit card--how much damage can they do? I mean, it wasn't as if I had my checking account with them (I use Bank of the West). Well, as I mentioned, I decided to close my savings account--last October while I was still on maternity leave. So, I request the account be closed, the teller sends me my money, all is honkey-dorey! Now, I receive a letter telling me my account is overdrawn because they reversed the payroll deposit for Oct. Well, of course there was not payroll deposit for Oct--I was on maternity leave and had been since July! So, why, all of a sudden is there a problem when there wasn't one the previous couple of months? Well, an extremely apologetic teller reversed the overdrawn fee and the minimum balance fee and closed the account. Okay, I'm happy. The next quarter draws to an end and I receive another statement. So I call. Guess what, the account is still open! Why? Because the payroll deduction was not cancelled. So then I ask, why wasn't it cancelled by the last teller who said she could and would do it. OH? Didn't I know that I had to come into the branch and fill out the paperwork myself? So I go in and cancel the payroll deduction. But, because their computers do everything in arrears, I have to wait for 2 months. So, time passes and I call up and call again. Guess what? I have money coming in so they don't want to close the account. But, I countered, I signed the paperwork. Oh, yes, and their system indicates that no money is being deducted from my account, but UC's computers don't know that! So, upon the advice of this seemingly competant and nice teller, I wait. When I receive my paystub that shows no payroll deduction, I think to myself, 'now, yes! Now, I can close my account and be USE-free!' But, being cautious, I waited another 10 days just to be sure. So, I call, and I am told, No! No money was deducted so no money was expected. So, I quickly close my account, feeling emancipated! I'm thrilled! I'm excited! I'm relieved! Until I come home from work and receive a letter stating that account is now overdrawn and I need to correct it! To add insult to injury, they bounced an electronic payment (though of what, I've no clue since my loan was paid 2-3 years ago!) and are now charging me a $17.00 fine. This means war! I have never, in my entire life, encountered such an incompetant, archaic, idiotic financial institution as the USE credit union. So, beware, fellow Digesters! Do not be take in by the sweet smiles and the supposed convenience--because USE credit union is a nightmare, a financial screwup waiting to cause you grief! If I can EVER get my account closed (remember, I've been trying for a year now!) I will NEVER use that institution again and I certainly hope everyone out there seriously thinks twice about using them!!!

From: Nicole (2/99)

I have been with the USE Credit Union for many years and have been very happy. Though the frontline staff change often, all are pleasant, and the higher-ups (loan officers, managers, etc.) are more steady. I didn't finance my house there as the rates were a little higher than I got elsewhere (it wasn't only up to me, or I would have gone with USE out of convenience and loyalty), but I have gotten car loans, equity loans, etc., there. The newsletters are informative, and you can bank by ATM, phone, or over the Web. Parking in front of the Univ. Ave. branch is awful in daytime, easy in evenings and weekends, unless you use the downstairs garage (but it's even worse at the other CU which is right downtown). A slight disadvantage is that you pay a fee to use non-Credit Union ATMS, and there aren't that many of those around (three in downtown Berkeley at the various CU's, and one in Jack London Square, that I know of offhand). USE is planning to open a new branch at UCOP in the next few months. I had no problem using my ATM card to withdraw funds from ATMS in Mexico and Europe. I also have colleagues who swear by the other one. I think it's probably six of one and half-dozen of the other, so you should choose by convenience of the branch/ATM. No matter which one you choose, your money is working for other members, not going to profits to bank owners, which is why I use a credit union in the first place!

From: Regan (2/99)

I've been a satisfied member of USE Credit Union for about 13 years. They've financed three cars for me and offer some very good services. My mother was very unhappy with The Golden One and switched to B of A.

I also have some unpleasant experience with USE Credit Union. Their Teleservices staff in San Diego seem to be knowledgeable, but I have had problems with their staff at the Berkeley branch.

1. A few months ago I opened a term investment account at the Berkeley branch. After I wrote the check, all I got from the teller was a receipt which only contained my membership number. I had to ASK for something in writing about the duration and the dividend rate of this specific account. Then recently I got a quarterly statement which showed that the dividend was deposited into my savings account (which I had closed ten years ago). The dividend was less than the minimum balance required for the savings account, thus resulting in a service charge for the savings account-- which was deducted from my dividend!

2. Several years ago, I applied for a Powerhouse loan at the Berkeley branch. Once the application process got started, it was very difficult to get hold of the loan officer. She was always busy. And right before the loan was going to be approved, she suddenly told me there would be another fee of $75. She apologized for not having told me earlier. I was clearly not very happy about this, but I had to swallow this extra fee since I had gone this far. The whole process was very slow and inefficient.

I am going to avoid this bank, especially the Berkeley branch.

World Savings

I opened a savings account for my daughter at World Savings. In my opinion, World Savings has proven itself to be a superior institution. The account was opened in my daughter's name with me as the guardian. I was able to specify what age my child can access her account without my signature (I chose 18 b/c the purpose of the account is to put money in until there is enough to send to her mutual funds--the Atlas funds through World Savings). The account is free since it is for a minor. There is no minimum balance or deposit. So, if she saves $5 or even $0.50, she can still deposit without penalty! I can even deposit by mail! We use the Lakeshore branch since it is very convenient for us. But there is one in Montclair, downtown Oakland, and I think there's one in Berkeley. Good luck!

Problems with Banks

Delay in bank refund after account was closed

March 2012

Last November, my daughter closed her account at Bank of America. She doesn't live in the area now, so she took care of it by phone/mail. She was told she would receive a check for her balance. By the end of December, no check, so she called again and was promised a new check. By the end of January, still no check, so I went and spent an hour explaining the situation at our local branch (my name was also on the account, so I could do that) and was told they could not give me the money there (for some reason, this is handled by their Texas division), but they would send an affidavit form to be completed and notarized, at which point she should be able to get her money. After two weeks with no affidavit received (and, of course, no money), I called B of A, spoke to a number of people, and seemed to get myself way up the ranks to a ''supervisor'' who assured me they would promptly send a check - probably by express - the following Monday (it was a Friday when I called). They even sent me an e-mail stating that my case had an assigned case number and was being attended to. Well, it's now a week since that Monday and there is no check, no affidavit form, nothing except an e-mail stating that the case is now completed and closed. So - they've had my daughter's money for almost four months now, wasted hours of our time, and still she doesn't have her money. What is the next step? Someone to report them to? Small claims court (that would be tough since daughter isn't' here)? Where do we go from here? where's the money

I had a similar problem with BofA and an out of state account. I simply went in to the nearest branch here and told them I needed to file an ''FDIC claim'' because the money that was in my account had apparently been stolen-possibly by BofA. Within 24 hours my funds were returned. Give it a try. They do not want to do an FDIC claim when they are in the wrong! Small Claims would/could be a nightmare and end up losing your money or any chance to reclaim if you get a bad judge which is most likely. Try the easy way first. got my money back
Report the bank to the Comptroller of the Currency ( When the big bank that holds our mortgage was not properly processing our modification application, I reported it, and we got our modification within three weeks, after 14 months of wrangling. Anon
I would complain to the federal regulators, starting with the Federal Reserve ( I hear that banks will respond quickly to those who file a complaint with the fed's. Also, I would never bank with a huge bank again, but instead use a credit union or a regional bank who cares more about you than its bottom line. Hope this helps!
Hi. so, sorry you are going thru this. I dont really have much to offer but when we closed our account a few months ago the bofa rep when we went into the bank - said before the actual closing of the account, to withdraw all the money from the account - even if this is a penny and then to speak with a rep to close the account. My husband and I have a joint account and he was able to withdraw the cash for this without me. If you are on the account, you should be able to withdraw the cash - they should not provide you with a check. But perhaps because you went thru closing the account first then trying to withdraw the account its caused more hurdles? We just went into a local branch that wasn't our branch (which is in Southern California) so, could your daughter have tried to go into any BofA to withdraw and close the account? Technically, the account isn't closed. Any charge from an auto pay or anything that you forgot to cancel that is attached to the account can trigger it to be reopened. Anyway, perhaps they are trying to not really close your account? Is your daughter still able to log onto the online account to see if there is a balance? If there is a balance, the account is not closed so.. I would try going into another BofA branch and speaking with an account specialist there. Ours was really nice - it was the one by the lake in Oakland. Is your daughter nowhere near a bofa? it doesn't have to be the one where she opened her account. former bofa customer
First of all, you should report this fiasco to the Better Business Bureau. Then, you should send a letter to B of A, to the highest supervisor who you can find, letting them know that you have reported this problem to the BBB, and that you will have to contact Small Claims Court next, and that you will be asking for damages. That's what I would do. I am not a lawyer. At this point, I would tell the bank that they should pay MORE money than they initially had to, because of all of my time that they have wasted. Who knows, it might work. Also, you can contact Michael Finney at KGO, channel 7 news, as he sometimes handles stuff like this and then broadcasts it. Sears gave me the runaround of a lifetime a few years ago, and I will never buy anything from that store again. Also, mention to BofA that you are contacting Michael Finney, as they may have heard of him! Good luck!
I am the original poster. As it turns out, the check for the closed account balance arrived a few days after I posted this problem here! Still - should I file a complaint with the someone (FDIC, Federal Reserve, or Comptroller...) because it took so long? Is there a rule about how long the bank has to send the money (it was almost four months). By the way - in response to some of the replies (which I appreciate!): the account was definitely closed. There was no longer any way for me or my daughter to access it or view it online, and the reps (both at the branch and on the phone) agreed it had been closed since November. They also claimed - TWICE - that a check had been sent for the amount of the balance. The reason she didn't close it in person is that there is NO BofA branch near where she lives. In hindsight, I should have closed it here and sent her the money, but it didn't seem like such a bid deal at the time, since they said she could do it long-distance. Lesson learned

Send passport info to a bank in Mexico?

April 2011

My sister-in-law has asked my husband to be the beneficiary of her second home, in Mexico, however, the bank in Mexico requires him to send a photocopy of his passport in order for the paperwork to be processed. Has anyone been through this process and can offer advice on security of personal information outside of the country? Many thanks. Never been south of the border

In my experience, your information is safe in banks in Mexico. I've had to do the same thing, and I've never had a problem, neither have I heard about anyone having a problem with this kind of thing. They just require an official ID. Just make sure you don't send the copy through regular mail. OK with Mexican banks
Don't do it. Absolutely do not do it. The whole thing sounds funky to me. Mexico is known for having corrupt officials and you don't even know whether this is a real bank. Someone could easily assume your husband's identity and then commit crimes all over the world.
I'm mexican and the request doesn't make sense. The bank would only ask for your passport if you were to open an account there (because you don't have a mexican ID) not when you are a beneficiary. What they'll need to have it's accurate information about your name and date of birth for when you need to claim the house in the future, nothing else. Which I think your sister-in-law should know already, isn't it?! Only an advise.

Bank says money was withdrawn, but it wasn't

Sept 2010

In June, our elderly uncle stopped at his Bank of America, Montebello, where he has banked for over 30+ years, and closed his 4k IRA account and also asked that 1k of the IRA be deposited directly into his checking account. He noticed that the $1000 did not appear on his July statement and returned to the branch several times to inquire. He was first told that the funds were there but just didn't show up and now is being told that the funds were withdrawn in June via ATM. At no time did our uncle even use his ATM card to withdraw funds. Has anyone had a similar experience and advise how one would recoup money mysteriously withdrawn. It appears to be an internal incident. B of A has changed managers since he reported this incident. It is very bizarre. BTW, uncle is of very clear mind. No one else has his ATM card. Thanks for any suggestions on how to deal with Bank of America. Anon

Write a letter to the head person at BofA explaining all the details of this problem and demand an investigation. At the end of your letter, cc your state representative and the news guy that always investigates consumer problems (I forget his name). The ccs make a huge difference. Been there w/ BofA
I have been a Bank of America customer for years, and am generally satisfied especially with the online banking aspect of the company. If I were in your shoes trying to piece together what happened with the money, I would have my uncle request copies of the June banking statement to see where/when the supposed ATM withdrawals occurred; your uncle can request these by phone (or online); they can be accessed instantly online but the mailed version takes 7+ days. This information would be helpful in trying to piece together what did or did not happen in June because the montly statements are comprehensive and list all transactions that affect bank balance. For example, if the ATM withdrawals did occur, were they in the same city as he resides? In his area? I think that this kind of information gathering would be helpful for you before pursuing the matter with Bank of America. I have had to work with B of A to gather information for taxes quite a long time after the fact and found that the staff were helpful in assisting me. Erin
B of A has a legal obligation to report incidents of potential elder abuse. They are required to report any allegation that someone may have stolen money from someone over the age of 65 to banking regulators and APS. You should call adult protective services in the county where the bank is located immediately, and then call B of A back, ask for the bank manager and warn them that you have made a report (they will probably ask you to fax or send a copy of your APS report, which I would do, to show you mean business). Demand a report from them on the status of their investigation, and inform them when you expect updates on the status of his missing money on a regular basis, in writing. Once they know the regulators are coming after them, they will take it very seriously, and most likely, they will take swift action to get him the money back. Lawyer
Your post sounds very fishy, honestly. This is straightforward. When the IRA was closed or transferred, he got a receipt. Everything will show up on the receipt.