Your local neighborhood bank
The weekly news about the financial system makes banking decisions seem more precarious than ever. Sure, the FDIC covers most of us in full (up to $250,000 in deposits, for now), but who wants to deal with the uncertainty of a bank closure or takeover if you don’t have to? And though the big national chains get bigger and bigger, which means they may be safe since the Feds can’t afford to allow them to fail, their bureaucracies can be absolute customer-service nightmares, especially if you have a problem of any kind. Long distance to India, anyone? So the best bet for a new bank account is a local institution with solid financials. They’re all members of national ATM networks, so you do not give up anything in convenience when you travel (ATM usage fees may be another story). Since the smaller locals don’t get the same level of press attention, you have to dig a bit deeper to check them out, but the information is out there. We like Bankrate.com’s free “Safe and Sound” bank-rating system as one source. You can check out a particular institution, or you can search by location, like Chicago. (The site does have its glitches, though, like searching by star rating only lists those with that exact rating, not those with that rating or better.) But ultimately, a local bank on sound financial footing will make for a much more rewarding banking relationship, as you get to know tellers and managers alike. As for which local bank? Depends on your neighborhood, so you’ll just have to do some research.
Audience Comments: “They just seem stable and seem to be doing the right things. Obama seems to like the president. Doesn’t he want to make him his sec. of treas.?”; “Because escape from Chase is futile anyway. Every time I go to a new bank, they end up being bought by Chase.”
Best of Chicago 2008