Wamu Wankers and the Banking Blues

I’ve just reached the last straw with my bank, the ubiquitous Washington Mutual. I’m not going to get into all the details of what happened – the short version is that there was an overage charge, which led to another one, which led to multiples on the same day. But the real problem is that there was NO COMMUNICATION from them at all about it. I only found out over a week later. Doesnít it seem odd that a company that can instantaneously transfer funds in and out of your account can only notify you of overages via snail mail? Is it technological incompetence? Or is it that they make bucketloads of money from fees, and the harder they make it to get an accurate picture of whatís in your account, the more cash they make?

I’ve had this problem with them in the past, and every time, the people I’ve spoken with at the branches have been courteous and helpful, even if there was nothing that they could do about the situation. But today, I spoke with snotty, snide, arrogant Renee, who could care less about keeping me as a customer. In the end, I just asked her what they were prepared to do to keep me as a customer. She had no answer.

I experienced this when I lived in New York -as the big banks got bigger, they started caring less and less about the smaller customers and adopted a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Sad to see it happening here.

So I’m in the market for a new bank. Who do you use? Anybody have one that they love? That has figured out the mysteries of communicating by email?

19 Replies to “Wamu Wankers and the Banking Blues”

  1. Despite their ads, WashMu has always had terrible customer service. My advice is to get into a credit union any way you can. Until then, you will continue to be treated like shit by the banking giants.

  2. Citibank. Citibank, Citibank, Citibank.

    I’ve been with them for over ten years, and they have always had the best electronic banking and outstanding customer service. In particular, their electronic banking is great. Everything’s all aggregated so you can see it easily, paying bills is a snap, and you can have them send you an e-mail every day with your current balance, so problems can be picked up quickly. There are other alert triggers, too. I keep all my finances with them, checking, savings, brokerage and IRA, and credit cards, and have never regretted it.

  3. The problem with Citibank is their limited number of locations/branches on the west coast and especially their business hours. I believe they are only open M-Th: 9-4 and F: 9-6. No weekend hours.

  4. I’m at both ends of the spectrum. I have my checking account with big bad Bank of America, whom I have nothing bad to say about – on the contrary I’m constantly pleasantly surprised by the level of service I receive. And I have a savings account with Wescome Credit Union (wescom.org), left over from when they were the only financial institution that would risk financing an auto loan at a decent rate for my low-credit-scoring ass back in the mid-1900s.

  5. Have you thought about First Mattress Bank? No fees, no minimums, no overdraws. That should more than offset the lack of interest.

  6. Citibank does have weekend hours–I think until one or two on Saturday. I do like the online banking, but I had lots of difficulties with them when I lost my debit card once–they kept sending me the wrong replacmenet.

  7. I think credit unions rule. The tellers know me by name, the lines aren’t that long, and they don’t place as long a hold on big checks. They also financed my 2 loans, and my credit is not great. There are trade-offs though, such as true bankers hours and slow adaptations to new technologies.

  8. I recommend Republic Bank – free ATM banking, checking, etc. They reimburse all of your ATM fees if you have to use another bank’s system (even international ATMs)and they have private bankers (no tellers) which results in more personal and better customer service.

  9. Heh, for a moment there I thought Will was admitting his real age. ;)

    I switched Union Bank of California after a similarly crappy experience with WaMu. I haven’t had any problems with them and they have great hours. Barring that, a credit union is a great idea.

  10. Ya mean people still go to bank branches? :-)

    Between direct deposit, online banking, and cash back at the grocery and drug store, I can’t think when was the last time I went into a branch office. It’s been years.

    About the only time I even go the ATM is when I have a paper check to deposit – a fairly rare event.

    My Other Half, who does most of the banking, used to work for Great Western, back when it was first bought by Washington Mutual. She banks at Wells Fargo, and loves their online services.

    Between online banking and Quicken, balancing the checkbook now takes about 5 minutes a month, and always comes out balanced to the penny.

    Wells Fargo has ATMs all over the place. Can’t vouch for their office hours – like I said, I haven’t been in an actual branch office in years.

  11. USAA is the best hands down.

    Always highest rated. No fees for pretty much anything. Postage paid deposit envelopes. They even pay me back any fees I accrue by using other bank’s ATMs.

    Only downside is no local branch, but I have never needed on.

  12. Wells Fargo has a phenomenal website. But I stay away from them because of some bad accounts I’ve had in the past. *sheepish*

    My husband and I have Washington Mutual and are satisfied with their services, for the most part.

    Credit unions are lifesavers when it comes to loans and savings accounts.

    I was a customer of Bank of the West before going to Washington Mutual. I’ve never had problems with them and everyone was always extremely nice.

  13. I second USAA. If you can get in, never leave. I’ve been with them for years and use all their products. They are by far the most tech savvy bank I’ve ever come across. And they give you money back on your car insurance at the end of the year – but don’t try to get them to pay for the non-stock parts on your R1 when it was stolen out of your condo parking lot.

  14. Jay,
    That really blows about the bad service! Which branch were you at? I’ll avoid that one (and Renee) in the future. I’ve had WaMu since I lived in Portland. Even though the lines and parking here (L.A.) are much worse, I’ve always had good-to-exceptional service. I even had multiple overage charges once (three in a row on the same day) and they were nice enough to reduce it down to one charge.

  15. JozJozJoz –

    Citibank has put in a lot of branches locally – they bought a local bank with many locations and took them over. There are at least 3 within a couple miles of me. Plus, they don’t charge ATM transaction fees, so I can use WaMu ATMs or theirs and not pay a dime to get money.

    The kicker for me is the service, electronic and telephone. I tend to do my finances late at night, and they have 24 hour telephone service that can actually do something. Plus, their website is fast, easy to negotiate, and completely Firefox friendly. The billpaying is a dream, with very good controls, and it’s easy to see where everything went and when it got there. You can even pull up cancelled checks as PDFs, should you actually write a paper check.

    There are only a few things I recommend without reservation – this is one of them.

  16. Thanks for all the comments. I’ve narrowed it down to either Citibank or Wescom. Anybody have specific great or terrbile experiences with either?

  17. I agree with Erica. Credit unions rock. And that’s coming from someone who works at one of the bigguns. (Hint– rhymes with “Bells Cargo”) But I do most of my banking through my local credit union. Most are becoming more lenient about their membership requirements, but that depends on where you live I guess. Here in Phoenix, it’s not too hard to join up. Heck, in Wyoming, if you’re a resident of the state, the credit unions have to let you in.

    So, my advice is to bargain shop the CUs. Every one is a bit different in what they offer their members, so you can find one that fits you.

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