Saturday, July 10, 2004

To Bank or Not to Bank

(Originally posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 by Tim)

Cat and did a little research on local banks today. The easiest thing for us to do would be to transfer our accounts to the Christiansburg branch of Bank of America since a Washington branch has our money and they've been a pretty good bank. Of course, the problem with this plan is that Bank of America has branches in Blacksburg and Radford, but not Christiansburg. The Blacksburg branch is on the way to Jessica and Larry's house, which makes it pretty convenient. However, Cathy needs to deposit checks on a regular basis and there will come a time when we are not visiting Jessica and Larry every other day. This will probably be when we get an internet connection or when they move, whichever comes first.

We have collected information from two local banks so far. One is in downtown Christiansburg (9 blocks from our house). They gave me a handout that described 5 or so accounts, each with slightly different features. I'm looking for an account with no fees to it. The closest they have is "Free Checking" in which you pay no fees, but do pay for your checks. Checks cost roughly $17 per 200. I'm not sure why that bothers me, but it generally does. 200 checks are likely to last us over a year. Our other option is to keep over $1500 in a combination of checking or savings. Then the checks are free. For reference, I think our account balance may have dropped below $1500 once in our marriage. That would have been right after paying taxes the year after we bought our house with my Incyte stock option windfall. I'm unlikely to manage my bank account at this level, but I always think "Hey! I could invest that money in the market at 10% a year and make $150. I should go with the free checking where I pay for my checks."

The second bank we looked at is in the local grocery store and offers a free vacation cruise with each new checking account (I'm not making this up). Their gimmick is that while they offer the cruise, they do not offer transportation to it's starting location. "Free 3 day, 2 night, all inclusive cruise starting from Florence, Italy. Airfare not included." While these guys seem a bit goofy, they are really convenient. We are likely to continue to buy food on a regular basis indefinitely. Cat picked up a couple of brochures from them, one for a personal account and one from a business account. Unfortunately, neither brochure contained any information that might be useful in making an intelligent decision (besides the cruise info). I actually had to check the backs of the brochures to make sure that they hadn't been printed by the Democratic or Republican Party. Cat went back to the counter and asked for some more specific information like fees and minimum balances and services provided. The girl behind the desk told her that usually they print that stuff out for someone after they sign up for an account. Ummmm, OK... Still they are really convenient and I haven't ever been on a cruise. They also use a border collie as their mascot. All important things in choosing a bank.

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