“Sorry, cash or check only please.” Since we PCSd to Illinois over 2 years ago I have heard that more than I have my entire life. First I was shocked that so many people still write checks! Second, it made me seriously reconsider how I handle my finances as a military family.
As milfams we constantly seek portability since moving is about the guarantee we have. So we use big banks and credit unions that offer a wide range of online services which allow us to do anything we need with the click of a mouse; like NFCU, USAA, BOA and the other name brands.
Have you ever tried handing a cashier in your new hometown a check from the state you lived in when you first opened the account with your address marked out and covered up with address labels and your address still isn’t right on there? They look at you like you have a horn growing out of your forehead! Not only is it an out of state check, but it’s a California routing number with an address label on there from 2 PCSs ago in NC! Good luck with that!
Aside from avoiding the long conversation trying to explain yourself and why you move so much so the cashier knows you aren’t a scammer, banking locally has many other advantages.
- Same services lower cost: community institutions offer savings accounts, checking accounts, online banking, and other typical services you find at a chain bank. The catch, they have less fees! And the fees they do have are typically lower. You can use Bankrate.com to compare different bank’s fee schedules and see for yourself!
- Supporting the local economy: when you deposit money into a local institution you are supporting a local business and putting money back into your community instead of paying for a larger bank’s shareholders.
- The institutions have a commitment to the community you live in: local institutions have an obligation to reinvest into the community that they are in to continue to improve the area.
- Customer Service: local institutions don’t have to worry as much about making sales quotas to keep their job so the employees have more time to spend on personal service. The employees are also usually in the know (since they are from the area!) about local events happening that might interest you. And who knows, maybe you’ll even make a new friend!
- Same Technology: just because a bank is small does not mean that it operates in the stone ages. Most local places have online banking, mobile banking, debit cards, and all the frills and thrills that larger banks have.
- Convenience: It’s there in your community! Need cash right away? No problem! You’ve got your bank there to do a withdrawal or use an ATM with no fee! Sure, some larger banks refund your ATM fees up to a certain amount each month, but why lend someone your hard earned money until the end of the month? Just avoid those pesky fees all together!
Surprisingly, having a bank account in the community that you live in really makes you feel like you are a part of the community. It’s a way to establish you and family, and lay down some temporary roots somewhere. I mean, that’s what normal people do, right? They have “go to the bank” on the to-do list for the day. When, or where, was the last time you were able to do that?