Finding a good bank/credit union in the Bay Area

Bank Transfer Day has come and gone (Nov. 5), but the movement to transfer money from big banks to smaller community banks and credit unions continues. But transferring an account can be a little bit of a challenge, especially for people who’ve banked for years at Wells Fargo, Chase or Bank of America and have no idea where to go. Rest assured though, the benefits are many: most credit unions require a minimal amount ($35-100) to open a new account, and don’t charge monthly fees on checking accounts and other transactions.

The best credit union might be the one closest to your home or work. Credit unions typically have limited branches, or just one, so finding one nearby ensures you won’t be giving up much in the way of convenience that big banks offer. It also ups the likelihood your money will benefit businesses and other borrowers in your immediate neighborhood. As far as use of ATMs, many credit unions have deals in place with other credit unions and banks that allow you to withdraw cash from their ATMs without fees, and some even reimburse the fees you might otherwise incur.

Advice I give is to get a map and draw a circle of a mile radius around your home or office, and check out the credit unions and small banks that fall within to see which offer the services you need most, or offers the greatest benefits. I don’t have personal experience with small banks or credit unions in the Bay Area (I’m looking myself), but have found some useful sites.

  • Move Your Money Project: This site explains some of the advantages to banking with a credit union or local bank. It also includes a tool for finding a small bank and/or credit union in and around your zip code.
  • Also found on the same page is a service from International Risk Analysis that finds a bank in your zip code with assets under $65 billion and a rating of C or better. It’s a tool especially designed for corporate treasurers to see the same info bank regulators generate.
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