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Seeking a smaller bank...

2786161034_e651e89a17_m_2 I am no finance expert.  But I know enough about economics to be not-so-thrilled with my bank suddenly becoming one of very few large banks in the U.S.  (less competition being not so good for the consumer and all).  I know there are community banks and credit unions and am 100% sure I want to switch.  Not because I think my money isn't secure (grasping the FDIC thing and the max insured amount, which we're well under), but just have an urge to go small, go local. 

Yeah, I'm likely not the first to have this urge, but I'm ready, as complicated as it's gonna be to transfer the whole kit-and-kaboodle (direct deposit, checks, ATM locations & cards, to name but a few). Thanks to OPB's Think Out Loud crew for covering this one from the local angle a few weeks ago.

So my question is this: do you bank at a small community bank that you'd recommend, where you think there is some real, maybe even deep respect for the community, the every-day customers?   Where we can all just fell the love instead of trading each other to hell and back for a buck?  I really, really don't want to undergo this process twice, so I plan to rely on recommendations.  Got any?

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Theres a bunch of great semi-local credit unions around that are absolutely awesome, offer everything you need, and no it without looking for a profit.

My credit union, FirstTech, sent out this cool explanation about how they are AOK even with all the banking upset recently.

we bank with what was Portland teacher's credit union, and is now OnPoint. I believe it's still somewhat local and they feel local and small and remind me of the savings and loan where my grandma used to work. good luck on your quest. we also have an account at wamu and will be moving our money soon for similar reasons and the fact i have issues with their customer service.

www.homestreet.com is localish (Seattle based) and the leadership progressive. Not too many local branches but great service and offerings. We also have our mortgage with them (twice) and a couple refi's as well. Jennifer Larsen has been a great resource.

www.advantiscu.org is a great local credit union. This is our day to day bank for direct deposit, Visa cards, and car loan. Can't recommend them enough.

it KILLS me that we leave our money with a bank who's slogan is 'WAH-HOO.' i want to puke every time i see that.

i'm also on the search for a new bank, but i think i have to first get over the inconveniences of going local (not as many ATM's, locations, etc...).

i've heard great things about albina and they seem to have a handful of convenient locations around town. i'm interested to hear what everyone else says though.

We have only banked with Albina Community Bank and OnPoint Credit Union for the last fifteen years. Although our mortgage is with another institution which is a big financial commitment.

OnPoint tends to offer great loan rates (especially on smaller loans) and they are honest about the terms. Given what has happened in this country that is important to me.

Albina really does serve the community. They work with small local businesses a lot and help them to find the best fits. They also hire people that need more training to help get them started in life. There are times when they have frustrated me but big banks do that too. When we were refinancing our mortgage with a larger institution, they tried to get us to switch every thing to their bank. We said no, that we wanted to stick with Albina. The person actually said they were glad to hear it because we need banks like Albina in the community - I am sure this was off the record and not something the powers that be would like to hear.

About the ATMs- we go to the main Albina branch because it is near our house. They are members of a network of ATMs that you can use all over the city (if not world) for no fee. I forget the name of the network but you could easily find out from them.

We've been with Forest Park Federal Credit Union for I think 12 years now- had loans with them also. One employee knows us by name and recognizes me and my husband on the phone. It's a little far from our house (it's in NW Portland and we live in SE), so I sometimes go to Rivermark FCU on Hawthorne/25th- they seem good also.

We changed banks when we moved here, chose Umpqua. It's not "local" but a small regional player nonetheless. We went to the Beaumont/Wilshire location on Freemont. They have that very cozy community feel. Dog treats, coffee, cookies, free internet & printers (for the general public!). Long hours (which is great for our hectic schedule). Over the top customer service. We have been so happy my husband actually went to go work in their technology department a year later.

I want to give a second shout out to First Tech Credit Union. They have excellent, excellent customer service. Also, they've somehow partnered with Seven Eleven so that you can use an ATM at any of their stores for free. This is very convenient. We've used First Tech for everything from checking to saving to a mortgage.

Back in the day when I was working for a living I worked in the community banking industry. It's definitely true that community banks focus on building long term relationships with their customers, and place a high priority on truly being part of the community in which they are located (sponsoring soccer teams, community events, etc). Their employees are typically trained differently, have much more decision making authority, and decisions are made locally. From a consumer standpoint, you may pay a bit more to join a local bank (free checking is not always a given and interest rates on loans might not be the lowest), and you may not have as many conveniences (smaller ATM networks, maybe not the variety of services available) but the service is there, and it's nearly always possible to see someone face to face or get a live person on the phone if that is important to you.

Having said that, I have not physically walked into a bank in years, and we use a large credit union for all of our banking services. We've been members of Digital Credit Union (dcu.org) for well over 5 years and love it, they are one of the larger credit unions in the country. I love the variety of services that are available to me through their network--mortgages, insurance, financial planning, etc--in addition to our day to day banking needs. And the rates and fees are extremely competitive--I can use any ATM and they will reimburse me for the transaction fees. Since they are a member of a credit union network, there are a number of local credit unions that I can go to if I need to make a deposit (the only reason I've ever needed to go into a bank in the last several years). We do all of our banking online and it's so convenient, yet if we need assistance with anything we can have a live "chat" with a rep online or call directly.

OK, one more comment, sorry! The only other drawback to smaller community banking is the possibility of acquisition, and that's one reason we've stayed with DCU as long as we have. I think many of us have gone through the experience of loving the local bank on the corner until they were acquired by one of the big banks and then everything changed. I also hate having to transfer all of our accounts when we have moved, and with our credit union we can change our address in the system and that's it, not to mention that they can help me with new car/home insurance so it's one or two phone calls and I'm done.

we have been with onpoint (formerly ptcu as mentioned) for over a decade and have been really happy with the customer service, online banking, loan rates, etc. i feel that the service i receive, online and in person, more than competes with the larger banks with which i have had experience.

i also am very happy with ptcu for all reasons mentioned...stellar cust service and very good rates. i recommend!

I was also a wamu refugee and I embarked on a huge search for a new bank...I too did not want to do this more than once. We almost switched to Wells Fargo, but I didn't feel that their customer service was that great.

We ended up choosing IQ Credit Union and so far have been very happy. One thing I would definitely suggest is to go visit any of the banks you are considering. I went into three different banks convinced I was going in to open my accounts and something turned me off while I was there and I ended up leaving. (One particular credit union was *so* unhelpful and unfriendly.)

By the way, so far, most everything that wamu offered I've been able to get with this CU. I was worried that the ATM availability would be an issue but so far it hasn't. Also, this CU has a program like BoA's Keep the Change (debit transactions are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference goes into savings)- Wamu didn't!

I switched from Onpoint when they no longer were PTCU because they did not act like a credit union, but like a bank. Now we straddle three different banks, B of A, Wamu and Albina...I don't think they are better or worse than Onpoint, but my expectations are different!

i am pretty happy with Unitus Credit Union. they are located near mall 205, and also downtown. theres not much to say, other than they are always very helpful and ive been happy with the online system. i have never figured out their phone system, but rarely need to use it.

i've been with wamu for 15 years and have had nothing but good luck with them: crediting me back my overdraft charges well over the yearly limit, identity theft and stolen cards. but, they are big and you don't want big.
i also had good relations with rivermark and onpoint. my mom banks with umpqua and LOVES it. i would too but they have no locations near me.

When I was in college I opened an account at Oregon Community CU (formerly U-Lane-O), and have had it ever since. They're located in Eugene, although I think they may have a few branches in the SW area. I use the ATMs for all my banking and have never had a problem. They're part of the network that lets me use any ATM free of charge that's in the network. I have one I love that is a drive-through, which with kids is invaluable! I also have a token checking account at WAMU because of my mortgage being there and getting a better interest rate. (I would have stuck with them on my mortgage but at the time circumstances were such that I could not.) I can use this if I ever need to do any "walk-in" banking, but really I don't find I need to do it at all.

I must say that not all big banks are bad either. My husband is a manager with US Bank and they have been strong and steady throughout this crisis. They are very strict lenders and never got mixed up in the sub-prime industry. They are extremely cost conscious (including banning post-it notes b/c they are just too expensive) so that they can keep their rates low and customers happy. They really encourage their managers to get to know the clients on a first name basis and to get involved in local community. They are also very good to their employees and their families.

The risk of buy-out is great with small banks...US Bank has bought out many of them in the past. Plus, convenience is one of my most important values and I like having an ATM virtually everywhere I go and having free online banking and bill pay. If my husband didn't work in a branch, I'd never have to go into the bank. On the other hand, small business clients are treated great and the bankers really work with you to help you succeed. US Bank's motto is that it must be good for the client, not just the bank.

I'm sure there are people who might not agree with this and probably people who have had a problem with US Bank or other large banks out there, but it's another view to consider.

Emily, thank you for the kind and insightful words about US Bank--it's good to know! I've recently started a little small business project for myself and my husband and I have been talking about opening a separate account for this. Since I'll be needing to deposit checks on a fairly regular basis, I would need a bank with a branch close by, and US Bank has just opened a branch at my local Fred Meyer store. I've always appreciated the notion of smaller, more local options, but with 2 small kids and a goal of driving less, I like the idea of being able to walk to the corner for shopping as well as my banking.

We bank at onpoint credit union. I love it. I have always been treated so nice and quickly by the associates. They always have great rates on loans (although at this point no one does). Good luck.

Been banking at Forest Park Credit Union for almost 10 years and I LOVE THEM!

I recommend checking out Rivermark Credit Union. They have Crazy interest rates on their checking accounts (over 5% last I checked) and a 5% interest rate on the first $2500 in savings... not bad considering most savings rates are .5% and CD rates stay close to 2%...

I recently started banking for business with Umpqua Bank in my neighborhood. I really like the personalized service, and I got some coffee when I opened my account, and chocolate everytime I go in! They are so friendly and helpful there.

It's definitely personal and I like it that way. I don't know about their loan rates, but for regular business banking/checking, so far I think it's great. I just really love being able to take the stroller and walk to my bank!

Most credit unions are a part of the co-op atm system. Which means you can use the atm or the walk-in service of a lot of other credit unions. I belong to a credit union in anaheim ca. and walk-in to the forest park c.u.. You can search the co-op atm website and plug in your zip to find a myriad of options to bank with.

I second the Rivermark comment, best interest rate for savings and free checking.
I think I may check out US Bank for the free online bill pay.

We have had an account with Electa Credit Union, now Advantis, for eight or so years. They have an awesome deal on checking accounts right now--5% interest on balances and they credit those pesky ATM fees if you meet a few easy-to-fulfill requirements every month (like using online bill pay, using your debit card, checking your statement online).

I still do most of our bill paying with Paytrust...thay have features unmatched by the free bill paying offered by banks, I have found. For my business, I take payments through PayPal, which is convenient, but I wish there was some more local alternative.

I just want to chip in on the local credit unions...I just started working at Point West Credit Union & I know how hard it is for the customers that there is only one live branch. But most credit unions belong to a national shared branching system so there are branches all over the country who will serve our members. Then there are citibank machines in most 7-11 stores and then more CO-OP ATMs. When we get calls from members in California I wonder what they are doing having an account here, but I realize that they have national access. Recently we did a study to compare our rates with other institutions & I have to say that pretty much across the board the credit unions have lower fees than any bank. They also offer the same services--online banking, credit cards, etc. And then there's the personal service, members here are surprised when I ask for ID--then I have to explain that I'm new & I don't know them yet!

Bank of the Cascades is a great community bank. They offer great service and really play a part in the community. They have only one branch in Downtown Portland, but you can use any atm.

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