Shop around before you choose a bank

Shop around before you choose a bank »Play Video
SEATTLE -- With dozens of banks and credit unions competing for your business, you don't have to settle for inflated fees and lousy service.

If you're responsible with your accounts, you've got more options than you might think.

After seven years with the same bank account, Dejah Leger just decided to fire her bank. She learned about a Web site called Move Your Money.

Move Your Money is a grassroots Web site that favors conservative banks and credit unions in your community. Type in your zip code, and you get a list of community banks rated "B" or higher by a group call Institutional Risk Analytics.

"We have been looking and we have a bank that came up that's actually within walking distance of our house," said Leger.

But don't stop there. Bankrate.com lets you check a bank or credit union's performance and financial stability based on a star rating. Type in the name of the institution and you get information about capital adequacy, asset quality, profitability and liquidity of each rated financial institution. This site also lets you compare interest rates for different bank products.

Keep in mind that many of bank referral and rating sites have their own agenda. It may be political. It may be commercial. Use the information as one part of your investigative tool and resist being "steered" by information that plays on your emotions instead of the facts.

Another way to learn about bank stability is to online to see which banks are taking over the banks that are failing.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, posts a list of the latest failed banks every Friday. This Web site also tells you which banks the FDIC says are qualified to take over the banks that go under.

Of the local closures so far this year, American Marine Bank on Bainbridge Island was taken over by Columbia State Bank.

When Columbia River Bank when under last month, Columbia State Bank took that over too.

The FDIC closed Evergreen Bank and Umpqua Bank took over.

Horizon Bank went down a few weeks ago. Now it's Washington Federal Savings and Loan.

The National Credit Union Administration has a similar site that tracks failed credit unions.

Finally, physically visit the banks and credit unions you're considering, and pay attention. Ask for information about their products and services.

Ask about fees and interest rates. How well will the institution be able to meet your specific needs?

Observe the attitudes of the employees and equally as important - the customers.

If you're not happy with your current institution, you do have options. Exercising those options is the best way to send a message if you're not happy with the status quo.

Closed Banks:

FDIC: Failed Bank List

Bank Failures in Brief

Closed Credit Unions:

Closed Credit Unions 2010