AP NEWS

Looking to change banks? There’s a lot to consider

May 9, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — News about the Bank of America Financial Center in Bullhead City closing in August is causing some customers to consider moving their business to a different bank or credit union.

Brent Marshall, CPA/PFS, has heard from some of his clients concerned about B of A no longer having a branch here. He suggested the first thing to do is determine whether a large banking system or a smaller banking business would best suit your needs, or if you actually will need to find a new bank.

“Most people don’t like change,” Marshall said of transitioning to a new bank. “It’ll be an emotional experience.”

But those seeking a different provider of banking services should begin the process fairly soon.

As a rule, Marshall said, the big banking systems might be better for someone who travels and needs to be able to access their accounts through an ATM or branch in other cities or states.

He pointed out that in the banking business, the rules don’t always apply.

A significant number of people living here are residents for only part of each year and might want to consider how it affects their banking needs while in the area and, potentially, all year. But for people most interested in receiving face-to-face customer service, it might mean looking at community and regional banks or a credit union, he said.

B of A is among local banks that offer safety deposit boxes, for example, so finding out whether the institute you’re considering provides similar services may be important to you.

Even most small financial institutions have websites. Many banks allow for people to open new accounts online, but Marshall advised to visit the branch where you’ll have your account.

Make an appointment with a personal banker at the financial institution you’re considering. Smaller banks might not have an employee with this specific title but usually have someone who handles new accounts. Ask questions about services offered and explain your financial situation.

Observing what goes on inside the bank can help you make a decision. A convenient location is only one factor to consider.

“Are the lines long? Do the employees smile? Do they seem willing to help you or do they have an attitude?” Marshall asked.

And even if you rely mostly on online banking and ATMs, an institution’s responsiveness still is important.

He said this is crucial for any bank or credit union to do well: “If you need something and need to talk to someone, how quickly can you get someone there to help you?”

That might mean obtaining that assistance in person, by telephone or through online chatting. Easy access in your preferred method might be most important, but good overall customer service is a good thing.

And for people who are cost conscious there’s another thing to think about.

“Get a copy of the fee structure for the bank,” Marshall advised.

These price lists are printed and online in many instances.

The local branch of Mohave State Bank will be accommodating to B of A customers who want to switch their business there, said Patty Stewlow, manager of the Bullhead City branch.

She also understood the process of changing over one’s banking services can be overwhelming.

“We like to work with our customers one on one,” she said.

She pointed out that with that personal interaction comes many services that the big banks provide, such as access to 55,000 ATMs in the United States and abroad through the Allpoint network.

The bank also offers many services that businesses require, such as night deposit, remote deposit capture and ACH network access.

Stewlow said Mohave State Bank, soon to be widely known as State Bank of Arizona, will reduce the cost to open an account and will provide help with the tasks that accompany this type of change over for these new customers.

Don’t forget to bring two forms of identification to open your new account.

“We have a switch kit,” Stewlow said. “We can help walk them through it.”

People who rely on direct deposit from Social Security can get assistance with forwarding their checks into their new checking or savings account, she emphasized. Customers also need to keep in mind any other automatic deposits or withdrawals attached to any accounts they close or move.

Tessa Bajema, Wells Fargo’s communication adviser for Arizona, said Wells Fargo banks offer a wide variety of service options. She also emphasized that while ATMs and online banking are important tools, being able to interact in person with bank employees can be necessary. It’s a frequent occurrence for some customers but can be a rare, but crucial, experience for others.

“Our branches continue to be a place where customers can sit down with a banker and have a meaningful financial health conversation to help them reach their goals, and a place where customers can find a friendly, helpful team member ready to assist in their time of need,” Bajema said.

They also provide help, guidance and even demonstrate how to use various bank products — especially electronic services.

Marshall urged people not doing any electronic banking to be open to moving in that direction at some point because the banking industry — B of A and its other biggest players sooner rather than later — is de-emphasizing person-to-person interaction.

“It might be easier to learn how to use online banking than find a new bank,”

The Bullhead City B of A outdoor ATMs will continue operating and other ATMs nearby also will be available. Online bankers still will have access to their accounts.