I Found A Bank That Will Take Me!!

Edit: I thought Umpqua only had two branches. That is beyond not true. My new bank has WAY more than two branches. They’re all over Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Northern California. Check it out for yourself: http://www.umpquabank.com/locator/new/ Ok, carry on with the post.:-)

I am now a member at Umpqua Bank, “the greatest bank in the world”. And I have to say, they’re pretty cool. Here’s how it happened:

The regular readers here know I’ve been on a quest since September of 2011 to find a new place to move my banking. At first it was about our “too big to fail” banks and their attitudes around customer service, fee rollouts, etc. I decided to move out of Wells Fargo. It was a difficult choice in a way, because my family banked at Wells for years when I was a kid, and they have branches everywhere I have people.

But I have been learning that where you have your money matters ethically, even if you don’t have much.

I started by looking to join a credit union. Boy did that backfire on me. None of the credit unions wanted me. Once because my credit score wasn’t high enough (looking at you Salal, with your minimum 600 score requirement). Another time Chexsystems blocked me out.

So, after feeling like the school nerd trying in vain to get a date with the prom queen, I sucked it up again and started looking at local banks.

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Local Bank Websites: Who To Visit?

So, in my last post, I let you know that, once again, I was denied an account at BECU. I’ve given up on getting an account there, and am moving on to try local banks. The first step, of course, is looking at their websites to decide which banks will be the best to visit, considering my financial situation. I’ll share the information with you after the page break.

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Credit Unions: For Perfect People Only?

Well, I did it again. I went over to BECU this morning and tried to open an account. *sigh* I thought that since I had paid off the Chexsystems issue about four months ago, things would be okay. Nope. Chexsystems STILL had the US Bank thing listed as unpaid. Which means no BECU account for me.

The lady I talked to (different one from the first time) said that even if I came in with a letter from US Bank saying it had been paid off, they aren’t allowed to override their computers and open an account. And apparently, Chexsystems can leave that on my report for up to FIVE YEARS.

You know, I feel a bit like a high school outcast trying to get a date with the prom queen. This just isn’t going to happen. The credit union crowd sits at the popular table in the school cafeteria, and I’m never going to be allowed to put my books on that table, much less eat there.

Hmm..I did notice one thing though when I visited the Chexsystems website just now. In their FAQs, they provide this handy piece of information:

My account was paid. Why wasn’t the report removed?  A reporting member is under no obligation to remove an accurate report of account mishandling due to payment of monies owed. However, the member is obligated to update the report with a paid in full or settled in full date when applicable.

Apparently I need to talk with the folks at US Bank. They haven’t done their part in reporting that I cleared this up.

But to continue on…I can’t let this stop me from moving my money. It’s no longer about the fees Wells Fargo is trying to bring back. It’s about their money they’ve invested in private prisons. I can’t abide it. Those prisons are a form of slavery targeting people of color that’s even more insidious than our publicly funded systems, because there’s much less oversight. I don’t have a lot of money in my account, but it’s the principle of the thing.

So, I need to find something else. Since credit unions are for the popular kids, I’ll check into local banks I guess. I’d hate to go back into the alternative financial sector (a fancy word for payday loans, check cashing places, etc), but I will if it’s the only way to stop supporting this investment.

As always, I’ll report back and let you know.:-)

Moving Money: Credit Union Strike Out!

Wow…

Ok, so for those following along, I had decided to move my money because Wells Fargo, among other banks, has rolled out a ridiculous $3/month fee for the “privilege” of using our debit cards. It’s crap. I told you I would go out & do it, and you would get to come along.

We found out first that Salal Credit Union, in my opinion, engages in false advertising. They don’t put on their website that you have to have a credit rating of 600 or above to open an account with them. Since my credit rating is around the 550s, I lost out there.

My next stop was Boeing Employees Credit Union. Despite their name, they are open to anyone in Washington. I decided to try there because my buddy Chris has an account. He says they have excellent customer service. Of course the first thing I asked was if you needed a credit rating of 600 or more to open with them. She said no. First hurdle cleared!

BECU only requires a credit rating of 300 or higher. But here’s where I got stung. They run a Chexsystems check as well, and my history wasn’t clean. Curses, foiled again!! The nice lady I talked to there recommended at the very least handling the problem on Chexsystems (which I have to, since they are a source for pretty much every financial institution), waiting 30 days, and then trying again.

*sigh*

Actually, growl and WTH??

You know, there’s a part of me that is really starting to want to stay with Wells Fargo, super evil money stealing be damned. There’s one reason: I’ve been contrasting this journey through the credit union universe with getting my current bank account open. When the Wells Fargo banker helped me, I was homeless, working day labor on the verge of getting a better job, and had 78 cents in my pocket. I needed an account because I needed somewhere for my tax refund check to come in. Plus, I was getting tired of seeing a big chunk of what little I made go to the payday loan and check cashing people.

I remember that day. I was exhausted, I looked like hell, had way lower credit than I do now, and was on the verge of tears because I just needed ONE thing to go right that week. You know those weeks. When you can tell your life is about to change for the better, if you can just get through this bit right now.

And I did, with their help. The banker and branch manager were literally excited to pull someone out of the payday/check cashing sector and get me a real account. They did some magic with the paperwork, and with 78 cents in checking, I was all set. The manager even had my back a month later when an employee I had never seen before got in my space. This employee started questioning me about if I really had a wells fargo account & had a reason for being at their branch. I didn’t even have to bring it to the manager’s attention. He saw it from across the room & came over and intervened.

So here I sit two years later. I want to move my money because, as an entity, I don’t feel like I can trust wells fargo corporate to not suck me dry of every cent they can get away with. But the more I get the feeling that I’m not quite “clean enough” to be a member of a credit union, the more part of me is glad that my local Wells Fargo branch understands what it means to take a chance on people and help give them a lift up.

Bottom line is I am staying for awhile while I clean up my credit. Which I have to do anyway if I ever want a decent rate on anything. Here’s an article that shows you, in dollars, the extra money lower credit forces you to pay for things.

If you want to move your money and have the capability to do it, I would recommend BECU. They seem to have a lower threshold, which tells me they can serve a lot more people coming back from financial disaster. Plus, where they don’t have branches, they have agreements with other credit unions to let customers do their stuff with them. BECU also seems a lot more flexible financially with loans and helping people figure out customized ways to handle their money in the short and long term.

And FYI, if you use a QUEST card for state cash. I pulled some cash out at BECU’s ATM and they did not charge me the $3 service fee that everywhere else does. Something for those who need to know.

This concludes my credit union quest. I learned a good deal of stuff, and am staying at wells fargo for awhile longer. My next quest is cleaning up my credit report, and you all are, of course, invited along for that as well.

Next Credit Unions: Watermark and BECU

Keeping up the search, my next stops will be Watermark CU and BECU.

Here’s the thing: I looked at the websites for both, and they say the same thing that Salal said about the requirements for being a member of their credit union:

Salal CU:

Salal Credit Union membership is open to anyone who lives or works in Washington State. Check and see if your employer offers Salal membership or if someone in your family is already a member—that makes you eligible for membership too.”  Nowhere on this page does it say anything about needing a minimum credit score.

BECU:

You can apply for BECU membership by fulfilling just one of these requirements:

  • You live in Washington state
  • You work in Washington state
  • You attend school in a Washington state school district
  • You belong to a church in Washington state
  • You, or a family member, are a current or past Boeing employee, an employee at a Boeing subsidiary or at the Museum of Flight.
  • You may also apply for business membership if you have an active Washington State Business License.

Watermark:

“It’s easy to join. If you live, work, worship, or go to school in any county in Washington State, you are eligible to join Watermark Credit Union.”

Neither BECU or Watermark put a number requirement on membership.  But I guess we’ll find out when I go, won’t we?

Shouldn’t a financial institution be required to put the minimum credit score right there on the site with every other membership requirement?

My Search for A Credit Union Part One

As soon as I decided it was time to move my money, I started web research to figure out where to go. I live in Seattle, so I started by searching this database:

http://www.findacreditunion.com/

After the search results popped up, I decided to start with Salal Credit Union. Their website had a lot of good information, and they have a branch about five blocks from our apartment. I went down to open an account last week.

And was not able to do it. I’m about 80 points short of being good enough to have an account.

Salal requires customers to have a minimum credit score of 600 in order to open a checking account with them. My credit score is not that high. The lady I talked to said that most credit unions are moving away from ChexSystems to verify that you’re not passing bad checks and toward requiring a certain minimum score to have an account.

I have to wonder: If that’s true, how are they going to do outreach to people who are stuck using payday loan and check cashing places? Those folks are not going to have a high enough score to qualify. Which is doubly odd, since Salal has something they call SalalReadyCash. They bill it as an alternative to the payday loan industry. But how can you access something you don’t qualify for?

The lady I talked to told me to keep trying other places, and thought that BECU might be large enough to absorb people with lower credit ratings.

I guess it’s back to the drawing board. But I won’t stop looking. I’ll keep you posted.