What does it take to make you switch banks?

When I was 14 years old, I opened my very first checking account at Bank One. That’s where my Dad banked and so that’s where he drove me when I asked to open an account. Over the years, I continued to give them my business.

By 16, I had opened another checking account (don’t ask me why) and a new savings account, too. At 20, I started my journey into credit cards with… yep, a brand new Chase credit card. (Note: Chase ate Bank One in 2004.)

At 21, I opened my first Chase business checking account and, at 22, I funded $1000 into my new Chase investment account. When my wife and I married the following year, we canceled her National City account to combine our finances with… Chase.

You get the point. While this may not seem too out of the ordinary, there’s only one problem: Neither of us really likes Chase Bank.

In fact, I’ve never really liked them that much. I’ve wanted to switch to a local credit union for years, but just haven’t done it. I’ve been eyeballing USAA ever since they opened their checking and savings accounts up to civilians. Mentally, I want to change…but physically I’m still a Chase customer.

What Does It Take to Make You Switch Banks?

There are plenty of reasons why someone might switch banks. A couple factors that come to mind:

  • Higher rates. This not only applies to rate chasing to find the highest interest rates, but any form of benefits offered. Maybe there’s a 0.5% better savings rate at the bank across the street. Maybe another is offering a free $100 when you open a new account. These are all situations where the bottom line may be the primary influence.
  • Customer service. I love great customer service and I’m willing to pay more for it. In banking, this now includes both in-person and online customer service features. While I abhor having to call Chase (try it someday, it’s terrible),I love a couple of the people at my local branch. I know the branch manager and business banker well, and they always greet me by name. In addition, I have specific online banking features set-up that I’ve been using for years. Their online services aren’t perfect, but they’re above average.
  • Length of history. As I outlined above, I’ve had a Chase account for over a decade now (and I’m only 25). In this day and age, customers will longer histories at a single bank are more rare. Anytime I have an issue on the phone, I immediately have them look up my history. While I’m not a big fish to them in terms of money, my account history tab shows dozens of accounts over nearly a dozen years!
  • Principle. The longer I’m involved in personal finance, the more I prioritize this category. I’m not a huge fan of big banking. I’m not a conspiracy theorist and I won’t be picketing in Washington, but I like the idea of giving my business to a local bank. “Principle” is a major reason Courtney and I reject credit cards, and many people point to this reason giving their business to credit unions.
  • Accessibility. Years ago, the only factor I cared about was how close my bank was to my house. Here in the Midwest, no one does that better than Chase. It’s almost as bad as McDonald’s (almost…)! With the rise of online banks, the walls of this one are coming down. For some, however, it remains a huge factor in choosing a bank.

So, will I walk the walk? I’m not sure whether Courtney and I will switch our bank. We want to, but we aren’t compelled to…at least not yet.

I’d enjoy supporting a local credit union or a testing out a bank with a reputation like USAA. I’m not much of a rate chaser and accessibility isn’t a huge priority. I much would prefer a bank I feel good about supporting and that offers me fantastic customer service.

At this point, Chase seems to be just doing enough to keep us around. But after writing this, we’ll see how long that lasts!

Have you recently switched banks? What was your motivation? Any suggestions for me?

J.D.’s note: I stuck with a lousy bank for a l-o-n-g time. Ultimately, I moved my accounts to a local credit union, and I love it. I’ve since added an online bank to the mix (ING Direct). Neither of these banks is perfect, but they both provide excellent customer service and above-average deals, so I’m pleased to stay with them.

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