50 2009 GREATER PHOENIX ULTIMATE GUIDE TO LIVING HERE settling in by Debra Gelbart I t may seem counter- intuitive in this economy, but there are actually more different bank brands in Greater Phoenix now than there were a year ago. Although the three largest bank names remain Bank of America, Chase Bank and Wells Fargo, there are dozens of other smaller brands that fill " niche" needs among customers — those who want more personal treatment and specific services ( such as a concierge service) not typically offered by bigger banks. New banks that opened in 2008 included Colonia Bank and Metro Phoenix Bank, bringing the total of different bank brands in the Valley to about 75. Other banks were acquired by larger banks: Washington Mutual became part of Chase; Wachovia will become part of Wells Fargo; Silver State Bank branches in Arizona became part of National Bank. First National Bank became Mutual of Omaha Bank. Business as usual In spite of these changes, the banking climate in Arizona remains the same as it's been for years, because all banks in the state are FDIC- insured, said Tanya Wheeless, president and CEO of the Arizona Bankers Association. " If you're new to the Valley," she said, " visit banks and talk to the employees there to find an institution you're comfortable with." It's still safe to choose a smaller bank, she said; deposits in every bank up to $ 250,000 per person per account are insured by the federal government. " Even though we've seen a lot of bank mergers this year, it's important to remember that nationwide, only about 20 banks have failed out of a total of about 8,400 different banks," Wheeless said. Whether you choose a large or smaller bank, Wheeless encourages you to forge a relationship with a representative of your bank even if it's just getting to know a teller well enough to recognize you when you go in to the bank. " It's important to have someone at the bank to turn to so that if issues arise they can be more easily resolved," Wheeless said. " It's easier to get your financial needs met if there's a person you can talk to at your bank, regardless of the size of the institution." You can find more information about individual banks on the FDIC Web site ( www. fdic. gov) by clicking on " Call & Thrift Financial Reports," said Jack Hudock of the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions. " There you can find verifiable objective financial information about banks," Hudock said. Plenty of choices The three largest banks have more than 400 branches in Maricopa County. These banks offer a wide range of services, including checking, savings, credit lines, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, other loans, online banking and numer-ous branches across the Valley. Smaller banks typically offer most or all of these same services, with the exception of a large number of branches, and you're Banking Your Bucks Select a financial institution based on your needs settling in
2009 GREATER PHOENIX ULTIMATE GUIDE TO LIVING HERE 51 ' Must- have' banking services What are the five services every bank or credit union, regardless of its size, should offer? " Most people want checking accounts, savings accounts, access to consumer credit, including home and auto loans, and online banking," said Tanya Wheeless, president and CEO of the Arizona Bankers Association. If you want to frequently monitor checking account activity or you rely on online bill pay, user- friendly online banking is key. Many financial institutions offer online banking, but their Web sites can be very different from each other, and some are much easier to navigate than others. Ask a financial institution representative to give you a tour of the organization's online banking service. Beyond that, Wheeless said, other " must- have" services vary according to personal preference. If you own a business, for instance, the ability to make remote deposits using a check scanner could be critical. Conveniently located branches may be more or less important, depending on your perspective, than personalized attention from a banker. — Debra Gelbart also more likely to be able to develop a relationship with a banker, because smaller banks emphasize personal relationships with their customers. Credit union option Credit unions are good source for banking services. There are 30 state and federally chartered credit unions in Greater Phoenix, according to the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates. Credit unions require membership, but permits members to pool their savings, lend to one another, and own the organization where they save, borrow, and obtain related financial services. " Many have expanded their charters and membership eligibility requirements so that just about anyone can join a credit union," said Sandy Watts, spokeswoman of the Arizona Credit Union League. Set priorities Experts advise choosing a bank or credit union based on your priorities. For example, if you're going to be mostly banking online but want conveniently located ATMs that you can access without fees even if they belong to another bank, you might consider a smaller bank that doesn't charge for out- of- network ATM usage. Before you open an account, ask the financial institutions you're considering questions about their hours, branch and ATM locations, range of financial services, online banking and fees. Arizona Bankers Association • 602- 258- 1200 • www. azbankers. org Arizona Credit Union System • 602- 264- 6701 • www. azcreditunions. org Arizona Department of Financial Institutions • 800- 544- 0708 • www. azdfi. gov Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation • 877- 275- 3342 • www. FDIC. gov National Credit Union Administration • 602- 302- 6000 • www. ncua. gov BANKING RESOURCE GUIDE " If you're new to the Valley, visit banks and talk to the employees there to find an institution you're comfortable with." — Tanya Wheeless, President and CEO, Arizona Bankers Association.