Bank Shot: Should You Keep it Local?

If you’re like GM, you’ve got an account at Chevy Chase Bank. At least for now. As you probably know, Chevy Chase Bank is soon going to go the way of Riggs and other Washington area community banks. It will be acquired by Capital One (yes, the “what’s in your wallet” Capital One). So are you going to leave your money with the national chain or are you thinking about keeping it local?

If you’re thinking abut keeping it local, you can’t get much more local to Georgetown than the Bank of Georgetown. This bank opened it’s doors in 2005 on the corner of Wisconsin and K St. Since then it’s opened six more branches across the area.

So besides being local, what else does it offer? Here’s how some of their personal accounts line up with Chevy Chase’s and Capital One’s:

Bank of Georgetown:

  • Free Checking Account: No fee, no balance, free online banking, 5 free ATM withdrawals a month from non-BOG ATMs (“foreign ATMs“)
  • Premium Checking: $25,000 minimum balance (ed: yikes), individually designed checks, “highly competitive” interest rates, unlimited check writing, 5 free foreign ATM withdrawals a month
  • Premium Savings: $200 minimum balance, those same “highly competitive interest rates”, free online banking, “limited” withdrawals per cycle (whatever that means)

Chevy Chase Bank:

  • No minimum checking: No minimum (obvs.), $5 monthly fee, unlimited account access (e.g. online, phone, etc.)
  • Interest Checking: Pays interest on all balances, no fees paid if balance over $1000, unlimited checks, same account access
  • Super Statement Savings: “Competitive interest rates” with higher interest paid for higher balances, no fee if balance over $300 ($5 per month if not), online banking, lots of ATMs but no free foreign ATMs

Capital One:

  • Completely Free Checking: No monthly fee, no minimum balance, unlimited checks, free online banking
  • Regular Savings: “Competitive interest rate” if balance over $300, three free ATM withdrawals (not just foreign ATMs, that’s for any ATMs period. After that it’s $1.00 each), free online banking

Well about the only thing that seems to distinguish the Bank of Georgetown is its “highly” competitive rates and the free “foreign” ATMs, which is pretty much a requirement for a bank with so few ATMs of its own. It would be nice if they offered an interest bearing checking account that didn’t require such a huge balance. Moreover, it probably only offers pretty bare-bones online banking.

One of the typical benefits of a local community bank are the intangible customer service benefits that come from a bank that doesn’t want to screw up in its own back yard.  Without being a customer himself, GM can’t say whether that rule is true for the Bank of Georgetown.

As for Chevy Chase Bank, it offers some good plans and GM has always had great customer service from them (particularly over the phone), but the foreign ATM fees have always bugged him. It’s not clear what the arrangement will be under the new Capital One management. Also, its online banking has always been adequate at best, but that will probably change under Capital One. One thing about Capital One is that it just has a very generic cookie-cutter feel about it. Beyond the weird viking credit card commercials, it really has a pretty weak brand. Just look at their website and see if it looks to you like the product of one of the largest banks in the nation. When the difference between bank services is slim, good branding can make a big difference.

So what do you think? Do the free ATM withdrawals and local-flavor make Bank of Georgetown worth it? Will you stick with Capital One or do you use another bank entirely?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Bank Shot: Should You Keep it Local?

  1. Sam

    I changed banks the week I read about the acquisition of CC Bank by CapitalOne in the WBJ…

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