Sunday, October 16, 2011

Credit Unions and Community Banks for DC Residents

Ahhh! That's better!
With mega banks increasing fees, joining a credit union or community bank is all the rage.  If you’re a member of the military or a government or university employee, you probably know all about credit unions.  For the rest of us, it’s not so clear. When I received a letter from my mega bank saying fees were going up, I started looking for other options.  Here are some ideas:
Credit Unions are owned and controlled by members and operated to promote thrift and provide credit and other financial services at competitive rates. You can find one through an online credit union locator. Alumni associations often have credit unions, but their ATMs may not be conveniently located.  In DC, Andrews FCU is open to non military folk. Anyone can join MCT credit union by donating $35 to the Montgomery County Humane Society.  If you live in DC, you can join Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union.  You can also join Pentagon Federal Credit Union with a $20 donation to the National Military Families Association.   They have branches around DC, but most are located in buildings requiring a security clearance – though ATMs are accessible to the rest of us.  They have great phone customer service, and you can talk to a real person from 7am-1am!

Another option are community banks which are locally owned and operated banking institutions.  A quick search on Community Bank Locator identified 6 or so community banks in DC including National Capitol Bank on Capitol Hill which was rated as one of the top 200 community banks (ranking 192) in the US in a study conducted by SNL Financial LC in 2009.  They have a walk up window with a real person on Saturdays from 10-1pm on Saturdays, and they let you bring your (well mannered) pet in the lobby.

But opening your account is only half of the job.  You still have to transfer all your automatic withdrawals over to your new bank.  Fortunately, this process has evolved over the years, and you can change your account information with most utilities/mortagages online without the laborious process of mailing in voided checks (Washington Gas unfortunately being the exception).  To be prudent, wait a month before closing out your mega-bank account.  Then, cut up your ATM card and send it back to them so they know what you think of those increased fees!  Green America also posted 6 Ways to Break Up with Your Bank.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why You Need a DC Library Card: the

Who knew that DC Public Libraries were so online!  If you have a card, you can go to the digitalbookmobile and download a wide variety of books, audio books, and music in formats compatible with iPhone, iPad, Android and Nook among others.  Last weekend, I downloaded a movie, and I'm currently on the waiting list for a bestseller novel.  I'll get an email when the book is ready for download, and it will automatically check it back in on the due date. Sweet!  You do have to download some software, but even I was able to figure out how to do it, and I'm no hipster or techie.  The on-line collection is growing all the time, and while Netflix and others are increasing their fees, this service is blissfully free!  If you don't have a card, you can apply for one on line or at any DC Public Library. And, you don't have to be a DC resident to get a card. Residents of the greater DC area are eligible, too.