Pros: free checking, "small" bank environment
Cons: high fees
I used to drive by this building all the time. We didn't know what it was, just the bank on the corner. Years later my husband ended up joining there (before he was my husband) and found he liked it because it had "the little bank on the corner" atmosphere when all these huge banks, like Wells Fargo, were taking over. That was about three years ago. Since then I have been added to the account and have gotten my fair share of experience with them as well.
He joined because they offered free checking for LIFE (about 125 years I believe it is). That is always nice to have, and it seems to be the "in-thing" for banks to offer now. However, they don't have a catch like some banks did (like Wells Fargo for example) saying you have to have automatic deposit or keep a minimum balance to keep it free. It's free as it gets. The only catch is a minimum of $300.00 to open the account. That can be a stickler for young people like us that simply don't have that money floating around to just stick in a bank. But it does not need to be kept at $300.00, making it easier to have the account.
My husband did not use the account for a very long time. Now it's the account we use for everything. We have enjoyed the service we received at one of the San Jose, CA branches. The local branch here in Reno earns an average rating for service that is nothing spectacular (but no BIG complaints either).
The fees they have for ATM usage (outside the bank) is reasonable. Some banks, I have only seen one, charges no fees. All the others charge about $1.00 each time you use the ATM, and B of W only charges $1.00 per month to use outside ATMs. (Please note: the banks you use the ATMs at can still charge you)
Their overdraft policy is where they fall heavy. They do not offer overdraft linked to a savings account which is a big flop on their part. It is so much more convenient, and the fees SHOULD be lower if linked to an account. They charge $25.00 (it was $18.00) per incident. They most certainly make a few dollars on this policy. I have not checked to see if they offer it tied to a line of credit as many banks do-but they most certainly have never offered it any time we have inquired on the issue of overdraft protection. It most certainly is still cheaper with less consequences than bouncing a check!
Bank of the West has one BIG advantage that no other bank I have dealt with has. That is that you can take amounts other than increments of $20.00 out of an ATM. As long as it is in increments of $5.00 you can take just about any amount out (restricted by your daily limits of course). So rather than having to make a $20.00 withdrawal for going to Taco Bell you can simply take out $5.00 or $10.00 if that's all you'll need. Very helpful for me because I spend less money on unnecessary things if I don't have a lot of extra cash in the pocket. It rarely ever goes BACK in the account.
Bank of the West has always been fairly conveniently located for us both in San Jose and Reno. Overall they are a nice bank with attractive buildings, fair to good service (depending on who you speak to) and quite a few little advantages or perks that makes banking with them worth your while. My big complaints about them, to sum them up are:
Requiring $300.00 to open an account, and requiring an average balance of $300.00 to earn your Visa check card (most banks issue these standard), and no overdraft tied to an account which incurs higher fees.
I do recommend Bank of the West over most every other bank I have ever dealt with. Given all their faults they still have a much nicer atmosphere than the giants that are out there. The one bank that I like BETTER than Bank of the West (but my experience with them is much more limited) so far is the Safeway Select Bank. (No joke, they have been out for a short while now-and will be replacing the banks inside Safeway in a short time)
NOTE: I do not bank online so I have not been to their website-that is why I give an average rating. They do not offer "n/a" as an option to rate it.
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