When we moved to Arkansas, I did a lot of research before I picked a banking institution. I like banking with a large national bank with lots of benefits and services. They hardly had any in Fort Smith, Arkansas. What's more, most of the banks I looked into were lacking services that I'd been used to having for years (overdraft checking, in particular, something I rarely use but which certainly comes in handy if one of the joint-checking account owners isn't good about recording his checks!)
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I finally settled on Deposit Guaranty, after learning that it was owned by Am South. I opened a checking account with them, arranged for direct deposit transfers, and figured that that part of my move was successfully completed.
Little did I know that the Arkansas branches of Deposit Guaranty were the banks that nobody wanted.
Upon my move, I discovered that Am South had been trying to sell the Arkansas Deposit Guaranty branches from the day their takeover had been completed. You see, Arkansas has some banking laws that apparently make their banks very undesirable to would-be purchasers.
Regions Bank was purchasing the branches effective in May.
I couldn't get online banking or online bill payment until the transition was complete. This was a major trauma for me. I'd been so used to getting a bill, setting up a payment on its due date, filing it away and forgetting about it. Now I had to pay bills the old-fashioned way for two months, at a time when I was surrounded by clutter, unpacked boxes, and all sorts of confusion. In two months I tacked up about 3 late credit card payments and almost had my phone disconnected! How could something like this happen? Am I such a creature of habit that I just couldn't cope with bill-paying the old fashioned way? I felt completely disorganized (and, since we didn't go into contract to sell our house in Missouri until May 9, we had huge expenses to contend with, too.)
Then, when the big transition day arrived, our old debit cards stopped working. We had to wait for new ones. The bank's ATM didn't accept deposits for over a week. They cancelled our overdraft checking, saying we had to reapply because otherwise the bank would be stuck giving me those completely inadequate Arkansas bank interest rates....
They switched our checking account to something they felt was an approximate equivalent--a free checking account that charged $8.95 for $100,000 of accidental death insurance. I think that people who are adequately insured don't need accidental death insurance, certainly not at $8.95 a month!
We decided to switch to the Excel account, which was totally free as long as one account-holder was over 50. This gave us totally free checking, bonus rates on CD's, free checks, and a 50% discount on safe deposit box rental and traveler's checks.
I think that we have finally worked out most of the kinks with this bank, and that things may start working the way they're supposed to!
Throughout the transition, the local branch employees were very friendly and pleasant. The young woman who'd opened my account remembered my name after a month! I'm sure it wasn't easy for them being taken over by one bank and sold to another bank within months. Especially when the second takeover bank made major changes in almost every aspect of the bank's operation.
When I started online checking again, I was in heaven (even though my last electronic bill payment service was offnet, with a direct modem connection into Checkfree.) At this point I would have embraced any new technological change that helped me get my life in order.
Their online checking service costs $6.95 a month for unlimited bill payments for customers using their Regions Net software. Customers can also use Quicken and Microsoft Money for their banking, at significant premiums (and unbelievably high premiums for Quicken.)
I decided that Regions Net, which allows me to reconcile online and provides reports of transactions by category, transactions by payee, cash flow, and tax reports, was sufficient for our personal use.
The system is easy to use and the website loads quickly (customers can opt for a low-graphics mode for even faster loading.) One thing I like about online bill payment v.s. Checkfree is that all our ATM, debit, and deposit transactions are automatically recorded. Even our checks are recorded once they've cleared, although I always put in the payee name and category.
What I don't like about Regions Net is that, if you have a bill due on the 15th, they withhold the money from your account four business days beforehand. We just paid our very last mortgage payment for our house in St. Louis, and they withheld the money six days in advance.
I figure once I see which payments are actually being issued electronically and which ones are being issued as paper checks, I can tinker a little if I can't pay that bill that's due on the 12th on the 8th, because payday isn't until the 10th. When you have an unsold house in another state and two kids in college, you tend to have a budget that doesn't have much give.
Other Regions Bank Services
I haven't used any yet. We'll be closing out our Bank of America accounts in Missouri at the end of the month.
Regions Bank offers a Prime Plus 6 Mastercard or Visa with a 25-day grace period for new purchases and a variable interest rate--prime plus 6%. I'm actually planning on pruning down our credit cards, and so I don't think we'll use this service.
They have their own family of mutual funds and a discount brokerage service. The brokerage doesn't have an online component.
In addition, they offer CD's, loans, mortgages, and various business banking services.
I'm Not Totally Thrilled With Regions Bank
But, having looked into the other banks in Arkansas, I don't know whether I'll find one that's any more attractive. Regions is a fairly large, Alabama-based bank, which has branches in most of the southern states. They have a large ATM network and a number of branches in our town, including one that's a mile from our home.
Their branches aren't open on Saturday mornings. I don't like everything about their online payment system, although I'll learn to adjust.
But on the other hand, there are many things I miss in Arkansas, and while I'm living here I'll just have to adjust.
I do love those Walmart Superstores, though! One-stop shopping with the lowest prices ever!
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