By Lori Capullo
Lately, just the mention of the word “bank” tends to elicit a cringe from anyone who doesn’t keep all his or her cash under a mattress. After all we’ve been through in the past few years with banks, many South Floridians have abandoned the big ones and run for the more personal service they feel they get from using credit unions. This hasn’t gone unaddressed by the very banks many of us have chosen to shun; in response to the exodus, most have implemented services for their customers designed to lure us back in and make our lives easier. Here are some of those services worth checking out.
LIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE. Is there anything more frustrating than having a banking emergency (unidentified charges on your account, for example) and frantically calling the bank only to become mired in button-pushing oblivion? TD Bank, Wells Fargo and Citi, among others, all offer live customer service 24/7, so you don’t have to go to bed at night stressing about the fact that no one can help you until morning.
FREE MOBILE BANKING APPS. These are free, allow you to see your balances, review transaction histories, check due dates for credit cards, and find branches nearby and provides contact numbers, among other things. Some banks even allow you to sign up for text alerts when your balance dips below a certain level so you can transfer money. And most banks make these available for iPhones, BlackBerrys, iPads, and iPod Touch devices — some even offer them for plain old cell phones. (Imagine!)
MOBILE DEPOSIT. If you don’t have direct deposit, or if you receive checks by mail on different days of the month but hate having to run to the bank several times a week, this is a godsend. Chase QuickDeposit allows customers to deposit checks from their smart phone or iPad; all you have to do is take a picture of both sides of your endorsed check with your camera (follow the on-screen instructions), click the information on the verification screen and the bank confirms that it’s been processed. In addition to eliminating the need to go to the bank, it removes the hassle of deposit slips, waiting in lines and fussing with ATM machines — plus it’s free. Bank of America and Wells Fargo also offer mobile check deposit services (caveat: funds aren’t always available for immediate withdrawal).
OVERDRAFT PROTECTION. This is always worth having because anyone can overdraw an account. It allows you to link your checking account to a second account, such as a savings, from which funds will be withdrawn to cover the overdraft (you can also link it to another checking account, credit card or line of credit). There’s no cost for the service at most major banks, and some allow you to overdraw your account either at a point of purchase or ATM even without overdraft protection; however, if you don’t make good within 24 hours, there is usually an overdraft fee assessed of between $30 and $35.
— Lori Capullo