my soft spot

just a mom who plays hockey and knits

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chalk one up for the little guys

I need to move my safe deposit box. My old bank, which originally offered the box FOR FREE with a checking account, the monthly fees for which were waived because I was an Alameda resident, changed their strategy a few months ago: Now, they'll not only charge me $35/yr for the box, but also charge me $8/month for the checking account. A savings account is $4/month. Which brings my yearly safe-deposit-box costs to a whopping $131.

So I Googled "alameda bank," and got the list of possibilities. I contacted four banks, and sent them my simple query on Sunday: Were there small safe deposit boxes available at any of their Alameda branches?

The results were unpleasantly predictable:

Wells Fargo sends me a "secure email" for which I have to log in to their website to read, three days after I send my query:

"Dear Jennifer lastname:

"Safe Deposit Boxes are available at most Wells Fargo branch locations including our in-store locations. The yearly rental fee varies by branch and by box size. Please contact your local Wells Fargo branch for details about establishing a Safe Deposit Box rental.

"To find Wells Fargo locations near you, please visit . The Locator includes addresses, driving directions, maps, and business hours for Wells Fargo branches and ATMs.

"Thank you for banking with Wells Fargo."

Yeah, you're welcome. And thanks for the complete lack of information.

Bank of America sends an even less helpful response, two days after the query:

"Dear Jennie lastname,

"Thank you for your e-mail.

"Please contact one of our customer service representatives at
1.800.346.7693 Mon-Fri 9am-5pm for further assistance. We apologize for
any inconvenience.


Bank of America

Hm, thought I was contacting one of your customer service representatives. Apparently, sending email from your website is a step to be avoided.

And our hometown favorites both answer the next day after my query--

Bank of Alameda has an actual person's name attached to the response:

"Hi there,

"Yes, we do have Small Safe Deposit Boxes Available. They're located at our Towne Centre Branch at 2130 Otis Drive."

...and she answered all my questions promptly, by return email. Boxes are $25 a month but you do need a bank account, which carries a monthly fee, a minimum of $5. Total: $85/yr.

And US Bank, whose phone system claims they're the Best Bank in America, may actually *be* the best bank!

"Dear Jennie lastname,

"Thank you for the opportunity to be of assistance.

"We do have four branches in Alameda, California that do have safe deposit boxes. The
addresses and phone numbers for these branches are as follows:

(list omitted)

"You can also,[sic] locate a branch near you by visiting us at the web site listed below:


"Please let us know if there is anything else that we can assist you with. "

Again, signed by a human being, who was so perky when I called that I said, "Maybe you are the best bank in America!" And they are: $45/yr, no account required, but if I do get a checking account, it's free, with unlimited check writing and use of their ATMs (which are sprinkled liberally throughout Alameda), and even draws interest above a certain balance.

Pinch me! Is this 1950?

Score: big banks 0 and 0, little ones 1 and 1. Restores my faith.

Excuse me, but now I have to move my will, our birth certificates, and my Rice Krispy treat (I have to get some kind of reward for visiting my safe deposit box!).


At 4:42 PM, August 16, 2007, Blogger Dharma said...

Rice crispy treat - ha!


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