“Safe” Banks Vie for Shaken Customers

Washington Mutual’s quasi-demise last week triggered some customers to yank the money out of their savings accounts and go hunting for safer places to put it. Although I’m a longtime customer, I didn’t follow suite. After all, WaMu is now “backed by the power of Chase,” whatever that means. And I don’t have enough money stored in WaMu’s coffers to worry.

According to media reports, most people felt the same way I did. But some are looking for safer banks, and those banks–usually local or regional, smaller, and lesser-known–are investing hopefully in advertising campaigns to poach jaded bank runners.

The phenomenon is obvious. Just open up the business section of any newspaper, anywhere. For example, I have the Business page of the Washington Post sitting in front of me right now. Washington First Bank, Middleburg Bank, and Chevy Chase Bank are all boasting high CD APYs and millions of dollars in FDIC insurance.

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When I read the paper in San Diego this past weekend, Union Bank of California (not exactly small, but fits the bill) and several others ran elaborate full-page color ads exalting the virtues of their vault safety.

You’d think these small banks were crisis-proof
. That’s exactly what they want you to think. Some probably are, but I doubt they’re all as safe as they claim to be.

Bank runners requiring more autonomy in their new bank selection can also try MoneyAisle.com, where you enter your state and the amount of money you want to deposit, and they bid for your business via the best APR. I just tried it out today. It’s a much more empowering way to choose the best rate, rather than getting estimations thrown at you by fancy advertisements.

Meanwhile, I’m sticking with WaMu and the Power of Chase…err, Power of Bailout Bill. Which had better arrive soon.

  • This is happening in the UK as well. Lots of people are leaving the banks for more secure National Investment savings account that are run and guaranteed by the government.