Random Reader Query – Recommend a Bank


“Dear PoP,

My girlfriend and I are looking to set up a bank account. We both currently use Bank of America for our individual accounts but we’d like to consider other options. I was wondering if you or your readers have any suggestions or warnings for banks in the DC area.”

I have used Chevy Chase bank (which I think was bought by Bank of America) but I’m still upset that there are no Chevy Chase ATMs at the U Street or Petworth metros. Otherwise Chevy Chase has been pretty good. Do you guys have any good bank recommendations?

44 Comment

  • UStrust or ML, they’re both subsidiaries of BAC but better service.

  • NOT Wachovia. Customer service sucks eggs.

  • I’m a credit union person myself, but I would recommend PNC Bank from what I’ve heard from friends. Also I would highly recommend ING Orange (unless you really want/need to visit branches as it’s all online).

    PS – Chevy Chase Bank was bought by Capital One, not BofA.

  • I had Chevy Chase as a student at AU (they suck you in). I’ve gotta say, I think they suck. I’m not a big fan of banks in general- I’d say go with a credit union.

  • nice point Emmaleigh504 – Wachovia does suck from previous experience.

  • Chevy Chase was acquired by Capital One… CCB also dropped its agreement with Giant, so they no longer have ATM’s at all Giant locations. CCB does have an agreement with metro though and there is one in the CH Metro station.

    You have the national banks… BoA, Wachovia/Wells Fargo, Citi, Chase…etc… Large regional banks… Suntrust, BB&T, PNC etc… Small regionals (CCB only one that comes to mine, others have been acquired) Community banks/Credit Unions

    I guess it depends how reliant you are on the brick & mortar locations and how much domestic travelling you do with the need for a bank… some banks refund atm fees, making them more desirable b/c with direct deposit and online banking, you don’t really need the branch.

  • I use Bank of America now and am reasonably happy, but I have used PNC in the past and liked them a lot. If you’re set on a switch, I would definitely recommend them.

  • If you don’t need branches and qualify for membership, USAA is great. They reimburse ATM service fees and you can use PNC Bank ATMs without a service fee. Excellent phone-based customer service and they give you pre-paid envelopes to mail in deposits or you can use your scanner to scan checks for deposit.

  • I have a TDBank account (formerly Commerce). They don’t have many storefronts (although they are growing in the area) and very few ATMs, but they don’t charge you fees to use a foreign ATM and will reimburse you the fees that the other banks charges you. And like their stupid commercials say, they really are open late and early and they are only closed like five days out of the whole year. There is a branch at Conn. & S, one in Chinatown and one in the old Red Sage spot downtown. If you limit your banking to online, they are great (and I’ve no issues when I’ve had to go into the store because they are near my office.

  • Like the last two recommendations, E*Trade has an awesome online management portal where you can swap money around and manage any retirement accounts you might have. They reimburse any atm fees, so you can use *any* atm *anywhere* (even the ridiculous $10 ones in Vegas or on cruise ships). They also have an interest-bearing checking account – the rate varies but it’ll make you a couple bucks a month.

  • If you and your girlfriend are considering a joint account do NOT go with Chevy Chase. I shared an account with my husband there and it was one problem after the next. First they wouldn’t add my name to the checks, another time they wouldn’t let me pick up foreign currency because I wasn’t the first name on the account. The last straw was when a teller crossed out my balance before giving me a deposit receipt because he “thought it was only my husband’s business.” Chevy Chase bank sucks!

  • I use Wachovia for my running around money, but a credit union for my major banking. I’ve had a Wachovia account since it was First Union. Compared to the credit union Wachovia has more ATMs. So it would make sense to get an account with a bank whose branches you come in contact with often. I don’t do ATM fees so I stick to the issuing bank.
    To do this I have a certain amount direct deposited to the Wachovia account, and that’s my spending money. It’s a small enough amount that I’m not doing important banking at the bank so customer service is not a factor.

  • The absolute worst bank I’ve used is Wachovia.

    In all reality, I’ve been through a great number of banks, and the best one I’ve used is BoA. It doesn’t hurt that they have ATMs not just all over the area, but all over the country. It’s just mighty convenient when you’re out of town.

    Sure, it’s a huge corporate bank, and you’ll never get the level of customer service you can expect at a local bank, but it’s nice to have a bank that always works.

  • PNC never charges ATM fees and reimburses other ATM charges if you keep a minimum in your checking account. That makes any ATM in the world free. Their virtual wallet setup is pretty sweet too. Good for people that don’t like paper.

  • Credit Union. Navy Federal and Pentagon Federal are especially strong, if you have access.

  • Use a federal credit union! They are very friendly and invest much more in local development than these national banks.

    I use lafayette federal credit union and am very satisfied with their service. Also, the City First on U-street invests heavily in DC and has gotten rave reviews from friends.

  • PNC all the way! Super convenient, reliable, great customer service and if you like to use and form or function of online banking they are leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else. The Virtual wallet is fantastic, and the functions online from direct payments, transfers to other accounts, and they have a punch the pig option (quirky, but gets you to think about saving) GREAT iPhone app as well.

    BofA is a horrible bank, with even worse customer service and relations. SunTrust is good, but kinda lack luster in anything that sets it apart.

  • Chevy Chase Bank. The most ATMs, and ATM fees are reimbursed if you have a Platinum banking package.

  • If all you need is convenient ATMs, Charles Schwab has a great online checking account that pays interest and reimburses all ATM fees.

  • USAA also does the PNC thing of reimbursing other banks’ ATM fees. I love that.

    If you also have a credit card and insurance through USAA, their iPhone app lets you deposit checks by photographing them with your iPhone. That’s a killer app for USAA.

  • Support Local Banks!!!

  • TD Bank

  • I’ve had a checking account with Suntrust for 10 years. They have ATM’s all over the city, at least in every neighborhood I spend time in. I use their online bill pay and have paychecks direct deposited. I’ve never had a problem.

    I just started using Ally online banking (formerly GMAC) for my savings. Very responsive and friendly customer service and a better interest rate than ING.

  • I’m surprised that nobody’s saying it, but I’ve been with Citibank for, oh, almost 10 years, with minimal problems.
    Very minimal.
    Their online banking is really great, and they’re pretty reliable. There aren’t that many branches in DC, so that’s a pain, but they do have ATMs at all 7-11s, so you’re not without in this city. Or anywhere for that matter.

  • I suggest BB&T. I opened up a bank account when I moved here with PNC and it was the worst bank experience I ever had for about a month. My health savings account is with BB&T.

    BB&T has ATMs right by the U-street and Columbia Heights metro stations. Also BB&T was the only major bank opposing the ‘stimulus’ package/attempted to refuse to take any of it since under their business model their bank was completely fine. Which to me says that they’ll be around for awhile and that they care what they do with your money.

  • I’m a Citibank and Pentagon Federal kinda guy and have been very happy.

  • Internet banking is where it’s at. Set up direct deposit and you don’t need to deal with regular bank BS. My internet bank refunds me ATM fees from ANY ATM, offers better interest rates, and provides free checks (usually extra $15 at regular banks.)

  • I HIGHLY recommend PNC. Lots of new ATMs in convenient locations (that allow you to set a “Quick Cash” amount that even dispenses $10s!), *excellent* online banking interface, friendly branch service. I couldn’t be happier with them.

  • How do you deposit checks with internet banking? Through the mail?

  • There have been nearly a hundred bank failures so far this year and probably more to come.

    If you have serious money and are concerned, Bauer Financial has for more than 25 years provided free bank ratings at:


    National Capital Bank of Washington ranks the safest, most solvent Washington, D.C. bank with five stars.

    Bank of Georgetown comes in second with four stars.

    I can’t comment about their ATM’s as I don’t use them.

  • There have been nearly a hundred bank failures so far this year and probably more to come.

    If you have serious money and are concerned, Bauer Financial has for more than 25 years provided free bank ratings at:


    National Capital Bank of Washington ranks the safest, most solvent Washington, D.C. bank with five stars.

    Bank of Georgetown comes in second with four stars.

    I can’t comment about their ATM’s as I don’t use them.

  • @mili, thanks for the tip on Ally – ING’s interest rate has been steadily falling for over a year now (too many toxic assets on the books!)

    @Nate, yes through mail, and at least with USAA (maybe others?) you can scan them in at home through their website. And only with USAA can you snap an iPhone photo of a check to deposit it. Mostly, though, it’s all direct deposit.

  • Yes, just mail or sometimes scan. My bank provides a ton of prepaid envelopes for this.

    I have several bank accounts for different things. I do have a ‘local’ bank account just so I have access to a teller sometimes, but all my accounts are linked and my money is transferred to the internet bank. I generally have less than $100 in my Wachovia account and use it for other semi-shady stuff like having it linked to Paypal. (tons of Paypal horror stories out there.)

    In terms of bank failures, it is a NON-issue if you don’t have a ton of money under one account. For most of us, it is all FDIC insured and when a bank fails, FDIC usually takes it over over the weekend and operations are resumed Monday morning as if nothing ever happened.

  • dcpub, spot on about the fdic, and they raised the insured limit to 150K?. Thing to keep in mind that in a run or catastrophic loss (citi im looking at you) the fdic will make you whole again but over several years. That is you dont get cash available the next day, its spread over a few years. right now the fdic is underfunded anyways (due to the failures). nothing to lose sleep over.

  • TD Bank all the way…

  • I’d vote for PNC too. We never pay an ATM fee, there are tons of branches all over and the online system is great. They were really responsive too the times I’ve traveled oversees and needed them to make sure my card didn’t get cut off.

  • Just to level the discourse some: I use Wachovia/Wells Fargo, and have had nothing but great customer service experiences. My S.O. has used BoA, and refuses to ever do business with them again.

  • I HIGHLY recommend Charles Schwab. They refund all of your ATM fees every month if you use an outside bank’s ATM, give you 0.75% interest regardless of your balance, and provide you with free checks and postage paid envelopes so you can conveniently send in checks instead of waiting to deposit money at a bank. I also had my ATM card stolen and fraudulently used last year and they were extremely helpful in getting my money refunded to my account and providing me with identify theft information.

  • @ng – they raised it to 250K.

    @OP – NO NO NO NO NO to opening a joint account with your girlfriend. Sure, everything is great right now, or sure there’s an extenuating circumstance that I don’t understand, but I maintain that there is absolutely no good reason to open a joint checking account with anyone who is not a spouse or a dependent.

    If you need to pay bills together or something, get a bank with fancy online services like BofA and transfer money between your accounts at will. No checks necessary, no hassles. Just keep your finances (and your credit scores) separate until there is a marriage license in your hand.

  • when i first moved to the area i opened an account with wachovia near tivoli. i’ve had nothing but great customer service since.

  • Dear PoP,

    I just took a s*** and now I need to wipe my a**. I was wondering if you could tell me if there are any brands of toilet paper in DC you could recommend, and what sort of technique I should be employing.



  • Prince Of Petworth

    Charmin, kid, Charmin.

    But seriously, I thought folks gave lots of good advice, I was intrigued by the Charles Schwab suggestion.

  • PF blogger weighing in:

    1. Pentagon Fed has opened their membership to Red Cross Volunteers & DoD contractors onsite. They offer some of the best rates around.

    2. Most CU’s in DC have opened their membership to anyone who *lives* or *works* in the District. Two good ones are HEW (Formerly the dept of Ed’s CU) and Treasury.

    3. NCUA’s website lets you search listings in the area. Depending on your industry you can join a CU. (I used to work at a Telco and there are some that are open to telco workers.)

    4. BofA and Wachovia haven’t been all that bad for me as brick and mortar banks. You do have to be careful if you move around from state to state b/c there are some issues with interstate banking and deposits. (Like having them hold ‘out of state’ checks.)

    5. I prefer ING and do most of my banking that way. Many online banks require a link to a brick and mortar one, so usually you can make your deposit locally and just transfer the money. (Yes, it’s kind of slow. But the rates are way better with no or low minimum balances to earn interest.)

  • I have both a credit union account and a commercial bank. I’m a believer in credit unions, and definitely get a credit card issued by a CU, not a bank.

    Signal Financial Federal Credit Union has pretty lenient membership rules. I know in their ads they say if you “live, work, or worship” in the District of Columbia, you’re eligible. They are formerly known as Washington Telephone FCU, back in the day they were the AT&T credit union.

    My “bank” is E-trade Bank, which I joined back when they were Tele-Bank, before E-trade acquired them. While it is primarily by email, you can make deposits downtown and in Ballston. Previous poster was right, their online interface is good.

    Over the next year, I will probably consolidate everything over to my SFCU account just for simplicity.

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