CASH IN WHEN YOUR BANK MERGES

This frothy and ever-changing economic imbroglio that we are all facing, highlights how mega-mergers are de rigueur in the world of high finance.  Many of us have dealt with, or are facing the prospect of our bank merging.  For the uninitiated, this wave of mergers can be frightening, confusing, disruptive, and costly.  To avoid a fiscal fiasco, you should invest some time, and learn the basic facts and figures about mergers, checking accounts, deposits, and banking products.  This is knowledge that you can “TAKE TO THE BANK.”

Switching banks may not be the answer when your bank merges.  Making a move will entail filling out a slew of new forms, moving account balances, ordering new checks, and dealing with different bank managers and representatives.  There can also be high transaction costs associated with making a switch.  With any change in bank ownership, you must be vigilant, since bank rates and terms often will change.  The key to whether you stay or leave your bank should hinge on the quality of service provided, your banking needs, and the fees charged by your newly merged banking institution.  Do the proper checks and balances, and ask questions of your bank, which will cost you nothing, and may even protect your bottom-line.

Consider Asking The Following Questions:

>Will there be a change in bank fees?  For example, will the minimum balances on your accounts be raised?  What will happen to your on-line banking account and privileges, and is there a monthly access fee?

>Will new checks and account numbers be issued?

>Will your banking branch be closed, and if so, what nearby options are

available?

>Will teller service still be available, and will these services be free-of-

charge?

>Will ATM fees be increased?  Does the new bank have ATM’s, and are you charged each time you use another bank’s ATM?

>Will phone numbers and addresses for account services, balance inquiries, and other services change?

>Will the bank’s privacy policy change?

>If you have questions and problems regarding the merger and the effect on your account, will there be someone at the bank to address your concerns, or will you be required to call a toll-free number?

Protect Your Interest

For your added protection, there are key steps to take which will help to insure your account’s security. During any merger, accounting errors may occur, so you should scrupulously scrutinize your bank statements.  Keep copies of every transaction, and save your ATM receipts until you confirm that the money was placed in the proper account, or the correct amount was debited.  You also have legal protections and rights that require your bank to disclose all fees, interest rates, annual percentage rates, and the bank’s privacy policy.  Be on the lookout for these disclosure notices.  These notices are easy to overlook.  They often are stuffed in with your account statements, or they will look like junk mail. If you are dissatisfied or concerned about the merger, or with the way that your account is being handled, make your views known, and assert your rights.

If you do opt to switch banks, comparison shop, and calculate your banking needs and checking account habits.  Factor in how many banking products and services you really use.  For example, do you use ATM Machines, do you take advantage of on-line banking?  You should also take stock of, and tally up the fees and penalties that you typically pay for monthly account maintenance, ATM’s, and bounced checks.  To find the best rates in your area, log on to http://www.bankrate.com.  You can also assess the financial soundness of a particular bank or credit union at Bankrate.com’s “Safe and Sound” rating guide.

Please send your consumer and legal questions to Elisha Hoffman Abrams, Esq. at elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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