9/26/08

I'll Miss WaMu

If you had a deposit at Washington Mutual (WM), don't worry. Your money is safe for the time being. You're now a Chase (JPM) customer. The details can be found here. If you previously had a Chase account, and the value of your Chase and WaMu accounts is over $100,000, you should move the excess to other banks within the next six months to be fully protected by the FDIC. At present, for FDIC purposes your Washington Mutual and Chase accounts are at different institutions and are each protected up to $100,000.

I was a happy Washington Mutual customer for a few years (recently I've transferred most of my money to ING and HSBC--while I knew I'd get my money back when WaMu failed, I worried that there would be a delay). They had great rates on their online savings accounts, money market accounts, and CDs (because they needed money).

WaMu's customer service was also pretty good. I'm glad most of these people will get to keep their jobs, as Chase said it plans to keep around 90% of Washington Mutual's banches open.

I really liked that there were no holds on deposits. I could deposit a check and withdraw that money right away. I have to wait days at every other bank I have a relationship with.

I also liked the little teller islands at most WaMu branches. When the tellers are right next to the customers, things seem to move quicker. I've been on long WaMu lines that have moved faster than shorter lines at Chase and HSBC.

There were also no fees or minimum balance requirements, my original reason for getting a Washington Mutual account. Now with Chase taking over, this will probably change. My family and I have had bad experiences with Chase over the years. I'll probably pull my remaining $5 out and close my account.

Besides the loss of jobs and in some cases uninsured deposits, and lack of credit for businesses, another bad thing about bank failures is that the level of service the surviving banks will offer their customers will be minimal. Bank of America, Chase, HSBC are all terrible. They charge fees wherever they can and offer nothing in return.

I hope banks like WaMu (minus lending money to people who can't pay it back) emerge from the ashes soon. So far I'm happy with my ING, but it requires a separate institution to make deposits, and the money transfer process takes a while--especially with holds.