I was listening to the Dave Ramsey Show podcast yesterday when Dave went off on Bank of America and large banks in general. He then praised his small community bank. That got me thinking about my bank – America First Credit Union. I’ve been with them for nearly 10 years now. I thought I would take some time to share some past experiences as to why I love them so. This is totally unsolicited. I’m not getting paid to promote AFCU. I just wanted to give them praise where praise is due.
History & Past Experiences
My first checking account was with First Security Bank. I chose them simply because their office was the closest to where I worked. They were OK I guess. Just a bank to me. Then, the office were I worked was moved across town. Still it wasn’t too bad because I also moved apartments and had a branch within a mile of my apartment. Then, a few events occurred then that caused me to switch banks:
- I got married
- First Security Bank was bought out by Wells Fargo
- We moved
There was a discussion at work and someone brought up the fact that he recently switched banks to America First Credit Union and really loved their service and online banking. It was totally unsolicited and out of the blue. After hearing the recommendation for AFCU, I was really curious about their online banking because I hated First Security’s lame attempt at it and the transition to Wells Fargo didn’t seem to be going smoothly. I had seen AFCU branches around. Since moving there was actually an AFCU branch in the supermarket closest to us, so we switched.
They guy at work was right. AFCU’s web interface was so much better and cleaner. They even had free online bill pay, which Wells Fargo was charging for at the time I believe.
I just wanted to share a few experiences that has kept AFCU on my awesome list over the years.
Before I ever heard about Dave Ramsey, I had car payments. I wanted 5 speed Nissan Maxima so bad and when I finally found one I had stupid written all over my forehead. I bought that car for $18K and got a 8% loan from Wells Fargo (through the Nissan Dealership). As rates started to drop I decided to refinance it through AFCU. I think I got the rate down to the 5% area and saved quite a bit on the payments. Plus, after than, making payments was as easy asÂ transferringÂ the money in my online banking – and it really was easy. The 9/11 event occurred shortly after that and auto loan rates continued to fall. Each time they did, I would send a message to AFCU via the online banking portal and ask if I could lower my rate. They would mail a paper for me to sign, and I would send it back. No fees. Super simple! What other bank does that?! I had that car loan down to 3.9%! (or was it 2.9%… I can’t remember) I was so pleased with their car loan process that I bought 2 other cars by getting loans through AFCU. The process was always quick and painless. (I now feel obligated to say that I don’t have car payments because I have seen the debt free light) 😉
When we moved to our second home we didn’t have any AFCU branches near us. In our previous area we had 4 branches all within a 5 minute drive. Shortly after moving, a popular Wal-Mart was being torn down and rebuilt into a Super Wal-Mart. I sent an email to AFCU and suggested that it would be really great if they could manage to get a branch in that Wal-Mart because they really didn’t have much of a presence in that area. I got a reply letting me know that the email had been forwarded to the powers that be and they would see what they could do. Sure enough, when Wal-Mart was completed AFCU was there.
Unfortunately, everyone else soon realized how cool AFCU was and they branch got so crowded at times that I dreaded waiting in line there. I had to do it every two weeks because my new employer was so old school that they didn’t do direct deposit (that’s another story in and of itself). I’m sure AFCU noticed the popularity there because they have since built another branch just down the street with lots of drive through windows.
When I decided to form an S Corp for all my side business I was torn as to what bank to use. I really wanted to use AFCU but they didn’t offer free business checking as they did personal business checking so I went with Key Bank. They offered free business checking and were the closest bank to my house. When we moved to our third home there was no Key Bank nearby so I looked around again and then learned that AFCU now offered free business checking, so I switched in a heartbeat.
It seems AFCU has always kept up on the latest technology trends. They have worked with every online service and mobile banking service I have tried. When I started writing my own envelope budgeting application (Inzolo), I wanted to find a way to import transactions directly from my bank rather than download transaction files then importing into Inzolo. AFCU has an OFX server and their implementation is so awesome that it made itÂ possibleÂ for me to develop and test an OFX import tool for Inzolo. Now I have a nice budgeting application that integrates very nicely with my bankÂ accounts.
A few months ago I attended a launchup event where CFOwise partner Ken Kaufman made that statement that the only time you should enter your bank is to open your account. Now I know AFCU has always offered the ability to mail checks in to cash them. But it isn’t any more convenient that going through the drive-through teller IMHO. But just recently AFCU has now added the ability to scan your check images with a scanner and deposit them through their online interface. How cool is that!? The only down side is that it is only available for personal accounts so I can’t deposit business checks this way. I tweeted about it and got a reply that they are working on it and hope to have the ability to deposit business checks soon. I’m sure they will.
Thanks for everything AFCU. Keep up the great work!