In search of the perfect bank

Something I have been seriously giving thought to this year has been to switch to a different bank (or credit union). Currently I dislike the fact that I am with Bank of America, but they are getting the job done at the bare minimum. I have yet found the perfect replacement though.

Bank of America has one thing going for it: tons of ATM’s. I am pretty sure to find an ATM anywhere I travel in the United States. It also has a basic iPhone application that allows me to do banking on the go if I need to, which has come in handy.

My requirements to switch from Bank of America are quite simple (so I thought):

  • Free checking and savings accounts (willing to take a minor interest rate drop for this).
  • Lets me write paper checks. I have to pay condo fees with paper checks, so this is a requirement.
  • Either entirely free ATM access or willing to cover for a certain amount of ATM fees.
  • Easy to use web site and an mobile application.
  • Scan checks for deposit. Bonus points if you can do this with an iPhone. It is the 21st century and we have the technology to do it.
  • Great customer service. Doing customer service myself as my day job, this is a major requirement if I am going to have my finances with you.

So far, I haven’t found any bank that can do all of these tasks.

  • Local credit unions: Two of them, Granite State Credit Union and St. Mary’s Bank, are on the same street as my work, which makes deposits easy and have that local friendly presence that gives you that warm fuzzy feeling. They have a large ATM network shared with other credit unions with free access. Mobile efforts are either non-existant or very limited. Only GSCU offers ability to scan checks at your home computer. Closest to what I am looking for in the sense of a traditional bank/credit union, but so year 2000 in online technology.
  • ING Direct – I have a savings account with them and they seem to be a very solid online bank. Decent ATM network available. Biggest knocks for me: lack of a good mobile application, no ability to have an actual checkbook (you can only mail paper checks via their site), and no check scanning for deposits.
  • Ally Bank – Web site looks fantastic, at least the front page. Free accounts, free checks, free ATM’s after reimbursement, reports are that they offer great customer service. Utter lack of actually taking the next logical step and offering a mobile app and scanning checks for deposit prevents me from going there today.
  • USAA – There has been lots of great reports about how USAA is awesome. I even opened an account with them just for kicks to see how it is and I have to agree, looks like a great bank. Refunds up to $15 in ATM fees, free checking, savings, web site has a good design, great iPhone app. However, unless your parent(s) were in the military or you are/were in the military, you do not have access to the best feature: check scanning with your iPhone or computer.

Banksimple looks promising, but it is clear vaporware at this point. I would need to see what they actually launch with to see if it matches my criteria.

So far, no bank offers what I want. Still searching for a way to leave Bank of America.