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Best bank for Army soldier? USAA?
Old 07-30-2014, 01:34 PM   #1
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Best bank for Army soldier? USAA?

I know there are a fair amount of military retirees here I'm hoping can provide some advice:

I see many positive opinions posted about USAA but am unable to locate any information for physical branches other than a page that lists very few of their "financial centers". Do they have physical locations near military bases? If not, would that be a hindrance for a soldier? I do see that they offer refunds for ATM fees and check deposits via scan and smartphone; maybe a physical branch not so important? Are there better banking options?
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:45 PM   #2
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I don't think there is any better banking option for a soldier anywhere. USAA once did business primarily by mail, now virtually everything is done electronically. No need for brick and mortar locations.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:56 PM   #3
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I have been banking with USAA for many years and I have never visited a physical branch (I am not even sure whether they have physical branches). I deposit checks, make transfers, pay bills, and check balances using their smartphone app or website. For less routine operations like a wire transfer, a phone call might be required. The customer service is good.
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:14 PM   #4
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I guess a physical branch isn't all that important. Just trying to think about things like (rarely) depositing cash, getting certified checks, etc.
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:58 PM   #5
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I guess a physical branch isn't all that important. Just trying to think about things like (rarely) depositing cash, getting certified checks, etc.
You can request a certified check online. You can deposit cash at select ATMs although that list is pretty short outside of TX.

The only real inconvenience as far as I am concerned is if you need something like a Medallion Signature Guarantee. I needed one for Treasury Direct a few years ago and had to get it at my local Wells Fargo branch (I had an old checking account there).
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Old 07-30-2014, 03:10 PM   #6
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Agree with all the above. Long, long time member with USAA and they have been outstanding in all respects.

However, I have often found it useful to also have a small account with a military-conscious credit union (such as PenFed). Relying on only one bank has always seemed to me like putting your portfolio all into one stock.
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Old 07-30-2014, 04:19 PM   #7
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You can also deposit checks at UPS stores if you want, but their apps let you take a picture of the checks and deposit them that way as well.

I've been using them for quite some time as my insurer as well as banker, and I've never experienced a situation that would make me complain about them. If you are still active duty and carry a balance on your credit card, they will normally drop the interest rate when you deploy or move.
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Old 07-30-2014, 04:33 PM   #8
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I've been on active duty for almost 15 years, and with USAA for banking even before that. As a bank, I cannot recommend them highly enough: great app that makes depositing checks, paying bills, etc. a breeze; fully-featured online banking with auto-bill pay, etc.; debit card. I've never had need for a physical bank, and use other bank's ATMs without issue, getting fully reimbursed for ATM fees. All of the rare services I've needed (certified checks, domestic and foreign wire transfers...) have been simple enough via telephone. There are two USAA ATMs that I know of in my vicinity (one on Coronado and one in Imperial Beach, close to bases). I assume there are others around other military bases as well.

I also have a credit card through USAA. I use them for auto insurance, and used their "home buying service" for our most recent purchase. I have financed a car purchase through them with no issues.

I would not recommend USAA for brokerage services (fees are higher than, say, Vanguard) nor for their mortgage services (horrendous customer service in 2011). They are also not the cheapest Life Insurers around.

Otherwise, 5-stars.
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Old 07-30-2014, 08:34 PM   #9
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I have to agree that USAA Bank stands by the customer. They reimburse any ATM fees you incur. I've never put cash into an ATM, but it can be done. The app works for deposits.

The insurance products are ok, but you can usually save money by switching companies. We've stuck with the auto and life as the repair facility we use is outstanding.

The brokerage products are higher expense than elsewhere.
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Old 07-31-2014, 01:33 AM   #10
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I have used Schwab bank for decades, which like USAA doesn't have physical bank, and offers similar features (ATM rebates)

The only issues I've had in not having a physical bank, was trying to redeem US saving bonds. I eventually had to open a free check account at local bank (which turns out wasn't really free).

As for deposit cash. I have found that you can purchase a money order (with limit of like 5,000 or $10,000) at Walmart for a buck or so.

Then you can deposit the money order with USAA smart phone app.
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Old 07-31-2014, 06:31 AM   #11
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As for deposit cash. I have found that you can purchase a money order (with limit of like 5,000 or $10,000) at Walmart for a buck or so.
One of our postal customers does that every so often. He'll come in with a wad of cash -- usually $500 or so -- and buy a postal money order, make it out to himself, and mail it into an out-of-area credit union where he has an account.
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Old 07-31-2014, 07:56 AM   #12
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www.nfcu.org


The top 50 U.S. Credit Unions



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Old 07-31-2014, 01:29 PM   #13
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Been banking with USAA for 25+ years and have never regretted it. I live near San Antonio but rarely have occasion to visit the building on I-10.

Pick a bank and stay the course.
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Old 07-31-2014, 01:43 PM   #14
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Been banking with USAA for 25+ years and have never regretted it. I live near San Antonio but rarely have occasion to visit the building on I-10.
Same here, but I've been with them for 40+ years and had an office less than a mile from their I-10 location for 20 of those years. I probably averaged a visit to the bank once every two or three years.
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Old 07-31-2014, 01:52 PM   #15
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I got a USAA checking account 2.5 years ago when they were still allowing people without military connections to get them (but not their other services). That's been changed since but I'm keeping my account- it runs smoothly, no BS, and it doesn't bother me at all that I've never seen one of their ATMs in my neck of the woods. It means I can use whatever ATM is convenient.

I also like them because they're used to their customers being in weird places. I understand the need for banks to be vigilant about fraud, but I've had credit cards rejected in Europe ("mainstream" cities such as London in addition to places like St. Petersburg) and it's annoying. The first time I used my USAA ATM card it was in Wrangell, Alaska, far away from our home in the Midwest. No problem.
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Old 07-31-2014, 01:52 PM   #16
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San Antonio has really been the place for banking, I guess.
I opened an account with National Bank of Fort Sam Houston back in the 1960s as a ROTC cadet. Got great service for many years.

Switched to USAA when FSB started getting a bit shaky in their service, and have been with them now for 30 years. Also 30 years with PenFed. Despite the rare rough spot, I've always been 99% happy with both relationships, and sometimes just plain delighted.
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Old 07-31-2014, 03:15 PM   #17
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Wow. I'm impressed with the many positive customer opinions provided here. And the suggestion about converting cash to a WalMart or Post Office money order for depositing was great! And the credit card use / access in different places is a big plus too.

Thank you everyone.
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Old 08-01-2014, 04:54 PM   #18
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USAA for checking, Pen Fed credit union for CDs, reward cc, mortgages and loans, AXP for high yield savings.
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Old 08-02-2014, 12:53 AM   #19
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OP, thank you for your service. I use USAA for all banking and insurance needs. I am not a fan of their Mutual Funds, better ones out there, but USAA does allow one to track non-USAA investment accounts so that your all of your monetary information is at one location. Their brokerage service is competitively priced. USAA's customer service is top notch.


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Old 08-02-2014, 02:10 PM   #20
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USAA is a great bank and haas a good insurance transition when leaving the military. However, I have found two issues with them in which I needed a physical branch. Their mobile deposit feature is wonderful, but it's limited to $5,000 I think. I can't remember the limit, but I had a check that exceeded it. The second issue is that of being able to get a medallion signature, something you canopy do at a bank you already have a relationship with, you can't just walk into any bank and get one. This has been such a pain I can not even tell you. Vanguard requires a medallion signature for many (not all) transactions regarding the movement of securities. I bank with USAA, but keep a local credit union account for those unique times. Oh, I also needed to transfer a significant amount of money, and they had a limit on the amount I could do. I could have done it had I paid for a wire, but a wire to my own account at another bank? It was frustrating. I was able to initiate the transfer at the other bank for the full amount for free. Annoying.


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