Friday, May 27 2022

Banking mergers and acquisitions happen regularly and can lead to streamlined services and better offers for consumers, but they can also sometimes create challenges like reduced branch access or customer service difficulties.

If your bank merges or goes through an acquisition, it will likely try to make the transition process of moving your account as smooth as possible.

But if the new bank doesn’t have the services and features you need, you’ll probably want to look for another bank.

HOW TO MANAGE CHANGES WITH YOUR BANK:

In most cases, the best way to handle changes to your account after a merger is to be patient, weigh your options, and keep track of any new debit cards or documents your new bank sends you. . With a merger, your bank will generally not close your account and will work with you to set you up as a customer of the new bank.

“Mergers give banks the opportunity to grow horizontally and vertically faster and more efficiently,” says Francisco Alvarez-Evangelista, adviser to financial analyst firm Aite-Novarica Group. “More likely than not, they want to keep your business and they will do their best to make sure the customer experience remains consistent.”

Your bank will consolidate customer accounts under the new brand and communicate anything you need to do, like setting up new login information or updating autopay and direct deposits with your new routing and account numbers.

Alvarez-Evangelista predicts that bank mergers will continue to be common in the United States for the near future as banks try to be more competitive.

COMMON CHALLENGES WHEN BANKS MERGE:

When banks merge, the new bank may choose to close branches, which may make it more difficult for some customers to access in-person services.

The Federal Reserve reported in December 2021 that the number of bank branches in the United States was already steadily declining in the decade before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has encouraged banks to become even more online-friendly. Many were offering more remote customer service options and closing branches.

Users may also encounter transition issues that could make it difficult to stay with their bank after a merger. When online-only financial services firm Simple announced it would shut down its services following its acquisition by BBVA in early 2021, many of the neobank’s former customers were left frustrated by the abrupt transition of their accounts to BBVA accounts. This included complaints about technical issues, long wait times for customer service, and the loss of savings and budgeting features.

Azlo, a small business banking subsidiary that was also owned by BBVA, closed along with Simple. Financial blogger Garit Boothe said via direct message that Azlo recommended he move to another small business bank called Novo. Both banks made it easy for him to transfer his money, but he said it was still a frustrating experience putting it all together.

“One of the worst things was doing taxes,” Boothe said. “I remembered to upload my bank statements to get the statements from my old bank. However, reconciling inflows and outflows from the old bank account versus transfers from one account to another was a chore.

HOW TO SHOP FOR A NEW BANK:

If you don’t like the direction your bank is headed after a merger, here are some things to consider when looking for a new bank.

FEES: Monthly maintenance fees and overdraft fees should be major considerations when considering new bank accounts. Overdraft fees tend to be $30 to $35 per occurrence, and some banks may charge these fees multiple times per day.

MINIMUM BALANCES: Some banks require a minimum account balance to keep your account open, while others may require a minimum direct deposit amount to access certain features or to avoid monthly fees.

INTEREST RATES: Banks are starting to offer higher rates again, so shop around for the best interest rates before deciding to stick with your bank.

ACCESS TO BRANCHES, ATMS, AND REMOTE CUSTOMER SERVICE: If face-to-face customer service is important to you, you’ll want to opt for a bank that has branches near you. If you don’t need branch access, look for a bank with an extensive network of ATMs, a good ATM fee reimbursement program, and customer service options, such as online chat or extended hours for phone support.

Chanelle Bessette is a writer at personal finance website NerdWallet. This article was provided to The Associated Press by NerdWallet.

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