Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Banking Issues

I've banked with Wells Fargo for a few months now, and am a satisfied customer. Because my current mortgage is with them, I automatically qualify for the fancy checking account and free online bill pay. The only snag in what otherwise is a great experience banking with them is... there are no branches of Wells Fargo in Florida. Since I will be relocating to Florida soon, this presents a problem.

I'm currently out of town, and earlier today I was filling out paperwork from a title insurance company in Washington. The form requests various account numbers, and since I didn't have a chance to fill it out before leaving, I brought along copies of recent statements. As I was filling out the form, I noticed my mortgage account numbers were requested. Unfortunately, I didn't notice this and didn't dig up those statements to bring along.

I thought, no big deal, I can check online! I logged in and looked at my account, and discovered the online statements don't contain the full account numbers - the last three digits were X'd out.

So I called up Wells Fargo mortgage, explaining that I was out of town and needed my account numbers for a form. The polite lady told me it was against policy to give out account numbers over the phone. She suggested I go to a branch office and request in person. I responded that I was currently in Florida, where there are no branches of Wells Fargo. Silence... and she apologized for not being able to help.

Now I can understand this policy, but in a larger sense, it highlights a problem I will have unless I switch banks: if I cannot transact all business with my bank over the phone or website, then I cannot continue banking with Wells Fargo, as I can't very well enter a local branch when there are none.

So, I'm looking into switching banks. I'm in the middle of getting pre-approved for a mortgage in FL while selling a house in WA, so now isn't the time for switching banks. But perhaps I can open another account but not switch over until later. I will ask tomorrow when I meet with a mortgage consultant if opening another account is OK.

Ironically, the bank I am considering is Washington Mutual, a bank founded in Seattle, which also has branches in Florida. Thus I might conveniently open an account in my remaining days in Washington and be able to continue banking after I move.

As for my mortgage account info, I talked to the mortgage consultant I am meeting tomorrow, and explained the issue. He cheerfully offered to read me the account numbers off the credit report he ran on me! He did caution that sometimes these reports contain partial account numbers, but it didn't seem likely as each account number was 12+ digits, and a superset of what I could get online. I decided I could use those account numbers until I get home and verify them.

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