Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My Bank went Bankrupt....

Yes, you heard me right. Years ago, back in 1999, I opened an account with a bank known as NetBank. It seemed right for me. I don't need no stinkin' branches. I had my paycheck direct deposited to the account. I never had any checks that needed to be deposited. I almost never wrote checks--just the once a month rent check and that was it. (Paid all my other bills online or with credit cards, electronic transfers, yadda, yadda, yadda.)

I felt strongly that there was a market for an Internet-only bank, and even considering investing in NetBank stock. (I actually did own shares for a short time, but quickly realized I didn't know enough about banking to feel comfortable investing in it and sold almost immediately.)

Early in October, I got an e-mail saying, in a nutshell, they had gone bankrupt and all the accounts sold off to ING Direct--a company I had heard of before but never knew anything about since I never did business with them.

I wasn't terribly concerned about my bank going bankrupt--the accounts were FDIC insured, so I'd still get all my money back. =) Yeah for FDIC insurance! I'd never had money in a bank account where that mattered so much before, though. I'd never had money in a bank that went bankrupt before. (On a related note, I read somewhere that out of over 100,000 accounts, slightly over 1,000 of them had more than $100,000 balances--and accounts are only insured up to that amount. Bummer for those thousand or so folks who stashed all that money in their bank, because they aren't getting their money back.)

It's still something of a pain, though. Obviously, I needed to retrieve my money and open an account somewhere else. Internet banking really isn't my thing anymore. It worked GREAT when I could direct deposit my checks, but now that I'm running Atlas Quest, I get a heck of a lot of personal checks and money orders and I don't have any branches in the Seattle area where I can drop them off. I either hang onto the checks until I make a visit to San Luis Obispo and can deposit the checks in a credit union I have there, or I mailed them off to NetBank just outside of Atlanta after endorsing them and writing "For Deposit Only to Account #...." to make sure nobody else would get the money if it were somehow intercepted. I never really felt comfortable mailing off checks, though. The post office is pretty reliable for the most part, but I'd rather drop them off at a branch and not depend on them.

I really need to open an account with branches in the Seattle area. Ideally, they'd also have branches in San Luis Obispo since I spend a fair amount of time there, and I do a lot of traveling anyhow. Branches all over the country would be useful. It's been eight years since I opened that NetBank account, and my needs have changed during that time.

In the meantime, though, I want to get my money out of this quasi-I-don't-know-what's-happening state at NetBank. ING Direct sent a couple of e-mails with their policies, one of which is that they won't accept money orders, which is a problem for me since I sometimes get those. Can't mail in money orders, and I don't have anywhere in Seattle to cash them. I'll just have to hang onto those until I make it to San Luis for now. (BTW: I now officially prefer USPS money orders over other types of money orders, because I can cash those at the local post office! It's the one type of money order I can readily convert into cash.)

So I'm thinking about opening an account with Bank of America or Washington Mutual or something. I don't really have any preferences, except that they need branches in both Seattle and San Luis Obispo, and preferably as many other locations as possible. Those two particular banks fit the location profile I want. =)

In the meantime, I'm very impressed with a lot of the stuff I've read about ING Direct. You actually have to opt IN if you want them to share your personal information, rather than opt OUT like most businesses do. And they sent me an e-mail saying if I transfered the stuff in my NetBank account to an ING Direct account, they'll credit my account $25. Cool! =) Why not? By doing it myself, it saves them the manpower of converting all those accounts manually.

So I opened the ING Direct account a little over a week ago and have been working on getting it set up and running. I had to change by bank account details in PayPal and Google AdSense to use the new account, which is a mutli-day process. They deposit a token amount into the account, then I log in later to verify the amount that was deposited to prove that it really is my account. Then I wanted to transfer the money in my NetBank money market account into my checking account and close out that money market account. My ING Direct account is linked to the NetBank checking account, so I can only pull money from that account.

Except that the transfer money between accounts option on my NetBank account no longer seems to be working. Looks like the NetBank website is slowly being shut down. I contacted support and asked them to transfer the money and close the account, and finally got the money market account cleaned out and closed. Now I'm trying to transfer it to my ING Direct account, and I can close the NetBank checking account once and for all.

I've spent *hours* setting up this new account, though, doing a little bit of work each day setting it up. First opening the account, then transferring an initial deposit, then updating my banking details on other websites, then closing out the NetBank account, then, then.... It's a freakish amount of work to go through just to change accounts. It's no wonder I never did it before! =)

On the plus side, however, Google gave me 92 cents to prove I really owned the account, and PayPal gave me 37 cents for the same. So after all this work, I'm up $26.29. Twenty-five for opening and transferring the account myself, and $1.29 to prove that the account really is mine to other financial institutions. =)

And also on the plus side, I have a whole heck of a lot of new ATMs I can get cash from for FREE!

But I still really need to open an account with a bank that has local branches in Seattle. And if you're sending me a money order, please get it from the post office. ;o)


W&MGrad said...

ING is great! We have two accounts with them and may open some CD's with them in the future.

As far as "physical" banks, I'd recommend WaMu over Bank of America--BUT it is easier to find a BOA branch than a WaMu branch sometimes.

George Donnelly said...

Actually those with balances over $100K are expected to get nearly 90% of their money back in the end.

Definitely open an account at another bank. ING Direct is known for their weird policies and sudden account closures. Beware.

Congratulations on getting your netbank account(s) moved over to Electric Orange. Not all others have been so lucky!

Anon said...

WaMu never gave us any problems. We like them and still have an account there, even though we have no ties to WA anymore. BOA was problem after problem after problem. Couldn't make me use them again if you tried. Sorry to hear about NetBank. We too were with them many moons ago and loved it. We only canceled when we bought our first home. We needed more cash on hand back then than the ATM would allow us to pull out. We just never went back to them. Good luck on the process!