The Best Reason to Bank Locally: Better Deals

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Local BanksJPMorgan Chase (JPM) spent years trying to win our family's banking business. Last month, we kissed the megabank goodbye forever.

We switched our mortgage to a division of AmTrust Bank because I'd long ago deemed Chase untrustworthy. A bungled refinancing last year reinforced my view, and a well-timed offer to swap our existing 15-year note for a 3.375% 10-year mortgage proved to be just enough to get us to push Chase out the back door.

Branching out to a better deal

I quit my bank for a better mortgage deal, but I could have just as easily switched for better savings deals. According to Bank Deals blog and, you'll do better looking locally when it comes to shopping for best yields on checking, savings, and certificates of deposit.

Here are three deals available right now. One might be with your local branch:

1. Open an account, get a Kindle. Those who open a new checking account with Washington Federal may qualify for a new Kindle or Kindle Fire. Be warned, the deal doesn't come cheap. You'll need to open a "Stellar Checking" account -- with a $10,000 deposit minimum to open -- in order to get the Fire. Qualifying for either promotion requires at least once-monthly payroll, pension, or Social Security direct deposits and at least two automatic transfers to third-parties linked to the account. You'll also need to use a branch in any of the eight western states where the bank does business. Find additional terms and conditions here.

2. Get $125 and help a school. Sign up for a new Bank of the West checking account and add a payroll, pension, or other government benefits payment of $250 or more and you'll qualify for a $50 bonus. Add $25 more for using a new debit card for 10 purchases before the end of June. Add another $25 for enrolling in paperless statements, and a final $25 for applying for and using a new credit card to purchase at least $25 worth of goods by June 29. The hitch? You'll pay an $8 monthly service fee unless you keep an average $1,000 minimum checking balance. Bank of the West promises a $25 donation to local schools for every account opened between March 17 and April 27. Find additional terms and conditions here.

3. High-yield savings for Jersey boys (and girls). In exchange for a market-thumping 1% interest rate on balances between $10,000 and $249,999, Columbia Bank's Yield Plus Checking requires customers to either directly deposit new cash or pay a bill electronically each month. Failure to comply drops the rate to a more common 0.10%. Admittedly, this deal isn't for everyone. Aside from the deposit requirements, only those who "live or work in the State of New Jersey" qualify to open an account. Find additional terms and conditions here.

Another Way to Get a Better Banking Deal: Ask

If none of the signup deals you see online are the perfect fit, don't give up: Your existing bank -- or another nearby -- may be willing to offer up a sweet deal. Visit a branch. Sit down with a manager. Tell him or her what sorts of assets you could deposit and what you're hoping for in return. All he or she can do is refuse your business, in which case you keep looking.

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Another strategy is to spread accounts across multiple banks, taking advantage of the best deals where they are. If you go that route, be sure to track everything in a comprehensive tool such as Quicken. If you're online and OK with keeping data on the Internet, both Mint and HelloWallet are popular options.

However you track your banking, don't settle for a bad deal because your bank won't offer anything better. Believe in your bargaining power. As the Bank Deals blog shows, good alternatives are easy to find.

Where do you bank? What's the best deposit deal you've found? Please let us know using the comments box below.

Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase and AmTrust Financial Services.

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