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There seems to be a “war of the rewards credit cards” going on, with each of the major credit card issuers, including Chase, Citi, Capital One, and Bank of America, seeing who can offer the most perks, best rewards and even, in some cases, the lowest introductory APRs. This benefits customers greatly as those with a good FICO credit score can shop around for the best deals.
But is there a greater benefit to getting a credit card from a local bank, instead? There are several reasons to at least consider getting a credit card from a local bank or a credit union. Here are some of our top reasons:
No voice mail menu purgatory. Real human beings, based here in the U.S., that you can speak to if you have a problem. That right there is a key selling point to getting a credit card from your local bank or credit union.
That’s right … you don’t necessarily have to go with one of the big guys to find the best balance transfer offers. While it’s not hard to find 0% balance transfer offers (especially on new accounts) it IS hard to find one without 3% fees. None of the major banks, based on my research, currently offer balance transfers with no fees. So you must calculate balance transfer fees when you decide if it’s worth it to make a balance transfer in order to pay down your debt. In some cases, it pays off if you are committed to getting out of debt faster, but why pay fees if you don’t have to?
Local credit unions typically offer the lowest interest rates of any banks for car loans, mortgages and credit cards. Think you have to be a union member to join a credit union? In many cases, you don’t. Shop around for the best credit card deals, and then find out if you can join the credit union even if you’re not a member of that particular union or — or any union at all. You also may not have to work in that industry. For instance, Teacher’s Federal Credit Union is the largest credit union locally on Long Island. You don’t need to be a union member or a teacher to take advantage of their low interest rates.
Blogger Jim Wang at Bargaineering makes a very good point about supporting local businesses. Opening a credit card at a local bank is one way you can support local businesses, something that’s important to many people in today’s economy.
If you don’t like the service, the aforementioned voice mail purgatory, or the way big banks keep changing the policies on their credit cards (albeit, with 45 days notice now thanks to the Credit CARD Act of 2009), complaining won’t be effective. Vote with your dollars and move them elsewhere. (Remember not to cancel your old account if you open a new credit card with a local bank, though — long-standing accounts are good for your credit score.)
In this age of the Internet, we’ve grown accustomed to having a vast amount of choices to find the best deals, best customer service, and the products and services we want. Local banks are just another credit card issuer to consider when you’re shopping around for the best rates. If you limit your options to the big banks, you could be missing out on some great deals.
Use Google Local Search to find the best credit card offers from local banks near you.
Of course, keep in mind there’s always a chance that your local bank will be bought out by one of the big guys, and you’ll wind up with yet another Chase credit card in your wallet. But at least you can enjoy the customer service, low interest rates and good feeling that comes with banking locally while it lasts.