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Banking in the bay area

Banking in the bay area

Old Sep 5th 2012, 6:19 pm
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Default Banking in the bay area

Hi all

What would you consider the best bank in the bay area for immigrants? We'll be right off the boat and want to have a bank set up ASAP. I used to work for citi but closed that account.

We'd basically want a debit card as well as an option on pre-payed credit to start building up a credit account. We'd also like to set up a separate but easily accessible account for rainy day money, basically mirroring our own set-up here.

What would people recommend? Also, how easy will it be to walk into a bank and ask them to take our money ? I won't have SS for at least a few weeks (starting the process on day 11). Also, my wife is on L2b - will she be able to be a joint signatory on the account?
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Old Sep 6th 2012, 12:48 am
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

What do you want from the bank is the big question..if it's access to a branch anywhere in the country and ATM's, then any of the big names like BoA.

But if you're looking for generally better service, a smaller, local credit union would be your best bet.

You don't need a SSN to open a bank account....and pre-paid credit card is called secured card over here....there's plenty of info on this in the wiki though.
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Old Sep 6th 2012, 11:16 am
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

hi bob - thanks for that.

I've been doing a bit of reading this morning on the differences - credit union could work.
Are debit cards standard issue?
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Old Sep 6th 2012, 12:20 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

We had accounts with First Tech Federal Credit Union ( formerly called Addison Avenue) and they were good.
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Old Sep 7th 2012, 1:54 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

Originally Posted by remember_me View Post
Are debit cards standard issue?
Yes....but depending on the bank/account etc, might have limits on how much you can use at once, or withdraw from a cash point etc.
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Old Sep 7th 2012, 2:47 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

Originally Posted by Bob View Post
Yes....but depending on the bank/account etc, might have limits on how much you can use at once, or withdraw from a cash point etc.
We had initial limits but they raised them on request (Wells Fargo). Still not entirely happy that I'm not allowed full access to MY money! But apparently there's the security aspect so a thief can't drain your entire account before you've noticed the card is gone, which is fair enough I guess.
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Old Sep 7th 2012, 2:57 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

Originally Posted by Bob View Post
You don't need a SSN to open a bank account....and pre-paid credit card is called secured card over here....there's plenty of info on this in the wiki though.
These are two different types of product, Bob.

I mention this as there are quite a few new prepaid cards coming to market right now (lot of competition hotting up) but they're not the same thing as a secured credit card.

Example of why it might be important to some:

Pre-paid card = can work like a debit or a credit card (depending on the issuer) and does not help you build a general credit history (although the issuer themselves may extend an offer to you after a while if they see you use it responsibly). You charge it up (with cash or by buying top-up cards or sometimes with a credit card).

Secured credit card = is a credit card (I know you know this) and will impact your credit history (often an objective of the holder). This one you get a bill monthly which you pay off just like a normal credit card - it's just the bank holds on to a sum of your money equal to your credit limit.

I haven't had a secured credit card for years (haven't needed one) but am dabbling with a few prepaid cards right now as they're handy for the miles-earning game.
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Old Sep 7th 2012, 3:00 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

Originally Posted by tonrob View Post
These are two different types of product, Bob.

I mention this as there are quite a few new prepaid cards coming to market right now (lot of competition hotting up) but they're not the same thing as a secured credit card.

Example of why it might be important to some:

Pre-paid card = can work like a debit or a credit card (depending on the issuer) and does not help you build a general credit history (although the issuer themselves may extend an offer to you after a while if they see you use it responsibly). You charge it up (with cash or by buying top-up cards or sometimes with a credit card).
Which to everyone else calls a gift card
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Old Sep 7th 2012, 3:04 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

Originally Posted by Bob View Post
Which to everyone else calls a gift card
No. Prepaid cards in this context are certainly not considered gift cards.

Gift cards are almost exclusively a one-time charge at time of purchase and tend to be issued via individual merchants (although AMEX and Visa do play in this market as well but also with the one-time charge).

Prepaid cards are multiple-charge ones, can be used in ATMs, you log in and manage you account, pay bills etc. in a way that you cannot with gift cards. They look like credit and debit cards and can be used just like them.
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Old Sep 7th 2012, 3:14 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

Originally Posted by tonrob View Post
I haven't had a secured credit card for years (haven't needed one) but am dabbling with a few prepaid cards right now as they're handy for the miles-earning game.
Please do share! Personally trying to build Delta miles as it's convenient from here for both the UK and Philippines, plus the Amex card is a Delta-earning one. Not everybody's first choice I know.
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Old Sep 7th 2012, 3:28 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

Originally Posted by GeoffM View Post
Please do share! Personally trying to build Delta miles as it's convenient from here for both the UK and Philippines, plus the Amex card is a Delta-earning one. Not everybody's first choice I know.
Delta's easy...

AMEX Membership Rewards can be converted to Delta miles (often with a bonus - was at 67% at one time last year). AMEX has the following MR-earning cards which have occasional sign-up bonuses during the year that are often up to the following amounts:

Gold card - 50,000-75,000 points
Gold business - 50,000-75,000
Platinum - 50,000-100,000
Platinum Mercedes Benz - 50,000
Platinum Business - 50,000-100,000

Each of these cards can usually be re-applied for after at least 12 months has elapsed since you closed the last one of its type (personal vs. business) so you can have a rolling program of miles acquisition here. Note that MR also transfer to BA, with bonuses of up to 50%, and also Singapore and Korean (from memory).

Prepaid cards and gift cards can be used in a buy-and-liquidate strategy to meet any minimum spned requiremenst in order to get the above bonuses.

Next - debit cards: SunTr*st has a debit card that earns Delta miles. Debit cards can be used for things that credit cards cannot. Use your imagination here.

The best pre-paid cards are ones that can be loaded using reload packs that can be bought at merchants where you earn bonus points by spending in that category with a points-earning credit card.

Via combinations of the above I usually "buy" airline miles (and hotel points) at an average of 0.3c per mile, so essentially $300 plus taxes and fees for a business class return flight to Europe, or $45 for a night at a Park Hyatt.
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Old Sep 7th 2012, 4:34 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

Originally Posted by tonrob View Post
No. Prepaid cards in this context are certainly not considered gift cards.

Gift cards are almost exclusively a one-time charge at time of purchase and tend to be issued via individual merchants (although AMEX and Visa do play in this market as well but also with the one-time charge).

Prepaid cards are multiple-charge ones, can be used in ATMs, you log in and manage you account, pay bills etc. in a way that you cannot with gift cards. They look like credit and debit cards and can be used just like them.
Giftcards we've used are just like the ones you've described, bank issued ones, you use the credit/debit setting to pay for things rather than the gift card option at the merchants etc.
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Old Sep 7th 2012, 4:49 pm
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Default Re: Banking in the bay area

Originally Posted by Bob View Post
Giftcards we've used are just like the ones you've described, bank issued ones, you use the credit/debit setting to pay for things rather than the gift card option at the merchants etc.
If they weren't refillable, they were gift cards. If they were re-fillable, they were pre-paid cards. I was just trying to make sure we were calling the right thing by the right name, as someone reading might care about some of the features one may have but the other may not. If someone had read that a secured credit card would help build credit history, and then read that a pre-paid card was the same as a secured credit card, then they'd have a nasty shock after using a prepaid card for months and then realizing the difference in this regard.

This is an older (but still useful) comparison between a Visa gift card and a Visa prepaid card. (Just an example, as there are other issuers with subtle differences).

This is a passable comparison between a prepaid card and a secured credit card.
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