I’ve banked with First Citizens National Bank most of my life, starting with the savings account my grandfather established a couple days after I was born. Now that I’m a QuickBooks consultant, I get to see the wide range of products and services offered in the banking industry, and I can objectively evaluate the service and products that First Citizens offers. (I don’t hold any shares, although my parents do.)
First Citizens offers a small business account that has an $800 minimum balance; if you drop below that, you get charged $8 for the month. Everything else is FREE – ATM, debit, transfers, online banking, and most importantly, downloading transactions into QuickBooks and Quicken. There are banks that charge $16/mo just for the QuickBooks download access, which is absurd. These fees add up quickly – I encourage clients to switch from high-fee and megabanks to sensible independent community banks. In Tioga, Bradford & Potter counties, that means First Citizens; in Buffalo, First Niagara, Evans, and the assorted credit unions are all good bets, but each should be evaluated for best fit with a client’s needs.
First Citizens also keeps our money in our community. They don’t sell mortgages on the secondary market which means they haven’t been contributing to the housing meltdown. For such a small bank ($790M in assets as of Sept. 2010), they really do a great job. They’re rated the 11th best independent community bank in the United States by US Banker, and the second best bank in Pennsylvania. (PDF) It’s also wonderful to be able to walk in a branch and see the same faces (Margie, Beth, Dick, Paula…) or call the service line and talk to Linda each time. These folks are involved in our communities, not as a job, but because they are community members. Those connections support and enhance our communities, and enhance the loan-making process by including additional factors, not just impersonal credit scores. (At the same time, it means my mother’s maiden name is not a good security question like it is at a megabank!) So, don’t just buy local, bank local, too. Independent community banks and credit unions are committed to vibrant local communities.