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Best of 2012 – NerdWallet’s Banking Favorites

by on December 5, 2012


As the year winds down, we know that many of you will take time to reflect on the best parts of 2012. Who had the most popular hit song? What was the biggest news story? What was the best new movie?

We got our nerd on here at NerdWallet to determine 2012’s best of banking and kept the consumer in mind as we explored our favorite accounts, financial institutions and banking news of the past year.


Consumer bank accounts

Best student checking – College Life Account, Harvard University Employees Credit Union (Cambridge, MA)

Not only do Harvard undergrads get the benefit of a truly free checking account with HUECU, but they also get tons of other benefits. Most importantly, students can go about their lives without fearing excessive ATM or other fees. With the College Life Account, you’ll never get charged an ATM fee – no matter where you choose to make a withdrawal. Plus, the credit union will even refund up to $5 per month in surcharges charged by another institution or ATM machine. Charges for insufficient funds, stop payment on a check and others may also be refunded for up to 3 occurrences.

Additional perks like computer loans, gift certificates for good grades, financial education workshops, and up to $50 in checking account bonuses for referring friends to the credit union help tip the scales. With so much to offer, Harvard University Employees Credit Union is clearly the best student checking option for local undergrads. All Harvard students are welcome to join!

Best senior checking perks – AVID, Avidia Bank (Hudson, MA)

It’s no secret that seniors can obtain benefits from some restaurants and other businesses, but did you know that many banks offer unique advantages for their older customers as well? Avidia Bank‘s AVID package for customers aged 50+ is rooted with a solid lineup of free banking services, including an interest checking account, checks, money orders, notary services and even free financial seminars. But the extra features are what make this banking package so much fun. Seniors can take advantage of events and overnight trips arranged by Avidia Bank, specifically for AVID members. Past events have included casino trips, concerts, lake cruises, historical bus tours and more! With so many fun activities on an almost monthly basis, there’s sure to be an event that catches your eye.

Best Kid’s Savings Account – Penny Panda Savers Club, Members Advantage Credit Union (Michigan City, IN)

With the Penny Panda Savings account, kids through age 13 can learn about money management while also enjoying no fees and special benefits like club activities. As a holiday celebration, Penny Panda savers and one parent were invited free of charge to a special private showing of the new movie, Rise of the Guardians, in early December. Parents can also take advantage of online resources such as articles, games and activities on the MACU website to help educate their children about the virtues of saving. Anyone living or working in La Porte, Lake or Porter counties in Indiana is eligible to join.

Banks and credit unions

Best blog – Seven Princip7es, Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union (Seattle, WA)

We should all hope that our banks and credit unions have the best interests of their consumers in mind. After all, they do handle a large proportion of our cash, savings, and investments on a day-to-day basis. That’s why NerdWallet appreciates Seattle Metropolitan’s sleek, consumer friendly blog, which lays out the 7 principles by which the credit union abides. They are: Inclusiveness, Voice, Participation, Independence, Education, Cooperation and Community.

From community events to finance tips to online banking, Seven Princip7es is covers a wealth of topics important to Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union members. Head over to the blog to read more and learn why this credit union is a great option for any Washington resident.

Best student-run credit union – School$ense, Royal Credit Union (Eau Claire, WI)

Since 1993, Royal CU has been operating sites at local schools, where kids and teens get the chance to work alongside credit union professionals. In elementary schools, 4th and 5th graders complete a training program and help students and faculty once a week to make deposits into their RCU account. As an added bonus, for every 500 deposits made at a site, RCU donates $250 to the school! A similar process applies for 6th-8th graders in middle schools. High school students have the special opportunity to be hired as tellers from Business and Financial Youth Apprenticeship programs, where they serve members at their school’s credit union site as well as other RCU locations.

Best discount perks – Burke & Herbert Bank (Alexandria, VA)

At Burke & Herbert Bank, customers can take advantages of unique discounts at over 200 local merchants, just by showing your debit card. Remodeling a kitchen? Get 10% of cabinets and granite countertops! Need to brighten your smile? Get a complimentary teeth whitening!

There are too many great deals to list here, but rest assured, you won’t be disappointed in the amount of money you can save. To get even more benefits, Burke & Herbert customers can register their debit card in the Rewards program to earn points with every purchase. As the points accumulate, you can redeem them cash, gift cards and more.

Best information transparency – Banking By Design, Union Bank

Union Bank’s approach to the newest account in their lineup is a breath of fresh air among banking product websites. Rather than a static list of fees and services involved with a checking account, Banking By Design allows a potential customer to select various options for their new account, and research the potential fee (if any) associated with each.

Customers design their account on their own, or with the support of a personal banker, and they can call or visit a Union Bank branch to open the account. Some options are free while others will incur a monthly fee, but Union Bank makes sure to specify each cost in a clear and simple format. That’s more than many other banks can say about their checking accounts, for which consumers are often forced to read the fine print to uncover the important details.

Head to our blog post to learn more.

In the news

Best email newsletter – Jean Chatzky’s “This Week In Your Wallet”

Don’t have time to read the news everyday? Not sure how current events impact you directly?  At NerdWallet, we are big fans of Jean Chatzky and her newsletter, which culls through the myriad news articles, studies conducted by education and government institutions, and blog posts released each week and actually makes it useful and relevant to readers on topics that they care about – whether it is retirement, savings, budgeting, tips and tricks.  Jean’s newsletter is an easy-to-read cheat sheet, and her writing is simultaneously insightful and personal – think of it as your smartest friend giving you free weekly advice.

Ribbon image via shutterstock

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