Banks and holds on deposits

Anyone have a Bay Area bank that they like, and that doesn’t impose crazy waiting periods for availability of deposits (i.e. not Union Bank of California)?I deposited a fairly large check (more than $5k) at UBOC today (1/22/05), and found that they will hold half of it until the 29th, and the rest until February 4th.

When we were buying a house last spring, this behavior by UBOC created some unnecessary drama as we were trying to close escrow. Part of the problem is that they have a seriously broken customer-service policy, in two aspects: 1) it’s unpredictable for the customer, and 2) they are, um, pretty disingenuous about what it’s all about.

The unpredictability comes from the fact that (as I found out today by quizzing the teller) their algorithm for deciding whether to place a hold includes some kind of 90-day rolling average balance calculation. Since most customers won’t know the algorithm (which they are tight-lipped about anyway), and certainly won’t know their own 90-day average off the top of their head, they’re going to run into totally different holds at different times, even when the deposit amount is the same. (Exactly this happened to me, as a month ago I deposited a larger amount and got a very short hold.)

The disingenousness is that the stock answer is “We have to make sure that the check has cleared”. Hmm, so a local check drawn on a major bank might not clear for two weeks, but only if my _average_ balance has been low over the last three months? I could see insisting that the customer should have a certain amount of cash around right now… But what I suspect is really going on is that the bank is balancing the desire to make money from the float on your deposit with the desire not to piss off good customers (i.e. those they are making money off as it is). Nothing wrong with this as far as it goes, but maybe they should have a better measure for this than a 90-day average. In fact, here’s a good dictum for customer-service policies in general: Individual customers should not experience _less_ trust as time goes on, unless they have misbehaved in some way. (A specific example of Machiavelli’s argument that the prince should avoid revoking privileges once they are given … but I digress.)

Anyway, at the time we bought the house I swore I was going to change banks, but I have to admit that once you’ve got automatic bill payment set up, a bank can feel pretty sticky. But I’m determined once again — anyone had a particularly good experience?

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