Saving Cents: Houston's best banks

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by By Sherry Williams / 11 News

khou.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:17 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 9 at 3:12 PM

HOUSTON-What are the top three banks in Houston?

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June 5, 2009

According to the Houston Business Journal, the biggest banks are Amegy, Bank of America, BBVA Compass, Chase, Sterling, Wachovia, Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo.

We should note that Chase now owns Washington Mutual, and Wells Fargo now owns Wachovia, but the banks' names, physical buildings and even terms may still operate independently of their new parent banks.

After comparing what their terms on checking accounts, savings accounts and ATM fees, the top three banks in Houston for saving cents are Amegy, BBVA Compass and Sterling-in that order.

In comparing what the banks offer, we used a modest sum of $400 in a checking and savings account.

Compare the banks yourself

We found that Amegy Bank not only offers free checking, but also pays 2.57 percent interest into checking accounts. Also, it charges no fee for ATM usage, regardless of whose ATM you use. That's where bank customers can realize real savings these days, according to Greg Barr at the Houston Business Journal.

Like most banks today, Amegy pays less than one percent interest on savings accounts. The rate of return is only .25 percent , and that's one of the highest rates we found.

"It's not like, you know, days when seven, eight percent you could get," said Barr.

The second-best bank, according to data furnished by the banks that we compared, is BBVA Compass, which provides free checking accounts that also earn .05 percent interest.

Like Amegy, Compass allows its customers to use any ATM-even another bank's-at no charge. The rate of return on a savings account is .10 percent.

The third-best bank on our list is Sterling, which has free checking but offers no interest on the account. Sterling charges a $2 ATM fee if you use another bank's machine, and it pays .25 percent interest on savings accounts. Sterling nudged out Bank of America, which also charges a $2 out-of-network ATM fee and pays .10 percent interest on savings accounts.

The top three banks all have strong local ties to Houston. Amegy and Sterling are based here, and BBVA Compass houses the offices of its CEO and Chairman here, according to Barr.

Bank rates constantly change, especially in these volatile times, so whoever is offering the top or bottom rate today may be different tomorrow.

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