Washington Federal Savings is in the process of acquiring 51 branches of Bank of America in Washington, Idaho, New Mexico and Oregon, including the branches in The Dalles and Hood River.
The change will mean customers’ accounts will automatically be transferred to Washington Federal before their conversion starting Friday, Dec. 6. Beginning Monday, Dec. 9, customers can access their accounts through Washington Federal’s online banking.
“This conversion is a little different,” said Cathy Cooper manager and senior vice president of marketing and communications for Washington Federal. “In most conversions, if we’d bought another bank, you could just keep using your old checks and debit card. In this case, Bank of America carries on as Bank of America after the deal closes, so you can’t write a Bank of America check on an account that doesn’t exist at Bank of America. It’s important to have new checks and debit cards in hand.”
Washington Federal will mail out welcome guides Oct. 29 to regional Bank of America customers affected by the change, who should receive them by early November. Later in November, customers will receive a new debit card and pack of complimentary checks with their new account numbers.
As one local customer was concerned that the materials will be arriving around the time many local snowbirds start to head south for the winter and could get lost in the transition.
“There are a couple of things you can do,” Cooper said. “First, we don’t have a mailing list yet from Bank of America. If you wanted to give Bank of America an updated mailing address, that is the first thing I would recommend.”
The post office will forward the initial welcome guides to a forwarding address, but for security reasons, it will not forward debit cards and checks.
“So it is important that the best possible address be in the system,” Cooper said. “In a worst case scenario, if somebody doesn’t receive their checks and debit card, we can try to get them out right after the conversion, but that means there could be a few days’ delay.”
Cooper recommended keeping extra cash on hand during the conversion weekend, just in case.
Those who don’t receive their cards and checks before the conversion can resolve the issue at any of Washington Federal’s 180 branches in eight states, including Arizona and New Mexico.
“We’re on one single system across all eight states,” Cooper said. “You can bank in any of the branches, just like it’s your home branch.”
And speaking of branches, neither the Bank of America branch officer nor the Washington Federal branch office in The Dalles will close after the conversion, at least in the beginning, Cooper said. However, the Bank of America branch will change over to Washington Federal branding.
It’s possible, if branches are located close together, one may change in the future, Cooper said, but that will be evaluated separately.
Anyone who needs more information or help with their specific banking situation may call the Washington Federal client care center at 800-324-9375 or find more information online at www.washingtonfederal.com.