BEST BANK (1999)
First Bank is now USBank. Norwest will soon be Wells Fargo. With commercial banks in these parts morphing faster than the marquee at your local multiplex, finding an inexpensive place to stash your cash is becoming harder by the day. And although most banks offer some kind of free account, anyone who has tried to keep his check register balanced knows it's a host of other sneaky fees (Wells Fargo charges some folks to either call or visit the bank) that end up draining the coffers of even the most diligent consumers. We realize you can't get the feds to put the kibosh on this merger mania, but you can move your money to a community-owned credit union. We suggest Twin City Co-ops Federal Credit Union, where you can get better service than at those corporate Goliaths at savings that suggest your former fees are the reason commercial banks have marble foyers and rosewood furniture. To be eligible for membership, you need only live in the metro area; once you join there's no fee to maintain a checking and/or savings account. TCU also offers mortgages, home-equity loans, car loans, and even unsecured loans for no real good reason. Mess with your account from home by modem; unlike that new horse-and-buggy-logo bank, at TCU online banking is fee-free. The low-rate Visa is fee-free. The ATM card is fee-free and doubles as a debit card. You can join by mail. You can complete transactions on the phone. 'Nuff said?