Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Chase!Borg begins

So, Chase bought out my ex-bank, WaMu, in September. Ever since, I've been waiting to see what will happen, integration-wise.

The first shot over the bow was a friendly one. Chase tweaked the ATM networks so that WaMu cardholders can use Chase ATMs without fees and vice versa. The networks weren't really integrated -- I can't deposit checks to my WaMu account at a Chase ATM -- but still, more no-fee ATMs? Works for me.

But Chase hasn't been very forthcoming with details on whether account terms will eventually change for WaMu cardholders. When I last went bank shopping, I actively chose not to go with Chase -- they charge back-end fees for using outside ATMs, a practise I loathe. Will that start happening as Chase integrates WaMu? No clue. I can't find anything in their disclosures that gets into it. A new notice on the frontpage notes that the name will change soon but "free checking will remain free." That's not a tremendously reassuring notice, since "free" in Bankese has a whole lot of wiggle room.

But the integration has started in another wing of the banking empire. For about four years I've had a Providan Visa card. Some years back, WaMu bought Providian. I paid off the balance on my Providian card long ago, and now only use it as my backup at places that don't take Amex and which don't take my debit Mastercard. But keeping the Providian card alive (and paying it off each month if I run a balance) gave me access to a neat perk: free TransUnion FICO scores each month. It's not a complete credit-history picture, but it's a helpful snapshot.

As of March 9, WaMu/Providian credit cards will become Chase cards. And Chase cards will not be offering the free FICO score fun. The notice about this on WaMu's site says Chase is "evaluating ways" to offer the FICO service, but I'm not holding my breath.

The other downside of this transition: I already have a Chase card. I only have three credit cards, and the Chase is my second backup -- if anything goes awry with the Providian and I really, really need a card, I have the Chase. I don't know how Chase is planning to handle this -- do I end up with two Chase accounts?

Chase, as noted before, does not thrill me. Their sales tactics lean on the pushy side. So the end result of this may be me retiring my backup cards and only using my Amex or my debit.