Consider a community bank when dumping a big bank

By Lifestyle and Budget Consumer Reports

Community banks, run by folks you know in your home town or big-city neighborhood, have long been an antidote for consumers grown sick and tired of their giant, high-priced state or national bank, where they don't recognize your face but sure know how to slap it.

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Now, these George Bailey bankers are also a viable alternative for customers who thought they could get bank-by-smart-phone convenience only at a big institution, according to an Independent Community Bankers of America study of small-bank technology to be released next week.

Fifty-four percent of community banks with assets of $500 million or more and 10 to 20 branches now offer mobile banking apps that allow you to access your checking and savings account information, transfer funds, pay bills, and even transmit payments to your friends.  

Learn about four more options for checking services in our report, "Dump Your Big Bank and Save."

You'll have less luck finding mobile banking at smaller, three- to six-branch community banks, but almost half of that group expects to catch up by 2015. 

In the meantime, almost all community banks still make it possible for you to manage your accounts in the digital age using your computer via online banking. And having only a few physical branches is not a problem if you go with one of the 48 percent of community banks that are members of free ATM networks. Shop for one that's part of Allpoint, the nation's largest with some 43,000 ATMs in the U.S.

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Find community banks near you with the ICBA Community Bank Locator.

—Jeff Blyskal

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