Best community banks may be far from home

Hand putting coin in white piggy bank

My favorite community banks aren’t in my community at all. They’re in New England, about 3,000 miles from my home in southern California.

Both Androscoggin Bank, headquartered in Lewiston, Maine, and Salem Five Cents Savings Bank, based in
Salem, Mass., advertise their extensive involvement in local and regional affairs.

Key for me, though, they offer select deposit accounts nationwide and occasionally serve up excellent promotional deals on CD rates.

I have more money on deposit at Androscoggin than at any other bank.

I’ve achieved this without ever visiting an Androscoggin branch (I’ve never been to Maine) or, to my best recollection, ever speaking to a customer service representative.

I discovered Androscoggin in 2010 when, scrolling down a CD rates table one day looking for 2-year deals, its name popped up, showing a CD with a 2% APY.

When I went on the bank’s website, I found the 24-month CD rates competitive, and, as a bonus, this certificate of deposit included an add-on provision requiring only a $500 initial deposit.

I was sold.

I opened three of these CDs and thereafter kept adding to the balances as other bank CDs matured.

This year, I found a blended-rate, 5-year CD offered by Androscoggin so attractive that I opened one for my IRA. The bank allowed me to do so, even though the deal was not generally offered nationwide.

At Androscoggin, I’ve experienced service with a personal touch -- even if only virtually over the Internet.

My experience with Salem Five, in contrast, has involved extensive person-to-person contact, mostly with a dedicated and knowledgeable customer service representative named Lisa.

I got to know Lisa -- and deal with her on almost a daily basis -- when Salem Five offered a 1.75% APY 24-month "special" CD earlier this year.

A bank software glitch (since fixed) required the application and funding processes be conducted by a combination of Internet, telephone and snail mail.

Normally, I would have been put off by this complication, but my dealings with Lisa made the process smooth.

As a result of my service experience (and, of course, the favorable rate), I now have nine 24-month specials at Salem Five, including an IRA CD.

Androscoggin has earned four stars on's Safe & Sound rating system; Salem Five, three.

These are two banks worth getting in touch with -- by any means available.

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