Washington Federal acquires 51 Bank of America branches

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, Cooper said there are a couple of things customers can do.

“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 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 office 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 washingtonfederal.com.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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