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Byline: Richard Craver
May 16--A something-for-nothing mentality has taken hold in retail banking that is benefiting savvy consumers and financial institutions.
Technological advances, industry consolidation, a surge in branch openings and the Wal-Mart "low-price " effect have given consumers more choices in free financial products and services than ever before.
Technology even has taken some of the hassle out of transferring accounts -the biggest obstacle to changing banks even for dissatisfied customers. Analysts said that financial institutions can switch over customers in hours instead of what used to take days.
"The banks know that their customer today could be someone else's customer tomorrow if they're not taken care of," said Bill Whiteheart, a Forsyth County commissioner. He recently switched a checking account to TriStone Community Bank because another bank raised the minimum balance required for waiving service charges from $100 to $700.
"That's especially true in this economic environment where maximizing your financial resources is critical to making ends meet and there are multiple options for getting there," Whiteheart said.
Consumers are doing more homework and are more willing to comparison shop for retail banking, said Simpson "Skip" Brown Jr., the president of TriStone Community Bank.
That kind of consumer initiative is critical to TriStone, which opened in December as the first start-up bank in Winston-Salem since 1996. Brown said that most of its $20 million in deposits it had by …