What Happened to Washington Mutual (WaMu)?
A Name Change for WaMu, But Not Much Else is Different
Washington Mutual Bank, at one time the largest savings and loan in the U.S., failed in 2008 during the financial crisis. Chase Bank took over the accounts held at Washington Mutual, and the WaMu.com website is redirected to Chase.com. Former Washington Mutual customers must now conduct bank transactions with Chase.
What Happened to WaMu
In the financial crisis of 2008, Washington Mutual Bank (also known as WaMu) failed. The bank was not able to absorb losses and meet demands when customers stopped paying back loans. In addition, word got out that Washington Mutual was on shaky financial ground, so customers with money at WaMu made a run on the bank: They pulled out as much money as they could, which made it even harder for Washington Mutual to survive.
As a result of the failure, Washington Mutual’s assets were sold to Chase Bank. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) helped to transfer deposits and loans to Chase so that customer’s lives were more or less undisturbed (as with most bank failures in the modern U.S.).
Information for WaMu Customers
If you used to manage your accounts at Wamu.com, you’ll now do everything at Chase.com. Functionality is more or less the same, allowing you to check balances, move money from bank to bank, pay bills online, and more. To access your accounts, you will need to set up a new username and password with Chase – your old WaMu credentials will not work.
For most customers, the takeover should not cause any disruption — other than the name change and new website registration.
- Checking and savings accounts from Washington Mutual are now at Chase Bank.
- Any loans you had with Washington Mutual are now at Chase Bank.
You’ll also notice that Chase’s name and logo now appear on your loan and account statements. Everything should have transferred automatically and (hopefully) seamlessly.
Any direct deposit payments going into your Washington Mutual accounts should already be going into an account at Chase Bank. No action is required on your part (you don’t need to submit new forms to your employer).
Online Bill Pay and Transfers
If you’ve been paying bills out of your checking account, your payees should have transferred into Chase's online bill payment system automatically. Payments you make by ACH (when your biller pulls funds from your account electronically) will come out of your Chase account unless you notify your biller of any changes.
Old checks that show your old Washington Mutual routing and account numbers will still work (and the money will be drawn from your Chase checking account). If you order new checks, use a different ABA number associated with Chase Bank.
ABA routing numbers
Chase Bank has a different ABA number than WaMu had, and you should use the new number going forward. Contact your local Chase branch to find out which number is best for your account. Again, the old WaMu ABA number should redirect to Chase for payments that you set up before 2008. For new account links, use the new Chase ABA number. In some cases, billers might contact you and ask you to update your bank information. Some billers have had trouble using the old Washington Mutual routing numbers.
Washington Mutual used to offer free credit scores to account holders. Unfortunately, you’ll no enjoy that benefit from Wamu.com. However, for certain credit card customers (Slate products), Chase offers free credit scores. Alternatively, you can view your credit reports for free – once per year – under federal law. While you don’t get a free credit score, your scores are created using the raw information in those credit reports.
If You Are Not Happy With Chase
If the move to Chase Bank is an unwelcome one, you have plenty of other options available. Start by looking at local credit unions and community banks that are active in your area. Those institutions often offer free checking and competitive rates, and they typically have the same technology as bigger banks.
Before you make the switch, get everything prepared so that the process is painless. You don’t want to miss payments or rack up fees for overdraft charges. For a detailed checklist, see instructions for changing banks.
The Balance offers a comprehensive comparison of the best savings account interest rates. We teamed up with Bankrate to survey approximately 4,800 banks and credit unions nationwide. Depending on how much money you’re looking to deposit, this list will show you some of the best options available today. All of the banks and credit unions listed are insured by the FDIC or NCUA.