the midnight oil.

Woodforest National Bank of Spring, Tex., this month opened a branch that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The branch, in a new Wal-Mart store just outside Houston, is the first in Texas -- and quite possibly the only bank in the nation -- to be open round the clock.

"You can walk in at 3:30 in the morning and talk with a real banker to open an account or take out a loan," said Elizabeth Grimm, a spokeswoman for the $617 million-asset bank. "You're not dealing with just an ATM."

The new branch is Woodforest's 31st office and its ninth in a store. After the bank found success by extending service until 8 p.m. at other in-store offices, it decided to try the 24/7 service.

"We have a lot of late-shift workers because Houston is a big industrial city," said Julie Mayrant, a Woodforest assistant vice president and administrator for the bank's in-store branches. "We have industrial workers, nurses, and other people who work extended hours and go to Wal-Mart to do their shopping late at night, and now they can do their banking."

Ms. Mayrant said she has been unable to find another bank in the country that never closes.

Patricia Boerger, an American Bankers Association spokeswoman, said, "This is probably the only one in the nation. Aside from an Internet bank or a bank that might have automated telephone assistance around the clock, we haven't heard of any others. This really is quite something."

The ABA's public relations staff said Colorado's Bank of Boulder once offered service at all hours but that it stopped doing so about a year and a half ago.

"The volume didn't justify it, and staffing was difficult," said Dave Gilman, chairman, president, and CEO of Bank of Boulder. "Also there were a lot of security issues." -- Craig Woker

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