Banks are definitely not what they used to be.
I was recently assessed a $5 fee for cashing a Bank of America check at a Bank of America bank. I dealt with a clerk who was beyond rude. She then had the temerity to ask if I wanted to open an account there. She offered me a pasty smile and a glossy flyer citing their wonderful financial programs.
My attempts not to choke and laugh (not necessarily in that order) fell far short of the mark.
The clerk managed to look offended that I didn’t want anything to do with her “generous offer.” I just shook my head and said sweetly, “I have direct deposit, and God willing, I’ll never step foot inside this place again.”
We’ve all heard about banks’ hidden fees and fiscal rape. Ever been charged an exhorbidant fee for a bounced check?
Ever been assessed for a bounced check despite the fact that you had the money in the bank?
I recently experienced precisely that scenario, up close and in person. Shortly after my husband and I moved, one of my automatic payments was rejected because the address was incorrect on the payee’s site. It took me several tries to get things straightened away, and each time I attempted an update, another payment was declined because updating the billing address on the payor’s site required an extra step.
I discovered after all of this was said and done that my bank held funds on those declined payments. Along the way, the bank bounced a payment on the same day the funds were reapplied to my account. The money from those declined payments was reapplied. It just didn’t happen until AFTER the “bounced” payment was processed. (By that point,the funds on declined payments had been held for nearly two weeks.) That meant several hundred dollars of my money was unavailable to me for half of the month, all because of payments that never happened.
It was blatant and calculated and if not illegal, certainly unethical and atrocious customer service.
Disputing the charge got it reversed. I wouldn’t have accepted anything less, particularly on an account I’ve held for so many years. If it’s my fault, I accept responsibility and accept the fees, outrageous or not. When it’s just this side of highway robbery, I’m a little more aggressive. I can’t help wondering how many people would have let the grossly inappropriate deduction stand, not realizing that reversal was an option. And what would have happened had I experienced an emergency during that period and needed access to my money? It wouldn’t have been available to me.
Banks are businesses and as such, they need to make money. That’s how loans and investments come into play. That’s the whole basis of the banking industry. At least, that’s how it used to be. Nowadays, the bulk of bank income comes from incidental fees drawn against customer’s account or accounts.
Fat finger your PIN at the ATM and have to re-enter it? That’s $2.00. Bounce a check? That’ll set you back $25-30 or more. Use the ATM at another bank? Pay that bank $2-3 plus your bank $2-3. Pay bills online? Another $5-15 per month. That’s in addition to your regular monthly checking account fees. Throw in POS (point-of-sale) fees for debit transactions, along with income from loans, and the banking industry has built a pretty thick and complex nest of income for itself.
There is a nominal backlash, mostly in the form of short articles that get buried almost as fast as they materialize.
In the end, we’re pretty much saddled with our financial institutions. They hold all the strings when it comes to our money. Nobody can function these days without a credit and/or debit card. It’s how we pay our utility bills, put gas in our cars, and pay for dinner.
Maybe the right question isn’t really, “What’s in your wallet?” Maybe it should be, “Who’s in your wallet?”