by Doug Berger
I remember growing up when the local bank was an asset to the community. Your local branch was friendly and the tellers knew you by name if you made regular visits. Your deposits helped create loans for others in your community to build a house, start a business, buy a car, or for other reasons. Your money was important to the bank and the bank was important to you.
Something changed. I guess it happened during the 80's, the decade of deregulation. Banks were allowed to grow and add new services. They also found they could make huge amounts of money by charging customers for services they once got for free. The customer no longer mattered. The profit motive was now important. The local bank became part of some faceless monolith that fed off your hard made money. I guess that is why I hate banks.
The first time I realized that banks had changed was when I went to my local bank to apply for a Guaranteed Student Loan for school. I filled out the application and waited as the loan manager checked my credit. I was shocked when I was turned down. I asked why and was told that I didn't have enough money in my account to cover the loan. Of course the loan manager didn't see the lack of logic in that reason. I removed my account several days later.
It use to be that if a long time customer bounced a check, a bank would, in most cases, cover the check and let the customer know it bounced the same day. One time I had a check bounce on the same day I deposited my pay check. The check that bounced was presented before I had made the deposit. I was told that it was standard procedure to pay checks before posting deposits. If you think about it, that is one way to ensure getting socked with the bounced check charge even though technically the check didn't bounce.
I tried three times to get one of those new "Check Cards" aka Debit cards. They work like credit cards but the amount you can spend is limited to the amount of your checking account. The money is deducted automatically via computer after each use. If you spend more than you have you get charged for a bounced check. I was turned down because I failed the credit check. I was told that a credit check was needed because if the computer system goes down the merchant that wants paid will still get their money and hence the bank would be extending credit to me like a credit card. It didn't matter that I had an account at this bank for six years.
One time I was asked to cash a money order for a friend of mine who didn't have an account. The order was from American Express and the amount was for about $50. The bank wouldn't let me cash it since I didn't have the money in my account to cover the money order.
Another time I tried to cash a check from my Mom. I wanted the cash. I was told that I would have to deposit the check since I didn't have enough in my account to cover the check.
In each case above I closed my account and went to another bank. I'm now in a credit union and I couldn't be happier. I got a check card on the first try after waiting six months after opening the account. I also own part of the credit union. I don't get dinged for account maintenance.
I recommend that if you can, join a credit union and show how much you think of banks.