Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Ever since the government, in response to the immense number of complaints against banks for over-zealous application of overdraft fee rules, which often result in not one $35 overdraft fee, but 4 or 5 more when the first one causes a cascade effect, passed a law saying banks have to treat debit cards just like credit cards. What this means is the new law says 'if you do not have enough funds in your account, your debit card is declined rather than overdrawn. Previously an overdraft cost you a $35 fee because the bank had to get funds to cover your mistake, except you didn't know it was a mistake until it was too late, because the charge went through, right? Now you are $35 MORE in the red and any other checks or charges that might come through, like that auto-payment to the utility company and now you've got $75 more in fees and $75 more in the red.
SO, the government passed a law to help this by making it illegal to let a charge go through if there are no funds, as the banks were using this as a revenue stream. In response, the banks immediately (before the law even went into effect) began a new campaign to "Save you the embarrassment of your card being declined", which meant if you sign up for this "program", you're basically telling the banks you liked it better the old way and you've just opened yourself up to the old overdraft fees again. All under the guise of protecting you from the horrors of being told your card was declined.
It was exactly at this time that my bank (and yours, I'm guessing) started charging me $10 a month in service fees for my "Totally Free Checking". Remember those lies? Totally free? So when I asked about the fee, I was told that I need to keep at least $1500 in my account at all times to avoid that fee.
So today I got tired of it and closed my account. Of course I had to sit through about 20 minutes while the bank wonk explained how I can avoid the fees and how other banks are charging more and how we could figure out some way to solve my problem. Nope. Too late. I've tried to solve this problem 5 times already and have been just too complacent to do what needed doing.
So I went to Chase, which keeps mailing me cards about getting a $100 gift card for opening an account. They pay for this by charging $12 a month. Buh bye.
Then I went to M&I Bank. I managed to pick up a brochure before every teller in the store starting chanting, "I can help you here, sir!" I said that I wanted to talk to an account exec to open a new account, and was directed to, yes, a teller, who described the types of accounts before bringing me over to see - yes, and account manager.
Before she did, however, I asked her some questions about the checking account charges, which were $10 a month too. The difference being that the brochure said all I had to do to waive this fee is to complete 3 transactions a month. She said, "No, it's 10 transactions. I told her about the brochure saying 3, not 10 and of course she asked to see it. "Oh, no, this is wrong. Someone must have left the old ones."
So I walked over the the brochure display and took the handful of brochures, about 30 of them and handed them to her. "I guess someone forgot all these too. Now can you understand why people hate banks?"
So back to the account manager. Very nice, pretty routine. Opened an account. I told her as long as what they've told me remains true - no fees as long as I make 10 transactions a month, whether they are withdrawals, deposits, charges or whatever. Then she asked me about the brochure question I had. I briefly explained it to her and then walked out of her little cubicloffice and went to a different brochure stand and pulled out another 30 or so brochures and pointed out exactly what I meant and told her also "this is why people hate banks." This is plain old bait and switch false advertising. I don't believe it was a mistake at all, but their fees are less shitty than everyone elses, so what else can I do? She smiled meekly and I left.
*edit - I wasn't mean to her. I was just illustrating my frustration because we had just had a discussion about why I left Wells Fargo - for changing policy every 3 days or so, how frustrating it is to sign a contract that is completely one way. whatever