Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Horrors of Banking in the 21st Century

Bank acquisitions have become so commonplace around here that I'm not at all surprised to walk into my nice local upstate-only bank and find that some global giant is gobbling it up like yet another Pac-Man pellet. I look on with concern, watching them rip apart the interior of my local branches to change the branding so that we can know for 100% certain that our money is no longer helping a local institution.

They even tore out the ATM machine and replaced it with a Diebold monstrosity. It has all the bells and whistles, or should I say beeps. Every number in your password elicits a LOUD beep so everyone in the bank knows how many digits there are in your password. When the cash is coming out, it beeps loudly. Thanks for letting everyone in a 12-block radius know I now have cash in my pocket. Wheeeeee! I hope they're not rolling out these monsters in NYC proper, but they probably did. Now they're infiltrating upstate New York. As if it weren't bad enough that the bank is changing, the new regime has installed monster equipment from the same company many people suspect have rigged elections. I'm scared to death to put my credit cards and debit cards into it's gaping maw. The only thing I can say in its favor is that it has an exquisitely sensitive touch screen. Everything else -- and I mean everything -- disgusts me. Every. Shiny. Millimeter. And I'm a geek.

I had 2 accounts at this bank. One personal (free for life -- *cough*) and one business. The business account's days were numbered already -- I never have enough money in the bank to escape monthly fees -- the bank gave me my first year in business for free. I threw enough of a stink that I got my second year free. But any day now, the account is going to start costing me $12 a month. That's enough chicken to feed my family for 3 weeks!! Forget it -- I was SO out of there. I started shopping around for a new bank. One that respected that my miniscule business needs every penny it works so hard to earn.

The DDay was to be March 23. I needed that account closed before the official 100% turn-over to the other bank. I didn't want them to send me new checks with a new routing number. I didn't want their promises that things wouldn't change too much. I didn't want their new signage. I definitely didn't want the Diebold ATM.

I had an outstanding check floating around in the wild, so I called the payee, and I made arrangements to send a money order and I was to put a stop payment on the check in question. They wrote a note in my account not to cash the check. I went to put a stop payment order on the check. Note the check is only for about $40.

It would cost me $33 to put a stop payment order on the check. For crying out loud, that feeds my family chicken for over 2 months! :P That's a lot of rice & beans. I hope they sleep well at night! Who would put a $33 stop payment order on a $40 check??!?

So, given that it could cost me $40 if the check goes through after I get the money order -- or $73 if it goes through but there are insufficient funds (but wait, then another $33 on top of that if the fee for insufficient funds sends the balance into the negatives!) -- or $33 to put a stop payment on the check, I chose the best thing. I'm closing the account out. Right now. It's cheaper. They're absolutely INSANE. They've sold their soul to someone out there, and I'm just another cow to be milked for my money.

Good Bye. Good Riddance.

I want to tell you about my savior. She came into my Thursday morning referral group and mentioned Federal Credit Union and lightbulbs lit up and chorusses of angels began to sing. Nancy Finn of Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union said the magic words of lower fees, lower (or non-existant) minimum balances, non-profit bank-like institution. Magic. I promise.

I opened accounts in December, and started the confusion of having my money spread out in too many places, too many accounts to juggle, etc. I waited until after the 30 day probation period required at a new banking institution before moving all my money over. Now I'm doing all my banking at the Federal Credit Union, and only keeping the personal monster account open so that my ex has an easy place to deposit child support payments if needed.

When you open a business account at a for-profit bank, you pay probably $20 for 50 business checks. It doesn't last long. I paid $10 for a whole box of personal-sized business checks.

None of my accounts have a minimum balance, except the $5 minimum for my savings accounts -- which is more like a membership deposit. When you quit the credit union you get $5 back. Who would quit? :)

All my accounts, including joint accounts, are on one screen when I do online banking. They've created such a simple interface for banking online that I'm very impressed.

I feel like the cow that woke up from a dream to find out they were human -- was I a human dreaming I was a cow? Or am I a cow dreaming I'm human? Who cares as long as I'm not getting milked! heh

They're friendly, they're not out to get you. There are some fees if you do something stupid, just like at the for-profits, but the fees are lower, sometimes very significantly lower.

The best thing, though, is that they're local, non-profit, and they're going to stay that way. The big for-profits won't gobble them up. No Diebold machines. Please. *phew*

[tags]money,chamber,expenses,gratitude,information,inspiration,life,local business,networking,non-profit,organization,personal,prices,rant[/tags]

1 comment:

  1. Sounds the old bank was a nightmare. Nice work supporting local business (and wait, it saves you money too!).