Bank Fee Phobia

I hate paying bank fees. The way I see it they get to use my money to make themselves more money, so unless I bounce a check they should just be content with me being a silent partner.

I have free checking. I only use my ATM card at my bank’s machines. I never withdraw money more than six times per month from my Money Market account. I follow the rules, or so I thought.

This morning I went online to check and see if my economic stimulus check was received yet (and no, it wasn’t) and I noticed a $5 service fee deducted from my savings account.

I called the bank to inquire. Apparently I had dipped below the minimum daily balance of $250 for one day and so the fee was imposed. She immediately offered to waive the fee. I appreciated that, but the bigger issue is why I cannot get a savings account with no minimum balance. This account had been a no-minimum account until about two years before, and when they announced the switch they offered no alternative. Ever since I have stress about daily balances that I do not want or need.

Given the number of accounts I have at that bank I was not inclined to go through the rigmarole of researching another bank and moving my accounts, so I’d stayed put. I just hated always having to make sure there was $250 in that account, and it had finally come back to bite me in the tush.

As I’m on the phone with the bank and mentioning my chagrin about the lack of a no-minimum-balance account she told me that they’d just come out with a new account for which there was only a $1 minimum balance. When I asked her what the difference was between the two accounts she said just the minimum balance requirement.

That just didn’t make sense to me. Why would the bank make a new type of account that was identical to the account I had now except for the minimum balance requirement? I asked her to check again. I didn’t want to find out later that in order to get the $1 minimum balance account I had to give up online banking, or sweep the lobby, or get the name of the bank tattooed on my ass (which, trust me, would not be a good advertising venue). She put me on hold to check with…someone…and came back confirming that there is no other difference.  They call the new account a Heritage account, but I think a better name would be the Throw Fee Phobic Customers A Bone Account.  Whatever.

After being reassured that my automatic debits would still go through (I didn’t have to contact my vendors because my account number will stay the same) I had her make the switch.

I documented everything we discussed in my new “What They Told Me” file, and went about my day.

Really, it’s a relief. I hate worrying about minimum balances. And I hate paying fees even more. And if my account ever falls below one dollar I will deserve a service fee. Almost.

How Do They Sleep at Night? Part 4 – Banks and their Usurious Fees

My Dad went to Las Vegas last week and did a wee bit of winning. When he got back to his L.A. home he deposited the money, about $9000 (woo hoo!), into his business account there.

He was very surprised to discover that his bank had charged him a service fee. Apparently, he deposited too much money with them.

Yeah. See, they charge .30 per $100 for any deposit greater than $5000. Apparently “their exposure is greater.” Whatever that means.

A bank. That’s using his money to make money of their own. Charging him for the privilege of allowing them to do so.

Those are some pretty huge, green kahunas. And that got me thinking about other bank fees that really get my panties in a twist…

My husband walked into a branch to cash a check a friend had written to him. The teller told him there was a $5 charge to cash the check because he didn’t have an account there. “But this check is written on your bank! Why should you get my money to cash your own check?” After listening to the woman spew the company line he turned on his heel and left.

Another bank here charges you to talk to a teller. Indeed.

I’ve read that other banks are charging fees to deposit or withdraw from accounts and to transfer money between them. There are fees if you dip below a certain balance, and fees if you write too many checks. There are fees if you write too few checks.

I’ll bet some  have pay toilets.

They charge three times as much to order new checks for you than you’d pay yourself by ordering through a secondary vendor like www.checksunlimited.com.

Don’t  even get me started on credit card fees

I understand that banks are businesses. I don’t have a problem with every fee banks charge. I’m aware of and even support fees for bounced checks. We’re all responsible to know how much money we have in our accounts, and if we blunder we need to pay the price. At the same time, a $25 charge for a $3 overdraft just seems usurious.

I’m also not completely against banks charging fees when you use an ATM that isn’t in your network. You’re paying for the convenience of not having to travel far out of your way to find your own bank. Fine. You save money on gas, so it’s almost a wash.

Apparently, though, we’re supposed to understand that the banks are also victims of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. They must raise their fees to try to make up a portion of the money they don’t have since they lost their shirts making bad loans.

Boo-hoo.  My heart breaks for ya.

Like this post? Read the other posts in this series!

See the Stretch Your Dollar Page for other money-saving ideas.

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