Wednesday, May 5, 2004

But It's *My* Money

If there's anything that twists my panties it's when I have to pay to use my own money.

Once upon a time I opened checking and savings accounts with Big National Bank.  I had a really nice relationship with Big National Bank -- I sent them my paycheck via direct deposit and they didn't charge me any fees.  The one downside to Big National Bank was that they didn't have a whole lot of branches.  So, to get my money, I'd frequently have to use ATMs from other banks.  This was not a problem as nobody charged me for it.

The building where I work has a bank in the lobby.  I'd make all my withdrawals from the ATM belonging to this bank.  (Not to give away the story or anything, but we'll call them Moneygrubbing Bank.)  All went well until Moneygrubbing Bank decided to impose a $1.50 service charge every time you made a withdrawal from the ATM with a card belonging to some other bank. 

So, I went to Moneygrubbing Bank and opened an account.  Not a huge account or anything.  Just a little savings account.  My plan was to deposit the occasional check in there (so there'd be, y'know, funds) and just use it for ATM withdrawals for those few bucks you need to get through the day.  All went well.  For years, I had access to my money without paying for it.

Great big surprise, then, when I got my statement from Moneygrubbing Bank with a whopping $7 ATM fee on it.

I called the bank and inquired.  This is, I was a told, a new monthly fee for the privilege of using an ATM card.  "Do you use the ATM card?" they asked.  Why yes, yes I do.  That's why I opened the account, you know.  To use the ATM in the lobby without getting charged.  "Is there any way," I asked, "to keep the ATM card without paying for it?"  (I wasn't averse, for instance, to the idea of closing my accounts at Big National Bank and bringing all my banking business to Moneygrubbing Bank -- if they wanted me to have direct deposit or something in order to waive the fee.)

"Well," they said, "You can open up a checking account.  Then we'd give you a Visa Check Card which you can also use as an ATM card."

Hmmm.  I don't want a checking account.  I certainly don't want a Visa Check Card (indeed, when Big National Bank had tried to "upgrade" my ATM card to a Check Card, I refused, and they politely cancelled it and kept me with an ATM card -- I do not WANT things that can debit money out of my account hanging around if I will never use them).  So this seemed like an awful lot of hoops to jump through just to keep free ATM access.  (Not to mention that I'm sure checks didn't come free.)  I explained this to the nice lady on the phone.  She said that was the only alternative.  I said I would be coming down today to close my account.

I mean really.  I could put all my money back in Big National Bank, use Big National Bank's ATM card in Moneygrubbing Bank's ATM once a week, and still end up paying less than the $7 fee.  There was absolutely no point in keeping this account open if I was going to be charged $84 a year for the privilege of using the freakin' ATM.

There's a bank across the street from my office -- in the same building that houses my parking garage.  We'll call them Across the Street Bank.  I went online to and looked up whether they had a savings account with a free ATM card.  Why yes, they did.  They had about six different such accounts.  The simplest one required a minimum balance of $300.  This I could handle.

I went downstairs to Moneygrubbing Bank, stood in line, and asked to close my account.  The teller asked why -- I said the ATM fee.  She said (I love this) that I could just stop using the ATM and conduct all my business inside the branch (or one of their many other branches in the Los Angeles area).  "And wait in line every time I want forty bucks?" says I.  "But it won't be a long wait now that we have four tellers," she replies.  I look to each side.  Sure enough, four teller windows.  (Only two had tellers at them, though, so I'm not really sure of the point she was making.)  "Yes," I retort, "but the lines will be longer now that nobody's going to be using the ATM anymore."

She then tells me that no banks are issuing ATM cards anymore -- that everyone is switching to the debit cards -- and that they hadto impose the fee if you're going to just have an ATM card.  She added that all other financial institutions are doing it.  (Oh really?)  I said, "Yeah, but they'll waive the fee if you have a minimum balance."  Silence.  I repeat that I'd like to close my account.  She gives me the account closure form. 

I fill out the form ("Why are you closing the account?" "$7 ATM FEE!!!!"), receive the balance of my savings account in a nice pretty check, take it to Across the Street Bank, and open up a new savings account.  With no fees at all.  And a brand new ATM card.  And (as the nice lady who opened my account gleefully pointed out) an interest rate more than twice what Moneygrubbing Bank was paying me.



brianswife7378 said...

hahahahahahaha great post!~liz

andreakingme said...

You GO, ATM Girl.

aidanasap said...


annalisa135 said...

That's the NZ i know and love!  Fantastic!!!  Way to Go!!!   ::::clapping::::