Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Changing banks a giant hassle

Like a lot of people, I have often wondered why some folks stay in abusive relationships.

You see it on TV, where a battered woman keeps going back to a man who uses her for a punching bag, because she fears having to go it alone in life.

When I think about banking, though, it’s perfectly understandable.

In December 1985, I came down to West Palm Beach, Fla., to look for an apartment. I was moving forward with my plan to move from Long Island, N.Y., to the area and flew down to find a place. I found a nice one-bedroom apartment in a new condo complex off Jog Road in the unincorporated area. To the west were sugar cane fields that soon were burned off for the last time, and then developed into a housing development.

While in the area, I opened a bank account with an outfit called Barnett Bank. Its ads proclaimed it as Florida’s bank, and I figured that with all the branches and ATMs I had seen, this was where I should be banking.

Back then, getting started was pretty simple. I was paid every two weeks with a paper check that I could deposit in the bank so there were no complex arrangements to make with the HR department of the Postal Service. I got my checks and ATM card after I arrived with Tiger, my cat, in January 1986, and soon was working and banking with Barnett.

That state of affairs continued for years and years, but then NCNB Bank bought Barnett, and then NationsBank bought NCNB Bank, and then Bank of America bought NationsBank.

I just followed along out of force of habit, but also the fear of wrecked finances because I was by that time getting my paycheck direct-deposited, and I was worried about the chaos I had heard about if you change banks.

The banking relationship was pretty frustrating because Bank of America started charging fees for my checking account. Though a financial windfall in 2005 meant no more fees for a time, after I lost my job in 2008 I began to spend down my savings and checking accounts, and eventually fell below the minimum balance requirements. Once a month, Bank of America whacked out a $25 fee from my savings. According to my records, I paid more than $500 over the past three years in checking account fees.

But I feared changing banks, knowing that it wasn’t much better elsewhere and worrying about the impact on my direct deposit.

But then I bought a new car, and the lender, SunTrust, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. If I changed to them, and changed my direct deposit to them, they’d give me $100 and mostly free checking.

So I made the change, and yesterday closed my checking and savings accounts at Bank of America.

The trouble is that now I am getting live paychecks from my employer until they are set up with the new bank, and I may get up to three paychecks mailed to me before direct-deposit is fully operational. So that means I have to physically deposit the checks on Saturday and wait until the following Tuesday for them to clear. That sucks.

As with everything else, there just has to be a better way. I suppose many banks rely on the fact that all the electronic banking we do ties us to them, and that changing is such a hassle that most of us would rather suffer and be abused by our bank than change to another.

I felt sorry for the lady I talked to at the Bank of America branch in Gainesville. I explained about how loyal BofA had been to me, making sure to extract $25 a month every month, money that I needed to survive but instead ended up going to a bank that has never ceased to seek handouts from the government.

In my opinion, I was rewarding its “loyalty” by going my own way. SunTrust may be no better, but it’s a change.


September 9, 2011 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age | , , , , , , , ,

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