You Can Take That To The Bank
Well the bankers called a meetin’, to the White house they went one day They was gonna call on the president, in a quiet and sociable way. The afternoon was sunny and the weather it was fine They counted all our money and no banker was left behind. Ry Cooder - No Banker Left Behind
By Randall Grantham Community Columnist
I’ve been banking with Bank of America for a long time now. Probably as long as anyone in Florida has. I opened my account with a predecessor bank, NCNB, when I first moved back home to this area in 1984. I chose them because I worked in one county and lived in another.
Back then, banking across county lines, much less state lines, was a rarity. NCNB was the only bank I could find where I could make deposits in either county or use a branch in other counties as though it were my home county.
NCNB is no more. They were bought and swallowed up by NationsBank, which was then devoured by BofA. So when I go to a BofA branch and they thank me for choosing Bank of America I want to say, I did not choose you. I chose the bank that the bank that you bought, bought. But that might confuse them. It almost confuses me, and I just wrote it.
Anyway, I’ve been a Bank of America customer for years. Hell, I even own stock in the bank and I did choose them for that. They’ve been one of my best investments, thus far, nearly doubling in value.
So I watch with interest the news stories about them trying to charge fees for everything from debit card usage to checking accounts. If you haven’t been paying attention, they tried to stick their customers with a fee for the privilege of accessing their own money with the card the bank insists you have. That plan was shelved after a huge Facebook-based uproar, but now they’re introducing a monthly service charge for checking in a few states to see if that idea will stick to the wall.
Apparently, they offer free checking all over the nation and are eliminating it in a series of small moves. Kind of like turning the burner up a little at a time so the frogs don’t notice they’re being cooked.
I used to have free checking. We had the checking account tied to a savings account that we kept a minimum balance in and thereby avoided monthly service fees.
That all changed when a certain someone decided she needed to get back her ATM card that she had voluntarily relinquished some years back because she couldn’t remember to record her transactions.
I had to use another bank for our monthly bills because that and her habit of using the “current balance” feature to see if there was enough money to cover the desired expenditure interfered with scheduled monthly recurring payments, such as, I don’t know, mortgage payments.
Without the minimum balance, BofA had been dinging us for $14.99 a month. But, after seeing in a news story that they had “free checking” available throughout the country, I called in to see about saving us some dough.
Apparently, Bank of America does not like the term “free checking.” They are not only trying to change their business model, but also our way of thinking. The customer service rep I reached on the phone the other day made it a point to say, clearly and repeatedly, that, like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, there is no such thing as “free” checking. All checking costs money, there are just different ways to “pay” for it.
For instance, in the account we had, we “paid” for the checking account by maintaining a minimum balance in that account or a linked one, she explained. You could also “pay” for the checking account’s monthly fee by having at least one direct deposit a month of $200 or more.
So, with a direct deposit of money that you’re going to need to have in there anyway, you “pay” the monthly fee.
As an account-holder, I like that. As a stockholder, I miss the revenue. As a wordsmith, I find it to be a misleading attempt to turn the burner up one more notch on us frogs.
(Randall C. Grantham is a fifth generation Floridian and lifelong resident who practices law from his offices on Dale Mabry Highway in Lutz . He can be reached at LutzLaw@aol.com. Copyright 2012 RCG)