Why I Left My Bank After Almost 20 Years
My parents always worked very hard to teach me about money. They don’t treat their money like most people; they are always thinking about the long-term and saving money and avoiding debt at all costs. In order to teach me about saving money at the young age of 10 my mom took me to the local bank to open a minor’s savings account. I put in money from babysitting and mowing lawns and birthdays, until I got my first job and we changed the account to a minor’s checking. Eventually my mom was taken off of the account and it was all mine, she didn’t have to come with me every time I wanted to get some money out. I had been through it all with this account from paying for college, buying my first car, getting my first “big-girl” paycheck, paying for a wedding and buying a house. (Does anyone else get this sentimental over a bank account? No? Just me? Ok.) I finally closed this account a couple weeks ago after everything we have been through.
To be honest I almost closed it after I graduated from college and moved out. It is a small town bank with only a handful of branches and basically zero ATMs. At least zero that won’t charge a fee, but I don’t mess with ATM fess. I was still coming home often enough that it wasn’t super inconvenient and almost everything was done electronically anyways. Then I moved in with my now-husband and surprisingly, there was a branch less than a quarter mile from our house. So then I no longer had the motivation of the inconvenience. Now that we have moved into our “forever home” there is a branch about 10-15 minutes north of our house. This is out of our way from almost everywhere we go, with the exception for my parents/ relatives and very occasional visits to our alma maters. The convenience alone was not enough for me to finally make the switch, but nonetheless it is happening.
It is costing me money
A little over a year ago I started getting this cute little “Paper Statement Fee.” Personally, having only one bank account that I used for basically everything, I need the statement in front of my face to review charges for fraud and make sure everything checks out as planned and payments are made. The online banking for this tiny, local bank is less than perfect. I have set it up multiple times and can never maintain my access for longer than about 3 months without having to go in person to get it set back up. Its just not worth it to me for as little as I use it. Not only are they charging a Paper Statement Fee, its $1.75. PER MONTH. Completely outrageous. I don’t even make that in interest per year between my checking and savings account combined.
See above. Using online banking should not require frequent visits to a brick and mortar location. This one isn’t a major dealbreaker as I primarily prefer to monitor my accounts via paper statements. I would like to be able to access my account online without having to go to a branch in person to keep resetting my account.
There are other fish in the sea
Loyalty to a bank does not get you as far as it used to. In the worst credit-worthy time of my entire adult life (per my credit score which was somewhere in the mid 600s at the time, still fairly average) I needed a car loan immediately. Despite having had a bank account with this bank for more than 15 years and having a steady job and more cash in my checking and savings account combined than the amount of the loan I was asking for, I was still turned down. They gave me a way higher interest rate than I have had on new cars and the monthly payments were about the same as a new car and they would only approve the amount for about $3000 less than what I asked for. Meaning I had to locate an extra three grand for my down payment that I just did not have at that time.
But I digress, and return to my initial purpose of this post. I had been reading and hearing of these bonuses for opening accounts with a certain bank, as a new customer, for years. I had never given it much thought and figured there was small print somewhere and you probably never get the money or they charge you fess somehow to recoup the “bonus.” To an extent I was right, there is small print, but if you follow just a few simple steps you can get the bonus and in most cases avoid any fees entirely. You just have to read the fine print and know what you need to do and do it.
I have actually opened two new checking accounts, one savings account and one credit card for a total of $600 in bonuses after following the required steps. Each of these two banks had different requirements and I knew I could meet them with little to no effort beyond what I planned to do already. One bank required me to deposit a total of $1000 within a certain amount of days from opening the account and the other requires that direct deposits be set up.
The interest rates on all of these accounts are higher than my long-time bank. Neither of them charge any fees in the first three months, unless you close the account within the first 6 months. So worst case scenario, three months of fees and I have to find another new bank. One requires a total of $5000 between the checking and savings account to avoid the fees. The other has a few ways to avoid fees, one of which is to continue direct deposits. Another option is to have more than $1500 average daily balance.
In the end, I had planned to change banks, the bonuses were just lighting the fire under my butt to get going. If I don’t like these banks, I will wait until I won’t get charged for closing the account and move on to the next bank offering me a few hundred bucks to give them a try. You can make some nice extra money doing this, but it is usually only offered to new customers. Just make sure to do your best not give them the money back through fees over the life of your account. Also, something in the fine print worth noting, you will receive a 1099 at the end of the year to claim this bonus as “income.” So be ready for that.
How long have you been with your bank? What interest rate are you getting on your checking/ savings accounts? Have you tried negotiating your interest rates?