Thursday, May 22, 2014

Free Checking No More

To my son Tommy,

Perhaps this a bit of a rant, and perhaps it doesn't necessarily belong in a letter to you, but I think some valuable lessons might be hidden in here.

You see, I have a little slush fund. It is not much as I only siphoned off fifty dollars a week from the paycheck. I use it to treat your mom and you to dinners or gifts. The statements I just looked at had plenty of Sweet Frog entries that reminded me of how happy I was the first time we got you to try their treat. The statements also had plenty of sushi and phở charges when I was treating your mom. And of course it had the occasional tangible gift for your mom, like her bravelet that I got her right before her surgery.

I also use it for worthy causes when I feel moved to donate to charities or schools or some other moving cause. The statements had entries for a couple politicians who inspired me and some arch diocese campaigns and a couple NPR campaigns and such. As I browsed my donations, I saw a couple entries for a dad blogger who was running a race for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, an entry for a school counselor who works down the road at Green Street Academy who was trying to fund a college tour for some of her students, and a donation to a funeral fund for a young boy in Baltimore who, while walking home one day, got caught in an explosion.

Then of course there are the "can you stop" charges. McDonald's charges here, CVS charges there. Just used it to give the other credit and bank cards a break. But as you can imagine with any useful slush fund, it always had a low balance though tons of activity.

Well the bank I had the daddy fun fund with, which was PNC, decided to end the free checking account. They sent out an email saying they were moving me to their "standard" checking which has a seven dollar a month service charge if you don't maintain a balance over five hundred bucks or have over five hundred bucks in direct deposits going in a month. That effectively ended our relationship right then and there and now it is just going through the motions and procedures involved with closing the account.

Some might defend the bank saying it has a right to make money. I agree and it was making money. I am sure every time I swiped my PNC card they were charging some merchant three to four percent for my purchase. Four percent of two thousand six hundred dollars a year is a little over one hundred bucks. Now they want another seven a month to hold some of my money and charge the merchants? Also an extra two bucks for a paper statement if I don't meet one of the minimum requirements each month and don't want to go paper free? Not on my dime.

It really got me thinking about this policy. What if this wasn't a slush fund for me but a way of life. I am sure there are people who cannot meet the banks minimums in their complete finances. This bank had a six or seven percent rise in their earnings for the first quarter of 2014, and now they want more and they want this more on the backs of hard working average Joes. Perhaps it is a not so veiled attempt to dismiss poorer customers so they don't have to even go through the charade of considering them for other accounts like loans and such before denying them. Charge them fees and they leave and then when they come to you and ask for a car or home loan you can say "Sorry, we only look into that for customers with an account with us"

Maybe I am being too critical here and maybe the requirements are easy to get. They whole thing just ticked me off. Other than firing off a few social media rants (and of course writing this blog) there is only one recourse...Stop doing business with them.

Remember son, the amount of money matters little. Fifty bucks, five hundred bucks, five bucks, it is the principle of the thing. Every customer wants to feel they are being treated fairly and I don't feel this is a square deal. Don't let a bank convince you they are doing you a favor by holding on to your money for you. Don't let them even hint that you aren't a good enough customer to have an account with them. And when you think you can't do anything but rant and rave, always remember you do have a choice of who and how you do business. Someone out there will be happy to have the privilege of managing the daddy fun fund again one day. Now I got to go and do all the fun stuff of making sure my direct deposit is switched and making sure there are no recurring charges I have set up and changing my password before closing the bank account in case they get hacked after I was their customer, etc etc. Don't worry, we will still get the occasional ice cream, just got to ask mom when it comes from the main family account now!

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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