Oppressor of America

Well, after extensive efforts since the company devoured Fleet, Bank of America has finally succeeded in persuading me to take my business elsewhere. From several varieties of inconvenience to an extremely unpleasant job fair to the fees (my God, the fees!), the behemoth has finally overcome the natural inertia against changing banks.
The company’s corporate approach to handling customers was consolidated for me in a single policy that I discovered a number of months ago: if a customer should write checks for more money than is in his checking account, the bank offers the service of automatically transferring the funds from his savings account. Charging a fee for such a thing is fair — it is the customer’s error, after all, and one that a bank understandably discourages — but Bank of America takes the fee out of the checking account, without automatically transferring that amount as part of the service.
During a particularly hectic time last year, when I simply had to handle my finances on autopilot, I fell into a cycle of not transferring sufficient funds to cover the fees that were automatically being withdrawn from my checking account, and those fees piled up. When I called to complain, the bank did forgive a handful of them, but my awareness that somebody within the organization had made the decision to arrange fees in such a way as to trip up busy customers left me resolved to, at some future date, quit the bank. Now that I’ve discovered another policy having to do with numbers of transactions that conflicts with a banking strategy that I’ve followed since I was fourteen, I won’t delay any longer.
In fact, the entirely different feel that I’ve gotten from Bank of America than from any of my previous banks makes me wary of financial trends toward automation. It used to be mainly on general principle that I preferred to handle each paycheck and bill — so as not to lose touch with the flow of my money. But now I think automatic deposits and withdrawals may represent a much more insidious trend. How much higher the barrier is to changing banks when doing so requires one to recall and then figure out how to change bank information with any number of third parties!
I fear that movement toward the ideal of convenience — not just in finance — may lead to a more oppressive corporate culture, as each company becomes akin to a monopoly of its own client base.

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don roach
14 years ago

Justin,
I feel your pain. I actually just opened a BOA checking and savings. Those’ll be used as ‘my’ money as I was tired of dipping in to my real checking account (more on that in a minute) and using much more than I wanted. I bank with Washington Trust and though they are small, don’t have the best hours, and customer service phones aren’t open on the weekends, they’ve been the best bank for me since my Hospital Trust days.
If you’re looking for a decent alternative to the behemoth, check out Washington Trust.
I again feel your fee pain and Washington Trust is pretty cool about fees and don’t have some quantum physics equation designed to fool customers. I’ve used most banks in RI – Sovereign, Citizens, never Fleet – yuck, Bank Boston, et. al. and I say Washington Trust is what a local guy wanting a local bank will want. Give them a shot if you haven’t chosen a bank already.

Chuck Nevola
14 years ago

Justin: I was up against it last year with Citizens for the same reasons. I have a credit rating of over 800, had been banking with them since I was five (literally), I have a moderate income, have been in the job market uninterrupted (thanks be to God) for over 30 years, brought all my children to them as customers and still they wouldn’t give me a line of credit – but a bank in San Antonio who didn’t know me from Adam, did.
There is something about bigness: bureaucracy, lack of customer intimacy, slowness, etc. I like the convenience of their omnipresence, but it really is time to change.

Chuck Nevola
14 years ago

Justin: I was up against it last year with Citizens for the same reasons. I have a credit rating of over 800, had been banking with them since I was five (literally), I have a moderate income, have been in the job market uninterrupted (thanks be to God) for over 30 years, brought all my children to them as customers and still they wouldn’t give me a line of credit – but a bank in San Antonio who didn’t know me from Adam, did.
There is something about bigness: bureaucracy, lack of customer intimacy, slowness, etc. I like the convenience of their omnipresence, but it really is time to change.

bountyhunter
bountyhunter
14 years ago

Here’s one for you: my bank (which has undergone three mergers in the last 8 years) royally screwed up by withdrawing $1000 by mistake from my account and as a result numerous checks bounced. As a result, my health insurance policy cancelled and getting it reinstated has been a nightmare.
This trend toward bigness and sloppiness on the part of corporate america shows no signs of abating. The word incompetence seems to come up over and over, particularly when older folks talk about how things used to be.
One can only hope that the free market will take care of this problem, by driving consumers towards smaller, local banks with good service and strong relations with their customers.
In my case, I am confident that my original bank would have either paid the checks or called me to let me know what was going on in light of our long relationship and this seemingly aberrant situation.

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