Final Word

By Jeff Girod

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Posted November 1, 2012 in News
What’s that sound? It could be your bank account getting sucked dry by bank fees.

And it’s not just your bank, Sunshine. Every bank everywhere is reportedly taking a pork chop out of your piggy bank.

ATM surcharges—the fee charged when use you a machine that isn’t your bank’s—rose for the 8th year in a row, to a record $2.50, according to Bankrate.com.

More bad news: The fee your bank charges to use another bank’s ATM also rose 11 percent, to $1.57. That’s an average of more than $4 every time you use another bank’s ATM—also a record high. Hooray for records!

Just last week I used an ATM for US National Bank even though I bank at Bank of America. For that luxury, US National Bank charged me $3. BofA charged me $2. So to access money from an ATM “outside of my network,” it cost me a total of $5. (I totaled that by myself. There’s no telling what a bank would’ve charged me.)

To be clear, the money I was trying to access from an ATM was normal money, not Spanish doubloons or jade idols or vials of a virgin’s sacrificial blood.

More importantly, it was my money. It was in my account. And even though it wasn’t a Bank of America, it was a bank in America—not the Bank of Grand Cayman, the Bank of Swaziland or even the Bank of Jupiter.

These places are banks, right? Surely they have experience helping people withdraw and deposit money—even from out-of-the-way places such as Pomona. And it shouldn’t include multiple surcharges of varying amounts that can be increased or tacked on at seemingly a moment’s notice or whenever a Kardashian gets a reality show.

We’ve always suspected that bankers are crooks and this confirms it. If you ever meet someone who says he works in finance, feel free to pick up a roll of nickels and shove it up his nose. Maybe you’ll win a toaster.

The very idea that it costs me anything to let someone hold my money is laughable. I’m giving them money. It’s a privilege. They should be paying me.

Banks have access to millions, if not trillions, in customer assets and they take advantage of these resources every chance they get. While you think your checking or savings account is secure in an ACME cartoon safe, these banks are making huge investments in all sorts of outrageously questionable enterprises.

Sometimes these investments—on literally your dime—pay off and banks, such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo report record profits. (Keep in mind these three same banks have received almost $100 billion in taxpayer-funded, government bailouts since 2009.)

Still other banks, such as Wachovia and Washington Mutual, go out of business or just disappear, and it’s the borrowers who are left looking for answers.

None of this should require fees. Checking fees, debit fees, statement fees, fees for going into a bank and fees for not going into a bank—and nobody, NOBODY, should charge me any amount of money just to buy a gosh-darn Cinnabon from a food court.

See, here’s the thing about greed: Eventually it goes too far.

That’s the nature of sin. Whatever nefarious enterprise you’re caught up in—be it hookers or cocaine or subprime junk mortgages—part of you wants to see how much you can grab . . . and part of you wonders if you’ll ever get caught.

Banks should be content with the scenario they have now, playing Monopoly with real money. It’s literally a can’t-lose proposition because even when they fail, the U.S. government takes more from the rest of us to even everything out.

But it’s ATM fees that will ultimately be banks’ undoing. Little things always are.

$2, $3, $2, $2, $3 . . . Every bank statement is reminder of just how unfair and screwed up the game is being played. And you can only chisel a populace so far before it starts looking for ways to retaliate.

I don’t know how it will come. Maybe it’s new government legislation. Maybe it’s a socio-economical coup.

Or maybe I’ll start stealing a butt load of $3 pens from US National Bank.

Contact Jeff Girod at finalword@ieweekly.com.


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