This guest post is brought to you by Earl Fischer, who writes for The Digerati Life, a site that covers all things personal finance, from investing to budgeting and money management. Check out the site’s reviews of online brokers and the best credit card programs that are available today.
Know what the world’s oldest profession is? Well what about the world’s oldest business? That would be a bank, I believe. No condescension intended by the analogy. In fact, I like banks. I am a client of at least four of them. Banks have a way of sustaining an economy just as much as it can take one down.
What I dislike about some of these large financial institutions — aside from the fact that quite a number of them have siphoned my tax dollars, no thanks to government bailouts — is how they tend to resort to deception in trying to entice one to become a client. Take my recent experiences with two such banks whose names I’d rather not mention right now.
Extra Bank Offers That I Don’t Care For
1. The Upsell
From one bank, I received a replacement card in the mail recently. The instruction they gave me was for me to call a toll free number in order to activate my card. Pretty standard stuff. Well, I followed the instruction and after going through the entire rigmarole of entering my card’s last four digits to giving the names of my first dog’s offspring, I was informed that my card was now activated and ready for use.
Just as I was about to wish the phone representative to have a pleasant day, she tells me that I am entitled to an additional service which would give me fraud and identity theft protection, credit monitoring services and other security features. The use of the word “entitled” can be very deceptive. Does this mean it’s like a gift that I just need to accept? Or will it cost me something? Remember, this is a bank and nothing ever comes free. So the fact was…. there was going to be a monthly charge of $6.95 (not the true amount). I told her I was going to think about it and will give them a call when I was ready for this. But she was insistent. She told me that it would be better for me to avail of the service right away because should I later change my mind, I can cancel it within a certain period and get a refund of the fees paid.
Wait. Hold it right there! It’s obvious what the bank was trying to do. They are capitalizing on the fact that people like me might not read the account information that they send and that I would become too busy to call them to cancel so in the long run, the bank makes a fortune. Of course, $6.95 a month is hardly a fortune. But think of 5,000 busy credit card holders and that’s a lot of money. So just like with drugs, I just said NO!
2. Does “no maintenance fee” really mean there are no fees?
My other experience involved this online ad which I came across while paying my credit card bill. In some cases, to encourage you to open a high interest savings account online, a bank may offer you a cash bonus for the effort. I caught on to one such offer lately, especially when I noticed the big bold letters on the ad that said the words “No maintenance fee.” I decided to fill out a savings account application online. Just as I was about to hit the final key to submit my application, I decided to confirm the terms and conditions of being an account holder one more time.
Lo and behold! Upon a second review, that’s when I noticed that the account would carry a monthly service fee. In fact, because of this fee, my initial deposit would have been exhausted after just three months. To make a long story short, I didn’t like how this bank would dangle a carrot by promoting their “no maintenance fee” account, but in the end, would turn around and still charge me a monthly service fee. Sneaky! I had two choices at that point –- hit SUBMIT APPLICATION or hit CANCEL. And so did I hit cancel? Well, does a zebra have stripes?