Saturday, October 25, 2014
Legends of the Bank Customer
Look, I've been out of the banking game for a few years now. I am extremely grateful for that turn of events, by the way. That said, I'm not completely sure just how things are going with the larger banks in America. Sure, I watch the news, but I kind of tune out when they talk about financial things. The economy kind of sucks. That's about all I feel I need to know about it.
I've been a customer of Bank of America for nearly 10 years. When I left Bluefield after college, I decided it would be a good idea to have my accounts with a bank that could be found just about anywhere in the country. After all, at the time, I had no idea where I would land on my feet. At the time, I was in Roanoke, but I was fairly certain that's not where I would plant my roots. Here we are, all these years later, and I'm still not sure where those roots will take root.
I seem to recall the Bank of America taking a government bailout back when all those other ginormous corporations were taking bailouts. It was a trendy thing to do toward the end of the last decade. Or was it the beginning of this decade? I can't keep up. The economy sucks. It's sucked for a while. That's about all I feel I need to know about it.
From what I gather, Bank of America isn't doing so swell these days. Locally, they sold off many of their branches to other, smaller banks. On the plus side, they made this move to save the jobs of countless tellers and branch managers, probably all over the country. It's good that these hardworking people are not forced to find new jobs. If they enjoy their banking positions, I hope they continue to enjoy them with their new employers and that their transition is smooth.
But there hasn't been much of a plus side for me. The switch from a large, national bank to a smallish, community bank has been rocky at best. I want to be optimistic, I really do. But voluntarily switching banks is a pain. Doing it involuntarily is more so.
Several weeks ago, I was provided with information letting me know that yesterday would be the final day for me to use my Bank of America account. To my understanding, this meant that October 24 would be the end of online banking, debit card, checking account, and savings account as I knew them. And then, a few days ago, I received more information letting me know that I would have full access to the new bank's online system on Monday, October 27. So what do I do in the meantime? Well, it's a safe bet that I won't have to worry about any fluctuations in my account balances during this weekend, because I have no access to my money.
Earlier this week, I received my new debit card in the mail. In a separate envelope, I received my new PIN. Yesterday, knowing that my Bank of America account would no longer exist, I thought it would be a good idea to activate my new card, in the hopes that I would still have access to my money, in case I needed it for frivolous purchases like gas or food. But then I noticed the sticker on the card. You know, the one that usually has a number to call for activation? Yeah, it informed me that I needed to use the ATM and enter my new PIN in order to activate my new card. No big deal, right? I just planned to go by the newly rebranded local branch to use the newly rebranded ATM. But as I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that a number of very official men were busy installing those newly rebranded ATMs.
So much for activating my new card to have access to my money. Then I thought I'd just go inside the branch to see if I could make a withdrawal. If I can't use my card, maybe I can just have some extra cash on hand for frivolous purchases like gas or food. As I parked the car, I noticed the hand written sign that said they would reopen on Monday at 9. Awesome.
As of this afternoon, I had not cut up my old debit card yet. I thought it would be worth a shot to see if I could still use the old thing. Just in case I needed to access my money for frivolous purchases like gas or food. But I quickly discovered in the self checkout line at the Kroger that my card is no longer active. So I drove home empty handed, with no gas or food.
On a different day than the arrival of my brand new, useless debit card, I received a very large package full of personal checks. Like a lot of people of my generation, I very rarely write a check. On a regular basis, I write two checks per month. My new bank sent me approximately 3,262 checks with name and current address in the upper left hand corner. I never asked for these checks, but I assume they were free. I'll never use them all, but here they are. I assumed that a personal check would be my last good chance at having access to the money that's lost in some limbo between two banks.
I grabbed the first of my 3,262 checks and went back to Kroger. I waited in line at the customer service desk and finally got my chance to ask if I could cash a personal check. "I'm sorry," said the customer service lady, "We can only cash preprinted payroll checks." Again... awesome. And if my experience working in retail is any indicator, a lot of places don't accept personal checks anymore anyway. So why try?
I'm so glad I'm able to embark on this banking adventure. I'm hoping the excitement will continue with some random emails from companies that normally receive regular payments that come automatically from my checking account letting me know that they did not receive their regular payments this month and that I'll be expected to give them a little extra because I missed my payments. A bonus would be if I have to call those companies to let them know I still can't access my accounts via the internet, debit card, or personal check.