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Banks, bad for you

Greg Volk (The Technician via U-WIRE)/RALEIGH, N.C. -- Banks suck. That's the bottom line. Banks suck, and they suck even more for college students.

For some reason (maybe it's all the pollen) I always seem to spend a lot of money around this time of year, which only irritates my already tumultuous relationship with banks. One of my biggest peeves with banks is the whole ATM service charge deal. I feel like I'm always having to take money out of an ATM. My wallet is full of receipts reminding me about how much money I used to have and that the free car wash I got with a tank of gas expired two months ago. It's always bothered me that there is not a Bank of America (the bank I use regretfully) on campus, but that's another story.

No, my real beef with ATMs is the service charges they levy when you use them for what they're designed for. If you are in a bind and have to take money out of a competitor's ATM, they always charge you for this, but, of course, politely warn you before they let you proceed. Then, as if this isn't enough, your bank might charge you for using another bank's ATM (Where I come from, that's called a "double whammy!") If I had some form of regular income, I could simply take cash out of checks when I deposit them, but with no frequent checks, it's kind of hard to take cash out of them. I guess I could cash out the whole check when I finally get a big one -- that would prevent me from having to go to an ATM for a while. But then I'd have a big wad of cash on my hands (And I don't want have a big wad of cash on my hands. This is the reason I have bank accounts in the first place instead of a piggy jar.).

I've considered switching to another package deal different from the one I'm currently with, but there are problems with this as well. With my current set-up, I have no monthly fees; I simply have to keep a minimum balance of one thousand dollars between my savings and my checking account at the good ol' Bank of America. That's just one problem. Another is the fact that I have four boxes of checks (that's like thirty dollars or something) I will forfeit if I ever change banks. That would defeat the whole purpose of changing banks.

Perhaps the biggest slap in the face we receive from banks is the deposit restrictions and hidden fees they impose on us. If I want to deposit money into my bank, then I have to use one of their deposit slips or receive an ambiguously named fee called a "counter deposit." What the hell is a "counter deposit?" "Are you telling me that I have to spend money to buy your deposit receipts, and then, if I run out of these receipts, I can deposit, but have to spend an extra dollar fifty as a result of not having spent more money on your deposit receipts yet?" Yeah, that's pretty much what the banks are saying. You have to spend money to give them money. I did zone out quite a bit in economics class, but don't banks want my money in their reserve? Isn't that how they make money -- by loaning my money to other people? I know there's not a whole lot of my money, but that's part of the problem -- they don't care; they can afford to treat people with little money like junk mail.

Some people say banks are just a necessary evil. They are most definitely both necessary and evil ... oh, and they suck. Is it necessary that they are a bigger pain than help? I know they are businesses too, but it seems their parasitic practices are getting worse all the time. Most of us college students have not applied for loans to buy a house or make a large investment yet. When we do, I think we'll be rudely awakened. Here's a news flash that the banks don't like to broadcast: you have to have money already to get more money from banks, that, or be charged interest rates that are so astronomical you'll never be able to pay off the debt. (Sidenote: if you call Mr. Cash, don't expect to be able to talk to Billy Packer. He doesn't even actually work for them. I learned this the hard way.)

I apologize to people who have family members working for banks or who work for banks themselves. You don't necessarily suck. When my mom worked for First Union for a short time, her experiences there only reinforced my deep-seated banks-only-exist-to-screw-you attitude. Why can't we go back to the old days when you could walk up to the counter, present a receipt and receive your money's equivalent weight in gold or leave your Smith & Wesson as collateral for a loan. Back then, even if they had had the fees they have today, they would have had to notify you via Pony Express, giving you some time to prepare yourself before you got slapped with double whammy, hidden fees.

(c) 2001 The Technician via U-WIRE

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