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Friday, November 4, 2011

My Final Bank of America Experience

Bank of America Plaza - Atlanta, GA
It is done.

After several years and six accounts, I have closed everything I had going with Bank of America, save only for the lingering credit card, which will be switched as soon the new one comes through at OnPoint Credit Union. I had this switch-over in progress before I became aware of November 5th being Bank Transfer Day. My own switch happened today by coincidence.

I felt guilty while sitting down with the B of A rep. She was a charming young lady of about 30, and she began with the usual spiel about, "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear you'll be leaving us. Is there anything we can do...?"

No, the time for that is long past. From the sudden appearance of checking account fees in 2008-2009 to those fees increasing without notice to the recent $5 swipe fee debacle, all I see from B of A as a service vendor is an unending string of nickle and dime extractions meant to squeeze every electron of economic energy possible from we coppertops. None of these fees have ever provided me with a positive customer experience or service enhancement. None.

So I told the lady, "Every single employee I've ever dealt with at B of A has been exemplary in terms of kindness and helpfulness. It's your company that I can't stand anymore, and I'm taking my money to a place where profits are given back to regular people."

Something in her look told me I could ask another question so I did. "The bonuses that banks pay out every year," I said. "Do all employees get a bonus, or only the executives?"

Her features hardened and she leaned back. "Just the executives," she said. Then, "No, that's not true. On years when we surpass quota, the employees get a bonus. I get $250. But it's taxed as a bonus, so I see...maybe $100 of it. For the year."

In contrast, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan drew $9.05 million in stock awards earlier this year. That's on top of his $950,000 salary.

I asked my banker how much bank employees make. She shook her head ruefully.

"Tellers start at $10 an hour," she said. "They go up to $12. A personal banker might make $13 or so an hour. The assistant manager could do $15 -- $17 tops." A mixture of anger and fear crept into her voice, and I could tell that times were tough for her, even having a job at which she worked six days a week. "You know, I drove by Carl's Jr. the other day, and they're hiring at $12 an hour. You would think that the people you're trusting with your thousands of dollars would get paid more than just a couple of bucks over minimum wage."

You would think.

I took my final cashier's check across the street to OnPoint Credit Union and deposited it in my new account. I asked the teller how much they make.

"We start at $15 an hour," she said smiling. "And the insurance? I have to pay more for my family -- 20% of the premium for my kids -- but just for me? I'm 100% covered." Then she added, "I worked for Bank of America 30 years before coming here. I don't miss them at all."

So I feel better. Not just because I took my money away from an insidious, corruptive, blood-sucking juggernaut. (I mean really, do you seriously think that B of A won't find a quieter way to extricate that $5 pound of flesh from its customers every month?) I feel better knowing that the profits made from my money for the credit union will not only go toward keeping loan rates low for clients, they'll also provide a better quality of life for the employees who work hard every day and deserve a decent paycheck.

If you want to walk the walk, if you want to help the few financial institutions that don't seek to twist laws for their own profits, that create good jobs, that are trying to help you and not drain you into poverty, put your money in a credit union. Yes, I know it's a pain to switch all of your stuff over. Yes, you'll need to print out and/or save all of your records, because banks like B of A will kill off all of your online records access on the same day you close your accounts. But please...it's worth it. I'm OK with enduring a week or so of inconvenience for a much greater good.


  1. Chip,

    I left about five years ago. Really when I started working for the banking company I work for. It's so nice that Credit Union's are non profit, and pass all that on their members. First Tech Federal Credit Union can even replace a debit or visa card in minutes, they'll emboss it right there while you wait. B of A, who has BILLIONS of dollars more than a dinky CU? Weeks. Weeks to get a replacement, and probably a fee, even if it was their fault.

    I have a friend (well you know her too) who's big bank is holding her accountable for a duplicate Visa charge, saying she has to contact the merchant, provide paperwork, etc. She's been a customer with them since she was a KID. Over a $40 transaction that is either Visa, or this big bank's fault. Every time I've had a problem with a transaction at my CU, they just take care of it. Usually crediting the funds IMMEDIATELY, and then doing their due diligence.

    The other thing I have to say about my CU is that in the over 5 years of being with them, I was charged a fee ONE time. I called to complain, and I had neglected to make a car payment, and rather than making me pay double the next month, or hounding me with phone calls, they charged me $15... and then inquired if they should remove it when I complained. I didn't realize I had made this mistake, I promptly paid my loan payment, and told them to leave the fee on for my stupidity... but the point is, they were willing to remove it even when it was 100% my fault.
    I'll never go back to a big bank again. Ever. Getting down off my soap box.

  2. Oh and that should be Credit Unions... no apostrophe. Now I'm embarrassed.

  3. Great feedback, John. Honestly, I don't know why I didn't do this years ago. I knew better. Most likely, I just let myself get preoccupied with what a "headache" it would be to change over all of my bill pay information. But that's no excuse. Far worse would be me looking back and saying, "Man...I never did ANYTHING to stand up for myself."

  4. Excellent article. I left B of A 40 years ago, even before all the extra fees. The B of A in downtown San Francisco let a check go by that had been obviously altered to read "Hundred twenty" instead of "Twenty." Then I had to pay for the check that bounced due to insufficient funds!

    Linda H-P