Does your bank treat you like a second class citizen?
Flee your unfriendly bank for a credit union!
Since the housing crisis and the credit crunch that followed, banks have been treating their customers - even their good customers - as second class citizens. The banks have indeed taken the federal bailout money and either squandered it on filling the bank executives' pockets with all those luxury bonuses or hoarded the bailout money somewhere even though the bailout money was given in the hope of loosening lending standards.
This topic was featured along with my topic on Surviving the Housing Crisis. With the recent announcement of Bank of America charging a $5 monthly service charge for using a debit card and the major outrage that has followed, this topic is well deserving of a topic of its own here at EdwardRingwald.com.
How do the banks treat their customers as second class citizens?
You'll be surprised:
Bank tellers trained to treat customers poorly as a part of their customer service training.
Fees for using your debit card on a monthly basis.
Inaccessibility of a bank to most customers (charging fees for teller service or having customers trespassed for no reason even though the customer has a business relationship with that bank).
Inability of customer service representatives to solve customer issues, including the use of overseas call centers.
Cutting a customer's credit limit on a credit card for no reason.
Misapplication of a customer's bank deposit.
Constantly throwing a customer into overdrawn status on a checking account despite funds on deposit to cover the checks.
Denying a loan application for no reason, especially when directed at a protected group (such as race).
Jacking up the APR on a credit card or loan to the point that the loan can't be paid off.
Banks playing games with your FICO score for no reason when you apply for a loan.
Making customers purchase certain items as a condition of getting a loan, such as credit life insurance.
I have read a lot out there on the Internet about customers' horror stories when it comes to dealing with banks. The news media - especially the St. Petersburg Times - is quick to cash in on this fear.
You may think that there is nothing that can be done; however, this is not the case. Read on.
Enter the financial institution alternative: The Credit Union
Have you heard of a financial institution alternative called a credit union? You will be pleased to know that credit unions are much different than banks:
Lower loan rates
The better credit unions have mortgage products at much better rates
Low to no fees on checking and savings accounts
You are treated as an individual human being, not an interruption in the eyes of a bank employee
Lending standards strict, but not as strict as banks
Fee free ATM access at most ATM's
Online and telephone banking
If you like to deal with the teller, you may do so without the fear of being charged
Friendly member service representatives that take the time to get what you need accomplished
Now, how do you go about joining a credit union?
The following is just a summary of how you can go about joining a credit union in your area. I have prepared a PDF document which explains in better detail about how to jump ship with your unfriendly bank and to get on board with a credit union. It also comes with a checklist of what you should do when you make the switch to a credit union (and saving your financial sanity). To read this informative document, simply click on this link (PDF document will open in a new window, by the way).
First and foremost, credit unions don't accept just anyone off the street like a bank would. A credit union - pursuant to its operating charter - restricts its membership to the target group being served. Additionally, a credit union can enter into an agreement with an employer group offering credit union membership to employees of a given organization, which is called a Select Employee Group.
A good place to start would be the United States Government's National Credit Union Administration web site (NCUA). There you can search for a credit union within your local area.
When you find a credit union that suits your needs, check out their website for details including where your nearest branch is located. Some credit unions will even let you open an account online and mail in copies of your identifying documents, but going in person to open an account is highly recommended.
Recommended: A credit union with the word Federal in its name. You are insured up to $250,000 by the NCUA and your money is safe.
I would strongly recommend visiting the credit union that you want to join in person. There the member service representative will explain to you the benefits and the many account packages that are offered. When you visit the credit union to open an account, be sure to bring some cash with you as you will be expected to deposit a small sum - usually $5.00 - as your initial share deposit which cannot be withdrawn. Additionally, be sure to bring identity documents with you such as a passport or a driver's license, as this is required by the USA Patriot Act.
If you have your mail delivered to a post office box, that's OK and for me, it's highly recommended. Your credit union in opening the account will need your physical street address (where you live), but your credit union will mail any correspondence regarding your account to your post office box as you like.
Don't be surprised if your credit union runs a small consumer background check on you during the account opening process. This is not a credit check - instead, this is a check to see if you have had a troubled banking history such as writing bad checks. If you have left your bank on less than good terms, some credit unions will give you a second chance to reestablish your banking record.
After about 15 minutes or so with your credit union's member service representative, you will have a savings and a checking account with a credit union! If you have an account with a bank that treats you like a second class citizen, your credit union's member service representative can help you in getting things moved over to your new financial institution home. Don't forget, if you have bills that are automatically deducted from your checking account let your providers know to start deducting from your new account. And if you have direct deposit from your employer, be sure to change your direct deposit information.
Now that you have a credit union account and you updated everything, make one last visit to the bank that treats you like a second class citizen and close your accounts. Then go celebrate, perhaps a pizza and a movie at home or go out and see a movie at your local movie theater. After all, by being a credit union member you are a shareholder - you own a piece of the credit union.
And don't forget to refinance your loans with your new credit union!
Again, the above is just a summary of how you can go about joining a credit union in your area. My informative PDF document gives you more details.
And one more thing...
Banks are greedy thieves! No ifs, ands or buts about it! If you're fed up with the way your unfriendly bank is treating you, then you have the right to flee your unfriendly bank for the friendly and caring service of a credit union.