Switching banks, again, on account of endless fees

January 18, 1996|By MICHAEL OLESKER

TC An Open Letter to My Bank:

Dear Bank O' Mine:

Check, please.

And make the check out to me, and fill it out for every cent of mine that I'm currently letting you hold, because I'm now looking for a new bank.

Again.

The last time I changed banks, it was several years ago. It was Equitable Trust. I wanted to make a deposit, only I didn't have my checkbook with me, and thus didn't have a personalized deposit slip.

So I asked a teller for a deposit slip, and she said, "Certainly. That'll be 50 cents."

"Fifty cents?"

"For the deposit slip," she explained. "It's a new service charge. We want to discourage people from forgetting their own deposit slips."

"Let me get this straight," I said. "You want to charge me money so I can give you more of my money?"

"Well ELLIPSES ..." the teller said.

"Well," I explained, "check, please."

And I pulled my money out, and there was no more of this nonsense about 50-cent charges to put my money into Equitable. And I noticed, a short time later, and for reasons unrelated to the removal of my little account, that Equitable was bought out by Maryland National Bank, which in turn was bought out by NationsBank.

They're the folks from North Carolina who helped buy an expansion football team for Charlotte that should have been ours, so that Baltimore could have avoided sullying itself by stealing a team from Cleveland to replace our team stolen by Indianapolis.

But we were talking banking, weren't we?

We were talking about me removing my money from my current bank, and also, in passing, talking about banks from one city buying up banks in other cities so that our neighborhood bankers have now become strangers in foreign cities whose faces we never see, to whom we nonetheless hand over money.

Take my mortgage bank, please.

Nine years ago, I bought a house in the city of Baltimore through a local bank, which, a few years later, was bought out by a bank in another state, which was then bought by another out-of-state bank, to which I currently make my mortgage payments.

I've never met any of these people. For all I know, they can't even do long division. And yet, sight unseen, I send them money every month for my mortgage payments.

This bank is located in Cincinnati, Ohio, but only coincidentally.

I say "coincidentally" because, a few weeks ago, I get a form letter from this Cincinnati bank, instructing me to begin making my mortgage payments to a certain Wendover Funding Inc., which is "assisting us in the servicing of all of our mortgage loan accounts."

Wendover Funding, my Cincinnati bank informs me, is located in Greensboro, N.C.

And it sends me a bunch of address stickers, to place on my monthly payment envelopes and make things a little easier for me. Except for this:

The stickers are addressed to someplace not in Greensboro, N.C., but in Philadelphia, Pa.

And, on a sheet of figures where the bank lists my mortgage balance, it writes: "Make payments in exact amount payable to ELLIPSES ..."

An address not in Cincinnati, not in Greensboro, nor even in Philadelphia, but in Boston, Mass.

And this isn't even the bank from which I now wish to withdraw all of my money.

No, dear Bank O' Mine, that bank is you, right here in Baltimore.

Because, the other day, I get a form letter from you stating that, from now on, customers will be allowed two telephone inquiries per month about their accounts.

After two, there will be a 75-cent fee.

"Let me get this straight," I asked my bank manager the day after I got this letter. "I have to pay you for the right to ask about my own money?"

"We get," this manager explained, "a lot of calls from customers."

"Asking about their own money?"

"Yes."

"And this is a problem?"

"Yes."

Check, please.

In a moment.

See, Readers, the only reason I'm not naming my current bank, and the only reason I'm not immediately pulling out my money, is because it turns out that my bank isn't the only bank beginning to institute this policy.

Not to mention, my bank's policy might not even be my bank's policy.

Because my bank is being bought by some other bank.

Some bank from out of town.

With its own collection of peculiarities.

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