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8 Signs You're in a Bad Relationship -- With Your Bank

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bank-atmRelationships require effort, and sometimes the worst ones are those that just drag along on autopilot despite the fact they aren't working. They may be making one or both partners unhappy or preventing them from growth, but neither person is paying enough attention to the relationship to address it or make the effort to leave.

This isn't a couples advice column; it's about banking. Many banking relationships in the United State are based on simple inertia rather than what's best for the customer. People stay with their banks despite poor customer service, non-competitive products and other shortcomings simply because they can't be bothered to leave.

Do you have one of the best checking accounts, excellent savings accounts or top money market accounts? If not, it could be costing you time, money and aggravation. Are you in a bad relationship with your bank? There are some classic signs.

8 signs it's time to break up with your bank

Here are some clues your banking relationship isn't working for you:

1. They only call when they want something

Relationship banking seems to have taken the place of customer service in many cases. What's the difference? What banks call "relationship banking" is generally about trying to squeeze more business out of their existing customers rather than trying to address their needs.

If your bank keeps using its relationship with you as a pretext to make sales calls about other types of business, they may be wasting your time on issues that have nothing to do with why you signed up with them in the first place.

2. Bank keeps changing its story

Nothing destroys trust in a relationship more than when one party has an ever-shifting version of reality. Yet some banks seem to make a habit of always changing their story.

You sign up for one type of account, only to find a few months later conditions have changed -- your free checking account is now charging a fee, or you no longer qualify for a special savings account rate.

In these cases, the bank may glibly explain what you'd have to do now to qualify for a better deal -- perhaps give them more money, or direct paycheck deposits into your account. Save your time. If they changed their story once, they may well change it again. You might as well take the opportunity to change banks.

3. They like spending your money

Ever been in a relationship with someone who is using you? As long as you are footing the bill, money is no object.

Is your bank treating your accounts like that? Take a look at the fees. Between monthly maintenance fees, statement fees, ATM fees and others does your bank act like the sole purpose of the relationship is for you to spend money on them? If so, it's time to look for free checking and other opportunities to save money.

4. Bank is stingy with you

Banks may like making you pay, but when it comes to giving back they can be downright stingy.

How can you tell? Savings account rates are a good sign. The most recent MoneyRates.com America's Best Rates survey found that the average savings account rate was 0.419 percent, but several banks -- including some of the biggest ones in the world -- get away with paying customers less than a tenth of that.

In contrast, the best savings account rates are now above 2 percent. So is your bank generous with you, or stingy? Answer that and you'll have another clue about whether it's time to change banks.

5. Sometimes they act like they don't know you

Let's say you've entrusted two or three accounts to your bank. Do they seem to acknowledge the relationship between your accounts, or does relationship banking extend only to making sales calls about yet more products?

What should you be looking for here? Things like having total balances across all accounts qualifying you for special deals, rather than just the separate balances within each account. Or free, automatic balance transfers between accounts to cover checking overdrafts. Those are examples of how a bank can acknowledge all sides of your relationship with them.

6. Bank isn't always available when you need them

How long would you put up with a relationship with someone who would only talk to you at their convenience?

Amazingly, in today's 24/7 world, customer service is still just a 9-to-5, Monday through Friday effort at some banks. You deserve a bank that will talk to you at your convenience, not just theirs.

7. They've totally changed

Banks sometimes merge or acquire other banks as a means of boosting profits by increasing the scale of their operations. your bank gets taken over, every reason you had for hooking up with that bank in the first place may be gone.

If a merger or acquisition results in your bank changing fee or rate policies, closing branches or otherwise cutting service, it's a good time to start fresh. Do some comparison shopping to see if there isn't a more compatible match out there for you.

8. Bank hides who they really are

In any relationship, someone who presents a false front can lead to unpleasant surprises down the road.

In banking, this is sometimes excused as "branding." A bank may operate under a different name for marketing reasons, or worse, operate under multiple brands for multiple situations.

Why should you care? Well, in some cases if a bank is operating multiple brands your deposits may still be counted together for the purpose of calculating FDIC deposit limits. In other words, you might think you have spread your deposits among different banks, only to find they are different brands of the same bank. Generally speaking, it's easier to monitor your bank and any developments that may affect you if you know who they really are.

If the relationship with your bank is not working to your benefit, it's time to end it. Don't worry, your bank won't be heartbroken -- otherwise they'd have been trying harder. Change banks and don't look back.

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