Large banks do not offer financial security

Mark Karpf and Mark Karpf

(U-WIRE) LINCOLN, Neb. Banks, the keepers of money, the global gateway to the financial world of time deposits and demand deposits (savings and checking accounts) with their bomb-proof vaults and vacuum tubes at the drive-up window. Their colossal monuments for the main bank branch and their tiny reconditioned fast food restaurants for their drive-through branches.

Through them you can get a house, a car, a student loan or almost anything that you want. Without them you won’t be able to get a credit card, sign a lease or get any loan at all.

I grew up around small-town banks. Of course, when I say this, I mean any locally owned bank in Nebraska. But now, fewer and fewer of those are surviving. In a world of huge corporate mergers and financial syndicates, the little guys and gals are getting lost too easily. I call this the Wells Fargo conspiracy.

Large corporate banks don’t offer any more security; they just provide more chances for a huge fallout with repercussions rebounding around the country and the world. But a small-town bank has your money insured for $100,000, just like the FDIC does for the big dogs. No matter what, your money is almost always safe. That’s thanks to the Great Depression. What isn’t safe with large banks is your sense of individuality as you get lost among the millions of customers and numbered accounts.

I can still remember the good ol’ days when the bank teller would actually fill out your deposit or withdrawal slip for you. Now they don’t even smile at you as they slide the slip of paper towards you, expecting you to remember your 10-digit account number off the top of your head. Unfortunately today’s tellers are nothing more than minimum-wage laborers pushing thousands of dollars a day. No longer do they try to remember your name because you are just another account number without a face.

But what really gets me is the increased push for on-line banking. It seems like every time I go into the bank, the tellers always are asking me if I’ve tried online banking yet. Don’t they know that they’re just pushing themselves out of a job?

I have a love-hate relationship with Wells Fargo. I love all of the ATMs around town, Nebraska and the country for that matter. If you can?t find a Wells-Fargo ATM within a mile or two of where you are right now, then you aren’t looking hard enough. But I hate the fact that at almost all of those ATMs, you can only get twenty dollar bills out of them, which just encourages me to spend more money (the one in the Nebraska Union gives out $5 bills, though).

I love my ATM check card; it’s just so damn convenient! But I hate my ATM check card because it’s just too damn convenient!

This is where the Wells- Fargo conspiracy finally comes into play. Those little ATM cards are the best little moneymakers that those banks have. I’ll tell you why they’re so easy to use: because it’s no accident that all of those ATMs are placed strategically for maximum usage and payout. They want you to withdraw your money, especially if it’s a different bank card or different bank ATM. All of those little fees add up faster than you can say “Pretty please! Rip me off.”

Tell me this. How is it that I can use this card for free at any of the thousands of locations that accept Visa, but if it’s a different bank ATM, there’s a fee? Why is it that when I get money out of the ATM it gives me an exact balance, but when I use the Visa check part of the card it takes three to five days for it to hit my account?

Now, last time I checked, all of this stuff is hooked up to the same thing, tying it directly to the Internet with its instantaneous electronic response. But for some reason, I have not been able to balance my checking account for months because the bank can’t or won’t give me an accurate balance because I supposedly have Visa check card charges still out.

Get this. They tell me the only way to get a true account of my money is to not use the card for at least a week. Why do they say this? Maybe they don’t want me to know how much money I have; it’s almost like they want me to overdraw my account so that they can charge me a fee for that, too.

Banks are the keepers of money. Like a double-edged sword, I want my bank to be friendly, speedy and accurate. But all that speed and accuracy can be expensive. Their little fees are like Chinese water torture on my savings, with a continual drip, drip, drip that drains my account. Banks are keeping too much of my money.