I Feel So Sorry for the Banks – NOT!

October 3, 2011

There is a lot of angst arising from the new debit card fees that some banks will be charging their customers.  These fees will be in addition to any existing monthly service fees they are currently paying.

Consumers are becoming more conscious of interest charges and, in an effort to become more financially responsible, many of them have started using debit cards, money from their own bank account, to help stay within their budget and to avoid paying the extortionate interest rates of credit cards.

Becoming credit card debt-free is a good thing for consumers but banks are complaining that these debit cards are rapidly replacing cash.  Now, because of the new banking rules that limit how much they can collect from merchants who process debit cards, they can’t make enough money so they have to devise new ways to squeeze it out of their depositors.  Of course, my heart breaks for them as I watch the wasteful ways they spend their money.

Today, I experienced one of the worst ways they are wasting my money.  The message on my voice mail told me that it was the Fraud Department of my bank and they wanted to verify that a charge that was made to my account was actually made by me and not by someone else.  I returned their call immediately.  Who wouldn’t?  That’s enough to strike terror into the heart of anyone.

I identified myself and told the representative that I was returning a call from the Fraud Department and wanted to know the details.  She asked me which account I was referring to.  I said, “I don’t know.  You called me.  You should have that information.”

The call went from bad to worse.  Then she asked me for several pieces of information to identify me and she couldn’t process the fact that I wouldn’t be calling her if the Fraud Department hadn’t called me and requested that I return their call.

We finally got to the point where she was ready to tell me what charges had been made to my account that indicated that someone who wasn’t authorized, might be using my credit card.

The conversation went like this:

Representative: “There is a charge from a service station that’s in question.”

Me: “I do get gas at service stations.  What is the problem?”

Representative: “There is a one-dollar fee on your account for using that card.”

Me: “What is the fee for?”

Representative: “It’s just a fee that gas stations use to make sure that the credit card is valid before allowing you to pump gas, but the charge will not appear on your next statement.”

Me: “Is it just this one service station that attaches this service fee?”  I was already starting to think of the other gas stations near my home that I could switch to.

Representative: “Oh, no, all the service stations charge a one-dollar fee to validate the credit card but then they remove it immediately so that the charge doesn’t appear on your statement.”

Me: “Are you saying that you call customers to tell them that they have been charged a one-dollar service fee that won’t appear on their statement?”

Representative: “Well, yes.  Someone could be using your card and we want to make sure that you have been notified.”

Me: “I can’t believe that this bank is wasting your time and my money by having you make stupid calls like this.  There is a one-dollar service fee that every gas station charges you and they remove that charge immediately so that you don’t see it on your next statement, and you think this could be a fraudulent use of a person’s credit card?”

Representative: “Um, yes.”

Me: “And you’re calling every customer of this bank who buys gas at a service station to tell them that someone may be using their card fraudulently?”

Representative: “Well, um, yes . . . um . . . um . . .”

I hung up.  That was as much stupidity as I could take for one day.

And, so, if you are wondering why I don’t feel sorry for the banks for having to abide by a new rule that puts a cap on how much they can charge a merchant for swiping debit cards, don’t worry about them.  They are already devising schemes to make up for the loss of those fees from merchants by penalizing their own customers for using debit cards to pay for their purchases.  It remains to be seen how many of their customers will switch to credit unions and smaller banks that don’t assess these fees.

And I can’t wait to see how they try to convince their customers that putting goods and services back on their credit cards and paying high finance charges, is the American way.  But one thing is sure.  They will do everything possible to make sure that every deal is too attractive to pass up so that consumers go back to using their credit cards where there is still no cap for how much they can charge a merchant for accepting credit cards.

And then we wonder why we have a failing economy, why corruption exists at the highest levels of the banking industry and financial institutions, and why fiscal responsibility and morality are starting to become fond memories of the distant past.

 

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