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3 banking dealbreakers

One thing I’ve heard often from experts in the banking industry is that there’s a lot of inertia around people’s banking choices. What I mean by that is, people tend to stay with the same bank until it does something so heinous, so unforgivable, that they are forced to move on.

Of course, there are some good reasons for sticking with a bank. For one, most banks these days “feel” the same, in that they all have websites that allow you to perform simple actions like checking your balance, a debit card that lets you make online and point-of-sale purchases and hopefully some ATMs in your area where you can take money out. So, in most cases, you’re not going to see a huge upgrade switching from one to another, as you would with say, switching from scrapple to bacon.

For another, switching banks [3] can be kind of a pain! Especially if you have a lot of auto debits set up to pay bills or links with other accounts, switching can be a real hassle and carries the risk that you won’t have the money in your new or old account to cover a charge, resulting in an overdraft.

Still, there are some things banks do that can, and should, make you look for the exit. Here are a few.

  1. Adding a monthly fee. It’s one thing to incur an ATM fee or two every once in a while. But when a bank adds a monthly maintenance fee, unless they’re offering you something another bank can’t, it’s probably time to kick them to the curb. According to Bankrate.com’s 2013 Credit Union Checking Survey, 72 percent of credit union checking accounts are still free, and there are plenty of community banks and even a few larger regional banks still offering free checking. And what kind of cheapskate pays for something they can get for free?
  2. ATM errors. Especially if you lose the receipt, ATM errors, such as not crediting your account with cash you deposit or not spitting out cash you’ve withdrawn, can be notoriously hard to fix, in part because there’s no human to remember what happened [4] and vouch for you. Situations like that are an acid test of a bank’s customer service and willingness to trust their customers, and if a bank refuses to resolve it equitably, it’s probably time to move on.
  3. Overdraft snafus. At an average of more than $30 a pop [5], even one overdraft can set your budget back. But like celebrity obituaries and natural disasters, overdrafts often come in groups of three or more. Usually, a big purchase goes through the account, reducing the balance to zero, and then a series of small debit purchases pushes the balance far into the red, incurring a big overdraft charge every time you unwittingly buy a coffee or a pack of gum. While we all know it’s on us to keep track of our funds, this is another “relationship test” for a bank. If they won’t work with you to waive some of the fees from a big overdraft snafu, that might be a dealbreaker.

What do you think? Do you have dealbreakers when it comes to your bank?

(photo: NBC Universal)