Last week, I was at the bank trying to figure out some fees that were on my account. Turns out, they were "fine print" type fees. While standing there, another guy next to me was disputing his monthly fees since he's been doing direct deposit for years. Seems that there was a change to his account.
Sometimes… and maybe I'm just being paranoid, but… sometimes, it feels like our banks can't be trusted (wincing at the understatement).
The Truth About Banks
The truth is, banks have shareholders who want to see a profit on their investment. Their job is to do whatever fees they can from us while still passing themselves off as the nice neighborhood guy that's gonna help you get a home loan. And we get sucked in by that nice guy or gal, don't we? Like, "Hey… they WANT me to have my dream home! They're so nice!"
But they don't care about your dream home. They care about their fees, and they're going to get them from you and from me any and every way they can.
It's infuriating, but that's banking, right? And if we're going to cash our checks and save our money, what choice do we have... other than stuffing our mattresses with dollar bills?
Another Option to Traditional Banks
We do have another option: Credit unions.
This might sound completely insane, but follow me… The owners of credit unions are the members themselves. The shareholders are the members and profits are returned to other members. Crazy talk, I know!!!
We've been raised and trained to just go along and get along and everyone goes to the bank that has the wagons and ponies or the one that's all red white and blue and so we just put our money where our parents did.
But then you see that you're getting fee'd to death and have to read your statement with a highlighter and it feels like the bank is the enemy. And it just doesn't make any sense to pay to give the bank robber your own money, does it?
At least that's how I've been feeling. So I took another look at joining a credit union, which is much easier to do than when I was a kid and my mom had to go with the local bank that got swallowed up by the ponies people. Here's what I found out.
Benefits to Joining a Credit Union:
- Checking accounts are usually free without a minimum-balance requirements (Don't you love it when the banks charge you for NOT having money? GAHHH!!!). If you still use them, you can buy your checks at-cost. And there are no per-check fees or any of that other crap banks like to slip in while you’re sleeping.
- Most credit unions are members of a national network of credit union ATMs, so you get access to tens of thousands of machines across the country with no surcharge. The ATM’s bank will probably still hit you with a fee, but at least you’re not going to have to pay twice. (OH MY GOD I HATE THAT!!!)
- Credit unions consistently average better car loan rates than the bank, and even rival those offered by most car dealers (who are offering you teaser rates to get you in the door).
- You won’t have to pay any random “service,” “commitment,” or “underwriter’s fees” that creep into your mortgage. And, most credit unions won’t slam you with a several-thousand-dollar “prepayment penalty” to refinance a mortgage you have with them.
Make joining a credit union one of your New Year's Resolutions! It's so much easier than losing 20 pounds.