Is Banking Transparency Possible?

If there’s one thing I hate about dealing with banks is all the hidden fees that pop up. It seems that no matter what kind of transaction, they find a way to sneak in some kind of extra charge.

The part that really bugs me is that these days it’s all digital anyway. So it really barely costs them anything for most transactions. They simply sit back collecting money.

If you’re lucky, you might qualify to have your monthly checking account fees waived. I personally get that privilege by having multiple ‘products’ with my bank. That only covers the monthly fee though. They can still ding you with fees for anything extra outside of your regular transactions.

Just when you think you’re in the clear, they go and change the account terms on you. Last time I went into my bank to get some checks, I was informed that they now charge $2 per check. I would just order a checkbook, but I just don’t need checks often enough to recover the price difference.

Why Do Banks Get Away With It?

The problem starts when you sign up for account. They show you a glossy brochure highlighting all of the perks you get with each account. The limitations of the accounts are only shown for comparison purposes to help guide you towards the right account for you.

Then when you go to sign up for the account, you get a lengthy contract with the extra charges buried towards the end of the document. Who really takes the time read the entire contract with the bank employee waiting in front of you? Heck, even if you sign up for the account online, who takes the time to read it?

If you’re the careful type, you might skim through the fine print to see just how much you’d be charged for various services. What do you do if a particular charge seems high though? Would you actually take the time to check the fine print of the other banks? Would you take the time out of your busy schedule to sign up an account somewhere else?

Guess what? Most banks will charge similar absurd fees. They just charge extra for different fees to balance things out while trying to differentiate themselves.

People generally don’t plan for those extra fees either. They assume that they’ll never overdraft their account, go over any transaction limits or use any other extra services. Getting hit with one or two of those fees usually isn’t enough for people to take action.

What Can We Do About It?

After the recession a few years ago, the government did tighten up restrictions on the banking industry. Unfortunately most just found ways around those regulations with the minimal amount of transparency.

The trick is finding a bank that treats customers better and gives you more flexibility. One specific account that you might want to look into is Banking by Design from Union Bank. They’ve got an innovative approach where you choose the exact services you need. If there is a certain service you wouldn’t use, you don’t have to pay for it. You are not forced into bundle packages that come with way more than you really need. The prices for each service seem pretty reasonable too.

Currently they are running a contest called Commercial by Design where you get a chance to create a commercial that could get featured on tv. If you’ve got a creative side, now is your chance to show it off.

Besides finding a quality bank to do business with, don’t be afraid to ask the bank employees how you might get some of those fees waived or at least reduced. Sometimes by signing up for direct deposit, a credit card or line of credit, you can get preferential treatment. Or you can just be fully aware of what your bank charges and take preventative steps to avoid additional fees.

How do you save on bank fees? Are there any tricks you use?

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