A few months ago I came across a link to an article discussing how SunTrust Bank was going to begin charging fees to checking customers for both having an account and for using a debit card. Today I got the official notice about the rates.
This is what the letter says:
Thank you for being a SunTrust client and for giving us the opportunity to meet your banking needs….
On November 10, 2011, your Free Checking account(s) will become Everyday Checking, unless you contact us before then to make another selection.
Everyday Checking will include the same convenient account features you currently enjoy, with some important differences:
- $7.00 monthly maintenance fee unless you maintain a $500 minimum daily collected balance OR sign up for Direct Deposit
- $5.00 monthly fee for unlimited Check Card purchases (see fine print)
(Fine print: Applies when the ATM Card or Check Card is used for the first time during the statement cycle….)
We’re here to help you anyway we can, and we’ll work with you to find the right solution for your needs.
Notice that they don’t call me a customer, they call me a “client.” Interesting word choice. Well, SunTrust, I’ve already found a bank that provides the right solution for my bank. That bank is called PerkStreet.
And PerkStreet pays me to use their debit card and gives me free checks and a free check card. I can also use my debit card at any ATM that’s part of the Star network, which is a lot of them, including ones at some banks from what I’ve seen without paying for it. Perkstreet also gives me back 1% on every non-PIN transaction (swipe my debit card, hit credit, sign my name). So with Perkstreet, spending $500 costs me $495. With you, SunTrust, that would cost me up to $512 a month. If I used my card once, and spent $5, if I had less than $500 in my account, that $5 would cost me $19.
If I wanted to give my money to a bank, I would be using a credit card.
Sure, I maintain a balance above $500 in my Perkstreet account, so it’s not the amount that’s the problem. I kept my SunTrust account after I opened my Perkstreet account because of the chance that I needed to be able to quickly transfer money from savings to a checking account, which I’ve needed a couple of times. I can do that for free between my SunTrust accounts. Since you charge me to transfer money to an outside account, I needed to keep that account active. I can send money from Perkstreet to my SunTrust savings account for free, but not the other way.
I guess I could see the monthly fees sort of like a gym membership. It’s me paying you for the privilege of having you look after my money, kind of like paying Lifetime Fitness for the privilege of using their gym. Only instead of my money going to buy new equipment, pay trainers, fund classes, etc., my money is being used to build really big buildings like the tower in Nashville that obscured a great view of the Ryman Auditorium. It’s a nice building, though.
Honestly, I don’t care how many billions of dollars you’ll “lose” in income because of new legislation. I’m willing to bet that at the end of the year, unless you make enough people mad with fees, that you’ll still be in the black for your budget and can pay all of bills on time. Numbers in the billions don’t register with people like me. It’s outside of the scope of a number I can truly understand. I’m sure it means that the big bosses won’t get their giant raises this year; they’ll have to settle for just a really big raise, instead. However, your shareholders will probably notice the loss in their dividends check if you pay those.
You also ended your awards program (which was ridiculously hard to earn awards from, by the way). Like I said earlier, Perkstreet gives me back 1% on every non-PIN transaction. If I had a balance of $5000, I’d get 2% back on every non-PIN purchase. And if I shop at certain retailers each month, they give 5% back. This month includes Bed, Bath & Beyond. I have a few things to go buy there with a 20% coupon plus an additional 5% back from PerkStreet. And they’ve given me bonus money “just because” before. Perkstreet also lets me choose much better rewards. I got a $100 cash card the first time. I’ll probably go with an Amazon gift card next time. I can also pick Target, or Best Buy, or Starbucks or iTunes, or I can donate my perks to a charity. I got a cheap paper shredder after being a SunTrust customer for five years. That required me to spend thousands of dollars spent over a few years for a cheap paper shredder. I got $100 after just a few months with Perkstreet.
It really has been nice banking with you for the last six years. But we’ve now reached a time where I’ll be closing my checking account. I’ll still keep my savings account with you, so don’t worry, we can still be friends. However, from a practical standpoint, it no longer makes sense for me to keep my checking account open with you. I changed my Netflix plan because I didn’t want to pay $7 a month for DVD rentals. If I wasn’t willing to pay for a service that actually required a human to be involved with sending me a DVD and paying shipping costs, I’m really not going to pay $7 a month for a checking account that I interact with entirely online or via an ATM.
I’m grateful for my time with you, SunTrust. You were there for me when I needed to open a bank account in Nashville when I moved for college since BB&T wasn’t available. One of your branch managers even removed an overdraft fee the first time I screwed up and over-spent. And your online banking has always been convenient for me. I hope you don’t take this personally. Let’s just consider this a prudent financial decision in light of the circumstances. I get that you’re in business to make money. But I’m in business to not spend money if there are free alternatives that are as good or better.
I know the polite thing to do when ending a long-term relationship is to say “It’s not you, it’s me”, but in this case, it’s not me. It’s not just you, though. It’s also Bank of America, and Chase Bank, and Wells Fargo, and every other big bank that has let some legislation scare you into being more concerned about your own money and not about your customers.
And no, Perkstreet didn’t pay me to write this, I just happen to like them. They’re also releasing a mobile app soon and the ability to take a picture of checks to deposit them by phone. And they’ve mentioned that they’re looking into opening savings accounts soon. When that happens, I might move everything over. Go sign up for an account today and you’ll receive 2% back on every non-PIN transaction for the first 90-days.