I Thought Debt Was a Negative - Silly Me

We live in a nutty world.  Nuttier than a squirrel's stash in the winter.

I had a conversation with my bank two hours ago that still has me shaking my head.

My husband and I have a joint checking/savings account.  In addition, I have a separate checking/savings account.  Not because we divide the money, or I want more chocolate than he thinks is reasonable.  I simply stash funds in the second savings account until the water heater springs a leak, or the car needs new brakes, or some catastrophe occurs as life rolls along.  This savings account is simply a holding cell until the unexpected happens.

I never use the checking part of this account, never have.  For ten years, it's had all of $3.50 in it.  I don't even think about it, forget I have it.

Yesterday, I got a letter from our bank stating that for three months, I've been over drawn on this checking account.  My balance is now -$2.50.  What?    

I called the bank.  A very nice woman named Nicole looked into it and then asked me, "Do you have a daughter?"

"Yes," I said warily.  Had our girl been swiping a dollar a month from this forgotten account of mine? 

"Did she have a car loan with us?" Nicole inquired.

"Yes."  I wondered where this was going.

"It looks like that's been paid off," Nicole informed me.

"Uh-huh."  I think we co-signed for the loan, which was paid off this past summer.  "Okay...."

"Oh, I see," Nicole said.  "You've been moved from a platinum account to a gold account."

I'm still trying to put things together.  "We got demoted because our daughter paid off her loan?"

"Well, you're now in a different status.  You have to maintain a certain balance in this checking account, or there is a fee."

I'm still thinking.  "Are you telling me we're being penalized because we have less debt?"

"It's not a penalty," Nicole said.  "You're simply in a different status."  She then said something about how we used to be at the platinum level, which was $2700, now we're at the gold level, which is $750.

"Let me understand this," I said.  "Because our daughter no longer owes you money, we have to keep a minimum amount of funds in this checking account, which we don't use, or we will be fined."

"Correct.  You're at a different level now."

"Yeah, I get that," I said.  "We've been bumped down a notch.  So instead of getting our daughter's money, you require more of ours.  It looks like the bank benefits from our family being in debt." 

Nicole kind of chuckled.  "Yeah, that's how it works.  Paying off the car loan is what changed things."

Am I really hearing this?  This is insane!   "Well, you know, Nicole, I'm not going to use this checking account.  I've never used it.  Can I get rid of it?"

"You can close the account," she said.

"Can I keep the savings without the checking?"

"Yes.  But you can't go online to pay any bills if you don't have both."

"I don't do online banking from this account," I said. "I move the savings money over to our joint checking when we need it.  Can I still do that?"

"Oh, yes," Nicole assured me.

"Close the checking account," I said.  Before it costs me one more penny.  Before I have to take out a loan to save money.  I can't believe I just typed that.

Nicole tapped away and removed the checking account.  I'm surprised she didn't charge me anything to do it. 

I admit I don't have a high finance mind; I don't understand Wall Street and interest rates, but shouldn't you be rewarded for paying your bills?  Shouldn't you get a higher status for being responsible?  Like I said, NUTTY. 

I have no idea how being only a gold member at my bank will change my life.  I didn't know I was previously a platinum member, so I'll now be paying attention to how my life degrades.  Gosh, once we pay off the last of our son's college loan in April, we'll probably tumble to the tin can level.

There's a lesson here somewhere, but darned if I know what it is. 


Ruth said...

That reminds me of when my uncle wanted to borrow money to buy my grandma's place. They made enough money, that wasn't the problem. The bank didn't want to loan such a small amount. I don't think banks make much sense.

Christine said...

Good luck with that one! My husband works with bankers for a living, and they make no sense to me at all.

Mari said...

That is just crazy! I guess they figured out a way to get money out of you, one way or another!

Marie said...

It's also like cash isn't enough anymore. And to build your credit score you do need some credit card debt. lol

Joyce said...

This kind of thing makes me crazy too. My daughter recently got her first credit card. She has a good job, no debt, can pay her bills and put money in savings on her salary, has a 401 K and health insurance but still, in 2013 you need a credit card to rent cars, etc. And to get a card you need to have debt and pay it off so you can accumulate more debt?? It was a tough concept to get across to her : )

Unknown said...

Gotta love it! Banks don't like you if they can't make money off of you and gone are the days when they think of your little savings account nest egg as "making money."

But that is kinda crazy.

Deb said...

Great post - the way your wrote it made me smile, but I totally get and share your frustration with banks. I have a little savings account for our vacation with about $2500 in it and the interest we got on that this last year was 11 cents! Wow. The guy at the credit union wanted me to sign up for a different account that would change me a fee if my balance went below $2000 and for that we could make a whopping 22 cents a year instead of 11 cents. Of course, when we take most of the money out to pay for vacation and our balance drops below $2000, you can bet the fee will be much more than the additional 11 cents in interest we made. I told the "nice" man at the credit union no thanks - a hefty fee next summer to make an extra 11 cents now just makes no sense at all. I had to wonder, though, do people really fall for this? Crazy world we live in, isn't it.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

It doesn't make any sense in my opinion but then I am a normal person, and banks don't make sense to normal people...........

Anonymous said...

At least she knew what you were talking about! Policies such as this make little sense except for the bank's bottom line. So much for promoting personal fiscal responsibility.

Rita said...

For many years now the banks have been figuring out ways to charge us for every little thing. It's really unfair and ridiculous. But we all need banks these days. You can't even cash your payroll check without it costing you if you don't have an account and companies don't want you to send cash in the mail--which makes it very difficult to just keep your money in your mattress. They have us over the barrel!

Juli said...

I hate the banking industry's rules. I want to refinance my house, which I currently have no PMI on since I've lived here 10 years. I have never missed a payment nor have I ever used the grace period they allow... and yet to refinance I will now have to pay PMI... on a home I have lived in for ten years and NEVER missed a payment on, even when I made a third of what I do now.....

For a mortgage less than what I'm paying now.


Danielle L Zecher said...

That's just crazy! We seem to live in a society that really wants to keep us enslaved to debt. Haven't you noticed how any time you pay something off (or even start to get close) you suddenly start getting more solicitations for more credit? It's insane!

Cecilia Marie Pulliam said...

I sometimes think our entire nation/world has been turned upside down. It is crazy. Guess they intend to make money one way or the other. Greed. It's everywhere.