When I was little, my parents took me down to the local bank—Worcester County Institution for Savings—and helped me open a passbook savings account. If I recall correctly, there were cartoon squirrels on the marketing materials, hiding nuts for the winter. Every time I got a little money from a grandparent, we’d trek down to the bank and make a deposit. I would hand over the passbook, and the teller would put it in the printer, and the printer would go bitsi, bitsi, bitsi as it printed a few cents of interest for each month that had passed since the last visit. The more I deposited, the more interest I earned, and it was good.
My first real paycheck came from Treasure Valley. I think I made $250 the first summer; it went up a little every year, so by the time I went off to college, I had maybe $750 and change in the bank.
When I headed off to Salem State, there was an Automated Teller Machine on campus, right behind the Sullivan Building. However, it was out of order, and there was no branding on the outside of the kiosk. As I was leaving the cafeteria on my second day, there was a lady with a table set up at the entrance to the campus center, signing people up for BayBank checking accounts. I asked her if the ATM behind the Sullivan Building was going to be a BayBank machine, and if so, when it might be operational. She said it would be a couple of weeks at most, so I signed up. At the time, I agreed to pay eight bucks a month for the privilege of having a checking account, given that I was unable to meet any minimum balance, nor did I have direct deposit, or, indeed, an income.
A couple of weeks later, I was trying to stay awake in World Civ I (in the Sullivan Building) when I heard a beeping noise, like a truck backing up. I looked out the window and saw a massive crane hauling the ATM kiosk out of the ground. They loaded it on a flatbed truck and drove away. I was now looking at a mile and a half walk to the next nearest BayBank ATM, one way. But I am sure that lady got her commission for signing me up, so… that’s nice.
Now, unbeknownst to me, Worcester County Institution for Savings was acquired by Bank of Boston in 1993. However, I couldn’t miss the flood of marketing mailers when BayBank merged with Bank of Boston and became BankBoston in 1996, or when BankBoston was acquired by Fleet Bank and became FleetBoston in 1999, or when FleetBoston was gobbled up by Bank of America in 2005.
At some point in there, I went back to what had been Worcester County Institution for Savings, with the intention of closing out my savings account and moving the money to my checking account. I don’t remember which bank’s name was on the door at the time, but I handed over my passbook. The teller put it in the printer, and the printer went bitsi, bitsi, bitsi for quite a long time. She handed it back to me and I saw that the bank had started deducting eight bucks a month back in 1993, and after they had eaten all $750, I now had a zero balance. Account closed, thanks for your business. That left kind of a bad taste in my mouth, given that they had never even tried to contact me about the change. But I was a kid, and I didn’t know any better than to just suck it up and move on.
Around 1997, I got a real job, so between the direct deposit thing, and the minimum balance thing, I stopped paying a monthly fee to have a checking account. I didn’t really think about it—the ATMs were almost as ubiquitous as Dunkin’ Donuts, and that was enough of a reason to stick with the status quo.
When the financial crisis came along, Bank of America was in it up to their eyeballs. I was a little busy during those years, so I just kept on keeping on. Now Nate is older, and I am able to pay closer attention to my money. Someone at church mentioned Socially Responsible Investing, and I realized it was high time to put my money someplace else. I chose DCU as my new bank, and made an appointment at Bank of America to close out the checking account I’ve had since 1990. The banker made every effort to sign me up for a savings account and an investment account and a money market account, but I said no, no, no.
DCU has no minimum balance requirement, and their logo is the same friendly shade of green as the old BayBank logo. There are certainly fewer Allpoint ATMs than there are Bank of America ATMs, but we are quickly moving to a cashless society, so I haven’t had any problem adapting. And I love the feeling I get when I see a Bank of America ATM now. A bank is responsible to its shareholders, not its customers. My credit union’s only responsibility is to its members.
It’s weird to feel good about my banking. But it’s getting better and better.