We’ve heard the countless tropes and buzz phrases time and time again: “Knowledge is power!”, “Stay informed!”, “Know your rights!”. Maybe these words are repeated so often because they contain a lot of truth.
Lately, there has been a new consumer trend that reinforces those words of wisdom, and that’s in the area of personal banking. For years, the average customer has been at the mercy of the big bad banks, and that usually meant getting hit left and right by an endless series of fees and surcharges.
But now, thanks to Information Age technology and trends, consumers are fighting back, and the balance of power, at least in this one small area, is shifting in their favor.
Better Technology Means Better Access
Before the advent of the Internet, people had to balance their checkbook the old-fashioned way, with pen, paper, and calculator. Check stubs, deposit and withdrawal slips, paper receipts, all of it had to be kept on hand and used to make sure there were no deficits that could trigger overdraft fees. And God help you if you misplaced a handful of documentation and forgot to take the withdrawals into account!
But now, any financial institution worth its salt has a website where customers can log in and check their balances. As the article “Tech-savvy Consumers Cost Banks Money” explains, the consumers’ greater awareness of their balances decreases the odds of an overdraft.
And if you think about it, it’s more than just being able to access your bank account from your desktop or laptop. Most banks have mobile apps, so you can even check your balances off your phone when you’re out on the town, and transfer funds, say, from your savings account to make sure you have a good available balance. There’s another overdraft fee shot down before it could even take off!
Better Access Means More Awareness
But the savings don’t end there. When you check your balance and transactions online, you get a list of all itemized deposits and withdrawals. That’s when you can clearly see all of your financial transactions displayed in one place, and see where the money is going, and you start noticing other random little fees that some banks stick you with.
For instance, some banks charge you a fee if you make more than a certain number of transfers from your savings to checking account in the space of 30 days. Others charge annual fees for things like overdraft protection, checks, or if you don’t keep a certain minimum balance.
But by seeing all of those fees clearly spelled out in your transaction history can make you wonder if there are other banks available who could do better. While some may argue that a $25 monthly isn’t much, it becomes a bigger matter when you take into consideration an entire year’s worth of paying it, which in this case is $300, and THAT is a lot of money. Maybe there’s a bank that charges a smaller fee; Hell, maybe there’s a bank that charges NO fee!
Let’s Not Forget Information
The other great thing about the Internet is that you can log on and find all kinds of tips and strategies on saving money, everything from how to make a budget to how to shop for a bank. The mere fact that you’re reading this article proves that point.
The more you know, the more information you have, and the more you can use it to prevent yourself from getting nickel and dimed to death by your “friendly” neighborhood bank.
So yes, raise awareness, be an informed consumer, and save money. It may annoy the bank, but who cares? They can deal with it!