Where I’ve Earned the Right

At some point during the last five years or so, I accepted the fact that I am going to be bombarded with advertisements of all kinds, during any given activity at any given moment. While I heretofore believed that the one I hated the most was watching a thirty-second ad prior to watching a forty-two second video clip online, a new one has crept into the number one slot.

The new champ iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis: ads and offers I have to decline prior to accessing my bank account online.

They kind of make me want to cut someone.

I always believed that if one places his or her money in an account at a banking institution, that institution is grateful to have that person’s money and that was it. End of story.

If you can tell I didn’t major in finance or economics, you would be right. But I can’t stress enough how uncomfortable it makes me to constantly be turning down offers from my bank, who is only trying to upgrade me in some way to get more of my money, of which I don’t have a lot.

Now let’s talk online banking for a moment. I don’t know of a single bank that doesn’t offer this service anymore. In 2011, we have become dependent on having access to our balance at a moment’s notice, and can perform all kinds of transactions that, in the 90s and earlier, we would have gone to the actual bank to do. Personally, I do love the convenience.

Yet, what I’m discovering is that while it’s a free service which banks love to inform you about (and in my case, most recently, pushed me to sign up for right away), there’s always a catch. It’s actually “free,” not free. They know people want to log on umpteen times a day to check their balance, to see whether their paycheck has hit, make transfers, and so on.

So somewhere along the way, marketing folks said, “You know what we should do, is show them offers they have to physically click yes or no to before proceeding to their account information.” This is where I see red.

Sometimes, I don’t have time for shit like that. Sometimes, a girl just needs to do something really quickly and be about her day.

In the late 90s and very early 2000s, I would physically go to my credit union to deposit my paychecks, withdraw cash, and get money orders if need be. I actually didn’t mind. This was before my debit card allowed me to limit how much cash I needed to have on hand at all times. The tellers didn’t try to upsell me on a simple transaction and I didn’t have to listen to or watch anything prior to doing my business. Ah, the days of yore.

And while I’m grateful banks + technology seem to have a healthy relationship, the constant ads are making me wonder if I’m not better off putting my money in my sock drawer. Or at least just avoiding online banking and going to the ATM more often. (Though isn’t it only a matter of time before we have to watch an ad before seeing our balance at the ATM?)

The convenient but not smart way to bank.

Here’s how I know this is never going to stop:

I recently made the decision to sever my relationship with Citibank (“rhymes with shitty bank,” quoting Bill Maher) after four years. When I was in NYC, it served me well. They were everywhere and had good customer service. But I grew weary of having to constantly change my debit card because people try to hack into their system all the time. I had just changed my card again this summer and what arrives in the mail two weeks ago? A new card, “courtesy” of Citibank, with a note saying to activate it as my account might have been compromised recently.

That pushed me over the edge and I decided to seize the day and bank locally. It’s much more convenient and it’s not Citibank! Plus, though I liked the layout of their online account system, I was not only having to decline offers before proceeding to my account info but having to say no to something BEFORE I COULD SIGN OFF. To me, this is a dick move. If I’ve clicked Sign Off, it means I’m done and I need to leave. It’s the equivalent of someone standing outside a building and shoving a clipboard in your face, asking you to take a survey. Every. Single. Time.

(And also? What’s with pop-up ads while scrolling through news articles online? They give me a tic.)

So far, I’m pleased with my new bank and its customer service and convenient locations. I’m okay living with the ads before the account info online (despite my checking the box that says Do Not Ask Me Again), I suppose, since I really just want to be able to hang on to a debit card for the entire length of its validity. It’d be nice to hang on to one until it expires. What a novel concept.

I’d love to say that online banking is a right. It’s my account, it’s my money, I made the choice to put my money in this place. But the advertisements remind me over and over that that is not how the banks see it.

One might say, “But couldn’t you just opt out of online banking?” I actually don’t know the answer to this, though I think theoretically, one can.

When I signed up for my new account last week, I checked all the boxes for what I wanted from my account and was told a bank rep would be calling me to finalize the opening of the account. When I got the call, I just assumed I’d answer a few simple questions, go over my account options, and be on my way. But in actuality, this woman’s job was to ask me the exact same questions I answered online the previous day. If I had known that it’s moot to open an account online, I simply would have gone in to the bank to open one. It seems like such a waste of time and energy to answer the same questions twice.

But I know it’s because if I don’t remember my answers and I accidentally say yes to one of their “Protection” plans, I’ve given away more of my dough. She also reiterated quite strongly, “Make sure you sign up for your online bank access.” I didn’t really need the nudge so I thought it strange. I have also had to turn down e-banking (where you pay your bills through your bank) three times. I don’t know what the catch is with that one, but anything the bank pushes me to do, I’m inclined to just say no flat out.

This whole thing is just exhausting!

If I want to get away from the 24/7 ad placement that comes with living in the 21st century, where can I go/what can I do?

  • Head to a remote area of the country – Montana is lovely, I hear.
  • Stare at a blank wall.
  • Close my eyes.

It’s all I could think of.

While I understand there is a price for everything, there is just a part of me that feels I’ve earned the right be able to place my earnings somewhere without constantly defending it from the very institution in which it resides. But my options being “Deal with it or live a much more inconvenient life” and “Deal with it but bitch about it on the internet,” I opted for the latter.

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Comments

  1. The catch with online banking is that it’s fast, convenient, and free. That means I’ve made it part of my routine, to the point where going back to paying bills the old way would feel like going back to dial-up after years of high-speed. The bank knows this, and will, I suspect, begin charging for the service in the near future. Banks always tell the truth, but with a lot of fine print down at the bottom, including its right to change the offer at any time.

    I don’t think the ads are going away, and I think you’re right about the inevitable ATM ads. Upselling is part of our culture now — you can’t even order a meal at a restaurant without the server trying to talk you into another appetizer.

    Great post, Zoe.

    • If banks always told the truth, I wouldn’t be dealing with a bunch of idiots who are threatening to shut the subway system down here in NYC. Call me skeptical, cynical, conspiracy theorist, etc…I don’t think any large governing “power” tells the truth. Whether it be by ommission or commission.

    • I love checking my account and doing transactions online and on my phone, so I hope it didn’t come across that I didn’t. It’s just the constant ads. I do love me some technology, though. I can’t even tell you the last time I frequented an ATM! But it wouldn’t surprise me to see they’re vastly different nowadays.

      Thanks for coming back to read and comment, Charles!

  2. The pop-up ads while I’m reading an article always make me mad. Apparently, I also have horrible aim with my mouse, so instead of pressing ‘x’ like I want to, I end up three-screens-deep in ads for the latest cellulite cream.

    • Those piss me off, too. ESPECIALLY if I’m taking a short break at work to read the news and it has audio to it. Hello! Warn a brotha! And yes…lord help you if you accidentally click on the ad, especially while trying to catch that little “x” in the corner of their floating monstrosity.

    • Hahahaha Tori, you always have such great imagery! That’s the other tricky thing about these ads is that they highlight the one they want you to click and you have to search for the smaller, “No, thanks” button. (It really should be a “No, dammit!” button.)

  3. Online banking is genius to me. It also saves you on postage and checks if the person you’re sending money to doesn’t have an electronic method of receiving payment outside of online banking. I don’t quite understand this push for e-Bill and how it differs from online banking, or even setting up recurring payments in online banking nor do I care to find out 🙂

    Having moved to watching a lot of shows online, advertisements seem to creep their way into everything. At first it was to “pay” for the “free” stuff you’re getting. But now everything has advertisements, whether you pay or not. Cable television. That’s a HUGE thorn in my side. Anyone who knows me knows that. Satellite radio. When it came out, they boasted that it was commercial free radio. Not no mo’. And now things such as Hulu. The free version? Sure. I get it. You must put up with commercials for free access. But Hulu Plus? It’s a paid service. Why are there advertisements?

    If not for the ThankYou Points (you know me and my rewards) and the fact that most banks here in the city are just as shitty as the next (tee hee), I’d have left Citibank already.

    All in all, like I was told by the C you next Tuesday associate at FedEx, “nothing is free.”

    • Someone at FedEx said that? HAHA! I think FedEx charges competitive rates for shipping but they haven’t learned the art of not stomping on packages in transit, that’s for sure.

      I thought of you and the Thank You points when I was leaving Citibank. I should check my balance to see if I can redeem them for a pencil eraser or something. I haven’t ever heard Satellite radio but it’s not surprising that it’s not ad free. Nothing is, anymore, I’m afraid. (Except for closing my eyes and staring at a blank wall.)

      • DANG! I spent TWO HOURS picking shit out for Christmas presents to spend my goddam thank you points. Took me seven tries to get the credit card info in there…rejected my American Express because I had to use my shitty account….and then it TURNED MY CITICARD DOWN! Like, WTF? Merry freaking krismiss, aholes.
        PS – two words: CREDIT UNION. srsly

      • How can it turn down your Citicard? That makes no sense! I’m sorry that was such a futile exercise 😦

  4. Rule #1. Banks suck.
    Rule # 2. Credit Unions Rule.
    Some CU’s are better than others: First Community CU in STL rocks. ESL is Rochester is great at customer service, and has user-friendly online processes, with limited ads, and they have truly free checking. They even have an audio-friendly auto voice on their phone system. I will never use a bank again unless credit unions disappear! Even then, I might consider the faux Campbell Soup can in the cupboard before I put anything in a bank.

  5. This is such weird timing. I love my bank, but last night I went to the ATM to pull money out and for the very first time ever I was subjected to an ad for something like a loan with my bank which I had to either hit “Yes” or “No I’m not interested” before getting into my account. I think there may have been an option for “Don’t show me this again,” but I can’t remember for sure.

  6. My bank recently sent me $150 coupon that I could “deposit any time” – but only if I sign up for their brand new “unlimited transaction” chequing account for the “low fee” of $29.95 per month (about 3x as much as I’m paying right now), AND their brand new “no fee” credit card (for which fees are actually suspended for six months, followed by a $19.95 per month fee in perpetuity). Give me a break. First of all, what kind of bank sends COUPONS?!?!? And second of all, where did they earn the right to reinterpret the English language to feed their own greed. Assholes. It’s time for a change!

    • Hahaha totally agree! “No fee” is the same as “free” when it comes to banking nowadays.

      Another thing is I am hoping the incessant credit card offers from Citi will slow or stop. A girl can dream.

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