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.