The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

Free Checking Accounts Not Always So Free

On March 21st, 2011, posted in: Uncategorized by

“There is no right way to do the wrong thing.”  Somebody once said that and I recently heard it reiterated on a stage by a guy making a point in a presentation.  I can’t recall, but my guess is that he must have been a good speaker or I probably wouldn’t have remembered this nugget.  Nevertheless, now it’s stuck in my brain along with Ashford & Simpson’s timeless chorus, “Solid – solid as a rock.”  (I heard it last week for the first time in a decade and I remembered why I love that era of music).

Let’s get past all the pretend justification for doing so: it is wrong to charge fees by disguising them inside some fancy-schmancy checking account.  Checking accounts that start off under the guise of “free” may have requirements that you must live up to or otherwise you pay a fee.  It’s sort of like inviting somebody to your St. Patrick’s Day party in order that they can stay after and help with the clean-up.  It seems just a wee bit irreverent.

If you’re thinking about a checking account that requires you to use your debit card a dozen times per month in order not to pay the monthly fee, you may want to do a self-assessment of your usage patterns before signing up.  It’s harder to hit a “dozen cousin” than you might think.

You might find it interesting that when you use cash, you spend less.  Furthering this thought, when you have big bills you spend even less – two more reasons to chill on the minimum debit card usage requirement. Saving money might be your gig.  Having an account that requires you to use your card to spend seems a little contrary to filling up the cookie jar.

On the other end of the spectrum, you might have limitations on the number of checks you can write per month.  Five checks per month max; otherwise, you’re tagged with a fee.  What if the account requires two direct debits per month?  How about the idea of only electronic statements?  If you want paper, you pay.  And no teller transactions allowed, otherwise – BINGO – you get whacked.  Who’s got the patience?  So your “free checking” account ends up having more restrictions than you have time to keep track.

I’ve got a lot on my plate to worry about.  Last thing I need to do is have to remember how many debit card transactions to make or how many more checks not to write.  And God forbid I might have to use a teller on the 29th of month.  All of the bookkeeping and spending goes for naught – it’s fee time, baby!  Look, I’m just saying that it’s wrong.  And no matter how much lipstick you put on that pig, it still oinks.

At St. Louis Community Credit Union, we offer “free checking.”  Use your debit card a little or a lot and write as many checks as you like or not.  Electronic statement or paper costs nothing either way.  Come see our tellers every day if you like – we like to see you.  Use direct debit or not.

There’s nothing tricky going on at SLCCU.  Hey, it’s hard enough to keep track of balancing your checking account, let alone trying to keep track of all the other crap.

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