I hate my bank. Wait, that’s only partially true. I hate my bank that offers a location wherever I happen to be, has tellers and allows me to deposit and withdraw small or large sums of cash. I have another bank that offers none of these things and I don’t hate that bank. In fact, I love my other bank, USAA (there, I said it), because they make everything free, easy, friendly and seamless. OK, they don’t have branches everywhere. Wait, they don’t have branches anywhere but San Antonio, Texas. How does that work? Well, they don’t manage cash transactions for me.
Cash is not king
When it comes down to it, cash is the only challenge that keeps me at the bank that I hate. USAA allows me to deposit checks and move money anywhere in the world. USAA gives me credit for transfers immediately, not days later like my other bank. On the rare occasion that I have to call USAA, I end up speaking with someone with strong experience who knows more about banking than I do. When I go to my bank’s local branch, I get terrible service from an underpaid youngster who at best, gamely tries to be a banking expert. Ask for a manager? You simply get the one who outlasted the others. The Spanish have a great phrase I think of every time I stand in line, “En el país de los ciegos el tuerto es el rey”. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
It gets better. USAA has systems and processes that make sure I don’t need to ever go to the bank for anything. My bank, on the other hand, forces me to come to the branch for something as simple as disputing a fee or any account changes. It’s like a giant government make-work project but found in a for-profit institution. They rub my nose in their awkward services and on top of that, hit me with fees that are both real and imagined at every turn. I deal with their ways with gritted teeth simply because I choose (do I need?) to retain the cash option. Cash is no longer king. In fact and ironically, handling cash has an increasing cost.
To be fair, USAA ‘banks’ on the idea that I have another bank and lays off their cost much the same way Netflix lays off their cost to the Internet.
This problem is on me
I have a clear choice to go completely paperless, and that includes the paper that comes in green denominations. That’s my choice. But when I get into rural America, I inevitably run into situations where cash is required. It’s easy to lose sight of this in my home city of Pasadena, California. Uber and even the parking meters use credit cards. There are still places where cash is king.
Secondly, what if “the grid” is down and credit and debit cards aren’t an option? 9/11 showed many of us that things can go horribly wrong and very quickly. This is why I hate my bank and that’s OK. There’s something to be said for the insurance of the local branch that makes me crazy. Maybe its enough (for now) to keep me coming back, paying fees and wasting my time in-person on things that can be done other ways.
To hear more, Alistair Croll has an excellent bank rant in Everyone knows It’s broken.