19 Banking Dos And Don'ts

A current employee in a big bank sent us a big list of banking do’s and don’ts that we know some people could stand to be reminded of

It’s kinda condescending, though, and doesn’t seem to acknowledge that sometimes it really is the bank’s fault. Maybe we should call it “a frustrated bank customer service rep admonishes stupid consumers 20 times.”

So much so that there was only one thing to do: turn the whole list into Goofus and Gallant. You remember them, right? From Highlights? Gallant was always asking Mom if she needed help folding the linens and Goofus was always tripping squirrels and such.

Well now they’re all grown up and have checking and savings accounts. Let’s see what they’re up to…


Gallant reads his statements.
Both for announcements of possible account changes/fees and updated addendums/disclosures, as well as to verify all charges on your account.

Goofus asks to have his physical statements stopped.
This not only is not possible using our current systems, but you should be verifying all transactions since you don’t have a lot of time to dispute a transaction due to regulations. On Top of this is the only method we send you updates/service charge changes/disclosures.

Gallant keeps a record of all his transactions.
This may sound like a simple one, but too many customers “forget” where they have shopped.

Goofus tries to bluff customer service issues by saying, “I will close my account if this isn’t handled the way I want!”
Many times your bluff will be called with a simple “that’s fine, you would like your official check made out to the same title as your accounts, correct?” Please be patient and we will do what we can to fix the situation.

[Ed. If you’re serious and the bank is really in the wrong, you can turn this into a Gallant by not bluffing, and actually closing your account. There’s nothing wrong with exercising consumer choice.]

Gallant makes sure he has sufficient funds available before making purchases.
This again sounds like a simple, common sense one, but too many people depend on “float” times which are being brought down more and more due to checks being converted to ACH transactions, check 21 as well as other method to cut down on transaction time.

Goofus depends on the ATM/Online Banking/Automated customer service line for his “available balance”.
Debit card (choosing “Credit”) transactions will fall off your account the next day during processing, but will then post to your account once the merchant processes the full transaction. (Monday you make a Debit purchase of $15, the hold of those funds falls off in processing on Tuesday night, but the merchant doesn’t process the transaction for a week, so your account may seem like it has an “available” $15 for that week. (another reference to write down your transactions.) I have heard this system may be updated at some point soon like some other banks, but it’s still good to keep track of it yourself.

Gallant makes a note of his online purchases and what each company may reflect on his statement when he buys stuff.
Most online companies will tell you how a purchase will be reflected. We can’t tell you what purchase you made with “PayPal” nor “CCBill” (a known adult services biller, do you REALLY want us to know which adult site you spent $50 on? No, I Don’t think so.)

Goofus throws away his receipts before his transactions have correctly posted on his statement.
I suggest at least 3-4 months, safe to be a year. Sounds like another common sense one, but too many customers are contacting us and asking “what did I purchase at Best Buy for $125 in October?” This also comes back to the issue of when there is a missing transaction posted at a branch, if you have a copy of said transaction, it is easier to research that way.

Gallant keeps his banking statements as long as possible as well as any documents related to fees or changes that are sent to him.
Research and reprinting fees very quickly add up. If you get audited or are disputing any information on a statement (including title), having a statement helps greatly.

Goofus threatens to beat up bank employees when things don’t go his way.
Security will be called and/or your account(s) closed. Sounds like another common sense one, but too many customers think that threatening to “beat you up”, or that they will “camp out at the branch until X issue is resolved”. This is not how to resolve an issue and some situations can not be solved on the spot, some require research.

Gallant is nice to customer service.
Common sense again? Maybe, but alot of customers think that being mean and rude will “Get things done”. If you would like charges back due to any reason (mainly when referring to fees that are not a bank error), be nice. But also realize there is a difference between a “sob story” and “elaborating the truth”.

Goofus keeps trying to use his debit card after entered a wrong PIN several times.
Your card is put on hold after 3 times of a PIN being entered wrong without a correct time in between, no matter WHERE or WHEN those consecutive times happened. You forget the pin, Call the customer service line and ask for a reminder sent to yourself, then change it to something easier to remember when you do get it. It may still be able to be used as “credit”, but make sure you still ask for a reminder ASAP so you don’t forget you entered it wrong.

Gallant plans ahead.
To quote dilbert “lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”. Make sure your debit card works at least a month before leaving for a vacation, make sure you know your pin number. If your card is having issues, or you forgot your pin, there is still time to plan and get things fixed. Don’t wait until 2 days before leaving for a trip to realize “my PIN doesn’t work!” or “My Card is Damaged!”. This also counts toward moving: As soon as you move, call and tell us your new address.

Goofus complains when the bank finds a not-free solution to his lack of planning.
We have express delivery for something like a new debit card, but that is NOT cheap. Don’t complain about the $25 fee. Or if you threw away your statement and we charge you $6 to print a new one.

Gallant signs up for overdraft protection.
If you don’t have the credit to be able to get a Overdraft Line, Open up a savings account, regularly put money into the savings account for the infrequent “oops”. (maybe use the free Auto Save service to transfer $5 or $10 weekly/biweekly/monthly. Not only is it good to save, but it’s there “Just in case” you forgot about a certain check or other item.)

Goofus gives away his checking account information to just any company for an Automated Clearing House verification (ACH).
It IS possible to place a stop payment on an ACH transaction, but in order to legally do it, you need to have contacted the other company and attempt to cancel the ACH FIRST. Also by signing up for ACH through another company, they may take the charge anytime they want. (check the fine print, had a relative that signed up for Cingular AutoPay, the fine print said they can take it up to a week either side of the date you chose.) Also Verify in the fine print if by signing a contract, you are agreeing to “AutoPay” and if you cancel, you may be paying penalties or Termination Fees.

Gallant does his research and has evidence on hand when comparison shopping.
If you can’t produce the advertisement or flyer from “XYZ Bank”, don’t get upset when we can’t get details about said offer to be able to attempt to match. Or that we can’t match it since they require to have a certain balance or special account to get it.

Goofus doesn’t close his bank accounts when moving to another state.
Yes, your account will still work just fine if you move into another state, that’s not the problem. (Though make sure you use the routing number ON your checks for direct deposit!) The problem is if you are moving on a more permanent basis, you are better off closing your account and reopening one in the state you now live in. Why? For several reasons: 1) Due to state differences, some product types and disclosures change in each state, so while one state may charge one price for something, another state may charge another, and the person you may be dealing with, may not be aware of the difference. 2) Again, due to state differences, there are limitations to what kind of maintenance can be done on your account in another state. If it’s Short Term (anything planned to be less than 6-12 months), then thats fine, but Longer term, consider opening another account in addition or replacing the one you have.

Gallant protects his personal financial information.
While there are people who may call out to you from the bank, they will not ask you for ALL of your personal information, won’t EVER ask your for your PIN number, routing nubmer or online banking password. Don’t give it out. Anytime someone calls out to you, and you are not comfortable, ask for a call back number and do just that, call the customer service number (on your statement and on the back of your debit card) and verify the phone number or just ask if the representative will be able to help you instead. On the other hand, when calling INTO the customer service number, they will ask for a different type of identification, please have your account number or the latest statement available so they can help verify who you are.

— BEN POPKEN