NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- On most financial matters, I'm ruthlessly logical. I'm also not particularly frugal -- I'll pretty cheerfully drop $5 for a magazine that catches my eye or $50 on dinner out. My daily Starbucks habit is exactly the kind savings gurus constantly warn against.
But a $2 ATM fee sends me off the rails into frothing, ranty irrationality.
It's not the upfront $1.50 or $2 fee you get charged at the ATM for using one not owned by your bank. I don't love those fees and I think they're too high, but they're at least grounded in some basic supply-and-demand principles. The ATM owner has costs associated with running their machine; I wish to use the service it supplies; I pay for that privilege. I get it.
It's the back-end fees banks charge their own customers for using rivals' machines. It costs my bank absolutely nothing when I go use someone else's ATM to take money out of my own bank account -- so why on earth should I shell out $2 or $3 a throw to my bank, on top of the $2 or so I'm paying the ATM owner? It's punitive and reprehensible and I hate it with the burning heat of ten thousand fiery suns.
So I opted out and announced, my freshman year of college, that I would only bank with places that charged no fees whatsoever for having an account -- including no fees for using rival ATMs.
That ruled out every actual bank I could find in all of New York City. No Citibank. No Bank of America. No Chase. No Banco Popular.
Instead, I ended up with a small Internet-based bank called Security First Network Bank. It had no branches anywhere, but I didn't care -- when I needed cash, I went to an ATM, paid my $2, and cheerfully enjoyed the total absence of back-end charges on my monthly bank statement. All went swimmingly for about five years. Then my little Internet bank got bought and went out of business.
After a solid month of moaning and mourning, I finally got my act together and found a new bank: NetBank, which once again met my "no fees, and especially NO ATM FEES" rule. NetBank and I were very happy together for many years.
Then the FDIC shut them down. I'd gotten the foreboding sense that bad things were imminent for my beloved bank, but it's still a shock to wake up one Saturday morning, try to log on, and instead find out that your bank has shuffled off to the Failed Bank Graveyard.
So I once again went bank shopping, once again declared that "NO ATM FEES" was a 100% non-negotiable rule, and signed on with the only major bank I could find that fit the requirement: Washington Mutual.
At this point my CNNMoney colleagues declared me the bank Grim Reaper and demanded advance warning before I transferred my account anywhere else and potentially killed that institution off, too.
I was beaten down and defeated. I'd been through more banks than boyfriends. Is it me? I wondered. Am I asking too much? Should I just give in, stay put, settle? After all, Chase -- which took over my WaMu account -- promised to keep the WaMu terms in place for the foreseeable future.
And for a year or so, they did. But then one day late last year, while idly opening mail and going over my bank statement, I spotted the dreaded, feared, much-loathed line: a $2 charge labeled "NON-CHASE ATM FEE."
My husband says my yelp was so loud and pained his first thought was that I'd accidentally amputated something.
So I once again started the hunt, weary and resigned, slogging through dozens of bank websites and scouring the fine print. I found two "NO ATM FEES" finalists -- USAA and Charles Schwab Investor Checking -- and decided to roll the dice with Schwab. I opened my account, transferred in money, and prepared to give Chase the boot.
But a sneaky thing happened along the way: I got seduced by Chase's accessible charms. With the exception of my short-lived WaMu account, I'd always banked with obscure and remote institutions. I'd never before had a bank with branches nearby and ATMs on almost every block. It was ... kinda fun. After so many years of paying upfront ATM fees every time I wanted cash, it felt like a luxurious novelty to use a Chase ATM and pay nothing.
Luxurious right up until the moment I got caught at a baseball ballpark without a Chase ATM, and got slapped with upfront fees as well as that pernicious back-end extortionary $2 fee to Chase.
After that, I started making sure I always had a few hundred stashed in my Schwab account. A pattern developed: If I was near a Chase ATM, I used my Chase card; if I wasn't, I used my Schwab account.
I thought this arrangement was a temporary indulgence, a fleeting thing I could enjoy until I stopped procrastinating and picked a bank. And then one day, the obvious lightning-bolt hit: I didn't have to choose. Schwab has no monthly account maintenance fees, and Chase doesn't either so long as I keep direct-depositing paychecks. I could two-time my banks and keep up a relationship with both of them!
I've been at it almost a year now, and so far, swearing off bank monogamy is working out brilliantly. I love the thrill I get from having my main bank and a second on the side -- it's like a little extra bit of security (could I have Failed Bank PTSD!?), knowing I can dash off at any time into the arms of the other suitor.
I haven't paid Chase an ATM fee in 11 months. Schwab refunds the up-front ATM fees I pay on my withdrawls. At a time when many customers loathe their megabanks, I'm feeling gloriously content about mine.
|Overnight Avg Rate||Latest||Change||Last Week|
|30 yr fixed||3.94%||3.88%|
|15 yr fixed||3.02%||3.05%|
|30 yr refi||4.01%||3.93%|
|15 yr refi||3.10%||3.14%|
Today's featured rates:
KFC is testing 100% edible chocolate-lined coffee cups in the U.K. More
China's yuan has lost nearly 1% against the dollar so far this year, after falling 2.5% last year, putting pressure on the country's financial system. More
The new FCC net neutrality rules are here. Now Comcast is threatening lawsuits and warning it'll stop investing in its own network. More
Shu-Ling Garver, once a homeless child in Shanghai, rose to one of the top engineers at Intel. Now her entrepreneurial mission is to get kids excited about engineering. More