My bank came up with a way to spare me the shame of overdrafts! What favor will they do for me next?
(Fortune Magazine) -- You know, we don't thank our bankers nearly enough. My bank is always thinking up new ways to help me, and it's been like that my whole life.
When I was a kid, my dad took me downtown to the First National, which was right next door to the Alceon Theater, where you could watch two movies for a quarter on Saturday afternoons. I had 10 weeks' allowance in my pocket -- $5, all in Benjamin Franklin 50-cent pieces. That's when "all about the Benjamins" meant something!
Anyhow, we gave Mr. Roover, who smelled of Aqua Velva and sat at his very nice desk by the door, my life savings, and he gave me a little blue book that had all my information in it.
"Every month," my dad told me, "the bank is going to add some money to your account as a way of saying thanks for your deposit. It's called interest. And it will grow and grow until you have a lot more than you put in." I thought that was pretty keen, and I still do. That 0.08% comes to a few welcome bucks at this time of year.
Time passed, and I got new banks, and each did nice things for me. One time I got a toaster for opening a new account. Another time they let me pick out a theme for my checks. I got really cool NASCARs. To this day I know that somewhere there's a banker thinking of new ways to reward customers.
Which brings us to last week, when I found out that my bank has been doing something new to help me. And they've been keeping it secret! What a nice surprise!
See, I have a debit card, mostly because I can't be trusted with credit. I have a tendency to whip out my plastic all the time instead of using the perfectly good cash in my pocket. What I like about debit is not owing anybody anything. You buy it, you pay for it. Easy as pie. Whatever banker thought that up was using his noggin.
Anyway, there was obviously some other banker who was thinking about ways to make my life easier, and he thought to himself, I guess, "Hey, what if that Mr. Bing were to make a mistake and plop down his plastic when he didn't have enough green in the machine?" And so that banker, from the goodness of his heart, I think, went to his boss, who went to his boss, and pretty soon they gave me something even better than a toaster! It's called "overdraft protection," and I never even knew I had it at all until I started reading the papers the last couple of weeks.
It's pretty simple: No matter what you spend with your debit card, even if you have no money in your account, the guys at the bank will make sure that you're not embarrassed. They'll pay your tab!
I think that's awesome, but you know people. There's always somebody who wants to complain. Take my friend Patty. She went to Starbucks and got a chai latte, which cost almost $5. She put down her debit card to pay that little sum, not knowing that she didn't have the dough in her poke to cover it.
In the old days, she would have had the terrible experience of having a pimply-faced kid behind the counter tell her that the card was declined. But not these days, because she was covered with overdraft protection!
Did she say "Thanks, Mr. Banker"? Nope! A couple of weeks later she got her bank statement and discovered that the bank had charged her a little processing fee. So... one venti, extra-foam chai latte: $34. Peace of mind, knowing you have overdraft protection? Priceless. Right?
But people will whinge. So now our banking friends are going the extra mile to make sure nobody is unhappy. At this writing, I see that they're promising not to charge those plump little fees more than four times in one day, no matter how irresponsible an overspender might be. I think that's very gracious, don't you? I wonder what they'll come up with next to help and protect us in these difficult times.
I know they're thinking up something.
Stanley Bing has recast his book "Executricks" for the paperback edition due out in November; it is now titled "How to Relax Without Getting the Axe." For more Bing, unrelated to the Microsoft search engine, go to stanleybing.com.