There ain’t no such thing as a ‘Free Lunch’ – or a ‘Free Checking Account’ either

by on December 4, 2010 · 15 comments

in Economy, The Widder Curry

Don’t you just hate it when you get a letter in the mail addressed to you from your bank? Before you open it don’t you wonder if you are overdrawn? Or if someone stole your identity?

I banked for years with Washington Mutual Bank. Even before they moved to the corner of Sunset Cliffs and Newport I was using their services. I was sorry when Chase took over their accounts, and when I physically went into the bank for the first time I thought I had walked into a gaming casino. All the gold, all the glass, this wasn’t “my” bank. What was missing was the tinkling of the coins announcing a jackpot!

Chase told us – at least me – over and over that there would be few, if any changes, to the Washington Mutual style. And, for the most part, that was true for the past year. But the letter I received yesterday changed all that. On the envelope was stated, “Important information about your Chase checking account(s).”

In the last year I have received similar correspondence from Chase. One was an encouraging letter to sign up to pay bills on line and get the chance of having my name pulled out of a “hat” and having the bill paid by Chase (odd, since I use on-line banking already and have for years). Another time there was a bank promotion and I was directed to talk to the folks at my friendly Chase Bank for some money-saving ideas. I went to my “friendly” bank, but they knew nothing about the promotion and were not able to check into it, they said. “Call the 800 number” – which I did and was promptly told to talk to those friendly folks at my branch.

This new letter starts out – “Thank you for banking with Chase, we truly value your business. (sic)” (A run-on sentence, to boot.)

It went on to say, “We wanted to let you know about some upcoming changes to your account, INCLUDING THE ADDITION OF A NEW MONTHLY SERVICE FEE.”

How nice of them to let me know this. They gave me several ways of avoiding the fee –

  • Have one direct deposit of $500 a more each month or
  • Keep a minimum daily balance of $1500 or more in the checking account or
  • Keep an average balance of $5000 or more in a combination of deposit accounts with Chase and/or investment accounts or
  • Pay $25 or more in qualifying account fees

If I do not qualify for one of the above I will have a $10 monthly service fee apply. It is so good to know that I will “ . . . not have to pay the new monthly Service Fee in any statement period during which you meet any of these criteria.”

Guess what? I don’t meet any of the above criteria. I called the number on the letter (1-866-610-7745) and asked how I go about canceling my account. The man I spoke to said, “don’t you have a direct deposit sent to the bank for $500 or more?” I said “no”. He said “don’t you have at least $1500 in your checking account?” I said “no.” “Well,” he said, “between all the accounts (ALL?) you have at Chase don’t they equal at least $5000?” He must have thought I was a complete idiot and couldn’t read the letter Chase sent out, because I again answered “no”. I had already answered “no” in my own mind as I was reading the letter. I didn’t give him a chance to explain to me what the $25 for a qualifying account fee was, because I don’t pay $25 to Chase for anything.

I again asked my question: How do I close out my account(s) before the service fee goes into effect on February 8th 2011. He told me that I can go into the bank and talk to the folks there – remember them? They could not answer my questions of a year ago. What makes me think they could answer my question a year later? I can cancel on the telephone as long as it is done before Feb. 8th.

Right. I am going to cancel my account on the telephone? And how am I going to get my $125 that I always keep in my checking account? Will that be before – or after – they assess the new fee? No way. My father didn’t raise any dummies – (my mother might have) – I was not going to fall for that line.

Here is what I am going to do. Around January 15th, I will go to the bank and take out all the monies I have in any accounts I have there. I will take the money in cash. I will then deposit it to my Credit Union account – Mission Federal – and on January 16th I will again enter the bank to close out all accounts. Not for one extra day will I let them keep my money, as small as the account may be.

Chase has certainly been convenient. But there is a Mission Federal Credit Union kiosk in the same parking lot as Barrons, Baskin Robbins, across from the Genie Car Wash. There is a MFCU on Linda Vista Road just up from Morena Blvd. and Costco; I can use my ATM card at any of the Federal Credit Unions free of charge. Who needs Chase?

That’s my plan. What’s yours?

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Dude December 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

I miss the old Washington Mutual and the fine folks that worked there for so many years. Nothing about the operation is personal. Even the bank employees have to dial some 800 # to find out information or make certain transactions when you visit the local branch.

If you are into staying local, the folks over at Union Bank are great. I don’t know what free services they offer but it’s worth checking them out. I left Chase on Sunset Cliffs and went to Union on Cable. The inside is more pleasant also with great old photos of OB :-)


JEC December 4, 2010 at 10:51 am

Right on! Dump the banks – all banks – Credit unions work just fine. Co-op ATM’s are all over town. You can save yourself one trip – write no checks for a week or so to get them all cleared, then go in, ask for the balance, write a check to cash for the entire amount, get the cash and then say – by the way, I’m closing the account because of your new fees.


Brian December 4, 2010 at 11:07 am

Thanks for the heads up. My wife has a Chase checking account. She got the “important notice” in the mail the other day, but I’m not sure she’s read it yet. I’ll be sure to bring this to her attention.


RB December 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I do all of my banking at credit unions and use any credit union ATM with the credit union logo. Some credit unions have agreements with each other, so you can use branches and tellers of other credit unions. Also, my credit union and most others have free ATM services at all the 7/11 stores. Most of the time it is easier to find one of these stores than any bank ATM.


Sarah December 4, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Check out this site:


Patty Jones December 5, 2010 at 3:52 pm

There is a Move Your Money Facebook event going on this Tuesday.


judi curry December 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm



judi curry December 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Hi, All. After reading your comments, I no longer feel bad about leaving Chase. In fact, I wish others would do it too. I have been a credit union member since 1966 but when they stopped returning my checks I moved to Washington Mutual. They sent the checks back and then when Chase took over I received photo copies of my checks. The answer to that problem will be that all tax deductible items I will pay on line through the credit union thus creating a paper trail. I know if I need a check the CU will send it to me, but they also list on my statement the names of the people/companies that I paid.

I will also check out the Union Bank and see what they have to offer. Thanks for the heads-up OB Dude.

Good site, Sarah. Thanks. Only confirms my feeling of moving out of Chase.


Patty Jones December 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Judi, I am about ready to leave Union Bank because, since losing my job, I will no longer have direct deposit. That is also one of Union Banks criteria for fee checking.


judi curry December 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Thanks, Patty. That is one of the reasons I will leave Chase. I don’t have a direct deposit. So…..won’t go to Union Bank either. Back to the credit union.


Zach on the side December 4, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Haha. Feel bad about leaving Chase? Don’t think twice about it. It’s just a business that sees you as revenue. They’re not doing any favors for grandmas, or great-grandmas! Why feel bad for a faceless corporation that wants to begrudge the business that YOU bring to THEM?

I was with WaMu until Chase took over. I sized them up instantly as opportunists who gave no consideration to their patrons. I emptied my accounts and went elsewhere. And to this day I get mail and emails from Chase, treating me like I’m a “valued customer,” with offers only meant to obligate me to Chase. Their name is apropos, and while they chase me in the desire that I’ll chase them, they’re just not pretty enough.


Goatskull December 4, 2010 at 11:20 pm

I started off with Home Federal, then it got bought out by Great Western, then it got bought out by WaMu, then that ofcourse got taken over by Chase. I meet all of the above criteria (direct deposit is manditory at my job), but I’m cosidering going all the way with Navy Federal Credit Union.


judi curry December 5, 2010 at 7:59 am

It’s probably a good idea. The interest – when there is interest – is better on a checking account at the CU than at Chase. And…the benefits are better. Got a great rate when I bought a new car through the NFCU. Good luck!


Nancy December 5, 2010 at 8:46 am

Judi, another good topic, so want to gripe about another bank, Bank of America,
which has been sending me letters at least 2 a wk., when I don’t even have a bank acct. there. Talk about a waste of money, as the letters go right in the recycle bin. I’ve thought of sending them back but haven’t yet.
I’m with SD County Credit Union which is excellent.


judi curry December 5, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Thanks, Nancy. Our business account was with BofA because my mother-in-law worked for them in Chula Vista. After they lost a few deposits we left them. Have been with Mission Federal Credit Union since 1966. That’s where I will go back after the 1st of the year.


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