Banks are squeezing out customers with higher costs and fewer locations.
Several large midwestern banks are scaling down the number of branches they operate and adding sophisticated ATMs that can replace tellers, according to banking leaders who spoke at a financial services conference on Monday, American Banker reported.
The latest wave of banks closing locations included Akron, Ohio-based First Merit; Pittsburgh's PNC bank and Key Bank, based in Cleveland. Bank of America, based in Charlotte, NC, has also scaled back its number of branches and ATMs throughout the country in order to cut costs. Earlier this year, First Niagara closed a number of HSBC bank branches in New York after it took over the bank's upstate operations.
Over the past few years the weak economy, tighter regulation and low interest rates have put pressure on banks to find ways to cut costs. Banks are also under new pressure to find revenue and have been increasing fees and other costs for consumers this year.
The rise of mobile banking has also made branches less critical for some consumers. A number of banks have released mobile banking apps that allow customers to deposit checks from their phones.
For affluent, smartphone-using customers, the shift to branchless banking and pricier accounts may be hardly noticeable. But for Americans barely making ends meet, fewer bank branches and rising costs could push more people off the banking grid and limit their financial stability, consumer groups say. In low-income areas, fewer branches means those consumers must pay additional out-of-network ATM fees or pay for non-bank financial services, like prepaid cards.
A study from the California Reinvestment Coalition published earlier this month showed that the minimum cost of a basic bank account at the five largest banks in California is between $84 and $144 per year, not including additional fees associated with overdraft fees or other additional fee-based services.
As banks recede slightly from the landscape, there are a growing number of questions about why we even need banks: Interest rates are so low that keeping cash in a savings account is a money-losing venture when compared to inflation.
What do you think? Do you even need a bank anymore? Share your comments below.
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Car dealerships are one place where price negotiations are expected. While sales staff like to focus on monthly payments, it's smarter to negotiate the overall price, <a href="http://moneyland.time.com/2012/08/13/12-things-you-should-always-haggle-over/#1-cars" target="_hplink">according to <em>Time</em></a>. If you're buying a used car, always be sure to look up the vehicle's actual Blue Book value. Have the car inspected and haggle for a lower price if it needs servicing.
The <a href="http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/homes/rea09.shtm" target="_hplink">FTC advises consumers</a> to shop around and negotiate all mortgage rates and fees, and doing so can save thousands of dollars. Those with good credit scores can often negotiate for a lower APR, while everyone should discuss lowering or eliminating certain <a href="http://www.lender411.com/five-mortgage-closing-costs-you-can-negotiate-lower/" target="_hplink">closing fees</a> and processing charges.
Monthly rent rates are totally negotiable, especially when you're renewing a lease. "If you pay on time every month, it'll be worth it for your landlord to offer you a better rate than to take a gamble with a new tenant," says HuffPost Money Editor Emily Cohn.
Customers often get caught by surprise when their monthly service charges skyrocket due to expired promotional rates. "Generally, keep track of what competitors are currently charging new customers, and indicate to your current provider that you are considering switching. Tell them the deal you saw, and ask them to match or beat," Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org <a href="http://moneyland.time.com/2012/08/13/12-things-you-should-always-haggle-over/#11-phone-tv-and-internet-service" target="_hplink">told <em>Time</em></a>.
Credit Card Fees
While not everyone is capable of haggling for a lower interest rate, you may have luck negotiating out of penalty fees, especially if you're generally a good customer. If you're looking into opening a new card, be sure to <a href="http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0711/7-Fees-That-You-Should-Always-Negotiate.aspx#axzz24lTQxmHG" target="_hplink">mention competitors' offers and rates</a> to the company representative.
Customers can often negotiate the elimination of annual fees or registration costs when beginning or renewing memberships. Often, the <a href="http://moneyland.time.com/2012/08/13/12-things-you-should-always-haggle-over/#12-subscriptions-and-memberships" target="_hplink">threat that you may take your business elsewhere</a> is enough to bend a customer-service rep into giving you a deal, according to <em>Time</em>.
Home And Yard Maintenance
With the home <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/06/june-jobs-report-unemployment-rate_n_1653579.html" target="_hplink">construction industry still struggling</a>, maintenance workers are more willing to negotiate prices for services. Discuss <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/news/pf_article_111978.html" target="_hplink">opting for lower-cost materials</a> and discounts on labor, advises Yahoo Finance.
Be sure to inspect clothes off the rack before bringing them to the checkout counter. If you find a pull or a small stain, pointing it out to a salesperson might snag you a discount on the item.
If you're going to haggle on anything, it should be on used goods. You should take the price tag at a garage sale or antique shop as a suggestion.
Much like credit card companies, travel sites compete with each other for customers, so make sure to shop around before booking a vacation. If you're using a travel agent, don't be afraid to reference deals you find online. If a travel site or agent won't <a href="http://moneyland.time.com/2012/08/13/12-things-you-should-always-haggle-over/#8-vacation-lodging" target="_hplink">budge on the per-night rate</a>, they may offer a deal on transportation or throw in a perk, like a spa service.