You know, I think it's kind of nice how my bank is always thinking of new ways to help me. It's been like that my whole life. When I was a kid, for instance, my dad took me downtown to the First National Bank, which was right next door to the Alceon Theater, where you could watch two movies for a quarter on Saturday afternoons. I had ten weeks' allowance in my pocket -- five dollars, all in Benjamin Franklin 50 cent pieces. That's when "all about the Benjamins" meant something! Anyhow, we gave Mr. Roover, who sat at a desk by the door, my life savings at that point, 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 a little bit of 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, let me tell you. And I still do.
The years passed, and I got new banks, but each of them did the same kinds of nice things for me. One time, I got a toaster for opening a new account. I think I still may have it someplace. Another time, they let me pick out my very own theme for my checks. I got really cool NASCARs. The interest on my accounts went up and down, depending on the economy, you know, but I know my bank always did its very best to make sure they were adding as much as possible to my nest egg. I appreciated that then, and I do now. I know that someplace, in some office somewhere, there's always a banker sitting there thinking of new ways to reward his or her customers. That's just the way they do things, bankers. They're the salt of the earth.
Which brings us to this year, when it came to my attention that my bank has been doing something secret to help me for quite some time. See, I have a debit card, mostly because I can't be trusted with a credit card. Oh, I pay my bills and all, but sometimes it's tough to remember about that, what with all that's going on every day, and anyway I have a tendency to whip out my plastic all the time instead of using the perfectly good cash I might have in my pocket. So the bills go up up up, and I'm spending somebody else's money, basically. So I use debit. I always have enough in my bank account to cover my spending, of course, so there's no problem with that, but when I use that card I don't owe anybody anything, and I like that a lot. Whatever smart banker thought that up was really using his noggin.
Anyway, there was obviously some other banker somewhere who was also thinking about new ways to make my life safer and easier, and he thought to himself, I guess, "Hey, what if that Mr. Bing who's been such a good customer for so long, were to make a mistake and plop down his plastic when he didn't have enough green in the machine? True, he's never done that, but what if he did?" And so that banker, from the goodness of his heart, I think, went to his boss, who 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. What a great concept! I love it! No matter what you spend with your debit card, no matter how absent-minded or confused you might be, even if you have no money at all in your account, the nice bank will make sure that you're not embarrassed. They'll pay your tab! I don't know about you, but that makes me feel all warm and toasty.
And I think it's mighty nice that they sprung it on me as a surprise, too. I love surprises, especially when it has to do with my money.
Now, you read a lot about how people are upset about this thing, but I just don't get it. Take my friend Patty. She went to the Starbucks the other day and got a chai latte. Lord knows why she drinks that stuff, it tastes like waste water to me, but she likes it and is willing to pay almost $5 for it. Anyway, it seems like she can't stand to spend any cash, either, because she puts down her debit card to pay for that little sum and then goes out and enjoys her latte, 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 this pimply faced kid behind the counter say to her, "Your card is declined, you deadbeat fool." But not these days! Why? Because Mr. Banker was on the case and had covered her with this overdraft protection, too! Now, does she say thanks? Is she grateful? No way. It seems that a couple of weeks later she got her bank statement and discovered that the bank had charged her a little processing fee for the protection it had provided to her without her even asking for it. Hey! Everybody's got a cost of doing business, don't they? I can see she might have wondered why her latte now cost her $34 once that little fee had been assessed. But really. What price can you put on the nice thing that the bank had done? I'd say it's priceless.
Even better -- Mr. Banker and his friends have now listened to ungrateful people like Patty and are implementing their own new rules. They're promising not to charge that fee to rampant overspenders more than four times in one day. I think that's very gracious, too, don't you? I wonder what new things they'll think of next to help and protect us. One thing's for sure. I know they're thinking of something.
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