Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Crimes Of Which No One Speaks

I've started to realize that there are crimes all around us, but not the kind which require solving. They're right in front of us, daring us to expose them.

It may not surprise you to hear that my first example is about a bank. Our bank recently told us, when I called with a routine question, that we were "without overdraft protection." They made it sound very dire. What if we were to become overdrawn? Who would protect us? I almost fell for that, until the female representative told me that we "qualified" for this protection, and it was free.

"Then why don't you just protect all of your customers automatically?" I asked.

"Well, because then some people would use it as an excuse to be overdrawn all the time," she explained.

"So how does this protection work?" she said.

"We would issue you a card, which, if you were to become overdrawn, you could use to draw amounts of up to 10,000 dollars."

This got my attention. "So it's basically a credit card?"

"It can be used as a credit card, yes, but you could save it solely for overdraft protection."

Is it me, or does this seem underhanded? Does it seem like people gathered in a bank conference room and said, "We need a new way to get credit cards in people's hands. Let's try calling it 'overdraft protection.'

I told her no thanks--that I'd protect myself by balancing my checkbook.

Yesterday my husband walked up to me and said, "Boy, am I glad I called the bank. Did you know we didn't have any overdraft protection?"

And sure enough, I got a new credit card in the mail a week or so later, and it's a funny thing--nowhere on the paperwork did it indicate that the card could be used to protect me from overdrafts.

Is this a crime against intelligence? Against honesty? You tell me.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I just read an article recently (can't remember where - maybe in an AARP magazine) about the high interest rate banks get on this overdraft business.

Julia Buckley said...

I know--this is one of those "don't get me started" topics because they just make me so angry. Credit card companies themselves seem so evil in the way that they set things up--so obviously a trap.

If they were the good bankers of old, they would advise their clients not to get into this kind of debt, to only pay with the cash they have on hand, and if that fails, to find a low-interest loan.

And of course who needs those credit cards the most? The people who can't AFFORD to pay the high interest.

Anonymous said...

Our bank gives overdraft protection at no cost UNTIL you use it. Then they loan you money to cover the overdraft and deduct payment (with interest) from your checking until it's paid back. The charge isn't outlandish, and it's VERY helpful when you make a subtraction/addition error and wind up overdrawn. Good to know it's there if you ever need it.

Julia Buckley said...

Interesting . . . I'm guessing I need a new bank. But with direct deposit, it's very difficult to make the transfer.