Confessions From An Angry Retail Banker

Confessions of an angry retail banker

Here's a guest post from an angry retail banker. Every time I'm waiting in line to deposit a check at a bank, I wonder what the hell is taking so long. Who are these people with huge envelopes full of cash? Why does the elderly lady always have to argue with the teller about why her ATM card isn't working? What are tellers thinking when they see massive bank accounts from punk kids? I've invited a blogging buddy to share his insights. Enjoy!

RAARGH!!!! I'm ARB, the Angry Retail Banker!

Over at my blog, I offer “An Insider's Take On Retail Banking.” But today, I'm going to talk about people instead.

People. The general public. The customers who bring us the moolah. When you work with them and their money, you get to know them a bit.

I've been in banking for ten years. I've seen and dealt with people from all races, religions, and socioeconomic classes. And when you work in retail banking, you start to get insights into how people work.

Money is the most powerful force in the universe, right up there with gravity, compounding, and bacon. It finances wars and it finances dreams. Having it can buy you freedom and your life; the lack of it can make you a slave to strangers. People's relationship with their money is very complex, and nowhere does a person interact with their money more than at a bank.

Because of this, you can learn a lot more about people when working in retail banking than most other places, because a few numbers on the screen can tell one hell of a story if you take the time to read it.

We Financially Neglect Ourselves

Sam recently asked if Americans are so financially unprepared that they couldn't even meet a $400 emergency expense. It's true; we are financially unprepared. But it goes beyond simply not having an emergency savings account.

We treat opening up a bank account like ordering food at McDonald's: “I just want a checking account and a debit card. Just give me whatever account has the lowest minimum. How long is this going to take? Because I'm meeting a friend for lunch at McDonald's in fifteen minutes where I'm going to put way more thought into what I want for lunch than anything I get from here.

Because we're not taught in schools the importance of managing and moving our money properly, we don't treat its movement and management with any sort of care. No talking with a loan officer about protective lines of credit or an investment advisor about socking money away for retirement. No talking about how to protect your money from bank fees or how to safely use your debit card without the risk of it being compromised. People don't even consider putting beneficiaries on their high balance accounts!

No wonder global card fraud damages are estimated to reach nearly $28 billion this year and upwards of $32 billion by 2019 according to The Nilson Report. We don't even take a look at our bank statements unless they come in the mail! To say nothing of quickly checking an ATM for a skimming device. How do people know if their money was stolen?

Between the lack of financial education and the lack of financial caring, the typical retail banking client digs themselves into a financial hole.

We Are All Living In The Past

When it comes to our financial habits, we are stuck in the past.

Look at retirement savings. People still think that the way to retire is to throw their money in a savings account, despite a decade of historically low rates. They think their pensions will take care of them and 10% CDs are right around the corner!

“When are rates going back up?” is a coming question I get. Never. Sorry.

This is why traditional retirement might be a thing of the past. Check out this heartbreaking story about retirees now living in poverty after the Teamsters Local 707 pension fund dried up. The scariest part about this story is that more pensions are going to follow suit—including state funded pensions—leaving millions without retirement funds despite decades of work.

I guarantee you not one of these people ever saved for retirement because they they thought they'd have their pensions and Social Security to live off of forever. It's why I deal with 50+ year olds with $18,000 IRAs earning 0.1%.

Well, the current generation isn't too far off. So many Millennials don't even invest in their 401k's and are expecting massive inheritances to bail them out when the retirement age comes. Sure, their parents are the wealthiest generation ever, but what if they decide to leave the money to someone more deserving?

We live in the past; we see that the government and the retirement plans just “took care” of our parents and grandparents when they retired and figure everything will just turn out alright. We don't realize that we live in a different reality where you must save diligently, invest intelligently, and work on your side hustles or else we will work for an employer until the day we die.

And you wouldn't believe how many people have never started saving for retirement. I know because I get people in their fifties coming in looking for advice so they can start saving for retirement.

How much savings you should have by age

Comply, Please?

It's not just in these manners that we are stuck in the past. People also don't seem to realize that the heavy financial regulations that they demanded be put on the banks actually exist.

Customers refuse to comply with our AML (Anti-Money Laundering) regulations, claiming that as a customer they have every right to exchange thousands of dollars in cash without a paper trail (they don't).

Business customers get testy during the opening process when we need more documentation or information about their businesses, claiming that it's none of our business (it is). We've got to follow KYC (Know Your Customer) laws.

Decades ago, you could open a bank account with an out-of-state ID. Now? We need valid ID with a local address, a utility bill, and business formation documents with a full explanation of how you do business and proof of business (if your account is a business account).

People don't seem to realize the golden age of the pre-9/11 world and the pre-Great Recession era is gone forever. We asked for regulations; we got them.

Combine that with people clinging to their paper statements, paper checks, and bank tellers, and is it any wonder why some people take forever?

Related: How Much Should I Have Saved By Age?

People Have More Than You Think

When you think of rich people, you think of fancy suits and Maseratis, right?

What you don't realize is that many people are practicing Stealth Wealth, quietly saving and investing their money while keeping the appearance of an Average Joe or a Plain Jane.

Or they're some bats***t crazy psychos who fell into money because “the Lord works in mysterious ways” (translation: “God hates you”).

If there was a person who I would never have believed had a six figure bank account, it's the nutter in this story. Short version: A chronic alcoholic threatens to physically beat up my supervisor, forcing me to call the police. The guy had been a regular customer up until that point. He looked, sounded, smelled, acted, and really smelled like an alcoholic, but had over $100,000 in his bank account at all times. What the hell!?

While this was the only rich alcoholic that I ever had to deal with, he wasn't the only person woefully unqualified and undeserving of the amount of money they had. It's amazing to deal with a person with over a quarter of a million dollars in a savings account who can barely understand simple sentences.

Or when someone with over $400,000 in an account thinks that it's okay to pee on a teller's car “because I'm a premier customer.” That actually happened, by the way.

Fortunately, real Stealth Wealth is also practiced by seemingly ordinary people. It's refreshing to meet someone who's normal, friendly, and down-to-earth, who drove to the bank in a “regular” car or came by public transportation, and then open their customer profile to see a million bucks sitting in a number of different savings accounts.

I've spoken to a number of these people, and there seem to be a few themes common among all the customers with tons of money in the bank.

1) They tend to be very financially savvy and experienced. They are far from investment professionals, but tend to know about the stock market, municipal bonds, and various financial instruments. They like to have interest and growth calculations done before investing their money into any financial solution. They know all the pros and cons of different types of investments.

2) They tend to not just own their primary residence, but to have either bought it entirely in cash or made accelerated principal payments to the point where the property is paid off ridiculously early. More than once, I've spoken to couples who have only been in their homes a couple years and yet own them free and clear.

3) They tend to own their own businesses. Multiple businesses. This is the big one. Rarely do my high income customers make tons of money from a W2 salary. Very often, these are investment properties held in LLCs, but they can be anything. Consultancies, management companies, wholesalers, you name it. Anything that often requires them to yell at somebody over their cell phone mid-conversation. Then there's blogging as the best business in the world.

When it comes right down to it, working in retail banking has taught me that you can never judge a person's financial worth by the clothes they wear, the car they drive, or even their bank account balance. Or, as it sometimes seems, by their mental state.

People Think They're Smarter Than The Professionals

Just recently, a woman came in to pay her $32 charge off so that she could open a new account. I noticed that she had two Social Security numbers on our system. The one she gave me had an account sent to collections in which she owed that $32; the other one had an account under it in which she owed $986.

She was “shocked” and said she didn't know about this and would come in the next day to speak to the manager. I never saw her again, just as I predicted. I also took the time to note everything on her account so that she doesn't get one over on the bank, opening up a new account when she still owes us money.

People in this country don't have respect for the time or wisdom of a professional. They speak to a financial advisor and decide that the advisor doesn't know what he/she is talking about because they can't offer a double digit guaranteed interest rate in this low rate environment.

At best, they hold the expectations of professionals to be Law And Order caliber experts who can deliver fantasies. At worst, a professional in their minds is some MIT/Harvard suit with no knowledge of how the real world works.

This isn't native to banking, but here, it leads to people trying to scam the bank because they think we don't know things or share information.

It's why people fight to deposit other people's checks, or convince us their fee is a “bank error,” or get us to open accounts for fake businesses.

Why is that people think their doctor never knows what he's talking about, or why all lawyers are shady and immoral, and why they think they can trick the bank.

They think they are. They aren't. See: Dunning-Kruger Disease

Tips For Being A Happy Retail Banking Customer

What sort of Angry Retail Banker would I be if we parted ways without giving you some tips on how to be a happy retail banking customer? Your happiness erases my Anger (capital “A” is intentional).

1) Minimize Fees

First off, fees. Very easy to avoid. Says who? Says you, according to a survey by the American Bankers Association in which 55% of you say you pay zero bank fees.

Pat yourselves on the back, everybody!

consumer banking fees

So for the 45% of you who are still inexplicably handing your bank your hard earned cash, here's my advice. First, stop using non-bank ATMs. Don't even use a competitors' ATM. Use only your own. Chase will charge you a fee if you use a Citibank ATM, but not if you use a Chase ATM. Brilliant, right? Right.

Next, overdraft protection. Have it. Overdraft protection is not the thing that allows your debit card to put your account negative when you have no money. Overdraft protection is the thing where if you spend more money in your account than you have, money sweeps into your account automatically to cover the shortfall. There will likely be a transfer fee involved, but it's better than the $35 fee per item.

Next, higher level accounts. These are great things to have, if you can afford them. Because you know what's cooler than a low monthly minimum? Having an account where you still stay above that minimum, but pay nothing for checkbooks, bank checks, stop payments, and wire transfers. Listen to us when we recommend you put your money into the right account, not just the cheapest.

And last, take care of yourselves financially by checking your statements periodically and reporting unauthorized charges to the bank. We've learned today that people don't do that, and by being the exception to that rule, you can avoid the fees that come from someone else using your money.

2) Know How Much Of Your Funds Are Available 

Second, we're going to talk about funds availability, or not spending money you don't have.

You see, your bank may make that check available next day, but the money isn't really there. The check isn't clear yet. It can still bounce.

That's why your teller won't give you the money. We can't authorize debits on funds that we know can still bounce.

My advice? Give your checks at least three business days to clear before you spend any money. And understand that the bank has every right to put an extended hold on checks if they have any reason to suspect that the check might not be paid. Because in the end, a check is just a fancy IOU with no guarantees behind it. And nothing more. Just a piece of paper with stuff that could easily be put on a Post It note.

3) Omni-Channel Banking

Believe it or not, all banks have multiple channels available for you to use for your daily banking needs. Branches, telephone, ATM, online, and mobile.

Use them!

Sometimes one isn't available. The ATM's down, you forgot your online banking password, the branch is short staffed.

It's channel diversification.

Too many people don't know how much money they have because their paper statements haven't arrived in the mail yet. It's 2017; this is unacceptable.

Too many people come into the branch and wait for me to finish dealing with a long line of customers and a giant stack of time-sensitive paperwork, instead of just calling the 800 number. Call.

Making use of all banking channels available to you will make your banking experience that much easier.

Gain Control Of Your Financial Life

Having a job in retail banking has given me a lot of insights about people, for better and for worse. Many people are spoiled or clueless because they've never worked a minimum wage job or a job that forces them to deal with people. I'm glad I have ten years experience in retail banking because it's given me valuable insights into other people.

And learning about other people is how you make yourself a better person. If you have any questions about retail banking, feel free to ask!

Related post: How Much Savings Should I Have Accumulated By Age?

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 50,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. I help people get rich and live the lifestyles they want. 

– The Angry Retail Banker

53 thoughts on “Confessions From An Angry Retail Banker”

  1. If the branch staff is being condescending towards you because you look young, and if the bank is constantly screwing things up for you, then it’s time to find a new bank. Mega bank, community bank, credit union, it doesn’t matter.

    Opening up business accounts that don’t have actual addresses becomes an issue sometimes. What takes a lot of potential business customers by surprise is that banks have to follow KYB (Know Your Business) regulations and procedures, which involves verifying the legitimacy of these businesses. That means site visits, proof of address, and/or invoices showing that business was transacted.

    Thanks for commenting, ZJ!

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  2. The only reason I have a brick and mortar bank is for my business. Opening up that account in 2014 was my first non-internet only bank in many years. It was interesting. I have a tiny office over a retailer and the office itself cannot receive mail so I got a PO Box. That made opening the account hard on the bank. It was hard to show that I was real. Thankfully, I was already incorporated and was able to bring over a copy of that paperwork and proof of PO box and a lease for the space. I was really frustrated, but I am glad they are complying with AML requirements.

    I do wish I could do online only though. The bank I chose is next door to my office and they have had staffing issues. It’s hard to find good help, but they messed up so many things and it was darn frustrating. If the only other bank nearby was not a behemoth bank, I would have switched.

    I don’t know what my bankers/tellers think of me. They only see my business information. They have no idea what is in my personal banking and my IRA. I get some pleasantries because I’m in a suit, but I have a young face and some of the clerks try to condescend at times.

    1. If the branch staff is being condescending towards you because you look young, and if the bank is constantly screwing things up for you, then it’s time to find a new bank. Mega bank, community bank, credit union, it doesn’t matter.

      Opening up business accounts that don’t have actual addresses becomes an issue sometimes. What takes a lot of potential business customers by surprise is that banks have to follow KYB (Know Your Business) regulations and procedures, which involves verifying the legitimacy of these businesses. That means site visits, proof of address, and/or invoices showing that business was transacted.

      Thanks for commenting, ZJ!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  3. Please confirm whether or not this statement is true: tellers do not have access to customers’ bank and/or retirement accounts unless those accounts are also with the teller’s bank.

    I work in finance, but have never worked at a bank. I was reading a blog one day, and a former teller was saying how people didn’t save. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps people didn’t save at her bank because they found better interest rates elsewhere, e.g., online saving accounts.

    I did a credit check one day (a personal check on my own), and was able to see one of my liquid savings accounts; the number imported from somewhere. It was one savings account, no checking information, and no retirement information. I am not sure if banks also do such checks and import this data as normal procedure, or if it’s only when assessing loans, mortgages, etc.

    Without specifying banks or dollar amounts, I will say that I have a checking account with Bank Z purely for convenience (the convenience of the locations and ATMs). If the tellers at this bank were to ever look at my account, they would not see much: low balance, zero savings, zero investments, zero retirement. Again, without getting into specifics, I will say this one bank is not my only account. And so to determine that someone is “broke” or unsuccessful/financially irresponsible/unemployed and/or a loser, just based on their balance with *your* bank would not be an accurate assessment.

    Is there another method that is used? Or do you figure that since they bank with you, and some (even many) customers are able to maintain a minimum $50K balance, anyone who has $500 or less on a regular basis surely must be losing in life?

    1. You are correct. Tellers, bankers, pretty much no one in the bank knows what you have elsewhere. Your teller at Bank of America doesn’t know you have a couple million with Citibank.

      I know that the banks do some sort of soft credit pulls, since I’ll often see people pre-qualified for credit cards even though they’ve never applied for any sort of credit with us (even when I JUST created a profile a new to bank customer and we haven’t even discussed what sort of account we’re opening yet). But that’s an automated behind the scenes process that tells us nothing.

      As for our own judgment of whether people are rich or poor or not, a LOT of bankers and tellers forget that people can have money elsewhere (or, conversely, that the high balance that they have with us is about to go towards the down payment of a house or something). As for me, like I said in the post, you can’t always judge someone’s net worth by their checking account balance. That’s why we have conversations with our customers. Sometimes I find out that they have a couple hundred grand in a competitor bank, and sometimes I find out that they have nothing at all. And sometimes the conversation doesn’t go in that direction at all, but you can still get a feel for how financially savvy a person is.

      So no, I tend not to judge people as “broke” or “financially irresponsible” based on their balance. If anything, it would be based on their words and behavior (using a business debit card to rack up overdraft charges at MCDONALD’S!? “Financially irresponsible!”).

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  4. Fun read, but nothing new here. I think you hit the nail on the head, with the “transference” of wealth, that is still slowly unfolding. Most young people who might stand to inherit large sums of money through inheritance or real estate transfer are setting themselves up to be burned in a “Snapchat-like” IPO, IF they fail to educate themselves about diversification and more importantly, general money management. Rising interest rates, should, and will happen again, but everyone seems to be ignoring the historical, inverse relationships that rising rates has with both real estate prices and the stock markets. Also, we need to be very careful with making assessments like “who is deserving”. Maybe the alcoholic customer was a brilliant engineer who sold his internet business, before going off to war and now he suffers from PTSD.
    Also, I can understand why people are so skeptical about fees. Banks and other industries (Airlines come to mind) have made a large portion of their money on charging fees. Most people are just stretched too thin to notice, or to follow up. Overall, good article, and interesting to hear it from the other side of the teller window.

    1. JimmyP,

      Agreed. While it has nothing to do with retail banking specifically, people do need to learn the importance of diversification. When you leave the personal finance blogs and look at what Millennials are doing, sometimes it feels like we either will put our money into one “sexy” IPO tech stock or leave it in the bank because the stock market is “gambling”.

      As for “who is deserving” of their high balances, I really don’t care about learning the rich alcoholic’s backstory. I’m not a compassionate person, and I can tell you that mine runs dry real quick when you are three feet from me screaming in my supervisor’s face that you will, and I quote, “f***ing drag you into the parking lot and beat the f***ing s*** out of you, you fat faced f***!”, among other colorful obscenities. I’m a banker, not a therapist (or an acceptable target for physical violence either).

      Fees. No one like them and I don’t blame them. I don’t like being charged them either. But banking is the only industry I can think of offhand where people equate paying for services rendered as STEALING.

      I appreciate the comment.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  5. I would think those who are financially savvy rarely would go into banks. I haven’t walked into a branch in at least 6-8 years. Everything is automated for me, I get paid direct deposit for all my earnings. If by the chance I get a check then I will use the banks app to deposit that check. If a brick and mortar is judging me by how much I have in my checking account. Then they know very little about me. My pay gets deposited, then it is shifted to another online bank like 360. Then from there it goes to my IRA, taxable account at vanguard and other investments. My checking/savings assets at a big bank is actually meaningless in the grand scheme of my net worth.

    1. It depends on your banking needs. There are things that people need to go to the banks for. And some people do like to engage with a human for certain things. Financial savviness (in the context of your banking) doesn’t mean avoiding a branch at all costs; it means setting up your accounts so that they compliment each other to give you the maximum benefits for little (or no) costs in return. It means knowing where your money is going by budgeting and looking at your statements periodically to ensure that your money is safe. And it means being able to use multiple banking channels in case one is not available for you to use.

      It seems like you got things set up pretty well over there, Ap999!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  6. Question for you ARB-

    Do you think it is inherently safer to use Bank of America’s ‘My Portfolio’ over Mint?

    It’s always been a bit iffy to keep all your passwords in one place due to risk of data breach (although track record so far is good AFAIK). I always assumed a bank I had an account at would have more accountability than an internet company, but I’m curious if that is remotely true. I also find it odd that none of my other retail banks offer the same service. It’s the only reason that dormant BoA account is still open, come to think about it.

    1. Couldn’t tell you on a dime, Reepekg. I don’t actually use either.


      Banks’ online banking are as safe as any other secure Internet site. Not something to worry about. Of the VERY few times I’ve ever had someone come in and complain that their online banking was compromised, the majority of it was caused by them actually giving their online banking credentials to unauthorized parties (even a spouse or a parent is an unauthorized party).

      Money stolen via an online banking hack is treated the same as money stolen via debit card, ACH, or check fraud. An investigation is put in and the bank covers the stolen money plus fees.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  7. I think as a retail banker your experience is heavily skewed towards low net worth individuals and scruffy unsavvy millionaires. Most high net worth folks (perhaps most professionals?) treat retail banks like McDonalds. Just do my banking transactions but please don’t waste my time trying to give me investment advice or sell me products. The bulk of my money is invested elsewhere.

    1. Joe,

      Actually, it’s the low net worth customers that treat the retail banks the most like a McDonald’s. Most of the “mass affluent” customers (people with tens or even over $100,000 in the bank, but not nearly enough for private banking) will listen to our recommendations. They are the ones that will get checking and savings accounts that compliment each other, overdraft protection, and all the other stuff. The private banking clients usually have private banking accounts, so I don’t deal with them that much. But it’s the low net worth customers that just want to be in and out.

      When you see how they treat their money, is it any wonder they are low net worth customers? Constantly being hit with fees and always waging a war against the minimum balance requirements?

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  8. FinancePatriot

    I have been banking online exclusively for years. I can’t even understand why someone would still have an account at a brick and mortar bank. Odd. First account was netbank, then bought by INGDirect, then sold to Capital One, which now calls it “360.” No fees on anything and they pay interest on checking and savings accounts with no minimums.

    1. Brick and mortars do give some people comfort. They see physical branches and believe that it’s a “real” bank, whereas they believe that an online bank will just cease to exist. On a more practical and logical level, many online banks will require you to have an account with a brick and mortar in order to fund the account, and so you can get easier access to cash.

      Thanks for stopping by, FinancePatriot!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  9. Vancouver Brit

    “When are rates going back up?” is a coming question I get. Never. Sorry.”

    Ironic. You’d think a banker would know rates are already on their rapid ascent to the norm.

      1. Vancouver Brit

        One day doesn’t paint much of a picture. The Canadian dollar also inexplicably surged against the USD after the federal fund rate increase, for reasons I can’t explain, but the long-term trend is dooooooooown.

        The 10 year yield has gone from a low of 1.36% over the past 12 months to 2.50% today. Factor in a couple more years of federal fund rate increases and mortgages are going to be costing a lot more in a few years (and the CAD is going to be worth a lot less)

        1. Sounds good. Have you seen the 40 year trend of interest rates here in the US? If so, what are the reasons why you think the 10 – year bond yield will break out of its long term trend?

          I’m always looking for the other side of the argument so I can make the best decision possible.

          1. Vancouver Brit

            First of all, what is the long-term trend? I’m not too familiar with it but from the historical charts of the 10 year bond yield you certainly can’t say the 52 week low of 1.36% or current rate of 2.5% is in the normal range, far from it.

            Taking a quick look at the historical rates I’d say the norm (at least in the past 20 years, I’d be hesitant to include the 80’s rates in the norm calculation) is around 4-6% so there’s some ways to go before normality is restored.

            In Canada people have been enjoying mortgages in the 2-2.5% range for a while now, buying unaffordable houses on mortgages that they likely can’t afford to pay back once rates return to normal in a few years, when they will be renewing their mortgages at potentially double the rate they initially got. Canadian mortgages are based on the US bond market, so even if Canada doesn’t increase its rates with the US those people are still under water.

            1. Sure. Take a look at this link and click MAX to see the longest duration chart for the 10-year bond yield.

              Can you discuss specific reasons why you think interest rates will be shooting higher? I agree that Vancouver property, at least, seems way over valued. I can’t name the industry or specific companies that are paying six figure incomes to support $1.35M+ median home prices there. Toronto seems expensive as well, but at least they have multiple industries there that pay well. But here in America, property is so cheap compared to income. There are plenty of $100,000+ jobs for 22 year old college graduates here in SF, for example. Just Google Facebook/Apple/Uber/Airbnb/Google starting pay packages.

              I’m not sure about your age and whether you own or rent, but I want to caution against being too adamant on one point of view. I’ve had this interest rate debate on the 10-year bond yield since I started working in finance in 1999. So many people who were bearish on property out of fear of rising rates are kicking themselves for not buying years ago. One example is my British blogging buddy, Monevator, who goes through what seems like a quarterly catharsis of why he didn’t buy London property in the early 2000s.

              There’s nothing special about real estate. It’s just a hard asset that provides utility that tends to appreciate with inflation. In areas of high job growth, real estate tends to appreciate faster than inflation. Over a 10+ year period, with structurally low rates for what I think are for the rest of our lives, things will generally turn out OK for real estate owners.

              I will go out on a limb and say that real estate is the #1 wealth gap culprit in our lifetimes.

              Buy Real Estate As Young As You Possibly Can

              Why Real Estate Is My Favorite Asset Class To Build Wealth

              PS: Coastal real estate markets are weakening now, and I expect a 10-15% decline from peak to trough when it’s done. I’m waiting to buy in the winter of 2018.

    1. “When are rates going back up?” is a coming question I get. Never. Sorry.”

      What? No they’re not. At least, no “rapid” ascent is taking place and not in anyway that’s going to have effects on the retail depositor.

      Retail deposit rates aren’t heavily affected by rates on some kind of 1:1 ratio. When rates went up for the first time in Secember 2015, savings and CD rates stayed the same. And guess what? They STILL haven’t moved.

      Will rates go back to their norm? Whatever the norm is considered to be? Sure, but I wouldn’t expect anything rapid and I certainly wouldn’t hold my breath for retail deposit rates (the rates my customers are actually talking about when they ask that question) to go back up for a long, long time.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  10. Charleston.C

    Thanks for the article ARB. Though not surprised, I don’t understand how people can check their accounts so infrequently, meanwhile I log on to financial tools such as Personal Capital 4 times a day to make sure there are no changes.

    Good insight on your blog about how the bank, or at least the banker, doesn’t care as much about accounts being closed as people assume. Curious to know if there is a general criteria where a customer is valuable enough that assuming all state and federal regulations complied, a bank is willing to be flexible with its internal policies. I understand how a $50,000 checking account doesn’t generate a significant amount for a bank, what about $100,000 in checking? $100,000 in savings? FDIC limit of $250,000? multiple types of accounts of $250,000?

    I know Bank of America does a Preferred Rewards tiered system based on account balance with some benefits like waived ATM and account fees, but not sure if other banks have similar programs or maybe even greater rewards and services for higher account balance customers.

    1. We do have SOME level of discretion, but not nearly as much as people believe. I’ll waive personal-style check fees for business account customers who open the high level accounts, but I can’t just give you $200 worth of free checks because you’ve been a customer for 30 years.

      After working in the bank for X amount of time, you start to learn which situations you can bend the rules for your customer, which ones can’t be done at all, and which ones you should bump up to the manager. It really depends on the situation as there’s no official list of “exceptions” to the rules.

      All banks have rewards based on what level account you have. Basic accounts will give you no perks, but will have the lowest minimum balances and/or the lowest fees. High level accounts will require a higher balance to avoid fees, but you’ll get things like free checks, free non-bank ATM usage, free wire transfers, and the like.

      Thanks for the comment, Charleston.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

    2. I thought I replied to this comment before. Oh well, I’ll just retype it.

      The short version of what I wrote before is that what rules we can bend for a customer depends on the situation. You work at the bank for X amount of time and you develop good enough judgment to know when to let something go, when to shut them down, and when to bump it up to a manager. People don’t seem to realize that I have a LOT less leeway than I actually do. You get people who think I can just give them $200 worth of checks for free because they’ve been a customer for 30 years. It does NOT work that way, no matter how much the customer tries to haggle with me.

      All banks work the same way with the tiered rewards. Higher balance accounts get free services that lower level accounts don’t. But that’s not us going on a case-by-case basis like above. These are part of the bank’s product offerings.

      Thanks for the comment, Charleston!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  11. Wow sounds like you’ve definitely seen more than your fair share of crazy customers ARB! Never a dull moment it sounds like. People can be so hard to deal with at times, right? The hardest part of my previous job was the customer service aspect. Definitely put my patience to the test countless times and also lead to a lot of crazy stories and experiences I’ll never forget. People can be so crazy and delusional sometimes.

    Good tip on omni channel banking. I use my banking mobile apps a lot now compared with even just last year. I started using the in-app deposit feature which is super confident for depositing checks. I was hesitant to start using it at first, but now I can’t imagine not having it. I also like how easy it is to review recent transactions right on my phone. I definitely stay on top of my accounts way more now than in the past because of the apps and accessibility.

    1. Never a dull moment is right. Sometimes there’s more action that a Michael Bay film. There’s just as many explosions, I’ll say.

      Glad to see you’re using all the different channels that the bank provides. In the end, you’ll be more likely to have a pleasant experience with your bank. I was the same way with the mobile deposit feature. I thought it was just a fraudster’s wet dream. But it turns out that mobile deposits are actually a phenomenal offering by the banks with relatively little risk to them.

      Thanks for stopping by, Untemplater!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  12. It’s interesting, the last time I went into my local bank branch was to open a business account for my new blogging business. It was an overall pleasant experience, and I learned quite a bit from it. Prior to that, I would go years without coming in. Being able to deposit checks by phone was a huge game changer in my opinion, and one of the most customer friendly services offered by the big banks. The few times I’ve gone in, I’ve observed many of the things you’ve mentioned.

    It really is amazing how many people ignore one of the most vital tools (money) of society. I always just smile politely when someone tells me how they don’t like to think/talk about money, while simultaneously complaining about an issue which is related to that forbidden subject.

    Thanks for the post ARB!

    1. Max,

      American society is weird. We talk about our sexual exploits, but not about money. A strange bunch, we are.

      Opening a business account is more of a pain for us, because we’re the ones who have to collect the documentation and interview the customer. And many customers don’t want to talk about their business to us.

      Just the other day, a customer was opening a business in which he would be selling merchandise online. However, his business was filed for his home address. He keeps his merchandise at a warehouse at a different address, so we needed to either get the address so a site visit could be done or get an invoice showing that he actually does business. Boy, did he get angry, telling me that this is bulls*** and how I don’t need to know any of that stuff (I told him that he isn’t going to curse at me and that I DO need to know that stuff if he was going to have an account with us).

      Glad your business account opening went well. Hope your business is also doing great.

      I appreciate the comment!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  13. I worked as an FA at a few retail banks here in SoCal, and I would back up what ARB says here.

    The concept of ‘Stealth Wealth’ always fascinated me. In the bank we liked to play games guessing which customers had money based on their appearance alone. Invariably the flashy customers dressed in designer clothes and wearing expensive cologne had relatively little on deposit, while the scruffier guys walking around in t-shirts, old shorts, and flip-flops turned out to be multi-millionaires and rich business owners.

    I used to feel sorry for the retail bankers with their sales goals and cross-selling pressures. And don’t even get me started on opening fake customer accounts. From what I remember, that practice was going on 12-15 years ago and no one said a thing about it.

    1. The concept of ‘Stealth Wealth’ always fascinated me. In the bank we liked to play games guessing which customers had money based on their appearance alone. Invariably the flashy customers dressed in designer clothes and wearing expensive cologne had relatively little on deposit, while the scruffier guys walking around in t-shirts, old shorts, and flip-flops turned out to be multi-millionaires and rich business owners.

      … I’m guessing most of us that read this site have money that’s not parked at a local bank? My bank would think I’m worth $20k because that’s in my chase acct. They don’t get to see my ing360 “emergency” fund earning .75%, my vanguard funds, or my 401k balance. My local bank is used for keeping monthly expense $ and the rest gets rerouted to vanguard.

  14. Jack Catchem

    Great stuff, ARB.

    It’s nice to see that customer service is a nightmare across the spectrum. Myself, my father taught me to always be polite to barbers and bankers. The first holds sharp instruments next to your head and the second holds your money for you.

    No need for harsh words, how about a pleasant smile and a “thank you?”

    If you are really unhappy just GO ELSEWHERE!!

    1. Perhaps bankers should start taking their cues from barbers. I need to start holding sharp instruments next to my customers’ heads.

      The thing is is that I don’t need the customer to be all super happy to see me all the time. Just act like an adult. And don’t drag me into a debate over whether you should keep your money with us or go elsewhere. If it’s that bad, you should just do it.

      Thanks for the comment, Jack!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  15. And once again I’m glad I chose a career where I interact more with a machine than with people. While my code often has me wanting to scream in frustration, it has never once tried to pee on me or my computer. True story.

    I only go into my physical bank for one reason these days – if I need to send money overseas. Everything else I do is online, and in fact, one of my banks is also completely online so I wouldn’t be able to go in even if I wanted to, unless I take the red pill.

    1. Is your employer hiring? I hate machines less than I hate people.

      Wait a minute, I’ve never had a customer try to pee on me or my computer. I’ve watched them pee in other places in our plane view (such as inside the manager’s office), but never on me or the computer.

      I guess interacting with the public really isn’t that bad.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  16. YuppieWallet

    Good article ARB! Thanks for the insight. Retail Banking has gone through a wide array of changes over the years. I remember the days walking into a bank and you looked at your banker as the gateway to all the financial knowledge in the world. There wasn’ a thing called google, and your options are limited.

    Now with the multitude of technological advances, people have so many more choices and information they often skip the retail visit all together for mobile deposits and account checks to account management services like personal capital. Plus with the addition of fantastic personal finance blogs (this one included) you have a customer who is usually going into to do one thing. Complain.

    It will be interesting to see what all these banks do with their brick and mortar stores as more people turn to online options and banking becomes more tech dependent. Regardless of your options though, if you aren’t making good financial decisions (like paying a bunch in account fees) you are leaving money on the table and no service or platform can help you there.

    1. I see brick and mortar deposits in the same way I see promotional APRs on CDs: a way to shore up deposit bases. After that, branch closures are the way of the future. There is a lot of debate on the future of the bank branch, but I take the view that banks are going to go branch-less (not branchless) within the next 20-30 years. There will still be some branches, but they will more like knowledge centers where you can get specialized help.

      I know that my job will likely be obsolete by then, and believe it or not, I WELCOME that. Human progress requires us to shed activities that no longer serve society, consuming needless resources. I plan to use my blog to adapt, hoping that by that point, I will be able to live off my blogging income, my investments, and my non-finance side business.

      Thanks for the comment, YuppieWallet!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  17. I have to wonder how many folks you perceive as not high net worth that might be. Our bank probably thinks we live like the jones because money comes in and turns over very quickly. It goes to things like online banks, brokerage accounts, and other investments they largely don’t see. As such I try to avoid talking to the folks in the bank… they made a sales call to me the other day wanting to talk about wealth management. No thank you, I’ll pay less money managing it myself.

    I respect bank tellers, the job must be horrible with some of the people that come in (the guy who pees on the car for example). But personally I want checking McDonald’s albeit automated. I haven the been in a branch other then to open a custodial account for a kid and get a cashiers check for a home down payment in over a decade. My desires are likely the future, automation.

    1. Fulltimefinance,

      Many people at banks take the account balance as a face value view of a person’s net worth. A person must be broke or unemployed if they are in their forties with only a couple hundred in their checking account and no savings. It goes the other way too. I had a teller once say that a customer was “ballin'” because he has over two hundred grand in his business account. I explained to the teller that a business account will likely see money going in and out rapidly, and that the money doesn’t really belong to the business owner anyways. Then I made fun of him for using the word “ballin'”. Does anybody still say that?

      Let me tell you that bank tellers may well have the hardest job in the branch. At least, they have the most intense job. And people treat them like McDonald’s workers. They don’t respect the tellers at all, seeing them as failures who–if they were SMART and, thus, deserving of respect–wouldn’t be behind the teller window and would instead be selling investments like I do or managing the branch.

      God forbid a teller takes two seconds to look through the customer’s profile to verify the funds being withdrawn. “Is there a problem?” Yes because we can’t strangle to death customers who ask that question.

      And yes, automation, omni-channel integration, and IoT are the future of banking. Read some of the work by Jim Marous, and influential banking futurist. Banking is going to look much different in the next few decades. And the old birds who distrust online banking and love to speak to a human are going to be very disappointed.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  18. Go Finance Yourself!

    I can vouch for a lot of this as I see it all the time. Although I don’t work on the retail side, o hear stories all the time just like yours. Before the Fed started increasing rates, people would ask when there rate is going up all the time. Some would demand a higher rate. There’s a huge gap in understanding on how interest rates actually work. Even after a he Fed has raised rates a few times (and likely again today) market rates on saving and money maker accounts still haven’t moved much at all.

    I don’t understand fees. They’re incredibly easy to avoid yet people seem hell bent on incurring them. You’re absolutely right in that many don’t listen to advice on what account is best for them.

    And I’m also amazed at people who keep large sums of money in accounts earning virtually nothing. At the very least, put it in a money larger account at an online bank to earn 1%. You’ll also avoid a lot of fees by going the online bank route.

    1. At least no one ever DEMANDS me to increase their rates. I think people are starting to realize that we have about as much control over your savings account interest rate as we do the weather.

      Fees are something that are easy to either avoid or at least minimize. So many fees are caused by people throwing their debit card at everything they see and then not having overdraft protection. There are other things that people do, but that seems to be the biggest one.

      Thanks for the comment!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  19. Apathy Ends

    Two places you can guarantee to overhear an awkward conversation: The Bank and the DMV. Never fails. People trying to do something and repeatedly being told that is not the way it works or failing to understand simple instructions!

    Great tips! And noted on not always taking the cheapest account.

    I know all banks are different, but how much leeway do you have when waiving fees?

    1. We do have some, but not a lot. There’s no set policy for the whole bank. Each branch actually has a line in their budget specifically designated for fee refunds. How big this budget it depends on how well we do in sales, customer satisfaction, and previous year profitability. And like any other budget, you can be over or under. Of course, the only person privy to the budget is the manager.

      How much I refund will depend on the situation, but I’ve taken it upon myself to speak to my supervisor for any request over $70 (two OD fee refunds). And that request is usually done only if I feel the customer deserves the refund or if they’re being nasty and the only other alternative is committing murder. We were told at the last branch staff meeting to stop murdering the nasty customers, so work is harder than ever now.

      Glad you enjoyed the tips I gave. And yes, those types of conversations happen all the time. At least the DMV doesn’t have to sell anything, nor do they have to worry about angry people closing their accounts (I guess that would entail throwing away their driver’s licenses and no longer driving?).

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  20. People still deposit checks in banks? Don’t worry ARB, it won’t be too much longer before the lobby in your bank will be empty, and everyone goes online (that old lady with the envelope full of cash will eventually die, and her grandkids have never been, and likely never will be, inside the physical walls of a bank!). Lessons you’re teaching are good, but it’s going to get harder to find people in your bank to teach them to….

    Enjoy them while you have them. Even if they’re drunk and pee on your car! Smiles.

  21. This was a fun read! And “We treat opening up a bank account like ordering food at McDonald’s” is a great way to look at things. I always thought of banking this way until I discovered the idea of FIRE. Honestly I still think of things this way a bit, but with different goals. I want to minimize my time spent for the return I’ll get on that time.
    Good advice as well. If people were to simply review their spending every one in a while (budgeting anyone?) then the whole “noticing unexpected charges” issue would probably go away. Thanks for sharing. -Aaron

    1. Aaron,

      It sounds like you got your banking down pat. You maximize your ROI with banking in terms of time, fees, and interest by making full use of the account opening process, which means asking questions and listening to our advice.

      Reviewing spending once in awhile? Oh, now we’re asking too much.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  22. Wow!!! The behavior of some of your customers is shocking!!! I would be mortified if I were those people with some of the stunts that they pull. I mean who pees on a bank employee’s car b/c they have money? That’s terrible.

    Sounds like you come across a ton of interesting people in your life which I’m sure in hindsight leads to funny stories but I’m sure in the moment is a bit troubling to deal with. Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Yeah, I know. There’s also a general sense of entitlement that many people have (not even from the Millennials; actually, it’s mostly the Boomers and GenXers, but every generation and race and religion comes in with it at some point) that leads them to get snippy because they believe that rules and fees shouldn’t apply to them because “I’m a customer of this bank”. No s***, why would we charge you a maintenance fee if you DIDN’T have an account. I think the sense of entitlement pisses me off more. I hate hearing about how you had to wait five minutes to get totally free teller service when I waited 20 minutes for a bus in the freezing cold and had to pay for it.

      The one great thing about customer service is that it does lead to some great stories. You can read my blog from first to latest post, and guess what? You haven’t even heard the half of it. I’ve got crazy stories that I just haven’t gotten time to write up.

      Let’s just say, we’ve dealt with ALL the bodily fluids.

      Thanks for stopping by, Mustard!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  23. ARB, it’s no secret that banks treat their customers with larger stashes better… comp’d fees, perks, and extra benefits at sister companies.

    I’m curious. What are the typical tiers where this happens and do all banks keep similar tiers? Is the guy with $100k in this account treated the same as someone with $500k?

    1. For the most part, they do. In my experience, you’ve got to have anywhere from $50,000-$100,000 to get the whole suite of additional perks.

      The guy with $500,000 will be treated better than the guy with $100,000, but that’s not in any official capacity. The manager will approve checks to be cashed and set up transactions in advance so that he/she doesn’t have to wait online, all that good stuff. The manager doesn’t want to lose that half a million in the branch’s deposit base after all. But once the customer has millions in their accounts (or just millions elsewhere) and a high net worth due to business and real estate ownership, private banking gets involved.

      If you don’t know what that is, private banking is generally done in posh office suites with special relationship managers that handle your banking, lending, investing, insurance, business, tax, legal, and philanthropy needs. You aren’t mingling with the general public, but you’ve gotta be rich to get that.

      Let’s just say, I only get free bank checks as an employee perk. No private banking for me.

      Thanks for commenting, Michael!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

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