Saving money by picking up the phone

As I was perusing my Mint account the other day, I noticed that for the first time ever I had incurred a fee from my amazing bank, Charles Schwab. What? Didn’t they read my post about how much I adore their fee-free services?

It turns out that I had deposited a check that bounced. Now, this is the first time this has happened to me and it seems like a pretty unfair situation…I had no idea how much money the check writer had in her account, so how was I supposed to know the check was no good? And then I was charged a fee? I picked up the phone, called my favorite bank (24-7 customer service that employs Americans to work their call centers) and had the fee waived within three minutes. I didn’t even have to ask, they just fixed it for me! Charles Schwab maintains its gold-medal banking status! Hooray!

The lesson for you all is that when companies charge you fees- maybe you accidentally missed a payment, or there is a minimum balance that you didn’t meet- don’t just blindly pay the fees. Pick up the phone and ask that the fees be waived! This is more likely to be successful if you don’t make a habit of whatever it is you were charged for. I have had high success with the phone call technique.

The reason why this works is because banks/credit cards spend an awful lot of money on advertising and recruiting new customers…a few hundred for every new customer. It is in their best interest to keep you happy.

Picking up the phone to call can also help you if you are having trouble making your payments. Calling your credit card company or your student loan manager and explaining that you can’t make the payment and you would like to see if they can help you out for a month or two is significantly better than not making your payments and having it impact your credit. Actually every time I call my student loan manager they ask right off if I can afford my payment and tell me that they can put my payments on hold for a few months if I need them to- I think it is part of the call center script!

Life happens and sometimes that means you incur a fee, but any bank interested in keeping you as their customer should be able to accommodate the occasional hiccup from an otherwise excellent customer. Don’t be shy, don’t be embarrassed- just pick up the phone and ask!



New Year’s Budget Resolution Revolution Reminder!

Just a reminder to all my savvy readers who are becoming the boss of their finances:

Today is the suggested deadline to set up a checking account and a savings account (that you are thrilled with). Can you believe it has been two weeks since New Year’s? My resolution to do squats while brushing my teeth has already flown out the window (it really wasn’t that fun, after all). Hopefuly you are doing better than I am by following the easy-peasy step-by-step plan!

If you have set up your bank accounts already, HOORAY! You are an amazing rockstar and you are well on your way to financial success!

If you haven’t done this yet- take a half hour and do it! You will be glad you did. Think of all the worry and anxiety you will save yourself by setting up your own personal finance system.

Next up: Set up automatic bill pay by January 31. That one will make your life much easier!

The Basics of Banks

I once had a (lovely) boyfriend who didn’t believe in banks. And by he didn’t believe in banks, I mean that one day I came over and found him sitting on the bed surrounded by $30,000 in cash like Scrooge McDuck*. I almost had a heart attack.

You have to really have a massive distrust in the government and the economy in general to make a safe in your closet even a reasonable place to store $30,000. (And if you distrust the government and economy that much then if something terrible happens then your money will be worthless anyway, so either way you’re screwed and you would have been better off investing in a zombie apocalypse survival kit.)

How do banks work?

Have you seen “It’s a Wonderful Life?” when George and Mary have to spend their honeymoon money to keep the town afloat when the banks crash? They had to do that because banks don’t physically have all of the cash that has been invested in them on hand.

Banks take their client’s money and they invest it. Clients get security (you don’t even have to buy your own closet safe!), access to cash (ATMs, bank tellers), checking services, and advice from real live bankers. Banks do a lot of other things too, like notarize forms and help with loans. Really good banks will pay you some interest for putting your money into their system, and really crappy banks will charge you fees so that they can make more money even though they already make money off of your money.

Banks are making money off of you, and you get some things back in return. If you have faith in the government and/or the economy, the scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life” should never happen again, because almost all banks (any bank that you should feel good about using) are FDIC insured.

This sounds complicated but it really just means that if your bank crashes the Federal government will reimburse you up to $250,000. If you have more money than that sitting around in the bank, I appreciate you reading my blog, but this is probably not the most useful site for you.

So, the conclusion of this post is:

You have to use banks if you want to excel at personal finance (unless you truly don’t believe in society, in which case…why are you on the internet?)

*He used all that cash to invest in his own small business. That is a good investment. A better investment than leaving that cash in your safe in the closet.

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