Too Big to Care: All Out of Love with Bank of America

Sorry, Bank of America. Could have been so beautiful. Could have been so right. But I'm not paying $5 a month to spend my own money. It's your loss.
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I'm 32 years old. I've been banking since 1997 when I was 18 years old and I went to college. I never switched banks before in my life. Until today. I joined Fleet when I went to college because it was in Boston and in New York and because they had an ATM machine on my college campus. I was with Fleet for 7 years until it merged into Bank of America in 2004. I never had any problems with or complaints about Fleet or Bank of America. Until now. In fact, not to sound like the world's biggest loser, but I kind of loved Bank of America. A lot.

When I was living in Brooklyn Heights as a law student, they were right there for me on the corner of Montague and Court Street. When I moved back to Manhattan, no matter where I lived or where I worked, there was always a Bank of America close by. I like to go to the beach on a tiny barrier island off the coast of New Jersey, which is 18 miles long and a few blocks wide and as of the last United States Census, had a year-round population of 8,556 people. Bank of America is there. I lived in Florida for 10 weeks. Bank of America was there. I went to the playoff games in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium to root for the Yankees. Bank of America is there.

I was with Bank of America for 8 years. That's a quarter of my lifetime. Do you know how long 8 years is to a 32-year-old person? I was with Bank of America since April 2004. I've had 5 different boyfriends since then. I've lived in 4 different apartments in 3 different neighborhoods in 2 different boroughs. I've driven 3 different cars, had 3 different computers, and 2 different cell phone plans. I'm not proud to admit this but my relationship with Bank of America was one of the longest, most stable, and most satisfying relationships I've ever had.

Mark Morford wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, "They have been a friend. They have been a companion. They have been a welcoming thread of consistency in a sea of chaos and I have loved them dearly, perhaps too much. . ." He was talking about his shares of Apple.

I'm talking to you, Bank of America. Remember that time when I was at the Jersey Shore alone and I left my debit card in a restaurant and they were closed until 4 o'clock the next day and I didn't have any money or a credit card or my checkbook and I told you my social security number and you gave me some money until I could get my debit card back?

Remember when I was totally broke and had no money in my account and you let me take out $400 anyway? Remember when you put a block on my debit card when I was shopping in San Francisco but I wasn't mad at all 'cause I knew it was for my own protection? Remember when I unexpectedly got a check in the mail from a relative and I opened my first savings account and you gave me a really nice free backpack?

Remember when you had to close your branch on 72nd and 1st 'cause some guy jumped off a building and committed suicide right in front of the bank and the police ordered you to close 'cause it was a crime scene and you let me in anyway and let me change dollars to Euros for my trip to Paris?

I thought we had a good thing going. I thought we had something really special. Is it weird that I am emotional about my relationship with my bank? Or is it weird that Bank of America doesn't care about me at all?

I told the personal bankers with whom I spoke at my Bank of America branch that unless they reverse their policy of charging $5 a month for debit card usage or agree to waive it for me, I am moving all of my money out of Bank of America to another bank. They could not care less. I asked them, "Don't you care at all about your long-term customers?" Not one of them had a response for me.

I had no interest in switching banks. I was very happy with Bank of America. It is a total hassle to switch banks. It took me hours to set up my new accounts and transfer funds and I paid my bills on my old debit card so I had to switch everything and when I order plane tickets or theater tickets or concert tickets or books or whatever, everyone has my old debit card which hasn't changed in 15 years so I had to change all of my information everywhere. It's a total pain.

But I basically said to Bank of America, "I'm not paying $5 a month for debit card usage. So you have a choice. You can either not get my $5 a month and keep my money or not get my $5 a month and lose my money." And their choice was not to have me as a customer.

How can a company survive that doesn't care about keeping its customers? This was my third conversation this week with a large corporation. I called Time Warner Cable to cancel Showtime and my retention specialist gave me free Showtime for a year, took $1.50 a month off of HBO, and slashed my entire package $6 a month. My battery on my cell phone died for the third time in a little over a year. I called AT&T and they credited my account the $54 I had to spend on a new battery.

Why doesn't Bank of America care about my business? The new bank that I signed up with is across the street from a Bank of America branch. They told me that after the news broke of Bank of America instituting a $5 per month fee for debit card usage, in one day, 20 customers of Bank of America took their money out of Bank of America and walked across the street and switched to my new bank.

So, why doesn't Bank of America care about losing its customers? Are they Too Big To Fail or Too Big To Care? When Bank of America was in trouble, the American taxpayers gave them $45 billion dollars in TARP money. This is how you pay us back? How can you call yourself Bank of America when you obviously don't care about Americans? Why should I pay $5 a month to spend my own money that I earned myself?

So, sorry, Bank of America. Could have been so beautiful. Could have been so right. But I'm not paying $5 a month to spend my own money. It's your loss. I'm only 32 years old. I plan on banking for at least the next 60 years. I might not have much money now but I think that I have a bright future.

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