28 June 2012


Last year my bank was bought by another local bank. I'd had my account with the purchased bank for a long time, but the good news was that my account numbers didn't change, the routing number for online bill payments didn't change, and I was able to continue using my existing checks for the one or two checks I still write per month.

One of the reasons I'd chosen my bank was because it belonged to a network of banks that had agreed not to charge each other's customers ATM usage fees. The credit union at work was also a member, so I could get cash from the ATM in the cafeteria, which was really convenient. The new bank said they would honor the SUM arrangement for one year after the purchase of my bank was final.

A couple of months ago I got a letter from the bank reminding customers that the SUM agreement was ending. I didn't read it in detail; I had other things on my mind at the time. Then while reviewing my transactions online I noticed a "foreign ATM charge." I remembered the letter and realized this was a result of using ATMs that were part of the SUM network but not my bank's. I don't like having to think about stuff like this; I just want a checking account with no fees for anything.

But the new bank did create a new category of checking account that allows customers a way to avoid fees. The easiest way to qualify is to keep at least $1500 in the account. I'm meeting that at the moment, but it may not remain that way. Alternately, customers who sign up for electronic statements and make 15 debit purchases each month can use any SUM ATM, and additionally will have fees from "foreign" ATMs refunded up to $10 per statement cycle (nice for emergencies).

I switched my account to this type, but I still feel compelled to track how many debit purchases I'm making each month. I was accustomed to carrying cash in order to pay for my lunch each day, and I hope I'll be back at work soon enough and that wherever I end up working, there will be a cafeteria that takes debit cards. Doing that every day would definitely cover the minimum.

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