Folks with accounts with Midfirst Bank, hq’ed in Oklahoma City, should read the fine print in the letter they received this week about changes in account terms. Basically the bank is inviting its customers to waive their constitutional rights and agree to arbitration regarding any claim against the bank. They specifically also will lose the right to participate in a class action lawsuit against the bank.
Makes me wonder if they are worried about something coming at them.
I have a friend with an account at Midfirst. He’s not a particularly high-paid employee, so he has to watch his dollars. He does not believe in credit, has never had a credit card or borrowed money from a bank. Thus, he did NOT “opt-in” to the typical “overdraft protection” offered by the bank which comes packaged with hefty fees. Recently, he made a mistake on his account which meant he had less money than he thought. His debit card continued to work for the small withdrawals he made from 7-11 ATMs and small charges. Imagine his surprise, then, when he got an overdraft notice from the bank, informing him that he had been charged an overdraft fee of $27.50 for each and every one of those transactions. Particularly insulting was the fact that the ATM withdrawals incurred $45 charges — $27.50 for the withdrawal, AND $27.50 for the $1 7-11 ATM charge that the bank levied for using a “foreign” ATM.
It amounted to more than $200 in overdraft charges. He’s cancelled the debit card, and is preparing to go “bank free”. He went to a payday loan joint and got a pre-paid Visa card, to pay for his 3 monthly automatic debits (virus protection, and 2 game fees). He’ll cash his paycheck directly at his employer’s bank. He was already keeping his savings at home, in the form of cash and US silver coins, in a well-hidden lock box. (Instead of depositing into a savings account, every payday he goes to a coin shop and buys some silver dimes.)
I looked over the details on the pre-paid Visa card, and it is certainly a better deal than being cheated by MidFirst.
Anyway, I advised him to opt out of the account change, and to come by for a visit when he got his statement. At which point I will write a stern letter to the bank for him to sign, demanding a refund of the overdraft charges since (a) he had never signed up for the program, (b) his card should simply have been declined for each of those transations, and (c) promising to vigorously defend his rights. He said he would even take a vacation day or two in order to picket the bank, which I think is a Really Great Idea. “DON’T GET CHEATED HERE” signs outside his bank might get that branch manager’s attention.
Plus, there are likely to be some regulatory consequences for the bank signing him up for the overdraft protection that he did NOT opt in to.
MidFirst is a real jerk of a bank. I used to have my personal accounts there — until the bank got greedy and WITHOUT MY PERMISSION, changed my account from “free checking” to a fee account, so “I would get better interest on my money”, even though my average daily balance wasn’t enough to get interest in that type of account. So I went down and closed my account and moved to Weokie, which was a great move. It’s nice to be treated nicely by a financial institution, and that’s what Weokie does.
The food coop also used to bank at MidFirst, but our treasurer got tired of being treated like dirt by branch personnel, also they made mistakes in our accounts, and every time we turned around they were dollar and diming us to death with one fee after another. The coop took its business elsewhere, and is more than satisfied with our new arrangement with a different financial institution.
The bank’s notice is also interesting because it describes in detail its system of levying these charges. They always clear the largest checks first, which of course makes it more likely that they will earn fee income. In other words, their system is rigged to benefit the Bank and penalize the customer. Sad to say, this is all too typical a practice in the parasitical financial services industry. I marvel at their candor, but I suspect that this notice of their “terms” was required by the revisions to the banking law.
Other’s mileage may vary, but MidFirst is not a friendly local bank. It may be local, but its big enough that it has adopted a lot of the ways and means of the transnational banks, who see customers not as people, but as profit centers.