If like me, you can recollect the Apollo Moon landing, then chances are you can also recollect the era in which a "personal relationship" with your banker was highly prized for its intangible benefits. If you had a good reputation with him as a fiscally responsible customer, you might could get a loan, even a mortgage. I never, ever paid overdraft fees even though I did sometimes mess up, because the head teller would call me to say "Madeline, we need you to stop in tomorrow with another $20 to cover this check". Trust me, even if you're having an affair with the manager of the branch where you bank, these days are OVER for all of us except maybe the Rockefellers here in the US. Buried in the health care law and several other pieces of recent legislation are items of interest to you no one seems to be discussing. * When it comes to fraud, theft or disputes associated with your use of your debit card, you are on your own. 100% on your own, because the feds will not pursue a matter unless at least $25,000 is in controversy, and your local sherrif has no idea how to investigate electronic banking thefts, etc. The days when a bank would unwind a transaction and put the cash back into your account on your say-so are OVER. * Very shortly, if you attempt a purchase too large for your bank balance with your debit card, the purchase will be declined. (As of today what happens is that it goes through and you become overdrawn.) And while this may sound like a pro-consumer thingie, what remains unclear is just how long your debit card will be frozen. Can you imagine being away from home when this happens, and having no other access to cash? * Banks have almost universally stopped charging any of us for the use of their facilities. Hardly anyone is paying just to have a checking account, or to receive a monthly statement, etc. However, banks have not begun giving away their service to you -- not by a long shot. What happens now is that if you bounce a check, they have 1,001 fees and fees on fees to impose on you, under a system so byzantinne even Rube Goldberg would be impressed. Things are almost as bad where credit cards are concerned. If you have a credit card for 10 years, the bank is betting that at least once you'll screw up and fail to pay the minimum due on time...and in fact, most of us do just that. If you have not bounced a check in the past few years, you have very little idea how bad this gets...a $20 overage can result in total fees of $200 that day and $2,000 total in fees within the week. * Banks no longer feel the same pressure to notify you of changes in their fee schedules, etc., even by sending you those impossible-to-read mini-brochures in size 1 font. They now seem to feel they can kinda sorta decide what to charge you without checking with anyone first...and I do not know this, but I suspect, that the back door deal underlying health care and some other new laws is that those who are wealthy will get the same or more from us, just in new-fangled ways. Bank fees on checking accounts are the new profit center....bounce a $20 check now and take three days to deposit the overage, and you'll likely be looking at $500 to $2,000 in total fees...to start. What should you do? * Join a credit union if you can. I cannot recommend strongly enough Suze Orman's books, television show, and website. The lady is very plain-spoken. Even your nitwit 14 year old can understand her. And she tells you things about YOUR money no one else will. Ms. Orman links to all the credit unions in the US and which ones are reliable/licensed/etc. on her site. http://www.suzeorman.com/ What's different about a credit union is that, unlike a bank, it is a mutual aid society, a non-profit and not part of some ginormous international conglomerate. Your credit union is much less likely to play reindeer games with you. Most cannot or do not make mortgage loans, but you do not need or benefit from a banking relationship when shopping for a mortgage; your rate and access to funds will depend entirely on your credit score, etc. No matter how well Huge International Banking Conglomerate Inc. may know you, if you aren't credit worthy you are not getting a mortgage. And if you are credit worthy, they will lend to you regardless of who you may be. Banks are not like boyfriends -- they aren't "attracted" to any one of us apart from the magnetic pull of our money. * If you want to use a debit card for online purchases, etc., then buy a Visa gift card and load it with X dollars. Stop using the debit card linked to your checking and savings for anything other than ATM withdrawals and deposits. (Gift cards are widely available for free...but usually not at banks. That is most likely by design.) I also recommend you rethink any and all prior authorizations. The only vendor I permit to pull money from my account "automatically" is my auto/home insurance company....because otherwise I'd be paying 10% more for that coverage. Every other vendor, from my electric company to my mortgage holder, gets paid via an electronic check that I complete when I pull the trigger every month....and that allows me to withhold payment in full if I feel anyone has overcharged me in error. * Even if your bank charges a huge fee to link your savings to your checking for overdraft protection, it might be worth it. Mine wants like $50 a year and until now I refused to pay that, but I may reconsider. Bounced checks are just too expensive now -- even one and you may not be able to make this month's car payment. On the other hand, linking your checking to your credit card may be unwise as well. If you have an available credit limit of $10,000 and someone invades your account, you'll have lost that cash and the bank will Whistle Dixie when you complain. So will law enforcement. The better option is a credit card with a $500 limit. You'll likely never put yourself crosswise in an amount above that, andi if you ever are a theft victim, you obviously want them to stop stealing from you before they get all $10,000 of your available credit limit. I know only what I know of my own experience, but I suspect one hell of a lot more. My bank is ultimately owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland -- the UK's version of AIG. Since Royal Bank went bankrupt and was bailed out last year, my bank has sent me two letters, informing me that they've been hacked and that my debit card and checking account information are now floating around in the ether. (ALWAYS read your mail AND your email received at any online bank website you have established....failure to act fast after notice can foreclose your rights.) Both times I shut down my debit card (which is a huge pain) and left my checking account standing. But yanno, that was a calculated risk on my part, and no one at the bank was terribly able to help me decide WTF to do. My suspicion is that banks are now scrimping on expensive data security measures and thereby recklessly exposing us customers to loss...but of course, I cannot prove such a thing. DO NOT EVER use your debit card to buy a product on tv or the 'net which is advertised as "free plus shipping and handling". I know...right now I'm attempting unsuccessfully to repel a six months' long series of debits to my account I did not authorize. These frauds usually involve modest amounts and they work because the thieves doing this hope most people will just get frustrated and kiss off the amounts involved. And in fact, we do. DO NOT EVER go off-shore to bank a la your checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts, etc. If you think things are wild and wooly here in the US, try recapturing funds that have been run through a bank in the Lloyd's of Tortola. I-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e. I know I could not live without online banking. I bet I check my online account twice a day, especially when I am looking for a deposit to hit so I can go shopping. I would hate hate hate to be on a cash-only basis again....and I hope it does not come to that. But I also know if I am going to continue to use the US Banking system and have not won the lottery so that 1,000's of dollars are meaningless to me, I need to wise up -- and almost no one is trumpeting this information. Some I learned from a bank examiner friend of mine, but to be honest, most I have learned from Suze Orman. In writing this thread I have stated my OPINION, not fact. But I have posted this in an effort to start a dialogue which I hope will raise awareness and save some little old lady or single mom or family scraping by on unemployment insurance from a miserable domino effect that could cause suffering, even to the point of homelessness. Watch your money...because everyone ELSE sure is. Bankers are not nice folks in three piece suits any more. They are alot more like pirates. http://purpleslinky.com/humor/satire/five-alternative-career-choices-for-a-pirate/ Peace out, my fellow USMB-ers.