Banks provides an easy target to criticize. Perhaps it’s because they have money and we, the common people have little. Maybe it’s because we lump them into the “Wall Street Fat-cats” category that tops the nation’s most hated list. I believe there is another reason: They trigger the “somethings afoot switch” that resides deep inside me. That feeling similar to when one walks on a buy here pay here used car lot like the one in the first Transformers movie. The feeling that the words coming out of the bank representative’s mouth do not match the reality that you will soon face with their services. A recent editorial in the NY Times proposed that one such reality resides in bank fees for account overdrafts. They cite two findings from research groups:
many banks fail to fully explain their overdraft policies and some have bullied customers into opting in, warning that “your debit card may not work the same way anymore.”… [and]… more than half of customers with overdraft “protection” did not believe that they had opted into the coverage.
Now, one could argue that it is the consumer’s responsibility to know what products they are purchasing. However, the bank has a responsibility to bring clarity to purchase. Call it fair product labeling. When there are other options available, and the banks scare people into taking the $35.00 per overdraft protection, it’s a sign of greed on the part of the banks. I would suggest it is greater than greed, it is usury. As blogged in an earlier post, this bank activity is yet another sign that the foundation of capitalism, a shared ethic that places the needs of others above personal gain, has deteriorated into virtual obscurity.
The Christian response to the bank’s actions is not to just live within one’s means and thereby avoid such fees, although that is good advice (e.g.Proverbs 3:9-10) . Nor is the Christian response to pull all funds from the bank and bury the money in the backyard, although some do (Matthew 25:24-27 demonstrates this is not best practice). I believe the Christian response to the bank’s actions can serve as a reminder of the many ways we take advantage of people with our own fees and hidden costs. One such example is time: the amount of time take from other people that is unexpected. For example, how many times have we been in conversation with someone face-to-face and answered an incoming call, making the person in front of us wait until we are done? We might think it rude, if that same scenario happened in person instead of over the phone. However, we do it with our phones often. This is only one example; there are many more. The point is that we should be aware of others needs and place their needs in front of our wants. That avoids usury and greed. It creates in us an awareness that the world is not about serving us, but our serving others (Galatians 5:13, Mark 10:42-45, I Corinthians 4:1-2).