Jody Vance

Banking BS. (iceland update)

Image: GettyImages

Image: GettyImages

This just in… 

I recently refused, on principle, to pay a $3.00 fee to take $20 from a bank machine.

This spring I went half way around the world, to Spain, and didn’t encounter a fee like this. Spain! In fact we learned that making a withdrawal from an ATM abroad was actually a better way to exchange money from CDN to Euros — better rate, and lower fees.

Before the rant truly begins on this topic, I must say that I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with my financial institution, this is no way a reflection of my “personal finances” experience at my branch. I’ve had the same bank since I was 13 years old and have been at the same branch since I was 17.

A relationship with your bank is important, almost as important as your credit rating. However…..

I was leaving work this week and realized I needed bus fare.  I went to the ATM (not my bank) and was 90% of the way through the easy electronic transaction when the “a $3.00 transaction fee will be applied” popped up. (insert angry emoji)

What’s the deal with us being charged more than 10% of a withdrawal to grab $20 from an ATM?

This is not one of those 3rd party ATM’s that you see at a venue like, say, Rogers Arena.  We’ve become accustomed to paying for the convenience of getting cash via a third party provider.  My experience was at a branch, in downtown Vancouver’s business district.  I needed bus fare, imagine if my need were more urgent?! Rather than click “OK” – I swore (out loud, whoops!) about getting gouged by this bank and, in protest, walked the 6K home.

I was pissed.  I’m still pissed.

How are these remarkably high transfer costs not kept in check? How are they justified?

I’d love to have the need for this huge charge explained… it arbitrary? Does someone simply set that to pad the bottom line? Did we let this happen by accepting the $1.25 “standard fee” for using an institution different than where you park your dough?

It costs to e-tranfer, it costs to have an account that dips under a certain amount, it costs to breathe…why does it cost so much to bank electronically?  No one believes that it costs $3 to move $20 from one bank to another, no one.

In an age of self serve, this is ridiculous. How the hell are folks, far more financially strapped than I, supposed to make ends meet with fees like this? Banks make millions, if not billions, one service charge at a time – as we access OUR money?

Right now, I wish we were like Iceland. Do you know about Iceland and how the people brought the banks down…and now the people run the banks? The Icelandic population “was mad as hell, and not gonna take it anymore” back in 2008, during the global financial crash.  The people ousted the big money bankers by way of holding them accountable for their role in that collapse. Unlike other Western economies, the three major banks in Iceland were left to fail.  No fiscal cliff, no bail out. The 1% walked the walk.

On top of that, more than a few senior executives have no just been held accountable by losing their jobs, they’ve been jailed for their recklessness. Even the ex-Prime Minister, Gier Haarde, was put on trial. (the first world leader to face criminal prosecution for their role in the world wide financial crash) It should be noted, for the record, he was subsequently cleared of negligence.

The people of Iceland now run the banks — for the people.  They run them in support of the people. They are banks with a mind, body, soul and heart…banks who identify truly marginalized folks, with mountains of debt, and much of that debt is forgiven.

They don’t bail out corporate bullshit. They don’t bail out loopholes. They don’t speculate. They don’t gauge the people in the name of profit.

There is a conscience in Icelandic banking now. There is transparency.

Maybe we just need a little less corporate greed and a little more George Bailey in our banking system here in Canada. If George were behind the counter, explaining our system, helping us navigate banking it would be a Wonderful Life….and I would be far less pissed off at the current, out of control, gouging happening right here at home.

End Rant.

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