Here's Why I Closed My Chase Bank Account On My Lunch Break
Daniel Goodman / Business Insider
When I moved to New York in 2010, it made sense to ditch my account with PNC National Bank - which only has two branches in Manhattan - and switch to Chase, which seemed to be on every corner.
But I wondered if big banks would always be my only option. With Chase's bevy of confusing fees, unfriendly online banking interface, and lackluster customer support, I was finally fed up enough to look for an alternative.
Credit unions and local banks are known for offering friendlier consumer terms, but the idea of a completely web-based bank interested me more.
A friend told me about Simple (formerly BankSimple), a bank replacement that offers the same functionality of its brick-and-mortar competitors. Simple offers interest-bearing checking accounts from its partner bank, Bancorp, which is FDIC-insured.
By the time Simple released remote check deposits last week, I had seen enough. I closed my Chase account on my lunch break that same day.
I thought long and hard about my decision, as should anyone before they switch banks. Here's the criteria I considered:
Fees: Since Simple doesn't have to worry about all the extra costs of running physical branches, it passes those savings on to customers. It doesn't charge monthly debit card fees, nor does it require a minimum balance. You can find Simple's full schedule of fees here.
Like a lot of big banks, Chase charges a monthly service fee ($10 to $12 per month) for its Chase Total Checking accounts. The only ways to avoid this fee are to either meet Chase's $1,500 daily minimum balance requirement, have a regular monthly direct deposit of more than $500, or hold a daily average of $5,000 or more in your account. That's not exactly easy for people who don't have a steady income, or who would rather keep the bulk of their cash in savings, rather than checking. You can read all about Chase's fee specifics here.
ATMs: Simple has over 40,000 ATMs nationwide through the AllPoint network. Unlike big banks, it won't charge you for using a non-network ATM. All you have to worry about is the fee the ATM itself may charge you. Chase has fewer than half as many ATMs and charges every time you use one out of its network. Read the specifics here.
Support: Simple's support center, both online and mobile, has a clean interface similar to a blank email. Questions are always answered with a conversational tone, and responses are returned within minutes. Submitting support queries on the mobile app feels much like texting a friend. Phone calls to Simple support are a breeze too. Just call and wait. There are no automated menus to deal with.
Chase's online support interface isn't as straightforward as Simple's. You must fill out several fields of information before even being able to send a message. They answer within 24 hours, but response speed has never been as fast as Simple, as far as I've noticed. And of course there are the usual automated hoops to jump through when calling Chase support.
Functionality: Simple issues users a Visa card that works like any other. And in addition to modern banking tools like goal-tracking and the Safe-to-Spend balance, which factors in pending transactions to your current balance, Simple allows you to add tags to keep tabs on groups of purchases. You can also file transactions under categories like rent, dining, etc., making it way easier to look up specific transactions in the future.
Chase has no search function for your account transactions, nor any capacity to add tags to specific transactions.
The bottom line: This is the happiest I've ever been after a breakup.
PNC Bank Is Closing the Marijuana Policy Project's Bank Accounts
The bank fears federal prosecution, even though the MPP doesn't grow or distribute cannabis.
The Marijuana Policy Project, one of the country's most notable cannabis advocacy groups, was recently notified by PNC Bank that their accounts would be closed due to their involvement in the cannabis industry. The federal government prevents banks from handling any money connected with the cultivation or sale of an illegal drug, but the MPP is strictly an advocacy group, and does not grow, process, distribute, or handle cannabis.
MPP chief operating officer Nick Field said that a representative from PNC contacted him last month and notified him that an audit of their accounts revealed that they received donations from canna-businesses that do directly handle marijuana. “They told me it is too risky. The bank can’t assume the risk,” Field said. The bank has handled the organization's accounts since 1995.
Many advocates believe that PNC may have been motivated to close these accounts due to recent promises by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to crack down on cannabis legalization. Recently, Sessions sent a memo asking Congress to rescind protections that prevent the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-legal medical canna-businesses.
However, cannabis advocacy groups believe that banks are overreacting, because the Justice Department has never investigated a bank for dealing with state-legal cannabis firms. Field also noted that advocacy groups like the MPP are completely legal entities, and already under strict scrutiny from the IRS. “We have yearly audits. We are compliant with the IRS,” he said. “It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”
Published on June 21, 2017
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.