Banking Secrets 101 by a Reformed Banker

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Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I had spent my career in the financial world. I spent almost a decade in that field and had worked for many large well-known banks and small credit unions and everything in between. I worked for a very large upscale banking institution in CA where I floored cars (between the manufacturer and the dealer) and touched millions of dollars a day. I’ve worked in small mom and pop financial institutions giving loans (between the dealer and the buyer). I’ve ran collections, I’ve given people loans for credit cards, houses, cars, personal loans. I’ve done data entry and stuffed envelopes. I’ve held a few managerial positions. I’ve held employee of the month titles. I’ve raised more capital in my first month working for a well-known bank than my co-workers who had been at their jobs for over 3 years. I sold credit cards, had great customer relationships, and above all, I outsold any of my fellow co-workers at every job I’ve worked. I’ve been bonded for a quarter of a million dollars. I’ve helped stop fraud, I’ve worked in fraud departments. I’ve helped stop employee theft, I’ve done payroll and accounting for entire financial institutions, customers included. I’ve done it all and seen almost everything. At least, I sure as heck hope I have!

Why am I telling you all this? Is it to sit all high and mighty? Absolutely not. But if you’re going to listen to what I have to say, you need to know that I KNOW what I’m talking about. That I have the credentials to speak, because, let’s face it, so many people claim all this and more and none of it is true. Many people online are experts in their own minds, not on paper, where it really counts.

In almost a decade of working in the financial setting, here are the most important things you should know.

1) Never work for a bank and never join a bank as a customer. Choose credit unions. Some of the biggest most well-known banks in America are nothing more than frauds. Banks have stock-holders and as such, they have one mission in life. To make Mr. Stockholder rich. You do all the work; they get all the pay. Some more friendlier banks offer incentives to employees in the form of bonuses, most, and it kills me to say this, incentitive with jobs. As an employee, if you don’t sell a certain amount, you don’t work there. I’ve seen 3 year old employees let go because they slipped up ONE month and came 20% less than quota. Banks don’t care. Why should they; they can hire someone else to fill that spot in a matter of days.

At a credit union, its employee based, much like Winco. YOU get a share of the profits. They call that dividends. You get interest on checking, savings, the whole sha-bang. When they profit, so do you! There’s no stockholder at the top sucking up all that cash. It’s distributed within the company, and you are equal with employees. Credit unions also tend to give regular bonuses to their employees and it’s not performance based, which means you don’t have to be ruthless, you can be NICE and still get paid.

Credit unions generally care about the people. Because the people are technically part owner and NCUA protects credit unions better than banks in my opinion. As a part of NCUA, your accounts are insured up to $100,000 if the credit union goes belly up and takes off and runs. If banks do that, you are not covered so well.

2) Banks push overdraft fees. Oh they LOVE overdraft fees. I have personally seen upwards of $600 in overdraft fees ALONE on a $20 overdraft tab! They encourage it. They literally make their rules around encouraging it. I remember one time in this ruthless bank, that a customer came through the doors so distraught. He said that he just pulled out $20 from the ATM and it didn’t say his balance until AFTER it gave him the cash. Red flag #1, it gave him cash automatically even though that would overdraft him! Red flag #2, it didn’t tell him his balance until AFTER he withdrew the money. You think that the bank doesn’t set that all up!!! He was frantically telling me to just deposit the money back into his account. He didn’t want to go overdraft as the fee was upwards of $40. He kept saying, just put it back, just put it back. Am I going to get charged for this. Of course, no one could guarantee him he wouldn’t. I checked his account the next day. Sure enough, there was an overdraft fee and he mentioned he didn’t get paid for another 3 days. Let me tell you something. Every DAY that your in the red, some banks charge. This man was out $120 for 3 mins of being in the red. I was outraged, but of course, there was nothing I could do. I asked my manager if we could waive those fees. The man didn’t know yet, but I’m sure he would find out. The manager said, listen, your new here, but we don’t waive fees. In fact, we like it when they overdraft. Still pretty naive. I didn’t get it at the time, but I would later figure out the scheme. There are so many major scams going on, it would make your head spin and due to uh MORALS, I had to quit.

3) Bankers are not your friends. OK, I know this is going to hurt a lot of you who think that your banker is the best banker and they know you by name and they love you, adore you, and would never steer you wrong. But I’m a straight shooter, so here goes. Remember in #1 where you HAVE to sell in order to keep your job. Uh yeah, that’s how they do it. You become a customer’s “friend,” gain their trust, make them feel like you are on their side and not the banks, and then bam, they just talked you into some $20,000 line of credit that you had no intention of applying for. But, they know best and you trust them so you do it. At every single institution I’ve worked for, that is the protocol. That is how banks and credit unions alike, sell. Now, I’ll grant you that credit unions care more than banks do, but it is always still about the American dollar. In every profession on every continent in the world, it’s always about the money. Maybe, just maybe, you have a wonderful banker friend who would never sell you something you don’t need. Yeah, uh, those don’t last long. They don’t produce enough sales and so are discarded and replaced once management finds out.

I remember working for a particular credit union and they had this specialist come in and we had training and everything, how to sell to a customer without them knowing their being sold. Psychology was the forerunner in all that. And I admit, I wasn’t saved at the time, and I could have sold you ocean front property in Idaho. I was good at it. I was one of the bests in every company I worked for because I did have 20% care for the customer.

4) Most banks are not robbed as much as the average person believes. Yes, I’ve known people held up and stuffed in the vault and yes, it can happen. But there is an amazing amount of security in all banks and credit unions, and we are taught exactly what to do to prevent it and what to do in each situation. We know when and where it’s most likely to happen, what most robbers do/how they act, and what to do to actually catch them while they are still in the bank. The training is horribly boring and horribly extensive and there are tests you need to pass to even get on the floor. I would say that anyone who robs a bank is just looking for an easy way to go to jail.

5) Tellers do not verify cash. I hear it all the time as I’m checking people’s cash they give me if I’m selling something say on Craigslist. “It’s good; I got it at the bank.” Yeah, do you really think bankers have enough time to sit there and check every single bill that comes through? No. The ONLY time we checked bills is if something looked odd to us and the longer you work in banking, the more you know a bill like the back of your hand. You can smell what denomination it is. OK, not really, haha. But close. So, as a customer it is YOUR job to check the bills AT THE COUNTER. Once you leave that teller counter, even with all the camera’s, they won’t do anything about it. On a similar note, all bills that have at least 3/4 of the bill in tact, whether taped together or washed in the washer, ARE valid. Anything less than 3/4 will not be accepted. It used to be 1/2 but there was too much fraud.

6) NEVER, I repeat NEVER EVER give your check to someone you don’t know. At a yard sale, on Craigslist, to a private party you just met, etc. Once that person has your account number, they don’t even need the routing number, you can call any bank and get that. Its public information, even if you don’t have an account. Once they have that number, they can do bad, bad things with it. It’s not worth it.

7) Never wire money out of the country unless you know the person personally. Now, I would think this is common sense, but that sensibility skipped a lot of people in my banking days. Banks do not cover you in such cases. I have personally seen one gal lose $600 in one transaction and oddly enough, she WORKED for the bank!

8) Don’t fall for the “phishing scheme.” It is basically a phone call, email, or text that says your bank account is overdraft or this is an urgent message, you need to login right away. You follow their link, they track your information, they get the login info, and your well in a boat without a paddle. A sitting duck, if you will. If you get such an email, login in under ANOTHER browser from your banks mainframe site. This will ensure no tracking of your personal information.

9) Check your accounts regularly. If you start to see a charge that is not yours, report it immediately. You have a 90 window to report it. If you report it within that specified amount of time, the bank has 48 hours, by law, in which to put ALL the money into your account. This is the part they don’t tell you. They will say, we will research it. Some try to get out of it, but they must, because it is governmentally audited! You ARE protected in such cases. Do not fear.

10) Most of the fraud at financial institutions occur in the night drop boxes and ATM’s. Look, I’ll tell you plainly, if you use the ATM or night drop, you are chancing something in 2 ways. First, it’s the most susceptible to robbery. Secondly, most of the time, those transactions are posted by ONE person… there is usually NO accountability. I’ve seen things, that’s all I can say. While its not the ‘norm,’ it has happened. When it does, what proof do you have?????? Checks you can prove, sure. Cash, you cannot. Don’t take that chance. P.S. If a banker is caught stealing, it’s an automatic fire. IF being the operative word.

11) At most financial institutions, they have some sort of bank check or teller check that is about $1. Some banks greedily charge $3, but most are $1. If you need a cashier’s check, your bank will NOT tell you about this option. Unless you know it walking in, they will NOT OFFER that information. Remember, its about money. Cashiers checks can range in fees from $5-$10 a piece. A teller/bank check is the same thing as a cashier’s check. It’s guaranteed funds. The funds are pulled out right then and there. The only difference is they don’t say “CASHIER’S CHECK” on them. I’ve never seen a recipient company care if it doesn’t have those words on it. So, save yourself some money and opt for teller/bank checks the next time you need one.

OK, one more and then I’ll stop or this will be a book and I’ll have to sell it for $24.95. haha.

12) Do not make a copy of legal monetary bills. Even if its just a gag gift or for personal use. It is against the law and highly punishable.

Disclaimer: These rules apply to most banks and credit unions. They may differ from your local bank, depending on government changes, and individual banking rules. This guide is generally speaking.

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