Sun, 24 Jul 2005

Which Bank?

It's amazing how often I hear, "I'd like to change banks, but it's too difficult". This says two things about our country. One, the major banks are taking us for a ride and no-one really likes it. This is borne out by conversations with people from other countries who cant believe what we let our banks get away with, and any number of consumer surveys such as these. Two, we're either really lazy or we think that switching banks is a lot more difficult than it actually is.

The top sign that Aussies are ready to crack it with their banks? The existence of an entire website dedicated to helping you switch: Flick Your Bank. Thanks to their impetus and the we-hate-our-customers attitude of my existing bank, I am two weeks into the process of switching over to an account with the Bendigo Bank. I have to say, things have been really smooth and easy.

The Bad: My existing bank is the Commonwealth. About the only thing that have going for them is a discount on student accounts. They even made the news recently because they have risen their fees for no apparent reason. Since when does a free rise make the news? And it's not as if it's an uncommon occurance. They have even revamped their e-banking facility to show you in real-time every time they charge you to make a transaction, rubbing salt into the wound. Despite the dismal state of banking in Australia, the dont have much competition for "worst bank in the country".

The Good: The Bendigo Bank has been described to me by more than one person as "that hippy bank". Meaning that they actually do some good things in the community, such as: Green Loans, Community Banking, and in fact their entire business strategy. So if I'm going to be paying fees, at least they'll be going to support something worthwhile. But hey, they also have a reasonable fee structure and no account keeping fees! So far the experience has been anything but what you'd expect from a Bank: personal, uncomplicated, and efficient.

The Ugly: We all seem to act like it's self-evident that switching banks is difficult. In actual fact it's not that complicated. Here are eight simple steps to switching. Just about anyone who gives you money or who you give money to will have a form you can fill out to have the switch taken care of painlessly. Seriously, dont let it hold you back, it's really not that bad.

So am I free of the infamous "Which Bank?" Not quite. I managed to get a credit card with a very healthy limit while I was working full time, and I dont like my chances of getting another bank to match it while I'm a poorly student. But, I'll be looking into it - I've already done the hard yards, why stop now?

Anyone with banking stories, good or bad, which they'd like to share?