Banks come out ahead

A credit union I once belonged to used the check safekeeping so well defended by Robert Maslac ("Canceled Checks Costly," Letters, Aug. 4). That system worked very well for me; I like it. So much for upside anecdotes.

Bank of America wants me to use an even more modern way of cutting its costs, especially on the labor side: Electronic banking, with my home computer hardware and my time and the bank's software, will let it lay off more lower-level employees. In return, the higher-level employees who dreamed up the plan have agreed that I would pay "only" $8 a month, plus phone charges and transaction fees.

My present bank, not a discount operation by any means, charges $6 for quill-pen-and-foolscap service. If it (First Interstate) went to check safekeeping I wouldn't complain, but probably only Maslac believes I would get a reduction in fees. (He doesn't even claim that this happened at "several (unnamed) Arizona banks.")

Other recent banking news concerned the gap between what banks charge for bounced checks ($10 and more) and what some outside observers have estimated to be their real cost (as low as $1.50). The assessment I'm inclined to credit says that bankers just don't know what their cost is, but they're sure $10 more than covers it.

In summary, let's allow and even encourage efficiencies like check safekeeping. But let's also remember that many banks will find a way to mismanage even those techniques, and that, when it's time to adjust their fees, all will try to under-report the savings achieved.



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