Update About Bank of the West:
Bank of the West is owned by the large French bank, PNB Paribas. It is very likely the decision to no longer offer free checking accounts wasn’t made locally, but in France. With the Euro under attack and Greece about to fail, most of the big European Banks are at high risk with all the money they’ve loaned Greece to help keep the country solvent.
We have a California-based bank, Bank of the West, which is really owned by a large French Bank making the decision to drop free checking. Why? How much influence did the French owners have over this decision? At least the four mega-banks are not owned by any foreign banks.
Letters went out to customers on January 3rd and accounts will begin converting from Free Checking to Easy Checking in March. One customer, Gary Dotzler, decided to take a stand and contacted us for help.
Flee The West
A Plea By A Former Account Holder
I recently learned that Bank of the West (BOTW) was changing its “Free Checking” and will soon be charging $10-a-month for their checking account service, calling it “Easy Checking”.
After a decade banking with them, I was pretty upset at the change but not surprised. It seems that banks are scrambling for new sources of revenue.
But consider recent events for a minute. A different bank, Bank of America announced a new $5 debit card fee on Sept 28th of 2012. There was a public revolt over it. By November 1st, the bank relented and cancelled plans for the new fee.
Chalk one up for the customers.
So, I’m figuring, Bank of the West saw the debacle that was the debit card fee increase and has decided on a different approach. Start charging for checking accounts. A lot of banks already do it. Maybe they’ll be able to slip this one by us.
Sure, BOTW will say there are 3 easy ways to avoid their fee:
- $1,000 average balance
- Use your debit card 10 times a month for purchases
- Have a $250 per month auto deposit.
That’s all fine and dandy but the problem is the people who don’t have the means to do these things, the less fortunate, are the ones who will disproportionally be forced to pay the fees. Even if you can avoid the fees, we should all stand in solidarity with those who cannot avoid them.
Consider this analogy. Would you shop at a gas station that offered a discount of 20-cents a gallon to those who could prove $200K in income. Of course not. It wouldn’t matter if you made over $200K a year or not. It just wouldn’t feel right. That, to me, is how this change in checking feels at BOTW. If you can afford it, you can get a discount. If you can’t, tough luck, pony up.
It also really got under my skin when I learned that BOTW was offering $100 to sign up for Free Checking as late as Sept 2011. That’s not a typo. In Sept. 2011 you got $100 to sign up for Free Checking then in Feb. 2012 they ended Free Checking. I won’t even expound on this fact because I begin to shake and it gets hard to type.
Well, I for one, am not taking it sitting down and I call on you to consider standing up too. Here’s what we can do.
- Tell Bank of the West you’re going to change banks unless they drop the new fee. Give them four weeks notice. (March 1st, 2012 is National “Flee The West Day”).
- Sign the online petition here
- Forward this info to your friends and put the petition widget in your facebook or blogs (click the ¨spread the word¨ link in the petition)
- If BOTW doesn’t drop the fee, change banks. My research suggests that checking is still free at more banks and credit unions than not.
Let’s try to chalk another one up to the customer not sitting idly by. Let’s let BOTW know we’re not happy and that we can and will take our business elsewhere. With the concerted effort of customers all throughout the west, maybe we can make a difference the same way the Bank of America customers did.
Personally, I’d love, I mean LOVE to not have to change banks. Keep in mind it only took Bank of America one month to drop its new debit card fee. That’s something to shoot for. With luck, this protest will catch on and we’ll make a difference and maybe we won’t even have to change banks. Maybe other banks will take notice and keep their free checking.
Sometimes you have to take a stand.
Gary Dotzler, Crested Butte, CO
Former Bank of the West Customer
Bank of the West Company Profile[caption id="attachment_477" align="alignright" width="348" caption="Source: BankoftheWest.com"][/caption]
Bank of the West is a financially strong regional financial services company headquartered in San Francisco, California. With community bank roots dating back more than 135 years, Bank of the West is the third-largest commercial bank based in California, and operates a network of more than 700 commercial and retail banking locations throughout 19 Western, Rocky Mountain and Midwestern states as well as representative offices in New York, Tokyo and Taipei. The Bank has 9,400 employees serving the needs of 1.6 million customers.
Bank of the West is a member of the BNP Paribas Group, which is among the six strongest global banks in the world, according to Standard & Poor’s.[caption id="attachment_478" align="alignright" width="357" caption="Source: BankoftheWest.com"][/caption]
Through four major business areas – Commercial Banking, Regional Banking, National Finance and Wealth Management – Bank of the West and its subsidiaries offer clients a broad range of retail, small business and commercial banking products and services to fit their evolving financial needs.
In addition to banking products, the Bank and its subsidiaries provide clients with comprehensive investment services through BancWest Investment Services, and insurance products and services through BW Insurance Agency, Inc.