I’ve had an account at Regions Bank since I was 16 years old. After landing my first job (at McDonald’s) I was excited by the oh-so-grown-up thought of opening my own checking account. So one Saturday morning my dad went with me to the bank, opening a joint account and receiving what was very new and cutting-edge at the time (at least to us), a Visa debit card. I signed up to directly deposit my tiny paycheck into my account. I called the 800-number daily to check my balance and maintained my checkbook religiously. While friends fumbled with, and lost, their cash, I was proud to keep my money in the bank.
I moved to Savannah for college, then to Baltimore for my first job. I opened accounts with Bank of America and Wachovia because Regions had no local presence. But I always kept my account, knowing that someday I might need it, and feeling connected to home by the thought of still having an account at a back-home bank.
But times change, and banks merge. The local bank I knew merged with another small bank, then a bigger one, then another. Cryptic letters announcing policy changes weren’t fully understood until the fees hit. Holding deposits, processing larger debits first to make you more likely to overdraft, going from closing at 3 on Saturday to noon to not being open at all. With every new change it became increasingly clear that there was no longer anything local about my local bank; the employees at my small-town branch can no more change that bank’s policies than the cooks back at McDonald’s can change the restaurant’s menu.
So early last year, I signed up for Simple. Their stated goal of fundamentally changing the nature of the relationship between a bank and its customers appealed to me (and clearly many others, considering how long it took to get an invitation). A thoroughly modern business built upon the small-town bank ideal of profiting from interest margin instead of fees, ending the connection between what you consider a colossal fuck-up and what your bank considers a goal well-met.
Last month I moved my direct deposit from Regions to Simple, before I’d ever received my Simple card. I would be willing to admit to a certain amount of blind faith in the moment, but I’m thrilled with how it’s paid off. I’m already managing my money better at Simple because of the vastly superior design of their website and mobile apps. I’m actually using my bank’s bill payment because I understand how to use it now.
And today I got the cashier’s check containing $12.75, my last correspondence with the bank that’s held my money since the days I was depositing less than $100 per week. They won’t in the future because of their decision to profit from customer’s mistakes instead of their customer’s successes. We’ll see how successful their strategy is in the long term—for now Simple is executing extremely well on improving one of the most consistently negative experiences in nearly every consumer’s life: their dysfunctional relationship with the people who hold all their money.