Chris M. Lindsey

Dad. Assistant City Manager. Surviving.

Some Banks Haven’t Learned

Since I moved to Lawrence, I’d been looking for a new bank. Well, not new. I’m keeping my old bank account, but they don’t have branches in Kansas, so I wanted something local. A place to deposit my paycheck and other odds and ends.  After a little advice, I decided on Capital Federal (I also liked a commercial series they have been doing locally).

Bad news.  I should have realized it when I walked through the door and saw that everyone inside (except the college-aged tellers) was over the age of 50.  The kindly secretary found a banker to help me out.

He started out by telling me the wonders of their bank.  The new thing there is telephone banking.  He told me that it was great, you could do it 24/7.

Thanks, but I like internet banking.  Much easier, and no typing numbers in over the phone.  Why would anyone use telephone banking as opposed to internet banking?  Certainly not your customers under 30.  They do have internet banking, but the gentleman told me that, “It is only for checking your balance.”  Bummer.

But the real problem arose when I asked my central question:

“How about a debit card?”

They give you a passcard, but that is only good an one of their atms.  But I need a debit card.  Otherwise the checking account is useless to me.

No luck.  You can qualify for one after having an account in good standing for 9 months.  Ha!  And “good standing” means a balance over $300 for all 9 months.  Yeah, you are reading that right, you have to qualify for a debit card (I didn’t even ask about credit cards!).

I asked him to clairfy several times, telling him that the lack of a debit card was a deal-breaker.

He explained to me that, in some circumstances, they might can give a customer a debit card before the 9 months.  But the customer must meet with and get approval from the branch manager.  Oh, and get a credit check.

Yeah, right.  I ultimately went a couple of blocks down the street and opened an account at Bank of America, where a debit card is standard with a checking account.

But, there is a central problem here.  A bank, with older customers, continues to only cater to their older clientele.  Meanwhile, they aren’t gaining new clients because of some asinine rules.  This branch is in a college town.  Do they really think they can pick up younger clients without this central service?

I’m young, and a college student.  I only use checks to pay rent, utilities, and other bills.  And I don’t want to carry around lots of cash.  So I need a debit card.  Do you really expect me to just through hoops or wait 9 months, when I can walk down the street to BoA or somewhere else and get what I need?

How long does CapFed, or any other bank for that matter, expect to stay running when they are operating in the 20th century?  There is a key age-group that these types of banks are entirely missing out on, and as this internet generation gets older, these banks will have to offer modern services or shut their doors.

I think I understand how banks work: they will do anything to have you deposit your money there.  They make their money by having your money in their bank.  So why do some banks seem to push younger clients away?


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  1. I laughed heartily when reading your post, because CapFed is clearly well behind the times. Perhaps embarrassingly so. I’m stunned that any bank would require a 9-month probation period before issuing a debit card.

    Nonetheless, there *may* be some logic in turning away younger customers. Younger customers, especially college students, keep very low balances (often $100 or less) and make numerous transactions per month, even per week. As a result, they contribute very little–if at all–to the reserves from which banks can draw for investments. They also tend to have no savings and overdraw their accounts far more frequently than more established customers.

    From a bank’s perspective, it may well be the case that college students are all cost and no benefit.

  2. That is a very good point. But in that point, I see short-term gain and long-term loss: as the older generations that used these banks ultimately die off, banks like CapFed are going to die too. They will have pushed away younger folks who by then will have established bank accounts with other banks and have no need for CapFed.

    It might seem morose (I feel strange just typing about it), but maybe banks should be concerned when the population segments they are invested in grow older and begin to disappear.

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