In the US, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual preference, or many other factors. True, people still find ways of getting around the law to discriminate anyway, but if they are caught, they can get into serious trouble for it. The one area that this country has no problem with, is money. When someone lacks money, it is perfectly acceptable to discriminate against them.
Homeless people are supposed to be discriminated against in this society. In fact, a coin given out of anything other than pity, is seen as obscene by everyone else around. Several times I have given to homeless bards because I respect their music, believing that they are earning the money I give with their playing. Others around me have been astounded by this reasoning, believing that homeless people in general are beneath them, and not worthy of their attention, much less their money.
I feel that that banks take this reasoning to the extreme. People like me, who are hard working, yet poor, are punished, simply for our lack of funds. I may never have enough money to be able to set aside thousands of dollars that I will never use, but that is what nearly every bank requires. There are very few places left, such as local credit unions, that do not require minimum balances, and major banking chains are doing everything in their power to push these local establishments out of business.
In this era, a bank account is almost necessary to survive. To pay bills, rent, and everything else that is necessary to survive, a person needs a means to make those payments. Without a bank account, that would mean buying money orders all of the time, which can be very expensive, depending on how many bills need to be paid. That also means that all of the record keeping would be in physical form, and prone to disaster: being lost, stolen, or destroyed.
Now, let’s take a look at how the “minimum balance” thing really works. I have a checking account in which the minimum balance is $1500. This means that my Average Daily Balance has to be $1500 or above. I usually keep that balance hovering around $1700. There has been a few times now that Bank Math has been implemented. The first time, I made a large purchase just before I received my paycheck. The purchase brought my balance down to $1473. A few hours later, I deposited my paycheck, which brought the balance back up to $1658. Somehow, that couple of hours of having my balance at $1473, caused my daily balance for the ENTIRE MONTH to average out to $1493, causing me to have to pay a service charge. A few months later, something similar happened, but it took two smaller purchases, rather than one large one.
The issue is more complicated than just a service fee, though. This fee is targeted to people who are already poor. People like me who don’t have the money to put into the bank in the first place. So, now the cycle starts. I didn’t have enough money to cover the minimum balance. Did I overdraft my account? No, of course not. Did I take any money or belongings from the bank? No, of course not. Yet, the they charged me a fee anyway. That charge sets me back for next month, making it harder for me to make that minimum balance next month, too. So, how do I approach this problem? I have $1500 in the bank, but I can’t use it. I’m hungry, but I can’t eat, because if I do, the bank will charge me for it. I can’t pay my rent, because if I do, the bank will charge me for it, but if I don’t, the landlord will charge me extra or kick me out. I can’t pay my utilities because the bank will charge me, but if I don’t the company will turn the utilities off. No matter what, I’m screwed, but I have the money. The bank is holding my money hostage, and there is nothing I can do about it, simply because I am poor.
There is something seriously wrong with the concept that banks can get welfare from our government without blinking an eye, then turn around and discriminate against hard-working people, holding our money hostage, simply because we are poor, and we have no say in the matter.