Banks have existed since the beginning of human civilization. One of the oldest examples of lending dates back to the 18th Centaury BC. In Babylon, there are records of merchants borrowing money from monks. During the 1930’s, many consumers lost complete confidence the banking system after banks failed because of the stock market crash. During this current recession, consumers’ faith in banks is once again wavering. Banks are essential to today’s economy and to be financial successful you need to be bankable.

Banks are safe. According to the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), there are over 8,400 banks in the United States which are FDIC insured. While the banking system is currently going through some rough seas, the total number of banks that have failed since 2000 is 72. That is .8 percent (eight tenths of one percent) of all banks open during this time. Forty-two of the 72 banks failed in 2008 and most of the 2008 failures were involved in the recent mortgage crisis. That means between 2000 and 2007, only 30 banks failed out of over 8,400. That is less that .05 percent (five one hundredths of one percent) of United States banks. No depositor with less then $100,000 on deposit in the bank has lost money so far.

Often it is nearly impossible to live successfully in America without a bank account. Creditors, landlords, mortgage lenders, insurance companies and others consider the ability to maintain a bank account an indicator of stability. It indicates that you have a consistent source of income, you can manage that income and live within your means, you are able to save for your future, and you can create and stick to a plan. Right or wrong, this information becomes part of your whole picture when these parties make decisions regarding entering into a relationship with you. Many employers require employees to participate in payroll deposit as a cost savings measure. Access to mainstream banking is often assumed to be common in our culture.

So how do you become “bankable”? Just like creditors, banks have bureaus such as ChexSystems which they use to gain access to information about your banking past. This bureau will provide information such as your previous history of insufficient fund checks and overdrawn accounts. If you have any inactive accounts with outstanding checks or overdraft balances, these must be paid in full prior to opening a new bank account. These previous problems may take time to repay, but it must be done to enter the financial mainstream. Obtain a copy of your file and begin to clear the accounts one at a time.

In the meantime, if you have an immediate need to keep your cash safe and perform basic financial transactions such as deposition your payroll or using a debit card there are alternatives available. The fees involved in these alternative systems such as Green Dot or the Walmart prepaid system, while somewhat greater than a traditional bank account, are lower than using the check cashing and money order system. Check cashing locations can charge up to 10 percent of the amount of the check and money transmitter rate are as high as $12.50 per $100. Your funds are also safer than when kept in cash which is easier to lose, steal, or send without thought.

When you are ready to open an account find the bank that is best for you. Check branch locations and ATM availability. Many banks charge extra fees for using ATM’s that are “foreign” and some have fees for talking to tellers. Review what you need from a bank: ATM, Saturday hours, on-line banking, free teller assistance, wire service, etc. All banks publish a list of their fees and must make it available to the public. Notice the banks located near your home, work, favorite grocery store, bus routes or other frequented locations. Collect and study their fees charts. These charts will outline the terms for opening checking and savings accounts. Pay attention to minimum balance requirements, limits on the number of withdrawals every month, and any other features that apply to your particular needs.

Equally important as your ability to open a bank account is your ability to maintain your bankability. This will require diligence on your part.

  • You must check your statement every month and reconcile it. Make certain that you can account for all transactions on the statement. You must notify the bank immediately if there are any transactions in error. It is your right to dispute any transaction that you did not authorize.
  • Watch your fees. Forgetting to allow for fees related to overdrafts, ATM activity or other bank activity is the easiest way to lose track of your balance. Question any fee you do not think is appropriate. If you feel you are paying too much in fees, ask your banker for a recommendation of the type of account that better suits your banking patterns.
  • Guard your checks, deposit slips and account numbers. When you receive your checks, go through each packet and make sure all checks are present and in the correct order. Each time you obtain a new packet, check the numbers to make certain they are in sequence. Over 90% of identity theft is committed by a person known to the victim. Taking a single check out of a packet of unused checks is one of the most common ways to gain access to an account.

With research and diligence you can join the financial mainstream to begin to work on your goals: saving for the future, homeownership, and education. That’s a plan you can take to the bank!

Credit Advisors is proud of our dedicated staff. Over the next this year we are introducing our Account Managers. They are the “go to” person for those in a debt management program. They make sure the program runs smooth and if there are any problems they will find the best possible resolution.

Francisca Monjarez has worked in almost every department throughout her five years at Credit Advisors. As an Account Manager she serves clients in: the military, Canada, the District of Columbia, Florida, Nebraska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Defeat Debt: How long have you been an Account Manager?

Francisca: For a year and a half. I originally began in client care before there were account managers.

Defeat Debt: What is your favorite part of your job?

Francisca: I enjoy helping clients throughout their program.

Defeat Debt: What other positions have you had here at Credit Advisors?

Francisca: Client care, account manager, and bankruptcy counselor.

Defeat Debt: What is the biggest difference you’ve notice between working with American creditors and Canadian creditors?

Francisca: American Creditors seem to put more pressure on clients and credit counselors. Canadian Creditors are very down to earth and easy to work with.

Defeat Debt: What about the management of accounts would surprise most clients if they knew?

Francisca: It is a very time consuming task. It takes a lot of time to process certain things on their accounts.

Defeat Debt: If you could let your clients know one thing that would increase the success of their program, what would it be?

Francisca: To obtain no new credit and make payments on time. If you skip payments, it can cause the creditors to drop you from the program and your balances will grow.

Defeat Debt: What is your favorite holiday and why?

Francisca: Fourth of July. I love the “get togethers,” fireworks, and cookouts

(1999, Washington) A penchant for life’s little luxuries led to lousy luck for one bungling burglar. This Seattle bank robber rented a limousine. He instructed the chauffeur to drop him off at Bank of America, and return when contacted by telephone.

The thief presented a teller with a written demand for money, collected his cash and coins, and ran from the bank to a nearby Starbucks. While he was paying for a double latte with stolen coins, an alert customer phoned police and notified them of the criminal’s whereabouts.

While waiting for the latte, the bank burglar called his chauffeur from a pay phone and arranged to be picked up outside Starbucks. The police quickly surrounded the store and apprehended the crook, after a brief foot chase, just before his getaway limo arrived. The driver confirmed that he had driven the man to Bank of America, and was returning to pick him up.

Story courtesy of

It takes time, perseverance, and dedication to become debt free.

Each month we honor those who paid off all their creditors with a Credit Advisors Debt Management Program.

April 2009
93 Debt Management PIFs

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