Holding Banks to Account

Like a lot of people I was ready to dump my bank last year. Even though using a debit card is vastly more efficient than writing a check for bank, buyer and seller, banks wanted to impose extra charges for using same debit card. “We think we can get away with it, so it must be a good idea!” They caved under the public outcry, but I’m sure they still intend to slip in the charges. I’m still ready to move my accounts when they do.

Opponents were advocating that we all switch to credit unions. My wife already has a credit union account, though. When we first tried to buy our house, we went to the credit union. They offered us a deal including very expensive private mortgage insurance, even though we had put down a large amount. When we declined, they tried to pressure us by saying that we would not be allowed to reapply for a year. We got a much better mortgage through a theater friend, and I am still leery of the credit union idea. I do have other options.

Anyway, I love this story, A Man Walks Into a Bank:

It was a cheque, made out in my name, for $95,093.35 and it came in a junk-mail letter from a get-rich-quick company. It was worthless, meant only as a financial tease, a lip-licking come-on. “This is how much money you could soon be making.” What it was never meant for was deposit. But that’s exactly what made the thought of depositing it so irresistibly funny. What could possibly be funnier than depositing a perfectly ridiculous, obviously false, fake cheque? (Did I mention it had “non-negotiable” clearly written on it?) So, as a joke, I deposited the fake cheque into my bank’s ATM. I felt like a million bucks doing so. I’d never had so much fun at my bank. Come to think of it, I’d never had any fun at my bank until the moment I endorsed the back of this “cheque” with a smiley face and slipped the Monopoly-like money into the mouth of the hungry ATM. For the first time ever, I walked away from my bank laughing.

What I expected to happen next was a short phone call from my bank. Or a letter informing me of what I already knew, that the cheque I deposited was not real. Admittedly, I also hoped for a compliment on my refined sense of humour. A “Mr Combs, what you deposited was not real but very funny, especially considering your real bank account balance history” (an account always bouncing into overdraft).

I suspect Combs expected some backlash, but screwing with the bank makes for a good story.

Last year I dumped Windows for Linux, so I had to stop using Quicken. I had years of accounts in Quicken. For several months I used the freeware GNUCash. Entering data in GNUCash was different than Quicken, but it imported my QIF files and balanced accounts well. I was getting used to GNUCash until I upgraded to a newer release. None of my data made it to the upgrade. I spent several days trying to go backwards, but got nowhere.

Eventually I simply found an Excel workbook configured as a checking account, and imported it into OpenOfficeCalc. I use Excel spreadsheets all the time at work, and I’m amazed I didn’t think of using a workbook for checking years ago. Now I’m using LibreOfficeCalc, which is open software and virtually the same. I started accounts from scratch, but the workbook is very easy to reconcile, and ridiculously easy to backup compared to standalone programs with proprietary file formats.

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